Judge delays Warren school funding decision

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jfc-warren-guysA Rhode Island Superior Court judge has delayed a decision on whether a crucial funding formula has been applied appropropriately in the Bristol Warren Regional School District over the past three years.

Warren officials contend that the formula, used to determine how much each town pays based on its number of pupils, socioeconomic factors and other variables, has not been applied correctly and as a result has cost the town millions each year. This year alone, Warren Town Manager Thomas Gordon said, the difference could amount to as much as $2 million, should the judge ultimately decide in Warren’s favor. A ruling in Warren’s favor, he said, would reduce Warren’s obligation to the school district from the $13.18 million required by the Joint Finance Committee to $11.127 million, as computed in Warren’s take on the formula.

Officials had hoped to have a decision by Financial Town Meeting next Monday, May 19. But Judge Luis Matos asked the parties to file supplemental briefs on the matter by next week; he also reportedly wants to make the Rhode Island Departemnt of Elementary and Secondary Education a party in the suit.

“He said he wanted to make the right decision, not just a decision, “Warren Town Council president Chris Stanley said. “So we’re just kind of in limbo.”

Over the past month, council members have slashed the budget to help keep expenses in line, cutting part time positions, the summer recreation program at Burr’s Hill and many DPW programs and hours. Still, the cuts have not been enough to stave off a tax increase. Currently, the operating and school budget sits at $23.63 million, of which 55 percent would go to the school department. The proposed tax rate currently stands at $18.67 per $1,000 valuation; that is a 7.9 percent increase in the town’s tax levy hike, twice what the state allows.

Since the Town of Warren has already received approval from the state to exceed the maximum tax levy cap of 4 percent, voters will have limited flexibility for adding items to the budget during Financial Town Meeting this Monday. For instance, if they hope to add $30,000 back in to the recreation department, officials will have to find $30,000 elsewhere to cut.

As always, the meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Kickemuit Middle School. A quorum of 125 voters is required, or else the budget passes as is. Town officials will wait until 7:30 p.m. to allow people to arrive. Then, they’ll count heads and either start the meeting or pass the budget as is.

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6 Comments

  1. DownTown said:

    Gotta love the schools here. They charged Bristol $600,000 more for ‘extra’ students yet Matos showed in his last decision that Bristol had 129 LESS students this past year.

    When first we practice to deceive…………………………..

    • klynch26 said:

      Downtown, the enrollment numbers come directly from the RIDE website, we certainly don’t pull them out of thin air. Your comment is ridiculous and your grasping at straws! Bottom line, let’s just wait to see what the judge decides.

      • DownTown said:

        My comment is not ridiculous. The last budget Bristol was charged $600,000 for ‘extra students’.

        The Matos decision indicated there were 129 less students coming from Bristol. Where was the spending cut attributable to that?

        Maybe you should read the Judges report along with the last budget request to Bristol. Your comments are uninformed.

  2. John Tats said:

    @KLYNCH26 , Here is the problem in a nutshell, you folks at the BWRS are starting to get caught up in your own lies. I think that the present system is gonna get kissed good-by no matter what the judges decision is, because Warren has finally reached the end of its rope. Now that Melinda jumped ship because she can see the writing on the wall. This party is just about over, lets see who’s left behind at the dance. The numbers at BWRS won’t make any difference either way. That ship has sailed, the damage is not repairable at this point. Congratulations you folks took down a community out of selfishness, hope your all proud of yourselves.

  3. Wil DeGelt said:

    “Congratulations you folks took down a community out of selfishness, hope your all proud of yourselves…”
    How did “WE” take down Warren? What about the incompetence of the Warren “leaders” and the complacency of the Warren tax-payers? Do they not share any of the blame?
    De-regionalize now! Let Warren go down, who really cares?

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