Court orders Warren to pay its $400K school district tab

Warren Town Council president Chris Stanley makes a point at a recent Joint Finance Committee meeting. Warren Town Council president Chris Stanley makes a point at a recent Joint Finance Committee meeting.

Warren Town Council president Chris Stanley makes a point at a recent Joint Finance Committee meeting.

Warren Town Council president Chris Stanley makes a point at a recent Joint Finance Committee meeting.

A Judge ordered the Town of Warren to pay the Bristol Warren Regional School District more than $400,000 after the town refused to fully fund the Joint Finance Committee’s approved budget last year.

Superior Court Judge Luis Matos ordered Warren to pay $416,229, plus interest, after the town level-funded its contributions to schools for fiscal 2014. School committee Chairman Paul Silva said he was satisfied with the judge’s ruling.

“The town owes the money. I’m very pleased with the outcome. I wish it didn’t take so long to come,” Mr. Silva said.

Legally, Mr. Silva said, “If the town doesn’t pay the money it’s supposed to, they have to pay it with interest.”

Under the law, statutory interest is set at 12 percent, while the enabling legislation that creates the regionalized school district uses a computation to set that interest rate. It is unclear how the interest rate would be assessed.
In Warren, Town Council President Christopher Stanley had a differing view.

“It’s devastating,” he said. “We don’t necessarily agree with the court, but certainly we are going to abide by the court ruling.”

The decision came soon after Warren filed a separate lawsuit against the Bristol Warren Regional School District, contending that since 2011, the school funding formula has been incorrectly calculated. In Mr. Stanley’s view, Warren is being overcharged $2 million on this year’s school bill alone, a cost he has said the town simply cannot bear.

Although he said he recognizes the need to fund the schools, Mr. Stanley blames the school department for wasteful spending. He also blames the Town of Bristol, whose representation on the Joint Finance Committee outweighs that of Warren, in part for Warren’s financial woes.

“Let the state come in and take over the town,” he said of having state auditors examine the town’s finances. “It will lead to one place — the schools. Then they’ll start going over the school’s books.”

The Warren Town Council is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, April 9, when Mr. Stanley will present his suggestions on what the town will have to cut in order to pay its share of the school bill. Included among his suggestions are cuts to parks and recreation and to the town’s dumping facility.

“The town we woke up to this morning is far different that the town we’ll wake up to on July 1,” Mr. Stanley said. “We are in dire straits. I’m sick to my stomach. We don’t have the capacity to generate revenue.”

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24 Comments

  1. DownTown said:

    This has been in front of the courts for over a year I believe.

    Where is the written opinion of the Court detailing the basis for the ruling?

    Or did Matos, a native of Portugal, just pound his gavel and rule without basis?

    Maybe it hasn’t been published yet but this is where the decision should be detailed some time next week.

    http://goo.gl/VFtldf

    Warren can appeal but that costs money. If they did appeal they could likely get an injunction against Matos’s opinion.

    I like Stanley’s approach, declare bankruptcy and let the receiver start digging into the town’s bills which means digging into the Joint Finance Committee and the BW school system practices.

    Alternatively if Warren has to pay that much a year more just use the money as payments to build a new High School. Then the town will receive additional funding which Bristol will lose. Exit the regional system.

  2. warrenres said:

    If we need to make cuts shouldn’t we start at the town dump? Do we really need to have the dump open all day during the week? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have it open just on Saturday so people who work for a living and pay taxes in this town can use it? Do we need a full time employee manning this place Monday – Friday? Someone please name another town that shares this practice.

    • StillBroke said:

      My collection day is Friday. Like most people, I work Monday to Friday. I leave my house at 7:30 and return around 5:30 to 5:45. I do my yard work and house work on weekends.
      This past weekend, I spent 7 hours raking my yard. I have 6 lawn and leaf bags filled mostly with dry, dead grass and some leaves. They will have to sit waiting to be picked up until Friday.
      Knowing there is a storm with heavy rain and high wind coming tonight and tomorrow morning, I called the town yard to ask if they could please come pick up these bags so they wouldn’t blow all over the place.
      John Massed told me that if I was so concerned, I should bring the bags to the transfer station myself. I thanked Mr. Massed for his suggestion and told him I worked until 5:00pm and got home after 5:30, long after the transfer station closed for the day. He responded that if I was so concerned, I should leave work early and bring the bags to the transfer station myself.
      I asked if there was really nothing he could do and he replied again that if I was so concerned, I should bring the bags to the transfer station myself.
      He wasn’t rude about it, he just kept repeating the same answer over and over.
      What good does it do to keep the transfer station open when most residents are working? They really need to look at whether the transfer station is meeting the needs of the taxpayer.

