Chariho School Parents’ Forum

December 15, 2009

Coming to a town near you

Filed under: Budget,Hopkinton,State-wide — Editor @ 12:22 pm

RI Future posted a memo from the Governor’s office about the suplimental budget. Emphasis (bold) and notes (red) added :

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNORINTEROFFICE MEMORANDUM

TO: Andy Hodgkin, Beverly Najarian, John Robitaille, Gary Sasse, Rosemary Booth Gallogly, Mike Cronan, Fred Sneesby
   
FROM:  Amy Kempe

RE: FY 2010 Supplemental budget briefing schedule and message points

DATE:  December 14, 2009

General Message Points (working draft only)
o The state needs to find $225.1 million in six months.  o $125 million revenue shortfall
o $60.8 million carryover from FY 09
o $33.9 million agency expenditures, directed related to increased caseloads due to the stress on our social services

o By now, we are all aware of the fiscal crisis the State is facing.  For the past two years, revenues have continued to decline. Rhode Island is not alone, but we have felt the economic recession longer than other states.

o Rhode Island slid into this recession before the rest of the country.  As a nation, economists predict that state finances are not expected to recover for at least two years.

o Yet, despite being in this longer, we have managed our way through it without raising broad based taxes.  And, that must continue. 

o The state’s fiscal situation continues to generate difficult and often painful budget choices. There are no more easy solutions.  There are no good choices.  There is no more money to be handed out.

o The supplemental budget I am submitting today addresses three broad outcomes which is reflective of the continued slide of revenues

o First, it addresses the FY 09 closing deficit of $60.8 million through a series of one-time savings

o Second, it resets spending levels on the state side for the remainder of this fiscal year and for future years.

o And third, it gives the cities and towns the tools they need to mange their budgets and reset their spending levels.

o In total, we are reducing general revenue spending by $155. 2 million from the FY 2010 enacted budget.

o To address the FY 09 carryover deficit, I propose a number of land sales.  Specifically:

o The Veteran’s Auditorium, valued at $10.75 million, to the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority.  Under the proposal, the Convention Center Authority will issue a $25 million bond for the purchase and rehab of the Vets Auditorium

o The former site of the Training School in Cranston, valued at $6.2 million

o The current facility housing the estate’s centralized IT center, for $1.5 million, and

o Two acres situated within Roger Williams University, valued at $2.8 million
o I am shifting $5 million of the federal stabilization money from FY 2011 to this year.

o An additional $7.2 million in federal reimbursement for child support enforcement, from FY 2005 through today. The state will realize  savings from this program through federal reimbursement going forward.

o The supplemental shifts $22 million in repayment to the Rainy Day Fund to FY 2011. 

o There is an additional $6 million from our developmentally developed providers.  Under Medicaid, provider donations are allowed without a reduction in the FFP. If we were to resolve the deficit by reducing provider billing, it would require a reduction of $17 million all funds or a rate reduction of 20 percent, which would have a significant effect on services to individuals.

o Over the past several years, we have made considerable structural changes, reduced personnel expenses by XX percent, redefined eligibility standards for our social service programs, and trimmed states spending across the board.  Last year, the General assembly passed significant pension reform. 

o But, as I stated last year when I signed the budget, the pension reform did not go far enough.  We need to go back at it this year, specifically with regards to COLAs.

o Last year, I proposed sweeping pension reform that included ending COLAs.  I am again asking the General Assembly finally do away with COLAs.  There is no such thing as a COLA offered as part of a retirement plan in the private sector.  It is archaic idea, and one can no longer afford it.

o Under my propossal, which Rosemary can outline in greater detail, the state will eliminate the COLA for state employees, teachers, judges and state police for employees who were not eligible to retire on September 30, 2009.

o The article does continue COLA for those who are eligible to retire on or before September 30, 2009, and those who became eligible and retire through the passage of the legislation shall continue to receive a COLA

o Further, the article gives authority to the General Assembly to review annually and give an ad hoc COLA adjustment to retirees who are not otherwise eligible

o This will save a total of $43 million in this fiscal year, and reset our baseline for next and future years.

o The pension savings break down as follows:
§ $11.3 million from state employees
§ $507,950 from State Police
§ $240,190 from Judges
§ $18.5 million from teachers, with the savings passed on to the cities and towns § $12.3 million for the state’s share of teacher pensions

o We have made significant changes to our personnel budgets in the past few years with the changes to retiree healthcare and last year’s pension reform.  We continue to tackle personnel costs in this supplemental with the elimination of the pension COLA.  We have made significant changes to the social services budget. 

