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Solomon Proposes City Assuming $1.7M of School Debt Service

Warwick City Hall
Warwick City Hall. Surplus
Warwick City Hall.

WARWICK, RI — Mayor Joseph Solomon Sr. has proposed the City of Warwick could aid the Warwick School Department with their budget shortage by assuming $1.7 million of the schools’ debt service.

In June, the City Council passed a $316 million budget, adding $1.5 million to the School Department’s budget, for a total of $167,623,61. The School Department had asked for an $8 million addition, which would have surpassed the legal ability of the City to raise taxes. The school department also threatened in an ad in the Warwick Beacon to sue the City if it didn’t receive the increase.

Solomon noted in a letter sent to Warwick School Committee Chairwoman Bethany Furtado dated Monday, that his proposal would provide funding to restore services the Warwick School Department has recently cut. Those services included:

  • Elimination of 15 existing filled custodial positions at modest salary rates, for a savings of approximately $1M
  • Elimination of two presently unfilled administrative positions, with salaries in excess of $100,000 each, at a savings of $250,000
  • Elimination of all funding for the RI Mentoring Program, at a total of $102,000

Solomon said in the letter that he had developed the idea after meeting with Furtado July 31.

“These expense amounts [the School’s debt service]  are listed in Budget Codes #591100 — as $1,150,000 in principal and $600,000 in interest. In total, this additional expense offset, when coupled with the City Council’s authorized $1.5 million in additional local appropriation, will provide the School Department with $3.25 million in additional budgetary funding assistance.

My proposal provides the School Department over 40 percent of their requested increased funding. With this additional funding, the School Department can fully fund:

  • Restoration of the cuts to the RI Mentoring Partnership program
  • Student bus transportation
  • Middle and high school sports
  • Payments to out-of-district providers of student pathway programs
  • Payments to charter schools, payments for out-of-district transportation, and
  • Retention of school bus monitors on all school buses

I would also note that within the adopted Warwick School Department budget, it states Professional Management and Administrators are to be paid $4.62 million to 42 full-time positions at an average rate of $110,152.81. Also within the School Department budget documents, it states that salary costs have been reduced due to one position reclassification down. Given the costs associated with the 42 professional personnel of the School Department, additional cost savings could be realized through the restructuring of the Administrative Division, with the savings put back into the custodial and clerical positions, which contribute to the betterment of the students of the district and our facilities.”

“I think it’s a great proposal to resolve the conflict, so long as the School Department agrees to the proposal and drops the threat of a lawsuit that would only serve to waste taxpayer dollars,” said City Councilman Jeremy Rix.

My hope is that we can resolve this matter in a manner that is fiscally responsible to all concerned. The Mayor’s offer of $1.75 million dollars addresses the Principal and Interest payments on the 2006 Bond issuance  for the Voter approved referendum,” said Furtado.
“The fact remains, the School Departments request for additional funding is neither a shock nor a surprise. Anthony Ferrucci, the Chief Financial Officer for the District, has said at every budget presentation he has done that the  that the 5% reduction in the Maintenance of Effort taken by the City back in the 2009-20010 budget cycle would have a direct impact on the budget.  The fiscal impact statement presented to the Council when the contracts were settled, the Warwick Teachers  and the W.I.S.E. contracts, showed a direct need of $4.6 million dollars for contractual obligations.  That coupled with the reduction in state aid ($1.6 million dollars) illustrated the need for additional funding from the local appropriation.
That being said, we are available, I am available, to meet with the Mayor and City Council President any time, any where,” Furtado said.

The entire letter has been embedded below: FY2019 School Department Budget Appropriation


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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