Chariho School Parents’ Forum

January 8, 2009

Budget meeting tonight

Filed under: Budget — Editor @ 10:44 am

From the Sun:

WOOD RIVER JCT. — The Chariho Regional School Committee is hosting a public workshop on the school district’s proposed $53.5-million spending plan for 2009-10.
The workshop is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. in the middle school library.
The superintendent proposed increasing the cur­rent $53.07-million budget by less than 1 percent.
Member towns are asked to split $49.44 million. Of that, Richmond’s proposed contribution is $17.59 mil­lion, 1.29 percent less than its share in the current budget. Hopkinton’s is $17.74 million, up .13 per­cent, and Charlestown’s is $14.1 million, up 1.25 per­cent.
Information on the budget is online at www.chari­ho.k12.ri.us/budget.
Other upcoming budget workshops are: Jan. 15 and Jan. 29, both at 6 p.m. at the middle school library.

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44 Comments »

  1. Does the budget eliminate the huge surplus? If so, then why the huge huge increase in spending. If not, why not? Why are we giving Chariho millions to hold in light of the terrible economy?

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 8, 2009 @ 10:57 am | Reply

  2. In an editorial the Chariho Times is predicting Mr. Felkner will once again be ousted by the School Committee on a 6-4-1 vote. The editor also predicts the judge will rule the ouster illegal and order the School Committee to pay his legal fees.

    Since the Chariho Times seems to serve as an adjunct office for Mr. Ricci, the Times’ prediction is probably based on inside information.

    Why would the School Committee majority willfully violate Mr. Felkner’s civil rights one more time?
    Why doesn’t the Times editorial opine on the behavior or the School Committee majority, the solicitor, and Mr. Ricci? Apparently the editorialist agrees with many here in being confused by what authority the School Committee has acted?

    That being the case, why doesn’t the Times go after the School Committee’s abuse of power as hard as they went after Mr. Mageau in the past? Personal relationship getting in the way of consistent and objective reporting perhaps?

    I do hope the court sticks up for Hopkinton and permanently ends the ouster of Mr. Felkner. Should the case turn out as the Times predicts, I hope future editorials call for penalties for individual members of the School Committee as well as the firing of the solicitor and Mr. Ricci. Violating a person’s civil rights should come at a very high cost.

    Since this whole sad story came about because Mr. Felkner dares to spaek his mind, you would think the media would be in his corner as the 1st Amendment is so crucial to their business…will the Times continue to provide cover for the malfeasance of the School Committee and Mr. Ricci?

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 8, 2009 @ 11:34 am | Reply

  3. Here are some facts provided to me by Ms. Cole, she did some research for me, she has been very responsive and willing to provide info:

    $7.0MM General Fund balance at end of FY2008 (June)

    $1.500MM to 2008-2009 expenses
    $1.545MM to health care plan
    $0.075MM to special ed
    $0.015MM to environmental cleanup

    Balance is the unreserved/undesignated amount:

    $4.472MM

    Of which:

    $2.250MM proposed to FY2009
    $0.300MM proposed to finish HV brick job
    $1.922MM proposed to 4% reserve fund

    The overall budget is up $500M and revenues are down do to tuition and interest income

    -$0.375MM due to interest
    -$0.186MM due to CTC tuitions
    +$0.218MM due to “Gen Aid/Full day K/Vac AC

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 8, 2009 @ 11:45 am | Reply

  4. What I’m hearing from the Richmond folks is that it is a good starting point, although the scope of the forth coming cuts won’t be able to be borne by the town, the district will have to find other cuts in it’s budget. Consider Richmond’s town budget is roughly $3.5MM, very small compared to Chariho.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 8, 2009 @ 11:52 am | Reply

  5. I’m curious who the “1” is, might be Ms. Cole, she tells me she is very much on the fence. I am satisfied that she is giving the issue careful thought and performing appropriate research.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 8, 2009 @ 11:56 am | Reply

  6. The undesignated surplus is money they didn’t really need (but budgeted anyway) and accumulated over the last few years (prior surpluses). What happened to last year’s surplus which was in excess of $2,000,000? Was it consumed by increased spending? Also understand that they have been able to run such huge surpluses by underestimating revenues and overestimating spending. Ms. Cole may be an honest person, but if the numbers come from Chariho’s administration, they are likely misrepresented numbers.

