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Added $7M in budget requests, won’t fly: Carruolo

If the mayor and the City Council were to fund the budget requests of every department for the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1, including the request of the School Committee, taxpayers would need to come up with an additional $6 million to $7 million. But that’s not going to happen.

And, given the finalization of the tax rolls, which is proving problematic because of valuations for about 10,000 motor vehicles, holding the line on taxes is going to be challenging even with cuts to budget requests.

Yesterday, Chief of Staff Mark Carruolo gave an overview of the budget process, saying department directors have submitted their requests and the administration is in the process of “paring” them back as it finalizes a package to go to the council by May 20. He put the requests as representing a $4 million to $5 million increase on the city side of the budget, although the city has contracts with fire, police and municipal employees that maintain wages where they are for another year. Carruolo said about half of those increases are in the area of pensions, while the balance is in the area of public safety (police and fire) and debt resulting from the sale of bonds to build the Potowomut fire station..

Last week, the school committee approved a $160.7 million budget, representing an increase of $2 million from current expenditures. While the teachers’ contract expires this August, the committee’s budget does not include provisions for salary increases. The additional funding would go for buildings, administrative personnel, math coaches and programs.

Generally, Carruolo said of all department requests, “We’ll try to level fund where we can.” Unlike prior years where the administration requested directors to submit budgets reflecting 5 and 10 percent cuts, there were no such instructions to directors this year. However, as Carruolo made clear, this is not an invitation for directors to come up with their wish lists. He made that especially evident when it comes to the School Department.

He said the committee’s action to boost its budget by $2 million is an indication that they don’t understand the city’s financial position. Carruolo said the committee has identified it can save more than $2 million a year through school consolidation – money that can be put into programs and the school infrastructure – yet it continues to look for more funding from the city.

Reflective of his frustration, Carruolo said he talked with committee member Eugene Nadeau more than a year ago, and at that time Nadeau said he wanted to see the money realized by consolidation go back to the city. Carruolo said he told Nadeau he would prefer the money stay with the department and go toward upgrading buildings and programs. Mayor Scott Avedisian has also said he favors schools retaining any savings they realize through consolidation.

However, when it came to the vote to consolidate Gorton and Aldrich at Veterans High, thereby giving the city two junior and two senior highs, Nadeau favored tabling the action for further study. Nadeau is among those who also voted for $2 million more in city funding for the upcoming budget.

“We’re holding our position [on funding] until the school department does what is necessary and proper. We’re not doing anything different,” said Carruolo. “They can find at least $2 million if they do the consolidations.”

He doesn’t see the administration recommending additional school appropriations “until you can prove that you can do what you can.”

Carruolo said the budget all comes together when the administration gets a clear picture of expenses and revenues. Budget revenues are still being estimated. The city has a fix on residential values but is working to complete commercial and motor vehicle values.

The process has been delayed with the resignation of City Assessor Evelyn Spagnolo earlier this month. Avedisian has named Bruce Keiser, retired Jamestown manager who has a career in municipal government, as interim assessor pending posting of the position.

“He’s got vast municipal experience and has a well-rounded knowledge of city government,” Carruolo said of Keiser.

Further delaying the process, Carruolo explained, is that the Vehicle Value Commission provided values for about 80 percent of the motor vehicles registered to Warwick owners. He said the assessors department, therefore, has had to look up about 10,000 values in preparation for the bills to be issued once that budget is approved. That piece of the revenue picture, as well as that of commercial valuations, is yet to come into focus.


Comments
12 comments on this item

I thought with Scottie's pension reforms we would be seeing all kinds of pension savings by now.....oh ! Scottie exaggerated.....that is surprising

Maybe if Picozzi's budget was slashed to a level indicative of the work (or lack there of) performed, the city would realize some substantial savings. The only notable thing taking place in the DPW is people driving around all day never exiting the vehicles to perform any work. Its laughable how Picozzi always brags that his department comes in under budget. When a departments budget is so inflated and overstaffed with people that are unproductive, its easy to come in under budget. Just watch and see the increase in the fuel line item this year as opposed to last year. They will claim that it is snow related. Of course it has nothing to do with the daily 11AM to 1PM joy rides taken by almost every vehicle, or the back hoe operator who takes the back hoe to the Governor Francis credit union to cash his check, then drives all through Gaspee on the most indirect route back to Sandy Lane. It just goes on and on with no oversite.

I don't get the following report. It makes no sense. How come the city did not object when Vehicle Value Commission blew its task? Or was there some kind of programming glitch at city hall? That makes more sense to me. How on earth could city employees look up 10,000 car values???