  3. Wil DeGelt said:

    ha ha Ha Ha HA HA !!!!!
    Open your wallet and grab your ankles Warren!!!
    I know…why don’t you spend more money you don’t have on lawyers for an appeal?
    It looks like Warren will be on a fiscal diet.
    Mr. Stanley is sick to his stomach, but “I’m as happy as a little girl”!
    —JUSTICE HAS BEEN SERVED—

  4. John Tats said:

    @ Wil Degelt , I’m confused as to what justice you think has been served, I’m gonna repeat myself by saying that if Warren goes down, Bristol won’t be far behind. I wouldn’t be throwing a party.
    Once Warren is left with no other options than to lay off workers or diminish public services, the next step would be bankruptcy…..then the trouble starts not just for us but you folks also.
    Anyone that gloats over an issue such as this is nothing more than a person that needs serious counseling. You must be an administrator for the school dept. or one of the JFC members that voted to intentionally hurt their neighbors, really nice attitude.

    • Wil DeGelt said:

      Mr.Tats –
      I’m not an “administrator for the school dept” or a JFC member – I’m a tax-paying resident of Bristol who humps it to work every day, who is TIRED of supporting Warren and who NEVER supported the regional school district in the first place. It’s nothing but welfare for Warren. The original plan for the “region” was Bristol, Warren AND Barrington. Barrington had the good sense and foresight NOT to sign on. Unfortunately, regionalization has only HURT Bristol!
      Bristol needs to cut the cord NOW!
      Bristol will NOT go down when Warren goes down. Other than the school district,we are not tied at the hip.
      Stop whining and crying and take a look at what Warren can do to dig ITSELF out of its own pile of excrement and stop looking south for help.

      • John Tats said:

        I am far from crying Wil Degelt , if you folks don’t want Warren as part of the School system and think we are a burden, then yes cut the cord. If Warren isn’t such a big deal in the picture of things then why such deep concern when we pay for only what we are supposed to pay for! (No Extra’s) why keep voting against trying to conserve funds. Why is it always, and I repeat always necessary to keep over funding the school system. I’m gonna agree with you on this…kick Warren loose from this agreement, you won’t hear any argument from me. But I’m sure the people of Bristol will be angry over the fact of the loss of funds, let the school administration bleed you guys alone for a while and then you’ll see what the real issue is. When you make comments like Justice is served, it demonstrates the true intent of both you and others that you intentionally want to hurt your neighbors, no one is looking to Bristol for any help, just stop screwing us without kissing us first.

        • Wil DeGelt said:

          “why such deep concern when we pay for only what we are supposed to pay for! (No Extra’s)”
          Well Mr. Tats, in this case you didn’t even pay what you were supposed to pay! You tried to screw Bristol by “level funding”! You didn’t like the budget from the JFC and the council decided to short change the district and the people of Bristol in the process – and you accuse me of trying to hurt my neighbors. You sir, are a hypocrite. Nice try Warren, but you lost – now PAY UP!

          • John Tats said:

            @ Wil Degelt , you do know that the school Dept. has a surplus right! So why give them more…just wondering? Why is it never the case that they reduce spending? Why is it so necessary to give them more than they use..? I’m not a hypocrite, I just don’t believe in throwing money at people that can’t justify the need or where it is spent. I paid my tax, so go buy a beer for yourself on me and gloat!

  5. dave said:

    Who didn’t think this REPUBLICAN was lying? Did you really believe Captain Corruption Chris Stanley, a REPUBLICAN, was the one who could save Warren from 60 years of DEMOCRAT mismanagement?

    Check the books at BCWA? NO public comment welcome.

    Sure Warren, the petulant little child with no money, no new business, who can only keep whining about how they cannot keep up with “rich’ Bristol. Resorting to using crazy tricks and arrogant fantasy in letters to the local paper to survive.

    Maybe Warren should not exist because they are a financial disaster. Merge every municipal department, not just water and schools, and stop paying for municipal department heads that are not needed. With property taxes and car taxes higher than Barrington what are the solutions?