    We need to eliminate administrators and teachers. In the current economic climate we can’t continue to have the astronomical student to employee ratios. Spending is increase at Chariho by 3 to 6% based on the number supplied by Ms. Cole. This should be unacceptable considering enrollment has dropped dramatically and the economy is in shambles.

    As for spending of the accumulate surpluses, they admit to applying $1,500,000 to the the current budget. Add that to the $500,000 and 2008/2009 spending is increasing by at least $2,000,000. Add that to the greater than $2,000,000 annual surplus they typically hide int he budget, and we’re around $4,000,000 in additional spending for this year.

    These people play games Gene. Numbers are easily manipulated and they have been doing it for years so they are experts. Ms. Cole may, or may not, be in on the games, but in just a brief review of the numbers you give us, it seems they are once again up to old tricks.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 8, 2009 @ 12:29 pm | Reply

  7. You may be entirely right, unfortunately I have paid attention as long as you have. Although, I am used to dealing with budgets of this size and complexity … so I’m sure the realities of the situation will become obvious to me sooner than later.

    Jim Trekker, Richmond’s Finance Chair, does see value to some undesignated money to help manage cash flow.

    I don’t support keeping money in case the sky falls, let the town’s hold that money, I don’t want the town and district both holding “sky is falling money”, the likelihood isn’t great enough. Also, I think it makes things too easy, everyone would be more “nervous” if they knew an event would require going to the voters for more money.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 8, 2009 @ 12:47 pm | Reply

  8. As for Ms. Cole’s “appropriate research”…what has she found that makes her an abstention rather than a no? Why did she vote for Mr. Felkner’s ouster in the first place?

    Sorry, but the excuse of following the solicitor’s advice doesn’t fly with me. Individual School Committee members are responsible for their votes. In a situation where you are disenfranching an entire town, erring on the side of caution, i.e., Mr. Felkner stays until his removal is based on authoritative law, is the “appropriate action. As the judge understands, Mr. Felkner’s presence is tolerable even if in the end there is legal reasons for his ouster.

    Ms. Cole voted Mr. Felkner off without certainty that it was the right decision. I can’t have confidence in a person who would do that…she can recover her integrity, but I wouldn’t give it back until she’s earned it.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 8, 2009 @ 12:48 pm | Reply

  9. I don’t disagree with some amount of undesignated surplus…the most expensive emergency we’ve ever experienced is the Hope Valley School problem being dealt with now. An undesignated surplus of $500,000 is more than enough for just about any emergency.

    One major problem is they run surpluses in excess of $2,000,000 every year which gets added to the pot. The surplus also artificially inflates the overall budget so on paper they can claim a large spending increase is a flat budget. Between the accumulated surplus and the annual surplus built into the budget, they could be increasing spending by nearly $10,000,000 and still claim to have a flat budget.

    The best way to determine if Chariho is acting responsibly is to compare spending year-to-year (removing capital expenditures which can vary greatly). Of course, Chariho doesn’t supply actual spending which allows them to hide spending increases. Make no mistake, this is done on purpose.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 8, 2009 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

  10. CR … Cut Ms. Cole a break, at least wait until after the next meeting. This was far from a normal situationan would an abstention been a better choice, sure, but who hasn’t ever made a mistake. Save your venom for those who knew exactly what they were doing.

    You will find that you agree with her a lot more than you realize yet.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 8, 2009 @ 1:30 pm | Reply

  11. I understand your point Gene. She’s had one vote of note and she was on the wrong side. You’ve had some personal interations with her and can feel more comfortable that she’s not as bad as her important vote would indicate. I’m merely saying that I will need to see some positive things from her before I can trust she’s on the side of the community and not on the side of the status quo. I truly hope you are right about her. We sure could use another School Committee member who puts the community first. A good place to start would be voting no to ousting Mr. Felkner. An abstention is a cop out. Based on the Times vote projection, an abstention won’t stop the School Committee from putting us through the same thing all over again.