"Further delaying the process, Carruolo explained, is that the Vehicle Value Commission provided values for about 80 percent of the motor vehicles registered to Warwick owners. He said the assessors department, therefore, has had to look up about 10,000 values in preparation for the bills to be issued once that budget is approved. That piece of the revenue picture, as well as that of commercial valuations, is yet to come into focus."

I hate to see the schools being level funded every year but Carullo has a point. They could have closed schools and redeployed the money to programs. It's the city side and taxpayers that are getting squeezed every year. The departments have to do more with less because all the new revenue raised has to go to cover promises made 30-40 years ago. Minimum wage better be raised to $15 because pretty soon that is all the police and firemen are going to be making.

Mr. Caruolo, "put the requests as representing a $4 million to $5 million increase on the city side of the budget. Carruolo said about half of those increases are in the area of pensions".

So much for all the millions of dollars in savings promised by the administration as a result of the pension reforms passed 3 years ago.

Who said at the time that there would be no savings?

City employees need a raise. It has been years from what I understand. Seems to me the problem is on the school side of things. Always asking for money. Heck the only department unable to come up with savings for the city. Instead they ask for more and more money. What a waste. Furthermore what happened to that study about closing schools? why aren't they closing schools?

Michael, the school budget has been level funded for years. Currently the budget stands at $157.1 million, below the 2008 budget of $157.8 million. Over the last several years local taxes have been raised to fund new city spending.

I agree schools need to be closed.

First off Mr. Howell why is it your article only address’s Mr. Carruolos opinions on the school side of the budget? This is the most one sided bit of journalism that could possibly have ever been written.

Mr. Carruolo why is the fact that the city side of the budget increasing by 4-5 million dollar is okay with the mayor’s office? Even if the school side of the budget is level funded there will still be a 4-5 million dollar increase which will equal 2 things a tax increase and no improvement of the city’s infrastructure just look at the roads.

My point is the entire city should reduce their budgets in the best way possible be it close schools or reduce DPW staff by making some of the jobs seasonal. As for the tax payers of Warwick when is enough going to be enough? We need to elect people who will do what is best for the city’s tax payers….

Michael there is no money for raises because the retiree's have contracts that must not be impinged. The yearly tax raises must plug the whole in the pension system. Sorry hate to see it happen. All new hires should be put into a system in which the city pays every dime contractually agreed to in 2015 in 2015. No more promising things in the future that we can't afford today. Let the unions manage the pension, and let them decide what the pay out will be to members. We must stop our current system in which residents in 2014 are paying for services that were delivered in 1970. I'm scared for my neighbors, some simply can't afford higher taxes.

There was a surplus last year so I do believe there is money for raises. My paycheck has decreased by $180 a week in the last three years. Trust me I understand why and am not complaining, but I'm positive we will not be going another three years with no raises. Yes Bob, retirees. I know. NOT MY PROBLEM.

This may enlighten many as to the problems facing Warwick. Copy the link and paste it into you browser for the video to begin.

http://youtu.be/fo09rhcIkjQ

Bob, i'm curious to know what bills you introduced when you were a city councilman to address this problem? How about when you were head of the School Cmte and negotiated teacher contracts? What reductions were made under your watch? I'm tired of hearing the "I told you so" class of warwick pols, it's sickening!!! The only time Bob Cushman became such a rabid supporter of pension reform, was after he was booted out of office by the voters of his ward. As I understand it, the whole reason you introduced the bill was because you were on your way out the door, and it was a way to deny your opponent a full pension and/or full health care (forgive me I don't recall which one). For you to once again come forward as a "champion" of warwick taxpayers is insulting.

It is not however, as blatantly dishonest and one sided as John Howell has become. John how can you even pretend to be objective when every story you write covers the city side of things, and never once mentions an opposing point of view. Shame on you!!! Did you get into the newspaper business so you could carry Scotty A's bags all over town??? Every week you continue to vomit rainbows all over the front page of your paper about how well things are going....it's insulting. If things are so great here, why is it Warwick never cracks any list of best places to live? As in not even top 200 places. We have a gigantic airport, train station, many hotels, bars food establishments...yet we never hear other places rave about how great our city is. I'll tell you why...because despite how the Beacon tries to SPIN IT every week our schools are mediocre, our taxes are too high, our roads are terrible. We aren't getting anything for the money we spend in this city, and that's where the Beacon ought to start directing it's attention. Why don't you start looking at some administrative salaries for the school dept? If we are such a "small, declining" school district than why is it we need to have directors of elementary and secondary education? Why do we continue to hire "math coaches" or "curriculum coordinators". Enough is enough around here, and until the Beacon decides to get some integrity back, I will call you guys out on every slanted story, every hit job, every "warwick is so wonderful" piece that John Howell throws up on the page. I've known you had lost your fastball several years ago John, I didn't know your journalistic integrity went with it.

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