Councilors fear for Warren’s long-term fiscal health

Warren town councilors (from left) Scott Lial, Chris Stanley and David Frerichs go over the numbers at a recent Joint Finance Committee meeting. Warren town councilors (from left) Scott Lial, Chris Stanley and David Frerichs go over the numbers at a recent Joint Finance Committee meeting.

Even if Warren extricates itself from its current budget mess, town council members fear the town may end up in a yearly recurring cycle of untenable budget cuts and rising school costs.

Warren town councilors (from left) Scott Lial, Chris Stanley and David Frerichs go over the numbers at a recent Joint Finance Committee meeting.

Warren town councilors (from left) Scott Lial, Chris Stanley and David Frerichs go over the numbers at a recent Joint Finance Committee meeting.

That was the word from a sparsely attended budget public hearing Monday night. Councilors met at 7 p.m. to give members of the public their second chance to speak on the budget but, even though the town is looking at a possible 6.9 percent tax increase and widespread budget cuts, fewer than 10 people showed up. Only three spoke.

Those who did echoed councilors’ sentiments that the kind of numbers Warren is seeing this year can’t continue.

“This town is run very lean,” Strawberry Lane resident Pat Galvin said. “But this is unacceptable. You’ve got to fund public education, but it’s got to be balanced on a community’s ability to pay. It can’t go on like this.”

As it stands, school costs have risen $1.5 million over last year, and town officials have cut close to $1 million in town services and purchases to bring Warren’s budget down to a reasonable number. Even so, the proposed tax levy still stands at 6.9 percent, almost double the 4 percent maximum levy allowed by law. School spending accounts for nearly 60 percent of Warren’s complete budget.

Town officials have applied to the state for permission to exceed the 4 percent levy and expect to hear back by the end of this week; if they’re denied, councilors will have to cut an additional $680,000 worth of spending to get down to the 4 percent figure. Concurrently, they have asked a state Superior Court judge to determine whether the state funding formula has been applied correctly in the Bristol Warren Regional School District, as Warren officials believe there has been an error in application. The difference could mean $2 million yearly to the town, and Judge Luis Matos is expected to rule on the issue prior to the Financial Town Meeting next month.

But even if both requests come out in the town’s favor, councilors and several residents warned Wednesday that that will do nothing to help Warren’s long-term stability. Warren won’t be able to continue with steadily rising school costs and local cuts for very long before the town becomes insolvent, they warned.

“With fewer services, particularly for kids in town, fewer emergency services, this is not going to be a place where people are going to want to move, and where businesses are going to want to locate,” said Kickemuit Road resident Baird Brown. What’s needed is a long-term fix, he said, because “this is this year, then there’ll be next year, then the next year.”

Councilor Joseph DePasquale said the solution to the town’s problems is “the million dollar question,” and councilors admitted that they don’t have many options.

“I used to consider the schools a line item in the town budget,” added council president Chris Stanley. “Now We have to put a study commission together to see whether it’s beneficial to consider deregionalizing. I’m at the point where I’d consider it.”

Ms. Galvin mentioned another, namely letting the state come in, a la Central Falls, and take over Warren’s finances.

“Warren has not been run poorly,” she said. “There is nothing to hide. If Judge Matos does not rule in our favor, maybe there could be consideration given by the town council to just turning this all over to the State of Rhode Island. There’s nothing to fear from having them come down .. .except taking a look at the disproportionate (school) funding.”

“You’re preaching to the choir,” Scott Lial said. “I’m not convinced that a judgment in our favor is going to be enough.”

“We have a long road to hoe. Rest assured that the council as a collective is aware that everything’s on the table in terms of what is going to work to fix this long term. Even if we get a positive decision (from the courts) we have a long term strategy that’s going to be required.”

 

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23 Comments

  1. Wil DeGelt said:

    Council president Chris Stanley… “Now We have to put a study commission together to see whether it’s beneficial to consider deregionalizing. I’m at the point where I’d consider it.”
    This is the most intelligent statement he has EVER uttered.
    SEVER WARREN NOW BEFORE IT BRINGS BRISTOL DOWN WITH IT

    • Cathy Goulart said:

      They should never have regionalized the school system and set it up so Bristol has all the say. It’s not Warren bringing down Bristol, it’s Bristol bringing down Warren.

  2. DownTown said:

    $2 million more to Warren means $2 million less for Bristol.

    Then take a look at the funding cutbacks from the State which are happening for the next 7 years or so till they reach $8 million a year between the two towns. As Bristol is the larger community they will take the brunt of those cuts also.

    I can see the schools stating that there are hundreds of extra students suddenly appearing over the next several years EVERY year in order to present larger and larger bills to the town(s).

    Last year the schools billed Bristol $600,000 for new students while they told Warren there were 88 new Warren students.

  3. John Tats said:

    This past year the school dept. stated that there was an influx of over a hundred+ extra students…? where did they come from, it wasn’t Warren. Warren’s population had supposedly gone down. Or did the school dept. just use this as another ploy to bolster their budget. Either way letting the State take over might be the answer. I’m already sick of this year after year with no resolve.

    • Wil DeGelt said:

      “This past year the school dept. stated that there was an influx of over a hundred+ extra students…? where did they come from”
      They come from declining enrollment at the PRIVATE schools you moron. Don’t you hear and see ads for LaSalle, Hendricken and others in the media? Did you forget about Fatima closing its doors? The private school census is down due to the crappy economy. Where do you think these students go?