    If you speak with Ms. Cole, ask her about spending increases as opposed to budget numbers. If she is open to the concept of spending being the real issue that would be a very positive sign.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 8, 2009 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

  12. Fair enough

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 8, 2009 @ 4:28 pm | Reply

  13. From the governor’s speech last night he is advising the legistlature to eliminate several unidentified education mandates. The one he did mention was bus monitors. Sure sounds like we will see reductions in state aid…that being the case, Chariho’s spending will need to decrease. In looking at the general numbers supplied by Ms. Cole, it sure seems like Chariho is planning on increasing spending significantly.

    We do not need bus monitors. It is a luxury we can’t afford in the current economic climate. Parents need to be responsible once again for the safety of their young children getting on and off the bus. Older children who misbehave should have bus privileges suspended…inconvenienced parents will take care of the rest.

    Not sure how much the elimination of bus monitors will save, but the governor has provided at least one area where we can cut back. We should take advantage…we should also monitor the other mandates which will be eliminated. If they provide a cost savings we should immediately sieze the opportunity.

    An unidentified mayor from the other end of the state suggested that education aid be withheld from any School Committee which exceeds spending parameters. Another good idea which will perhaps finally give School Committees the motivation they need to negotiate private sector type contracts.

    I don’t like the economic turmoil we are experiencing, but if it puts an end to the education gravy train in Rhode Island, it might turn out to be a very good thing.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 8, 2009 @ 6:05 pm | Reply

  14. Hi!
    What is missed is this: While we usually compare school districts by academics which certainly are important we don’t really compare them how effeciently they are run. The state while maybe relaxing some mandates, should require and possibly/probably fund outside management studies of the various school districts to see how efficient they are.
    I assume Felkner will prevail but courts can surprise you. At the very least the district has violated the open meetings law, will they get sanctions for that?
    A week from tonight is the Chariho Omnibus Meeting, BTW.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — January 8, 2009 @ 6:23 pm | Reply

  15. “let the town’s hold that money” Can’t be done. State law forbids it (At least, that’s my understanding). It is really up to the voters to take a stand on the budgets because the school committee can apply surpluses as they want. Mind you, if the surpluses run out, then who picks up the tab for the shortfall. We do. That’s why surpluses should not be used for budgets. In this current recession, the money might not be there. (Gene, I have stated in the past that I believe that surpluses should go to capital improvements. I would rather see them go into our long-term fixed assets, rather than applied to budgets to offset operating expenses.)

    My concern is the maintenance of effort law. Short of declining enrollment, they still have to meet last year’s budget maintenance of effort amount. And every time we approve a budget, that amount goes up.

    “The surplus also artificially inflates the overall budget so on paper they can claim a large spending increase is a flat budget.” With this, is the maintenance of effort amount figured before the surplus is applied or after? That could pose to be a problem if the recession gets worse.

    I will try post the links to those laws a little later. Have to go.

    Comment by Lois Buck — January 8, 2009 @ 8:02 pm | Reply

  16. Lois … I’m sitting next to Tom right now, he says hi. You’ll be happy to know Tom’s doing his job, explaining all about tractors to the SC.

    What law are you referring to? It’s contrart what Richmond people are telling me.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 8, 2009 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

  17. I heard rumbling today from some mayors on the radio that they will be pushing the legislature to change the laws regarding funding requirements for schools. If a school spends far above what is needed this year, why would we have to beholden to overspending for eternity?

    For instance, our student to employee ratio is way out of whack…should we ever come to our senses and start eliminating positions, should we be forced to continue giving Chariho the same amount of money as they had when they were employing too many people? We have the opportunity to get rid of monitors…will we till have spend the money even if we don’t have the monitors?

    I really hope our dire economic situation wakes up Rhode Island politicians and they start getting rid of these stupid lawa which impoverish communities.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 8, 2009 @ 9:39 pm | Reply

  18. This is the law that discusses maintenance of effort:

    http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE16/16-7/16-7-23.HTM

    Comment by Lois Buck — January 9, 2009 @ 12:34 am | Reply

  19. What an assinine law. We must to the dumbest voters in the U.S.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 9, 2009 @ 12:43 am | Reply

  20. From the same law above:

    -All state and local funds unexpended by the end of the fiscal year of appropriation shall remain a surplus of the school committee and shall not revert to the municipality.

