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School Department Asks $1.7 Million Beyond Mayor’s Proposal

Warwick City Hall
 Warwick City Hall.
Warwick City Hall.

WARWICK, RI — Warwick City Council members acknowledged their lack of leverage over the School Committee’s $167, 016,615 for FY18 budget beyond the bottom line Friday night, but critiqued the details anyway.

What was really at issue was whether the Council will grant the school department $1.7 million more than the $165,238,442 Mayor Scott Avedisian has proposed for the department.

Avedisian’s proposal adds $3 million to the school department budget; the school department’s plan would add $4,781,252 more for FY18.

After the hearing, Councilman Ed Ladouceur said each $1million added to the budget would result in an additional 10 cents per $1,000 of value on the city’s tax rate.

Avedisian’s proposed school budget would add 30 cents per $1,000. The full school request, Ladouceur said, would add 45 cents per $1,000. On a $200,000 home, the difference on a tax bill would be an additional $60 versus an extra $90.

Avedisian said that math (10 cents per $1,000 of value for every extra $1 million) is roughly accurate. The calculation is slightly more complicated, he pointed out, because of the city’s split tax rate that charges slightly more per $1,000 of value on commercial property than residential.

Councilman Jeremy Rix criticized the School Department’s announced plan to begin any necessary cuts with teaching positions. Rix  said although he was impressed that there would be classroom improvements such as $630,800 for instructional technology equipment including smart TVs, document cameras and promethium board devices in the High Schools,  “I just can’t see the characterization of these extras, when it comes to technologies, being prioritized over cuts to teachers,” Rix said.

Ladoceur criticized the apparent lack of impact on the administrative staff in the event that cuts are needed.

Councilman Richard Corley sought to press Superintendent Phil Thorton on how many of the 31 layoff-noticed teachers would in fact be laid off if the schools were unable to add the $1.7 million to their budget.

Thorton declined to answer, noting that the layoff notices are required early in the budget process by state law that demands advance notice of layoffs, but that the actual numbers of teachers that would be laid off is something he doesn’t have the figures to measure. He won’t have that information until mid-June he said. The layoff notices have to go out well in advance, but that doesn’t mean he knows for certain how  many of the 31 teachers might have to be let go.

“I will not make that call sitting here, ” Thornton said.

Councilman Merolla cautioned the Council against focusing so much on the School Department’s mistakes that they lose sight over whether the schools were being properly funded. Merolla noted that in 2007-2008, the School Department had $157 million in its budget, which has only increased slightly in 2016-2017 to $161 million.

“I don’t think we’re paying them too much,” Merolla said.

Councilman Joseph Gallucci also stated his support for the full budget.

The public comment period of the hearing was brief, with only three people addressing the Council, all of them in support of the School Department’s full budget request.

One of the public speakers in favor of the full school budget request, Marion McQuarrie, criticized the city’s lack of funding for the school department during the last several years. “Maybe the increase wouldn’t seem so big if we didn’t have to wait so long,” she said.

The budget hearings were continued until 5 p.m., Tuesday, May 30, at City Hall, in council chambers, second floor, 3275 Post Rd, Warwick.

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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