WARWICK, RI — The Warwick School Committee unanimously approved a revised $170.3 million 2020 school budget Tuesday.
The budget includes a reduction of $596,739 in staff costs.
“It’s transparent and open,” committee member David Testa said of the revised budget.
In a letter to Superintendent Phil Thornton, Anthony Ferrucci, executive director of finance and operations, outlined the fiscal challenges facing the district.
“The School Department had to absorb over $3 million dollars’ worth of cuts in order to adopt a revised budget in September 2019. In mid-September we began receiving out-o-district enrollment numbers which indicated our-out-of-district tuitions cost would considerably exceed the School Department’s budgets,” Ferrucci said.
The district also needed to move forward with unanticipated expenses such as paying for a Stage I and Stage II housing aid application,” he added.
“In early October all Budget Managers were notified about budget concerns,” Ferrucci wrote. “They were advised to submit purchase order requisitions to cover all anticipated expenses for the duration of the school year. The expectation was that any unspent/unencumbered funds remaining in any budget line would be cut in order to cover other budget shortfalls. As a result of this communication, PO requisitions flooded the business office. As evidenced in the School Committee’s Nov. 12th agenda, there are now a record number of PO requisitions needing approval.”
At the school committee meeting on July 16, Ferrucci had presented a preliminary year-end fiscal report that projected Warwick Public Schools reporting a year-end deficit of $2,889,933.
“Since that time, we have closed out all encumbrances, received any final invoices from the schools, analyzed accuracy of accruals and conducted a year-end analysis of staff costs assigned to grants,” Ferrucci wrote to Thornton. “Through all of these efforts, revenue adjustments were identified, as well as cost reductions due to encumbrances not meeting expectations. There was a deficit of $128,683 and expenses were reduced by $1,119,921. These two figures resulted in a reduction in the projected deficit by $991,238,” he wrote.
“The projections are concerning to me,” said Testa. “We have to do what’s best for our students.”
Committee Oks Five-Year Plan
The school committee split in a 4 to 1 vote on adopting a Five Year Projected Local Funded Budget. Chairperson Karen Bachus, Judith Cobden, Testa, and Nathan Cornell voted yes. Kyle Adams was the lone ‘no’ vote.
Ferrucci said the committee would be revisiting the plan every year and would “tweak” it.
Bachus concurred, noting the five year plan is “not written in stone.” “It’s a process,” she added.
Ferrucci explained the Finance Committee took on the task of preparing a five-year budget forecast last July. At the Finance Committee’s last meeting on Oct. 23, the Finance Committee completed its task and adopted a recommended Five Year Projected Local Funded Budget.
Ferrucci said that when the plan or an amended version of the plan is adopted, it must be submitted to the City Finance Office for inclusion in the City’s Five Year Budget plan in order to comply with State regulations.
Dual Smoking/vaping policies
The school committee also approved revised smoking/vaping policies for the district, one for students and the other for staff and visitors.
The wording for the policies read as follows: “In accordance with the “Smoking Restrictions in Schools Act”, Public Laws Chapter 92-230, all people (children and adults) who utilize Rhode Island school facilities at any time shall be prohibited from using any substance or item which contains tobacco, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, pipes or other smoking tobacco, or the use of snuff, or smokeless tobacco, or vaping products.
Effective on the date of adoption, tobacco/vaping product use is prohibited by students, employees or visitors, in facilities, in vehicles or on the grounds of the Warwick Public Schools.”