    Comment by Lois Buck — January 9, 2009 @ 1:17 am | Reply

  21. MEETING SUMMARY

    1. Capital Project Approval: Voted to transfer money to fund: Hope Valley Chimney, Richmond water tank, & Ashaway roof. Minor discussion on Richmond water tank, concensus was hoping for the water main extension before 2010 deadline was not prudent.

    2. HV Brickwor: Notice that at the next meeting $300M will be requested for HV brickwork. It was noted that with the $200M in next year’s budget, total is now up to $1.50MM.

    3. Campus Mowing: Discussion on whether to continue with contracted services or bring back in-house. Decided to keep contracted, consensus was that while their might be a savings to do in-house their were a lot of unknowns that could end up costing more.

    4. Backhoe: Heavy debate on merits of buying an expensive piece of equipment. Justification is that existing equipment is old and needs replacement, it used used for a variety of jobs: snow removal, trenching, variety of grounds maintenance tasks, unloading of supplies (with forks), etc. Point of contention was mostly the cost, $54M seems too much, need a smaller one, asked for more information to defend the upgrade.

    *** IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION … The current tractor is a Kubota, so people kept using “Kubota” instead of “Backhoe” or “Tractor”, Tom came in during that discussion and let it be known what he thought of the district buying a top of the line industrial tractor. Mr. McQuaide, while looking at Tom Buck & I, was eager to make clear that the blog should reflect that he is not in support of buying a top-of-the-line Kubota.

    5. Asst. AD Role: SC wanted to understand the purpose of the role. AD explained that it is mostly to manage sporting events, a responsible adminsistrator is required to be there. Consensus was not to remove.

    6. Athletic Trainer: The role is part time, budgeted at $20M. Two responsibilities: educate coaches and students in area of expertise (SC asked for clarification as to what this is) and determination of fitness to return to game after injury. Some thought that coaches should be able to perform the fitness to play function or the ambulance personnel (football only). Others thought the this was asking people to operate outside of their “scope of practice”. Unclear whether having the role would reduce liability, would the AT be practing under their own insurance? More discussion at next meeting.

    7. Principal HV/Ashaway: There will be a vacancy at the end of the year. Richmond has ~465 students, Ashaway/HV combined ~470 students. Concept is to have one principal for both schools was put on the table to think about for next meeting. Salary of a principal is $107M.

    8. Budget Crisis: Ricci discussion what he had heard during the Sup’t meeting earlier in the day. Item that got the most attention was the section that any union that encourages their members to strike would lose the right to represent and collect dues in the state for 3 years. Mr. Polouski demanded that the Govenor appear before the SC to explain himself and allow Mr. Polouski to tell him why he is wrong.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 9, 2009 @ 1:25 am | Reply

  22. Thanks again Gene for giving us another summary. Maybe the Chariho Times will let you freelance. #8 with Big Fat Andy’s comment made me laugh, but not entirely clear. Are you saying the governor’s supplemental budget proposal this week included a recommendation that striking unions pay a penalty as described above? This is not something that happens now, right?

    Any discussion of eliminating bus montiors now that the mandate might be removed? How about other mandates the governor mentioned, but didn’t identify…any spending impact should some mandates go away?

    I don’t know why we need an Assistant Athletic Director. There are about the same amount of students now as when I was at Chariho. All we had was Mr. Lundbum and Mr. Gizzarelli (I’m sure I spelled their names wrong)…they handled discipline and athletics…now we have administrators up the whazoo and they can’t get rid of an Assistant Athletic Director? These people just aren’t serious. We have families losing their homes and they think we need Assistant Athletic Directors…as history has shown, we can easily get by with no full time Athletic Director.

    Was Mr. Felkner at the meeting and was he allowed to participate like every other School Committee member? How were they about letting the public speak? We had reports from prior workshops that the School Committee did their best to ignore the public.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 9, 2009 @ 2:28 am | Reply

  23. CR … Yes, Ricci had a list of specifics that I hadn’t seen published yet, interesting ones were:

    1. Eliminate requirement that school nurses be certified teachers
    2. Prohibit “work to rule” by teachers
    3. Loss of two days pay for each day on strike
    4. Unions who recommend strikes can’t represent or collect dues for 3 yrs.
    5. Budget caps would apply to court decisions involving Carulo suits, courts can’t override caps.

