Mayor Scott Avedisian’s proposed $288 million budget doesn’t have $1.1 million the School Department asked for, but it does pledge they’ll keep school consolidation savings.
“They have been looking at consolidating for a while,” Avedisian said during a recent interview.
Both the Warwick Schools Administration and Long-Term Facilities Planning Committee (LTFPC) have recommended that the School Committee consolidate the city’s secondary schools in light of shrinking student enrollment, Avedisian wrote in the proposal’s summary.
The consolidation plan would close and repurpose Warwick Veterans Memorial School as a junior high school, shuttering Gorton and Aldrich Junior High Schools. The plan could save the department $4.4 million annually as well as skirting the need for more than $10 million in repairs and about $800,000 in operating costs, the mayor wrote.
The School Committee tabled the plan to seek the opinion of an outside consultant.
“Based on projections that enrollment will continue to decline, it is likely that similar recommendations will be made in favor of school consolidations,” Avedisian wrote. He noted that in the event the School Department decides to pursue the consolidation plan, he supports applying the $4.4 million savings directly to the schools.
The Mayor said some have expressed concern that the city may just cut the School Department budget by whatever savings are realized by the consolidation.
“I want to make it very clear that that has never been the city’s intent,” Avedisian said.
Instead, he said, he intends to make sure the School Committee is able to spend the savings on programs and improvements to the district.
Regarding the $1.1 million the School Committee asked for, Avedisian said he’s written budgets with less than the Schools requested in previous years, and they’ve managed surpluses, even so. He said he’d rather work with the School Department on the consolidation, which would redirect money that isn’t being spent well, rather than just add more money into the budget.
This year Avedisian recommends funding the School Department at $158.4 million, about a 3.2 percent increase over last year’s $153.4 million. The city’s proposed contribution to that figure is $119 million.
In total, there’s about $6.8 million more in this year’s proposal, a 2.44 percent increase over last year. That’ll raise the tax rate 23 cents, according to the summary.
The new residential rate, $20.02 per $1,000 value, would add $43.85 to the bill of the average home, valued at $190,647. Under the proposed budget, the commercial and personal property rates would rise to $30.03 and $40.04, respectively.
The motor vehicle exemption would stay at $2,000, and the rate, $34.60 per $1,000 of assessed value, would also remain the same.
For FY2015, despite raising taxes, Avedisian said revenues will be less, so he is proposing a transfer of $3.6 million from the city’s fund balance to avoid raising taxes further.
Budget hearings on the proposal begin Thursday, May 29, 5:30 p.m., at Warwick City Hall, 3275 Post Road. They continue at the same time Friday, May 30, then at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 31 and if necessary, Sunday, June 1, at 10 a.m.
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