WARWICK, RI – The School Committee suspended its hearing on Superintendent Lynn Dambruch’s $141,463,624 FY24 Warwick Schools budget until Thursday after Vice Chairman Shaun Galligan led a vote to wait for information required by the board’s policy.
The School Committee passed Galligan’s motion by a 3-1 vote, with Chair David Testa voting against. Galligan, Committee Members Leah Hazelwood and Michelle Kirby Chapman voted in favor. Karen Bachus was absent.
Warwick Schools Budget Seeks $6.5M increase
The FY24 Warwick Schools Budget outlined by Dambruch asks for $6,545,295.40 more than last year, a 4.85 percent increase over the Fiscal Year 23. Testa said the budget was “too much,” but when asked what he would cut from the proposal, he declined to offer his thoughts before Thursday’s meeting.
“The city was generous last year,” Testa noted Monday, adding “We asked for $5 million and got $5 million.”
Darlene Netcoh, President of the Warwick Teachers Union, said the budget was “fair.” She, Testa and Galligan noted their support for the Special Education funding outlined in the document.
Galligan protests required items missing for Warwick Schools Budget Hearing
Among the missing, required items, Galligan said, was class scheduling, which connected to the salaries and personnel line item in the budget. Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey said scheduling of classes would not be completed until June.
Galligan also sought information regarding ridership on the busses, citing a $900,000 cut in the transportation line. He also said a Capital Improvement plan had not been presented to the committee.
“As a voting member on the budget, I don’t have those items,” Galligan stated.
Committee Chairman David Testa warned his fellow committee members about delaying the budget hearing.
“This is a very dangerous game we’re playing,” Testa said. “We’re going to mar this committee worse than it’s been marred before.”
Testa wanted to get the budget to the city on May 3. The next regularly scheduled school committee meeting is set for May 9.
The meeting adjourned at 6:06 pm.
“We’re voting on a near $190 million budget, our school committee policies dictate what we should have before we vote on that budget,” Galligan told Warwick Post after the meeting.
Members of the school committee had sought out information before Monday but were rebuffed.
“Our chairman and others did not allow those questions to be asked,” Galligan noted. “There were several line items I was concerned about underfunding because we didn’t have certain data.”
“I spoke with the school administration this morning and they are working on scheduling the second budget hearing, possibly before week’s end,” Galligan said Tuesday. “I anticipate that the School administration will provide the necessary information onto the School Committee prior to the rescheduled date, so that we may formulate our questions and line item modifications.”
“It would have been ideal to complete our budget process last evening so that we could turn our attention to other matters,” Galligan continued. “To have a solid budget, we need to have all the information to have a complete picture of our school district, prior to discussing line item expenditures.”
“The basis for suspension was, because, in Mr. Galligan’s opinion, a policy was not followed,” Testa said Tuesday. “I asked our attorney for his legal interpretation of the policy and his interpretation was that we were complying with it. So when the personal opinion trumps the legal opinion, I don’t think that is a good look for the School Committee.”
Copies of Dambruch’s proposed budget, her presentation slides, and School Finance Director Timothy McGrath’s brief narrative on the budget are embedded below:
01 FY24 Budget to SC .docx
FY24 Superintendent Rec Budget
FY24 BudgetNarrative Slides updated 4_26_23
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