    Impact to budget of Gov’s proposal was not discussed in detail, mostly all absorbing Ricci’s list. Ricci did point out the monitor item.

    If I remember right, the AD is a 3/5 time teacher and the AAD is a full time teacher with a $3500 stipend. My biggest take away from the conversation (including Athletic Trainer, mowing the fields to tight specs, coach stipends, etc.) is that the Athletic costs add up.

    The public was Tom Buck, a woman whose name I didn’t catch and I. Tom & I were allowed to speak every time we asked, 3-4 times each.

    Bill & George were not at the meeting, Bill’s out of town.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 9, 2009 @ 3:02 am | Reply

  24. Gene,
    Glad you met Tom. I actually hope they listen to him about tractors. He used to work on them many years ago.

    Kubotas are the top of the line. I would hope that the SC would seriously shop around for alternatives, as there are some.

    Thanks for attending the meeting. I know Tom can’t attend them all, and there are too few people that do attend. The budget workshops are so important.

    He asked me to post a comment about the need for people to attend these budget workshops. It is really important. Sadly, next Thursday’s he can’t attend because he and Sylvia have to go to the tri-town council meeting. It is disappointing that these 2 meetings were scheduled the same night.

    It is nice to see that the SC is allowing more participation. Kudos to the chairwoman.

    **Again, all those able to attend the budget workshops, please do. I believe there are 2 more. Let your voice be heard.**

    Comment by Lois Buck — January 9, 2009 @ 10:09 am | Reply

  25. Hi all,
    I will try to attend one of the workshops if my work schedule allows. I’m curious about the actual spending as it sure does seem like spending is increasing big time because they are spending the surplus for general budget items like spec. ed. ($0.075 MM), expenses ($1.5 MM), and healthcare ($1.545 MM). If we didnn’t have the huge surplus wouldn’t these items need to be paid for out of the budget or are they one shot deals? Last year they pretty much shut out the public from the workshop I attended. Better luck this time. If they talk about tractors again I will be too bored to stay (sorry Tom)!

    Comment by Jim L. — January 9, 2009 @ 11:20 am | Reply

  26. Mr. Ricci’s proposals are fine, but with the School Committee routinely givng away the store to Chariho employees, I guess it doesn’t matter what rules you implement in response to a strike. I wonder how Mr. Ricci’s proposal differs from Mr. Carcieri’s proposal? Doesn’t take much courage to propose what is inevitable anyway. Where were these proposals in past years?

    The spending versus budget chicanery is a common ploy with Chariho. Chariho has a history of not providng actual spending because it would expose the budgets for the frauds they are. Did they provide a detailed breakdown of what it means to spend $1,500,000 of the accumulated surplus on “2008/2009 expenses”. Do these budget items represent spending that is ongoing (meaning they would increase the budget amount if the surplus was not available).

    Some time ago there was a discussion of consolidating schools in Rhode Island as a cost-saving measure. A few people here thought it was a good idea. I conjectured, based on the failed Chariho experiment, that taxpayers are better off keeping control of schools at the local level rather than state because then every spending mistake is multiplied by every school in Rhode Island rather than confined to a local school district. For example, Hopkinton once had the chance to control our Elementary School costs, but when Chariho took over we gave control to the less responsible (or aware?) voters in Richmond and Charlestown. Does anyone now believe administrative costs have declined since Chariho took over the whole nut?