      • John Tats said:

        Wil Degelt , while I can only assume that since you are so much smarter than the rest of us, you might tell the school dept. your answer because at the time of their statement they could not provide a definitive answer that they were all from Warren! But yet they expected Warren to pay for the difference, Since you choose to resort to name calling behind a facade I can only hope that we get the opportunity to meet in person someday soon. Perhaps these posts are just to much for you to handle since you have anger problems, my children don’t even resort to name calling so maybe you should receive some anger management, because these issues are going to continue for quite some time, I don’t think Eastbaynews is going to continue to allow you to berate folks in this fashion. I am well aware of the potential those schools have on the system. Chances are they don’t all come from Warren. The BWRS can’t just make the statement without the proof. But shame on me for not being as smart as you, perhaps we need someone just like you to take the reigns of all of Warrens problems since you seem to have all the answer over us moronic Warren people.

      • John Tats said:

        Wil Degelt , while I can only assume that since you are so much smarter than the rest of us, you might tell the school dept. your answer because at the time of their statement they could not provide a definitive answer that they were all from Warren! But yet they expected Warren to pay for the difference, Since you choose to resort to name calling behind a facade I can only hope that we get the opportunity to meet in person someday soon. Perhaps these posts are just to much for you to handle since you have anger problems, my children don’t even resort to name calling so maybe you should receive some anger management, because these issues are going to continue for quite some time, I don’t think Eastbaynews is going to continue to allow you to berate folks in this fashion. I am well aware of the potential those schools have on the system. Chances are they don’t all come from Warren. The BWRS can’t just make the statement without the proof. But shame on me for not being as smart as you, perhaps we need someone just like you to take the reigns of all of Warrens problems since you seem to have all the answer over us moronic Warren people.

        • Wil DeGelt said:

          I heard you the first time!
          As I have posted before: “…and the liberals always tell me that THEY are the open-minded, tolerant ones!”

        • DownTown said:

          From the State’s answer to Warren’s request to go over the phony cap (has the State EVER denied an exception?) Warren added 112 students and Bristol lost 129 students

          BUT Bristol was charged an extra $600k for EXTRA students in the latest school budget request.

          Cooking the books will only work for so long.

          In 2009 the regional system which was designed to SAVE money spent $17k per student here the 4th highest per pupil spending in the State.

  4. ted said:

    Our problem is not Bristol, or Bristol’s Warren. The problem is that the priority in this country is the war machine, to the detriment of all else.

    • Transplant said:

      Right, because the lack of a war would make all of our other problems go away. What color are the unicorns on your planet?

  5. ted said:

    The US spends more on military than the next 15 countries combined. The Pentagons budget is higher than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare and safety. The 2014 Federal Budget requests over 630 billion dollars for Military, 71 billion for the Department of Education. You can roll out all of the AM radio/Fox news talking points and insults that you wish but the priorities are clear. So are the consequences.

    • Transplant said:

      The Department of Education budget should be $0. Schools are a local issue. The DOE does nothing except establish absurd unfunded mandates and waste taxpayer dollars.

  6. DownTown said:

    Central Falls turned their schools over to the State in 1991. Then from 1991 to 2010 they raised property taxes by 3.3% while on average over the same time period the rest of the muni’s in RI raised on average 133%.

    The same school formula that is taking money from BW schools also states that Central Falls can afford $12 million a year towards their schools. They continue to pay ZERO.

    The receiver that took over there did raise property taxes one time BUT they had a huge drop in valuation preceding that.

    Remember that when your property taxes are going through the roof over the next 7 years.

  7. comn sense said:

    Has anyone bothered to do an impact study from the new taxes coming from the Tourister bldg rehab.

    Given there are no “affordable” units, it’s likely the number of children occupying units will be minimal. So the revenue appears to be largely additional income.

    Why isn’t the Council discussing the impact?

    • Lastoneleft said:

      Most rentals in both Mass and Rhode Island count as affordables when tasked with meeting “affordable housing minimums.” Federal programs pay a very attractive “market rent” to a developer willing to produce affordable housing units: no matter what they are called for “permitting” purposes. There is no white horse galloping into Warren offering Salvation: whether on his horse or in his Helicopter!

  8. former warrenite said:

    All the educational infrastructure for the school district currently exists in Bristol. De-regionalizing will incur lots of additional costs that may negate the savings. Warren will have to staff and house an administrative department that currently doesn’t exist. There is only Kickemuit that could possibly be used as the high school, but where do the middle school kids go? If there’s a study, all of these things should be considered.

    • DownTown said:

      You think $2 million extra a year for Warren will be negated by some one time costs?

      On the contrary the regional system was supposed to pay off one time costs and SAVE money but in 2009 BW spent over $17k per student the 4th highest in the State.

  9. John Tats said:

    @ Commn Sense , you can’t even take into consideration any influx from the Tourister at this point, while they are paying some sort of tax during the construction period. Those taxes can’t be counted until the project is completed and not working under a construction mortgage of sorts. If you happened to count it in now, and they failed miserably by some stroke of bad luck. Then we would really have a problem. I don’t think the Town can figure in that income for at least 2-3 more years. But I agree with you, some research should be done on what we can do with that money starts to come forward.
    Chances are the schools will be asking for the so much by then it could be a mute point.

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