WARWICK – Warwick Public Schools Executive Director of Finance and Operations Anthony Ferrucci noted during Thursday’s School Committee meeting at Warwick Veterans Jr. High School that the district could face a $12 million deficit next year.
The fiscal 2020 budget’s shortfall will be compounded by this year’s $4.9 million under-funded status, the subject of the district’s lawsuit against the City in Providence Superior Court to force the city to make up the difference. The suit claims the district can’ comply with state or federal laws with the current budget allocated for this academic year.
The City Council approved a budget of $123,982,464 in June, $6.6 million less than the School Committee had asked.
The incremental increase has been a running concern for Warwick Public Schools. From 2010 to 2019, the Council increased the budget for schools by $14,396, a 0.01% increase.
Next year’s deficit may be as high as $12 million, Ferrucci said Thursday.
“Next year is going to be even more difficult,” Ferrucci explained. “We’re extremely sensitive to the predicament that the city is now facing with us as well. We understand that situation.”
Ferrucci said even if the city allocates the additional funding for this year’s budget, the problem will be carried over into the next year.
A tax increase might be necessary to generate that funding, Ferrucci said.
Discussions of the Superintendent’s 2020 budget will take place over the next two months. Although there will be cuts, there are many budget increases as well, Ferrucci said.
Teachers are due for automatic step increases along with a three percent contractual raise. The custodial staff will also receive step increases along with a 2.5 percent pay raise.
The district is over budget on health insurance premiums for employees. The budget is $15.7 million. Ferrucci noted there has been a $1.2 million shortfall in just six months.
“I hate to be doom and gloom,” Ferrucci said. “We will challenge everything
in the budget so we can get the things we need in the budget on the table.”
“If we thought the last (budget) was difficult, the last one looking back will seem like a tea party with cucumber sandwiches compared to what we think we’re going to be facing here. Buckle in. It’s going to be a hell of a ride,” said Committee member David Testa.
Also at the meeting, during public comments, Darlene Netcoh, president of the Warwick Teachers Union, urged the committee to reinstate February vacation, eliminated by the Committee in March 2017.
“The teachers and students need a break,” Netcoh said, noting it would be beneficial to the district.
Peter Stone, a teacher at Warwick Veterans Middle School, also supported the proposal, observing the schools would save money by turning off the boilers.
Stone said the schools could be cleaned while the students and staff were out, resulting in improved health conditions.
The committee also approved a resolution pertaining to the state’s education funding formula. The resolution asks: “…the Rhode Island General Assembly stabilize the level of state educational aid for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 at an amount no less than the highest level of state educational aid funding between either Fiscal Year 2018 or Fiscal Year 2019 funding, except for adjustments based on enrollment changes.”
The lawsuit argues that in Fiscal Year 2010, the committee
was allocated a budget of $123,968,000. For Fiscal Year 2018-19, the School
Committee requested $130,627,676, about $8 million more than the budget from
the previous year.
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