    Open ALL the municipal books and see this collapse as an opportunity.

  6. Wil DeGelt said:

    Barrington opted out of the original regional school district with warren and bristol – they were no fools!
    let warren merge with barrington – as a bristol tax payer i’m tired of carrying warrens load – let them go belly-up like central falls – yeah, sure, we’ll have to pay a little more but warrens debt will be spread out over the entire state – it won’t matter much to bristol or barrington in the long run

  7. Wil DeGelt said:

    hey i’ve got an idea to lighten the mood…
    how about a chris stanley caption contest for the photo to this story?
    i’ll start everyone off with a couple…
    1. “hey, relax, we only need to raise taxes this much…”
    2. “don’t worry, we only need to cut this much from the budget…”
    3. “wow, whatta grindah at warren house of pizzah…”

  8. John Tats said:

    @ WIL DEGELT , I’m beginning to think Chris Stanley must have photo’s of you in a precarious circumstance or are you just tired of kicking your dog. ?

  9. klynch26 said:

    As a member of the School Committee, I urge John Tats to show where we have not cut spending every year in effort to help the taxpayer. But Warren doesn’t want to cut anything. They just want the school district to keep cutting so a Warren doesn’t have to. Our teachers took 3 zeros in the last contract, Warren gave their employees a raise. We hold a 2% surplus to hold our bond rating. That is what good businesses do. If Warren doesn’t do the same that is your problem not ours. Mr Stanley praised us for our budget at one meeting in open session then slams us to the press for reckless spending in another. We live within our budget every year and try our best to only cut when it doesn’t effect kids. Unfortunately, this issue will played out in the courts with the taxpayers of Bristol and a Warren footing the bill.

    • cooterbfd said:

      Karen, unfortunately, you will NEVER get them to admit any wrongdoing on their part. I went to the State and towns websites to check budgets, and this is what I come up with;

      Warren, in 2001 had a $7.67 mil school budget, and a $7.61 Muni budget. By 2013-14, schools were $11.68 mil, and Muni was $14.52 mil, for a WHOPPING 91% INCREASE, as opposed to 52% for schools. Even if you take out the debt service, Muni increased 65%!!!!

      Bristol in 2001 had a $12.62 mil school budget and a $13.80 mil Muni budget. By 2013-14 schools were $22.04 mil and muni was $20.99 mil. OUR school budget went up 74% (!!!!!) vs. only 52% for muni, and that 52% INCLUDES DEBT SERVICE!!!!

      This proves that Stanley’s only job is to get Bristol to balance Warren’s budget on Bristol’s back!!!

      I said it before and I’ll say it again. PUT AWAY THE HOOVER FLAGS WARREN, we aren’t buying it.

      • cooterbfd said:

        As an aside, the school department budget increased from a little over $40 mil to $53 mil over the same period, INCLUDING it’s debt service!!!! That is approximately a 33% increase in total budget.

        I believe that they are doing a FAR BETTER JOB at controlling their costs than either town is.

        Numbers don’t lie, but Stanley DOES!!!!

    • John Tats said:

      @KLYNCH26 ,With past members of your board informing people of cuts that could be made, it’s difficult for me to believe anyone that presently sits there now. Yes you did cut some spending, I went back and looked, My comment was: you can’t follow were the money goes. First of all I don’t think cutting the teachers was ever our intent or yours. Did any of the administrators take a cut? Anyone making six figures can take a cut, it’s not gonna hurt them one bit. And yes your surplus was in excess of the 2% as you stated for a very long time prior to this disagreement, far more than was ever needed not an arguable point. The change in the reduction in school funding was to have placed BWRS in their 4th or 5th year with an $800,000 reduction, You & others knew that. Warren’s budget is posted every year, make the comparison yourself & get last years newspaper & look it up. There are most certainly cuts.

      With Better than half of Warren’s population over 60 years of age, I’m just curious what cuts you would make here that don’t already exist. The Police Dept is the same size it was twenty years ago, the Fire Dept. & Rescue runs on bare bones now, the sewer plant has “Mandated EPA” upgrades that it needs, the Highway Dept. only has about 18 employee’s total, and the Town hall has minimal staffing, whom or what service do you want to see go? I want you or someone to go public and state which one of these people or services needs to be cut. In order for yours and others comments to be valid. Don’t be afraid, say which person should lose their job as a result of your findings, lets validate everyone’s claims that more cuts can be made. It amazes me that all of you get right to that brink but won’t throw it out there…..lets hear it! Who do you want to see go that presently has a job in Warren, what positions need to go? Don’t be afraid of making enemies, I’m sure whom ever you chose won’t take issue, it’s for your cause.

