Stanley: Warren fights for fiscal ‘right to exist’

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.

Warren is coming out swinging as the town faces what could be one of its biggest financial challenges ever.

Town officials on Monday filed suit against the Bristol Warren Regional School District after the district finance authority’s recent approval of a $54 million budget that Warren town councilors say will leave the town $2 million short this coming year.
Faced with the possibility of service cuts — council president Chris Stanley said curbside trash collection, the recreation department or other services could fall victim if that money is not made up — Warren officials have asked a Rhode Island Superior Court to intervene, and are “leaning toward” giving the school district what the town gave last year, regardless of the JFC’s wishes.
That so-called “maintenance of effort” payment to the district is the same tactic the district used two school years ago after district expenses rose about $416,000 higher than town officials believed they owed.
The school district promptly filed suit to get that money back. And while that case has yet to be decided by a judge, Mr. Stanley said Monday that the town likely has little recourse but to go that same route again.
“If we don’t do that, we’re talking about diminishing services, things like the DPW, parks and recreation,” he said. “No matter how you slice it, it’s going to devastate the community.”
What happened?
Warren officials say they are at this point after the JFC voted two weeks ago to give the school district $54.3 million this coming year. For a week leading up to the vote Warren officials had argued that the district’s funding formula has been incorrectly calculated since the state Department of Education revised the aid formula three years ago. Warren officials contended that aid should be awarded to each town based on the number of students from each, instead of going into the district budget and then divided out proportionately along with other funds.
Mr. Stanley said using Warren’s method would result in a $2 million gain or loss, and told the JFC that “we’re asking about our right to exist as a community.”

However, Warren lost the argument, as the JFC voted 5 to 4 to pass the school budget using the aid formula already in place. Bristol town councilor Mary Parella broke rank with her town’s representatives and voted with Warren against the budget, but still was stern when addressing Warren’s argument:

“Your town government’s issue has to be addressed at another level,” she said. “The burden shouldn’t be on Bristol to help solve the problem.”

 School budget scenarios

Option A

With town “level funding” district at last year’s $11.68 million level, Warren’s tax rate would be $19.30, a 3.5 percent increase over lsat year’s $18.67 rate per $1,000.

Option B
With town paying the $13.18 million ordered by the JFC, the tax rate would rise to $20.68, a 10.9 percent increase.

Source: Warren Town Manager Thomas Gordon

 

On Monday, Mr. Stanley said the council would meet Tuesday night and discuss the next step. It could go two ways: First, the town could do what he expects by voting for another “maintenance of effort” and trying its luck in court; or the town could accept the JFC’s amount. However, that would open up another can of worms, he said.

Since adding that $2 million back into the town’s budget would put the town’s tax rate increase well above the cap allowed by law (jumping from 3.5 percent without the increase to 10.9 percent with it) the town would have to seek permission to spend and tax that amount from the state.
If the state OKs it, Warren taxpayers would feel the hit. If not, “we have to find some way of cutting out $2 million.
Mr. Stanley said the town does not want the burden to fall on the taxpayers, so the town will likely fight. Yet, with the first “maintenance of effort” case from two years ago still unresolved in the courts, he said he does not know what will happen.
“We’re in relatively uncharged waters here,” he said. “We’re in a position that no town has really experienced, as far as we know.”

Read more about the school district’s lawsuit against Warren here.

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5 Comments

  1. realspeak said:

    Mr. Stanley, you nor any politician could ever stop the trash collection. Lets face it, you like others only do things that will help you get reelected. Besides do you really want Warren residents to start making mini landfills all over the 02885?

    At some point, whether we like it or not…taxes need to go up at some point in time.

    Have the courage of being a public servant and let the people know that you and some councilors past/present have not been serving in the publics best interest. Many of you and some othet councilours are in so far over your heads when it comes to being a part of towm government.

  2. DownTown said:

    Here is the 3-4 year old new State school funding formula which strips $800,000 a year away from the BW regional school system EACH year for 10 years meaning 6-7 years from now $8,000,000 a year will need to be made up.

    Year 1 minus $800,000
    Year 2 minus $1,600,000
    Year 3 minus $2,400,000
    Year 4 minus $3,200,000
    etc etc etc till its minus $8,000,000

    The School system here has been on a drunken spending spree for about 20 years and now that extra money which was meant only to be a short term bridge covering extra one time expenses for regionalizing is being stopped.

    http://goo.gl/k7JhV4

    The paper linked details how the State school aid is tallied based on median income, property values and free school lunches. Warren based on the formula that every other school system, with the exception of Central Falls, is abiding by. Central Falls should be contributing nearly $12,000,000 a year but the State has been paying 100% of their school tab since 1991. They feigned poverty by not raising taxes.

    A list of towns and cities and how the formula affects them. Local politicians were able to get back about $1 million from being lost here.

    http://www.golocalprov.com/news/winners-and-losers-how-schools-will-make-out-under-new-law/

    Why Bristol Warren received extra money all these years that it wasn’t supposed to receive:

    Regionalization Bonus – Past education aid distributions, including the
    Operations Aid program, added a regional district bonus to the state share ratio to encourage districts to consolidate. Bonuses began at 2% per consolidated grade and gradually phased out to a minimum of 8%.

    When the Operations Aid program ended, the existing distribution was carried over to the current general aid program;therefore, regional bonuses were frozen in the distribution. Because Bristol-Warren’s phase-out was not complete, its bonus was frozen at 10.5% while Chariho, Exeter-West Greenwich, and Foster-Glocester were frozen at the
    minimum 8%. The formula includes a regional bonus in years 1 (2%) and 2 (1%)that phases out to 0% in year 3 and after.

  3. DownTown said:

    Ooops, that part about the formula & Warren should read they qualify for a higher amount of State aid per child than does Bristol.

  4. John Tats said:

    As a Member of the Warren Democratic Party Executive Committee I can assure you that the party lines are dissolved on this matter, I don’t believe that anyone from Warren at the present time is in disagreement with the Town Manager or Councils Actions in rectifying this matter. It goes without saying that this is a fight for our existence as a functioning community.
    As “Downtown” has provided some very accurate information , it spells out the issue.

    @ Realspeak you obviously don’t realize that there are no laws that require the Town to provide trash “pick-up”. There are laws requiring trash disposal, there are still several communities in RI that “Do Not Pick Up Trash” the residents are required to bring it to a local transfer station or hire their own contractor for removal. So Mr. Stanley is just stating a possible fact that could occur in the event Warren falls behind the 8 ball.
    As far as your statement goes for this Towns council not properly serving Warrens best interests is incorrect.
    I would be the first person to attack any of those members of our Council for not at a minimum attempting to do whats best for Warren. I will say that all 5 of our council members & Manager have been diligently attempting over the past several years to rectify this problem and get Warren on a better track. While they have their indifference in how this may happen, none of them have not done what they felt is best for the Town without losing any of the everyday services we now enjoy having. I believe that all the Council members understand that any loss of service would only contribute to the detriment of an already suffering community.
    My family came to Bristol at the end of the Revolutionary War and settled here, some family migrated to other parts of RI, Warren being one of those Towns. While I still hold a place in my heart for Bristol and wish it no ill will, I as a resident of Warren have to stand by the people that were elected in my Town and support their efforts to straighten this problem out. I would expect this in like from Bristol residents also, but with much more logic behind their arguments.
    God willing this will be resolved in a manner that each community can live with.

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