    A Rhode Island statewide school system would be dominated by the other end of the state. Who trusts them to put the community before special interests like the unions? Well apparently Ocean State Policy Institute has been doing the actual research (I was guessing) and confirmed my fears. It costs taxpayers more to combine schools than to have them each controlled locally. You can read the OSPRI analysis here (Chariho is prominently mentioned):

    http://www.oceanstatepolicy.org/pr010909.html

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 9, 2009 @ 11:46 am | Reply

  27. Lois, I’m pretty sure the omnibus meeting (1/22) includes the SC.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 9, 2009 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

  28. Hi!
    The school committee is a political body not a professional one. That is a legal and political reality. That is not to say the school committee, should not conduct themselves what could be called a professional manner.
    The task or labor is shared among eleven people. Bill Felkner as far as I can see, is “above average” in bringing issues to the table, despite his above average absenteeism. I hope and trust the school committee individually and all consider what they really bring to the table.
    Information has NOT been shared in the district, especially in regards to finances. Despite the criticism, I have taken on my infamous 2 million dollar cut, a few years back now, the school district avoided fact finding on the original budge adopted. I don’t plan to vote in favor of the Chariho budget. I am obsessed perhaps, on the outside management study, that omission itself in the likely budget to be adopted, will prevent me for voting for it regardless of any other factors. Maybe I will be surprised and it will be in the upcoming school budget.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — January 9, 2009 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

  29. http://www.projo.com/education/content/education_proposal_01-09-09_GJCSQ0O_v34.728d26.html?ocp=1#slcgm_comments_anchor

    Apparently Mr. Ricci’s bold ideas aren’t so bold after all. He stole most of them, if not all of them, from the governor (read the linked article).

    Also in the article is a discussion on state aid to education being reduced by around 10%. Not sure how the cuts will be enacted, but there is mention of Providence losing $9,450,000 in construction aid. Nothing reported on Chariho. Will the cost of the bond now be borne from local taxes? All of it…some of it…none of it? The question was asked here as cuts in state aid seemed a sure thing. Unfortunately, voters weren’t paying attention or didn’t care…it may be time to pay the piper for our collective stupidity.

    Chariho is touting the current budget as reduction to what each town will pay this year. Will this all change with cuts in state aid? Part of the cuts are said to come about through a deferral of pension contributions…this may sound good, but wait a few years and then tell us what a great idea deferral is.

    In a quick review of the Chariho budget I see an instant savings of around $300,000. Guidance Counselors for Middle School students are unnecessary. 8th graders need a little course guidance as they choose their High School classes…other than that, what the heck are these people doing guiding 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders? Parents are fully capable of guiding children of these ages.

    Special Education costs continue to skyrocket in the proposed budget…psychologists and pyschological services. Transportation costs are down for this same population. Are we to assume this means less Special Education/RYSE students at much higher costs?

    Coventry’s Superintendent whines that aid cuts may mean the layoffs of Teacher’s Assistants. Good, we don’t need dozens of Teaching Assistants. What do these people do anyway? How did we ever survive prior to having Teaching Assistants?

    Unidentified “officials” are worried there will be a “mass exodus” of teachers and administrators. No problem…let’s vow to not replace any administrator who leaves.

    One idea Mr. Ricci didn’t steal (or maybe it was overlooked) is Mr. Carcieri’s recommendation that the deadline for notifying teachers of their dismissal be changed from March 1st to June 1st. Personally, I’m fine with 30 days notice, which is still better than most of us get in the private sector.

    The tanking of the economy has been very difficult and is will likely get much worse. I do not look forward to the impending struggle, but if the terrible economy results in schools and School Committees acting more responsibly and cutting back on the behemoth empires they have built, it may not be all bad.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 9, 2009 @ 1:01 pm | Reply

  30. CR … In regards to your link and “Mr. Ricci’s bold ideas”, if you’re referring to the summary I wrote, Ricci was telling us about the Gov’s proposal, sorry if I wasn’t clear.

    The Prov $9MM is was also discussed, apparently it is somewhat separate, supposedly it was construction money spent on other things.

    The state contribution to the bond was discussed last night, Ricci says that the State will pay.

    Chariho estimates 30-50 teachers might be eligible to retite if big changes are enacted, it’s a very speculative estimate. Although current state law allows teachers to work 90 days/yr while retired, so the district might not be looking at a teacher gap at the end of the year.