o Because of the economic recession, our social services are increasingly pressured.  To accommodate for that, we have continued to constrain spending throughout state government.  In this budget, we find an additional $19.6 million in agency reductions.

o Also, we anticipate seeing $8.7 million in employee medical benefit savings. This is a significant saving that result in the changes to employee cop-pays and our wellness program. We are making a healthier workforce that is making smart healthcare decisions.

o We cannot get through this economic recession without addressing how we fund our cities and towns.  I have said this over and over again, and we can no longer

o First, I am proposing withholding the 3rd and 4th quarter vehicle excise tax from the cities and towns, for a total of $65.1 million.

o I know that many of our cities and towns have also opened up their labor agreements and negotiated higher health insurance co shares and co pays, and delays of wage increases. I applaud those efforts. 

o But, all our cities and towns need to take that cue, and work with labor unions to bring them in line with the private sector, in terms of healthcare costs and a reduction in pay.

o I don’t expect our cities and towns to make up for the reduction in aid by renegotiating contracts alone.

o Last year, I proposed a series of budget articles that would give the cities and towns the tools they need to manage their budgets and cut expenditures.  The General Assembly did not pass these tools, despite cries from the municipalities and independent analysis that the packet of tools could save cities and towns $125 million per year.

o Specifically, statewide purchasing system, end to minimum manning, increased health insurance co-shares to be equal to that of the state plan, and a BRAC commission to study school district consolidation (eeek – i’m fearful of the last one).

o I urge the General Assembly to pass the municipal tools articles immediately upon returning to session. There is no need to debate them again this year. Pass them and free the cities and towns to manage their own budgets.

o Of the $41 million in reduction in education aid, $18.3 million is offset by the savings from the elimination of the pension COLA.  The reduction is further offset by the distribution of $4.6 million in Recovery Funds

o This leaves approximately $20.6 million, which mirrors the personnel reduction the state workers accepted this past year. 

o This past year, the state employees agreed to take essentially a three percent pay cut.  Many municipal employees have done so too.  Many municipal employees too have taken a pay cut.  I am very appreciative of the understanding by state and municipal employees that we do have good jobs, with good benefits and good working conditions. There are many Rhode Islanders who don’t.  And, a three percent pay cut is a small sacrifice for the greater good.

o The total personnel budget for schools last year was $XXX million.  Three percent of that total is $20.6 million. Do the math. $20.6 million is the exact amount I am proposing we reduce education aid.

o Personnel costs continues to be one of the biggest pieces of municipal budgets, and if we are to get through this economic recession, all employees – including teachers – need to be part of the conversation and solution.

o Over the past several months, my team and I have met with mayors and town managers to alert them of the proposed funding changes, and time and time again, the message they have shared is that they need relief, not only of the many unfunded mandates, but also help in controlling the spending on the school side. 

o Once again, I am submitting legislation to suspend the Caruolo Act in any year there is a reduction in state aid. (not sure it needs to be tagged to a year with a ‘reduction in state aid’)  The legislation gives the appropriating authority – the city and town councils – final approval for all school labor contracts.  This unifies the budgeting and taxing functions and ensures school committees are not over promising and thereby putting cities and towns in greater financial danger.

o There are a number of smaller budget items included in this supplemental, which Rosemary and her team can go over in greater detail with you after this.

o As I said earlier, our fiscal situation leaves us with only difficult choices.  We have for too long now not tackled the tough issues and given in too early to special interests. We can no longer afford to operate as business as usual.

o Later today, Rosemary and her budget team will present this corrective action plan to the House Committee on Finance. I strongly urge the Committee and the General Assembly to act quickly and pass these much needed changes.  If they do not, they will be setting this state, the taxpayers, and those who rely on government services on a much longer road to recovery than we can afford.

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August 25, 2009

Hopkinton down another $200k

Filed under: Budget,Hopkinton,Hopkinton Town Council,State-wide,Tax — Editor @ 7:25 pm

h/t RS for posting this link to a list of how much money each town will lose from the Governor’s proposed withholding of the car tax. If you caught my interview on the 6:00 ch 10 news you know I think this is good. The more pressure onto the towns the better. Sooner or later we are going to have to stop paying our public sector employees so much better than the private sector employees.

Hopefully, Hopkinton and all the other towns will look to cut spending rather than increase taxes.

See the list HERE.

