Chariho School Parents’ Forum

June 29, 2009

Working to increase contract understanding

Sylvia makes the best point towards the end of the article (emphasis added) –

From the Westerly Sun:

Union contracts up for vote next week
Hopkinton councilors weigh pacts with police, department heads and clerical workers.
By VICTORIA GOFF / Sun Staff Writer
HOPKINTON — The Town Council is expected to consider approving contracts for three unions next week after the existing pacts expire tomorrow.

The council will likely vote on the pacts for the unions — police, clerical and “professional and technical” (department heads) — on July 6, said former Town Manager William A. DiLibero and Council President Thomas E. Buck, who have been in private talks with the unions.

The police union has approved its contract. The council has not yet seen final versions of the other two contracts, and it is awaiting approval by the unions, said DiLibero, whose last day as town manager was Friday.

The council has not publicly offered details on what is contained in the new pacts, despite earlier this year supporting a bill that would have required municipalities and school districts to release a proposed contract and an accompanying fiscal impact statement 30 days before ratifying it.

The proposal to release the contracts prior to ratification was part of the governor’s budget-repair plan to close a multi-million dollar state deficit by June 30. It was later eliminated from the plan passed by state lawmakers.

In January, the council passed 4-1 a resolution that said the bill, along with three other measures proposed by the governor, would “improve the management and operations of the Chariho regional school system.” The council also supported other proposals included in the governor’s plan, saying they would lower municipal costs.

Councilor Beverly P. Kenney was the sole dissenter.

But since that vote, two councilors have changed their minds.

“I’m going to recant my vote on that,” Buck said Thursday. “That was one that was added to [the resolution] at the last minute. I didn’t have chance to review it.”

Asked why he doesn’t support releasing a contract to the public for review before it is ratified, Buck said, “It’s not the right way to do it. I was elected by the townspeople to negotiate their contracts.”

“Too many things come up, too many issues come up,” he said. “Too many things change in contract negotiations. As you get down the road, you trade off something for something else.”

Buck cut short the phone interview with The Sun Thursday because he said he was on another phone line with someone else. He did not respond to messages left at his home Friday and Saturday.

Councilor Sylvia K. Thompson had first suggested that the council endorse releasing contracts early, but recently said she no longer supports the measure.

As a member of the public, she said she would think: “You’re all done [with negotiations], you’re not going to do anything, so what good is that?”

“I could see where it could just irritate the taxpayer because what are you doing this for and shouldn’t you have done it before?” she added.

Instead, Thompson said she would support meeting with the public before negotiations start, like Chariho Regional School District officials did in December before they started talks with the teacher’s union. The council would give an overview of the current contract and its fiscal impact, she said, and then it would ask the public for its opinion on a new contract.

After a contract is ratified, she said the council should explain its “ins and outs” and financial effects.

Councilor William J. Felkner, an advocate for open contract negotiations, said he hopes that is an action the council will take.

“It’s the people’s money,” he said. “We’re spending their money. I think they should know what deal we just signed them up for the next three years.”

Councilor Barbara A. Capalbo said, “I don’t think that the majority of the people care about the intricacies [of a contract], but I do think that in general terms it must be discussed.” General terms, she said, would be “salaries, benefits.”

Capalbo said contract talks should occur privately “so people can be as clear and forthright as they want to be,” but noted she would support releasing a contract to the public once it is “clear” with the negotiating parties before ratification.

“We obviously can’t change everything at one time but I think it is good for the public to be aware of the changes in the contract,” she said.

Kenney said contract talks should always take place privately.

“I believe contract negotiations are a give and take, and working to get the best deal for the town is easier to do when it is in closed session,” she said.

But Thompson said she hopes state lawmakers would eventually pass a law to require contract talks to be held publicly to benefit municipalities, as she says unions currently have an advantage.

“They’re the ones that fundraise and many of them have a huge war chest in the bank for arbitration,” she said.

Another potential benefit, Thompson noted: “More people in town would be interested and take an active role in what these contracts really mean.”

While Thompson supports open negotiations, she doesn’t want to be the first community to lead the charge, if state law does not mandate public talks.

“It comes to picking your battles,” she said.



  1. Hypocrites.

    Comment by Who Cares? — June 30, 2009 @ 12:24 am | Reply

  2. …..or they are out of their league when it comes to union contract negotiations. I most of the council has their heart in the right place, but lack the analytical skills required for this type of “numbers” game. I support my belief by the appointment of our previous town manager(responsible for negotiations)….what did he save us?