    Your comment on the MS Guidance Counselors is worthy of examination. Additionally, Ms. Carney ask for job descriptions of the Asst. Principals and Deans for the next meeting.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 9, 2009 @ 1:17 pm | Reply

  31. You are our eye in the sky Gene. Thanks for clarifying what I thought were Mr. Ricci’s proposals.

    You weren’t with us during last year’s budget process, but there was a huge spike in the budget for teacher support personnel. I asked numerous times via this blog for an explanation, but Mr. Petit, who participated here at the time, ignored my question and I still don’t know why the cost of teacher support personnel went up by several hundred thousand dollars. Since the large spending increase is already in last year’s budget, you don’t see it this year as a large increase, but the question still remains as to why we are paying so much for teacher support personnel. They could could easily cut $200,000 from Teacher’s Assistants and we’d still be spending more than we spend on support two years ago.

    Was there any discussion of the cuts to state aid and the impact on the operating budget? Also was there any discussion of actual spending increases or did they continue to only discuss budget increases? As I’ve said, our main concern should be spending, not budgets since large spending increases can be easily hidden from view by applying part of the large surplus to expenses.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 9, 2009 @ 1:28 pm | Reply

  32. The Rag is reporting figures for cuts in state education aid as follows:

    Hopkinton – $756,129
    Charlestown – $559,008
    Richmond – $613,692

    No explanation as to why Hopkinton’s is losing the most aid. Maybe because we receive more to begin with?

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 9, 2009 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  33. RE #31 …

    1. Teacher support costs have not been addressed yet.

    2. State aid cuts effect on operating budget was only discussed at a high level, likely to be a big part of the omnibus meeting next week. This was the part where Mr. Polouski made it known that he didn’t agree with the Gov.

    3. Conversations have revolved around 2008-09 budget vs 2009-10 budget, it is not clear to me how the 2008-09 budgeted amounts compare to the actuals. You are correct that has not been a subject of conversation. Unless it happens that 2008-09 budget values accurately reflect the spend.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 9, 2009 @ 3:17 pm | Reply

  34. RE #32 …

    State aid formula is based on ability to pay, Charlestown gets much less than Richmond or Hopkinton, so the 6% value will be different. On top of that, there are other monies that are not allocated similarly.

    So Charlestown loses less as they get less. There was probably other money that Hopkinton got exclusive of the 6% that made their loss larger. Richmond got roughly $6 Mill, so the 6% share was $360,000; the other $300,000 was other reductions. One of the other reductions mentioned was professional training dollars, this is the whole town, not just school district.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 9, 2009 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  35. If the 2008-2009 budget accurately reflects spending, why would Ms. Cole’s numbers include applying surplus monies against the budget? Or am I missing something?

    My understanding from what Gene reported is Chariho will be applying surplus money to budget items which ordinarily would be included within the operating budget, not the surplus. If this is accurate, then they are effectively hiding spending and we will pay the piper in future budgets.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 9, 2009 @ 3:32 pm | Reply

  36. Ref #27.. Yes, the school committee is part of the omnibus meeting.

    Comment by CharihoParent — January 9, 2009 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

  37. Cole’s number come from the audit report, which I didn’t have.

    Moving the reserve funds to the operating budget is good, we don’t want it kept high. How the reserve funds got so high in the first place is a different matter.

    At least for the last two budgets, it does appear that there is a standing surplus rolling year-to-year (separate from the 4% reserve). It was $1.5 mil last year, $2.2 mil this year. If you assume it’s an intention bogey, then you wipe it out once, benefit for a year, then no long-term effect. Ergo, no spend hiding, just extra cushion hiding.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 9, 2009 @ 4:14 pm | Reply

  38. Hi!
    I believe by contract, lay off notifications for staff or most of it (?), have to be made by March for the following school year. The notifications do have to happen, but these notices do not mean absolute lay offs, and for lay offs to happen appropriate notfications are given in advance. Bill, what is the date for this?
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — January 9, 2009 @ 5:04 pm | Reply

  39. Right Gene, but if you use the standing surplus to pay for operating expenses, then next year’s budget will increase by the amount of the operating expenses with nothing to offset them.

    So if we offset $2,000,000 of spending with the surplus this year, next year we will be adding $2,000,000 in spending and the budget will increase by at least that much. This is what I mean about hiding spending. The budget may be for $53,000,000 but they could easily be spending $55,000,000 or more. They crow about a flat budget, but who cares…it’s a budget gimmick…we need flat, or better yet decreasing, spending.