      Rather than beating a dead dog, I’m beginning to like
      WIL DEGELT idea of just dissolving the present agreement. Let Warren fend for itself, problem solved. Quite honestly at this point the bickering continues year after year, the Bristol folk blame the Warren folk and so on, it’s not good for the soul.
      I am going to support anything that removes us from the present situation. To say that Warren doesn’t cut is inaccurate, they have made plenty of cuts, the issue is the tax base, the Town barely generates enough to support everyday services.

      Perhaps without Warren in the picture, BWRS and others won’t need to slam MR. Stanley or Warren any longer, let Warren find their own way. If we fail over here on our own, that will be our problem. You folks won’t need to worry about it. And quite frankly I’m comfortable with that. It’s better than the continual year after year fighting.
      With each Town dealing with it’s own debt, it no longer has to be Bristol against Warren & everyone can be friends again.

      The bigger problem is each person involved thinks their doing the correct or rite thing, so it becomes very personal at times, the heated exchanges are not good for anyone. While Warren may have a dark future ahead of it, the divesting of Warren from the regional agreement may in fact be the best end result anyway and be whats best for all involved.

  10. Wil DeGelt said:

    Mr. Tats –
    Now you’re making sense! Yes, dissolve the regional school district now!
    I’ve got a great idea for saving both towns some money – GET RID OF THE SCHOOL BUSES. Just think of the dollars savings!
    Let the kids walk to school (good exercise – after all most kids are obese), let parents take their kids, let the parents carpool or several parents could hire a small van. Huge savings here. School buses only burp noxious fumes and tie up traffic with their ridiculous bus monitors (stop traffic, watch one kid get on the bus, look this way, look that way, look up look down, do it again at the next house)

    • Metacomment said:

      First, towns need to stop paying for busing children to private schools. That’s a scam created by RI Legislators who send their kids to private and parochial schools.

      • StillBroke said:

        Don’t forget that the parents of children who go to parochial and/or private schools also pay taxes. They relieve the towns of the burden (and the cost) of educating their children by paying to send them to a parochial or private school. I think it is cheaper for the district to bus these kids than to educate them. I seem to remember the superintendent panicking when St. Elizabeth’s closed a few years back. If we stop paying to bus these kids, there are bound to be several (maybe many) who end up in BWRS schools.

        • Metacomment said:

          Sounds like you’re in favor for more welfare for the rich.

          It’s not up to the taxpayers to pay for their transportation if they don’t want to go to our schools.

          • DownTown said:

            His well taken point is that if those students end up in public school the costs will be much higher than books and buses.

            Every 20 or so students will need teachers also. Teacher pay and benefits are really the vast majority of school spending.

  11. DownTown said:

    This is NOT the case regarding funding via the recent school funding formula which is still in court.

    Matos based this decision on the law regarding regional schools.

    If Warren leaves the BW school system this decision will be voided.

    From my reading of the decision Warren’s legal council didn’t do a very good job either because Matos repeatedly refers to that throughout the decision such as:

    “Defendant failed to raise the enrollment discrepancy in its pleadings by either affirmative defense or counterclaim.”

    And here:

    “Here, Plaintiffs seek relief from Defendant regarding the appropriation of originally allocated funds. Accordingly, not only has Defendant failed to
    support its affirmative defense in its pleadings but, the statute, on its face, is in apposite because the Plaintiffs are seeking compliance with the Regional School Committee’s established budget in accordance with the Enabling Legislation. They are not seeking additional funding. Hence,
    § 16-2-21.4 does not apply to this matter.”

    http://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SuperiorCourt/DecisionsOrders/decisions/12-4653.pdf

  12. Wil DeGelt said:

    here’s another money saver –
    LET’S GET RID OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS
    what a ridiculous, social engineering concept
    let people live where THEY can afford to live
    i’d love to live on poppasquash point but guess what…
    affordable housing only lowers property values, which decreases the tax base and is a drain on services (police, fire, rescue, schools)

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