    Comment by RS — June 30, 2009 @ 9:40 am | Reply

  3. Interesting point: I just finished a walk through and walkaround of my property with an appraiser(refinance)and she made the comment of Hopkinton is a town in which buyers shy away from due to the high property taxes.
    This is from a professional in the field. What do the local elected officials think of this and what are you planning in order to reverse this trend in our town? The taxpayers need help, not politics. Things have gotten to the point a person can’t even move out of Hopkinton to escape the oppression unless you want to sell your home for a distressed price, yet our taxes continue to increase and we have what value to show for it?

    WAKE UP FOLKS! We need real leadership and real solutions, not more pandering to the unions.

    Comment by RS — June 30, 2009 @ 11:37 am | Reply

  4. Hi!
    This will continue to happen to Hopkinton regardless how vigilant local officials are. The Rhode Island General Assembly is required by the Rhode Island State Constitution. They can make madates, budget caps, and don’t themselves have a maintenance of effort to from the previous year of state aid. Commonn SEnse says this is destructive in of itself.
    First, who is elected locally is important but who is elected to the Rhode Island General Assembly is more important.
    Secondly, while I support economic development but not just anything. It needs to be remembered state aid is based on assessable bases of municipalities, so that is used against the towns in regards to state aid, if their assessable base grows. Then add the fact we don’t have a dependable state aid formula for education.
    We need to do the best we can and local people must be involved and vigilant.
    I will always remember when the last GOP town council in Hopkinton, we had a labor attorney, and when the Dems got controll they let him go.

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — July 1, 2009 @ 11:06 am | Reply

  5. Hi!
    I meant but not said is to promote education as a role of the Rhode Island General Assembly in the rhode Island State Constitution in my just previous post.

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — July 1, 2009 @ 11:10 am | Reply

  6. If it were true that the officials at the state level are resposible for our local woes, then would it not be safe to say every other town in RI would also be in the same boat? Since this isn’t a true statement, then some of the blame lies elsewhere, I’ll let the voters decide where.

    Comment by RS — July 1, 2009 @ 9:14 pm | Reply

  7. Hi!
    Wows are not entirely in the state officials, however the State Constitution directs the state legislature to promote education. How responsibly each town does their jobs vary. The state if so inclined can make a marked different by
    1.Coming up with a dependable state aid formula for education.
    2.Demanding more accountability and standards.
    3.Taking over local schools completely or more so than now and coming up with more funding for them if necessary.
    4.Funding mandates they implement.

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — July 2, 2009 @ 4:48 pm | Reply

  8. OK Scott. I give up. Neither I nor anyone I’ve asked knows. What is a “wow” or what are “wows”?

    Comment by Thurman Silks — July 5, 2009 @ 6:50 pm | Reply

  9. Glad it’s not only me that’s wondering.

    Comment by CharihoParent — July 5, 2009 @ 8:46 pm | Reply

  10. WOW = With Out Work

    Comment by it is — July 6, 2009 @ 8:53 pm | Reply

  11. 17 lawmakers get their health coverage for free, at a total cost to taxpayers of close to $300,000.

    In the Senate, they include Majority Leader Daniel Connors, D-Cumberland; Majority Whip Dominick Ruggerio, D-Providence; Leo Blais, R-Coventry; Frank Ciccone, D-Providence; Elizabeth Crowley, D-Central Falls; James E. Doyle II, D-Pawtucket; Charles Levesque, D-Portsmouth; John McBurney III, D-Pawtucket; Juan Pichardo, D-Providence, and Michael Pinga, D-West Warwick, according to the Joint Committee on Legislative Services.

    In the House, they include Corporations Committee Chairman Brian Kennedy, D-Hopkinton; Grace Diaz, D-Providence; William San Bento, D-Pawtucket; David Segal, D-Providence; Agostinho Silva, D-Central Falls; Thomas C. Slater, D-Providence, and Timothy Williamson, D-West Warwick, who chaired the House’s pension-study commission.

    Comment by MOOCH — July 6, 2009 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  12. Hi!
    FYI, I reveiwed it and I think I my obvious error was it should be woes not wows. Sorry for the confusion. I got a call on this today!

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — July 7, 2009 @ 4:33 pm | Reply

  13. Phew….thanks for clearing that up scott…I’ve lost a couple nights sleep over your mistake!

    Comment by it is — July 7, 2009 @ 4:39 pm | Reply

  14. […] to get my feet under me and I thought I could get more done with honey than vinegar, but that didn’t seem to work and there is too much riding on this to keep quiet and hope for the […]

    Pingback by Police contracts and ’stuff’ « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — July 9, 2009 @ 2:00 am | Reply

  15. […] But I’m just going to review the current contract until the new one is released.  […]

    Pingback by More Police Contract info « Chariho School Parents’ Forum — July 19, 2009 @ 2:11 pm | Reply

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