If you are unfamiliar with the issue check out this morning’s ProJo article HERE and here is an excerpt:

While the governor can shut down state government on his own, he needs legislative approval for a second piece of his plan: withholding the last $32.5 million in promised car-tax reimbursements to cities and towns, which are already reeling from the elimination of a $55-million revenue-sharing program earlier this year. In short, he wants the lawmakers to restore to him an authority his predecessors had until 1996 to withhold money they have appropriated for a specific purpose

June 17, 2009

Budget news

Filed under: bond,Budget — Editor @ 7:41 pm

ProJo has the budget info –

The legislature’s budget plan cuts $55 million in general revenue sharing from cities and towns, a reduction that eliminates the general revenue sharing program.

Isn’t the general revenue sharing program where Charho said we would be getting that 54% reinbursement for the bond? Will they move forward and expect the taxpayers to pay 54% more?

On education, the budget for the coming year largely funds local education at the current level. But it eliminates all state dollars devoted to professional development at local schools, approximately $6.3 million. And the plan also cuts $1.7 million in new money the governor had proposed for charter schools and “mayoral academies.”

Disappointing indeed. I guess the special interest groups (like the NEA) doesn’t put the kids first. Well, not if its to their competition.

May 9, 2009

Don’t ask questions – just pay your taxes!

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,Hopkinton — Editor @ 11:05 am

I saw a letter from Bob Petit in the Sun today (may have been an old paper), it was unusually short and of a different writing style than normal, but the point was that we should all be happy with Chariho’s budget and give it a “Yes” vote on Tuesday.

What has Chariho really done?

Chariho’s General Fund budget went from $17,720,106 in 08/09 to $17,590,131 for 09/10 – a decrease of .73% (these figures are Hopkinton’s share only).

Good, a decrease, how did they get there?

As Sylvia and others have often written, Chariho has a habit of over budgeting to the tune of millions per year. They start the year with about $8m in surplus and allocate “reserves” for capital improvements (like the money they set aside to move the water tank at Ashaway – has it been done yet?) and other things that may or may not be used (such as health care self insurance which has caused the budget line item to quadruple since inception).

This year, they have taken $807,525 of Hopkinton taxes (surplus from previous years) and applied it to this year’s budget. So basically, they took the money from us last year and added it to their spending this year.

So, what does that make Chariho’s actual spending increase this year? This means that the $17,590,131 reported above is really $18,397,656 – or an increase of 3.82%.

Bob said, “Let’s remember that the superintendent submitted a budget that called for a decrease in member town contributions.”

What he meant to say is “this year” because the money was taken from us last year. Do they think we are stupid?  

Now let’s compare that to what Hopkinton is doing.

Town revenues are down  – building fees, property tax collections, etc… Hopkinton revenues (for the town, not school) dropped 1.26 percent, or a total of $223,884.

The Hopkinton town budget, as of today, has cut expenses by 2 percent, or $115,709.

So, the town has cut (so far) 2 percent from the operating budget and Chariho has increased theirs by 3.8%.

I urge all of you to vote “No” on Tuesday and send a message to Chariho that we expect them to make the same sacrifices we have.

[UPDATE] I should add that even though we (Hopkinton) have cut 2% from operations and Chariho has shifted fund around to keep the net from them at a .74% reduction, the Town of Hopkinton is still facing a shortfall of about $240,000, which would mean an increase in property taxes (which I won’t vote for). It looks like Chariho expects the towns to make all the cuts. 

I would assume the other towns have made similar cuts. If Chariho cut another $1m each town would probably have enough to NOT RAISE TAXES. And let me make a prediction, next year we will find out that Chariho once again over budgeted well in excess of $1m.  (hint – look at the history of our health care costs – go back and see what it was when we just paid the bill due and see what it is now that we self insure)

Think back to the teacher contract issues in East Providence – didn’ t the teachers cry, “why give us all the cuts?” Well in Chariho they ignore the economy and keep business as usual while we cut to the bone. IMHO this is the key downside to a regional district – they don’t represent US.

April 14, 2009

Budget Voting research from Lois

Filed under: Budget — Editor @ 6:49 pm
    Yes No %Yes %No Total Votes      
2008            
Charlestown   296 77 79% 21% 373      
Richmond   218 81 73% 27% 299      
Hopkinton   186 228 45% 55% 414      
               
2009      
Charlestown   224 142 61% 39% 366  
Richmond   142 125 53% 47% 267  
Hopkinton   160 260 38% 62% 420  
     
     
  %Incr/Decr. in Voters %Incr in No votes    
Charlestown -2% 18%    
Richmond -11% 20%    
Hopkinton 1% 7%

 lois14

lois2

It is important to notice the change in voter opinion within the towns of Charlestown and Richmond,  
which varies more dramatically than Hopkinton, which appears to be consistent from year to year.  
     
