Bristol Warren schools get 2% hike, after asking for 4%

By Scott Pickering
Posted 3/16/18

The Bristol Warren Regional School District will be getting a $1.1 million increase in funding next year. It’s less than the $2.2 million increase the district was seeking, but school leaders …

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Bristol Warren schools get 2% hike, after asking for 4%


The Bristol Warren Regional School District will be getting a $1.1 million increase in funding next year. It’s less than the $2.2 million increase the district was seeking, but school leaders are still looking at this as a victory.

Joint Finance Committee Chairman Andy Tyska and Superintendent of Schools Mario Andrade both had positive feelings after a Thursday night meeting which was at times tense and contentious.

Mr. Tyska was glad to see the night’s discussion focused on what the school district needs, rather than what each town is willing to spend. He felt there was a positive shift in the tone of Joint Finance dialogue.

Mr. Andrade said the same Friday morning. “The Joint Finance Committee has always voted on the local contribution to the schools, not on the total budget for the schools,” Mr. Andrade said. Thursday night, the board voted to approve a 2 percent increase in school funding — half of what the district was seeking. Yet because the State of Rhode Island is cutting its contribution to the district by more than $1 million, that 2 percent increase to the top line of the budget (raising the budget from $54.3 million to $55.4 million) has a much more dramatic effect on the towns of Bristol and Warren.

“Last year, the JFC (Joint Finance Committee) approved a 2 percent increase to the local contribution, which was a .56 percent increase in our budget,” Mr. Andrade said. “Last night, they approved a 2 percent increase in our total budget, which is about a 6 percent increase in the local contribution. So they almost tripled the amount of money they’re giving to the district … That’s a significant increase over previous years. It’s a great move in the right direction.”

Warren vs. Bristol

At times during the 90-minute meeting, it did not feel like there would be a positive outcome to the proceedings. The Joint Finance Committee is comprised of six members from Bristol and three from Warren. As usual, those town divisions determined each vote.

As soon as a public comment period closed, Warren Town Council president Joseph DePasquale motioned to fully fund the district and grant its 3.97 percent increase. The motion failed along town lines, with Warren councilors in favor and Bristol councilors and town administrator opposed.

Mr. DePasquale then motioned for a 3 percent increase to the school budget. That motion also failed, 5-4, with Mr. Tyska joining the Warren contingent in the minority.

Bristol town councilor Tim Sweeney then motioned for a 2 percent increase in the school budget. Mr. DePasquale attempted to hijack that motion by amending it to 2.5 percent. That touched off a mini-tempest, as Bristol councilor Mary Parella and Mr. DePasquale began screaming at each other over procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order. Ms. Parella said, “I have never, ever heard of this in all my life, and I’ve been doing this for a very long time.”

Mr. Tyska called for a five-minute recess to calm things down, both for himself and board members, and when they resumed, he called Mr. DePasquale’s amendment to a vote. It failed.

The board then voted on Mr. Sweeney’s 2 percent increase, and it was approved, apparently 7-2. There was confusion over the final vote, as a couple of board members did not indicate whether they were in favor of the motion or not. After the meeting concluded, Warren town councilor Keri Cronin said she was opposed to it, and Mr. DePasquale said he voted in favor of it because it was obviously the most money the group would approve for the schools. Warren town councilor Steve Thompson voted against the 2 percent hike (after voting in favor of the more generous allocations).

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.