    I’m with Mrs. Buck and feel the accumulated surplus should be used for one-time capital expenditures, not operating expenses. We also need to get rid of the annual surplus and stop overestimating spending and underestimating revenue (which is how they fool us into accepting budgets with multi-million dollar surpluses built in).

    The School Committee may claim they can only go by the numbers presented to them by Mr. Ricci, but after years of the same game, responsible members of the School Committee must insist on accurate budgeting. Providing us all with actual spending is one key element (which is why they have avoided it although it has been requested for years and years).

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 9, 2009 @ 6:06 pm | Reply

  40. RE: Surplus for Operating expenses … Yes, but they seem to be carrying substantial surpluses each year, so they cancel each other out. Our day of reckoning will be when the previous year doesn’t generate a surplus and operating expenses are still high.

    RE: Decreasing budgets … State law requires increasing budgets, crazy but true.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 9, 2009 @ 9:13 pm | Reply

  41. I’d have to read it again, but I think the requirement is at least equal budgets (which is crazy), but you can decrease if enrollment decreases.

    Although Chariho does its best to keep the information secret, Chariho has had significant enrollment decreases. The projection for Rhode Island is a continuation of decreasing enrollment. So there should be legal wriggle room to decrease spending.

    As for surplus cancelling out spending, I don’t agree. They are able to hide increases from the public by applying the surplus. I want to know how much they spend so we can determine where our money is going and why. Like I said, in last year’s budget it seemed they had enormous increases in spending on support staff, but because they were able to minimize the impact by applying the surplus, too few cared. Eventually this game will catch up with us and we will be over a barrel. This is exactly the crisis the state of Rhode Island faces as we spent ourselves into oblivion and now it is time to pay the piper. Chariho is well on its way down the same road.

    The annual surplus shouldn’t exist. It is our money, money we need for our families, and they shouldn’t be taking it. To add insult to injury, they then use the money they steal from us to fool us into thinking they are spending the rest of our money responsibly. It’s unbelievable…and like a bunch of idiots we let them do it over and over again.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 9, 2009 @ 10:14 pm | Reply

  42. The surplus is cancelling spending, there’s a surplus every year … This year it’s $2.25 mil, last year $1.5 mil. Yes, $700K is a big change.

    I agree the actual spending would be far more valuable than last year’s budget numbers.

    I do have the sense that staffing is heavy, but I don’t have facts to back that up, and yes I understand that it’s your position that Chariho hides this info.

    I can only go by what I’ve seen so far, I do very much take your opinions seriously. But I would like to see more concrete examples of waste.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — January 10, 2009 @ 11:46 am | Reply

  43. $300,000 in guidance counselors for 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders? Clear waste.

    An increase in spending on support personnel between $200,000 to $300,000 in one year while enrollment is declining? Clear waste.

    Two people being paid for Athletic directing when Chariho was fine with one part time person with about as many student? Clear waste.

    11:1 student to teacher ratios? Clear waste.

    6:1 student to employee ratios? Clear waste.

    The above expenditures are what we can easily see. Chariho goes to great length to prevent us from fully understanding staffing, i.e., no public organizational chart. As we learned a few years ago when Mr. Hirst led efforts to cut the budget by $2,000,000, Chariho can effectively hide their budget games from public scrutiny. I’m not sure what we can do with the many things they hide, but we can’t foolishly continue to believe them when they’ve lied year after year.

    I truly admire Gene’s efforts…and his summaries are much appreciated, but his attempt to grasp budgeting at Chariho is not the first. We may never know the spending details, but we do know, with no doubt, that Chariho functions poorly at an extremely high cost. Maybe other schools do too, but this only means Chariho is not alone in their ability to manipulate budgets and fund their empire while failing to adequately educate the children…it doesn’t mean it should be acceptable.

    “We’ll get them next year” might be a fine credo for sports, but our children and our families can’t keep waiting for next year to straighten things out at Chariho. This is next year.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 10, 2009 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

  44. If the mandate for bus monitors does get eliminated, there is sure to be significant savings there too.

    Comment by Curious Resident — January 10, 2009 @ 5:17 pm | Reply


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