Also,      
note an 11 % drop in the number of Richmond voters.  Charlestown and Hopkinton’s attendance  
figures were consistent year to year.    
     
It is interesting to note that Charlestown’s consistency in voter turnout is not reflected in their support  
of the budget.  Their ‘No’ votes increased by 18%, which is probably more dramatic than Richmond  
as one could argue that Richmond’s % increase in ‘No’ votes is related in part to its decrease in  
attendance.      

April 7, 2009

VOTE TODAY

Filed under: Budget — Editor @ 9:06 am

Voting is taking place today on the Chariho Bond.  Vote early – vote often – vote NO!

March 31, 2009

Time to take a stand…

Filed under: Budget,Tax — Editor @ 4:56 pm

www.riteaparty.com

March 30, 2009

Chariho budget info

Filed under: Budget,Chariho — Editor @ 8:55 pm

Sylvia Thompson asked me to post this budget info – its very informative. I can’t help but wonder if having actual expenses when they develop the budget could have avoided some of these multi-million dollar discrepancies.  But that would assume it wasn’t intentional.

Undesignated fund balance info

Taxing for more than they need

[UPDATE]

There was an error on the Hopkinton State Aid page – corrected page HERE

March 17, 2009

no support from Richmond

Filed under: Budget — Editor @ 9:59 pm

h/t GD

RTC voted to NOT support the Chariho budget due to lack of state budget info.

March 14, 2009

LTE in Sun on Meal Site Program

Filed under: Budget,Hopkinton Town Council — Editor @ 10:34 am

Here is my response to the Sun’s report that the senior meal site may be eliminated.

Headline misrepresented senior lunch discussion


  The Westerly Sun was irresponsi­ble when it reported that the Hop­kinton Town Council was considering eliminating the senior lunch pro­gram.
  By the employee’s own admission, he has rarely been able to get seniors involved in any program other than the lunch. Hopkinton is essentially paying $46,761 for three hours of work each day, and the lunch isn’t even served 5 days every week.
  Councilperson Capalbo and I sug­gested using resources already in
town (libraries, churches, etc) to pro­vide a venue for speakers, computer lessons, or whatever the participants may want. But if participation does not materialize, we aren’t stuck with an employee with nothing to do.
  We also suggested continuing the lunch program at the Crandall House with part-time or volunteer help and reached out to Chariho because they operate a culinary arts program where students could receive valuable work experience helping us fill this need. Hopefully they will have a pos­itive
response.
  Headlines like “Seniors could lose free lunch” sell more papers than “Councilors discuss how to provide more for less,” so we can only hope that readers keep this in mind when they are reading the “news.”
 
Bill Felkner Ashaway Bill Felkner is a member of the Hop­kinton Town Council and has been elected to the Chariho Regional School Committee.

On a related note, Thursday night we did revisit the issue and settled on paying just for the time serving meals and an additional $2000 to try (again) and develop some senior programs. Barbara also wants to pursue finding a senior advocate.

I voted against it for the following reasons.  Dilebro researched and found that Charlestown paid the most for their cook with $13 per hour.  We are going to pay $15 per hour – plus they proposed to pay for 20 hours per week thus putting them into the union and available for pension – thus it will end up costing us $18.27 per hour.  Hiring someone at 19 hours per week would have avoided the union and pension. 

Also, I asked that Delibero send a letter to Chariho asking  if the culinary arts program would send students to help (and give them experience).  The Rec Director could be licensed and anyone working under her (or volunteering) would be covered under that license. He did not send the letter to Chariho and pitched to keep the full program.

Aas an FYI – I just hired an office manager for $27k per year, no benefits and he is paid as a contractor so he takes care of his own taxes.  He is an honors graduate at RWU with federal congressional campaign experience – that works out to be less than what we pay our cook per hour and a good example of today’s  job market – at least in the private sector.

I did get a concession to NOT list the line item as salary so that if we wanted to just pay for lunches at Brick Oven or somewhere else in town we could.  Considering our budget works out to about $11 per meal (and that doens’t include the money the seniors give for the meal ($3)).  This will allow them to spend the money by going to Brick Oven and getting the $5.99 lunch special and save the town more money. 

As one person in the audience said (and she is a senior), spending this much money for something that could be purchased elsewhere for less “is crazy.”

I also asked those representing the library if they could provide the same speakers, computer lessons, or whatever the seniors want at the libraries for no additional cost.  They said yes.

But the reality is this is small potatoes.  The town has a hole of about $600,000.  I also made the pitch for vouchers – which with a conservative estimate of 8% participation we would save $540,000.  Hopefully Represenative Kennedy and Senator Maher will help us out on that.

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