Cranston Schools Get Zero New Funding

This article in the Projo today explains that while our “no-new-taxes” Mayor Michael Napolitano wants to raise taxes by 5.22%, his budget includes exactly zero dollars in increased funding for the schools. School Committee Chair Michael Traficante’s reaction pretty much sums it up:

The budget gives the School Department no additional city dollars, leaving it $4.4 million short of what it had requested.

“I’m totally shocked,� School Committee Chairman Michael A. Traficante said last night. “If you take into account that we would have still been $1.1 million short of what we needed even if the city had given us what we asked for, this now means that we have a $5.5-million gap and we can’t even meet our contractual obligations.

“There’s no way we can live with this,� said Traficante, noting that as a former mayor of the city he cannot remember a time when the schools did not receive some increase in local support.

Although he has not yet spoken to other school board members, Traficante said that it is highly likely that the School Department may have to take the city to court — a move commonly known as a Caroulo action – to obtain more money.

Why is it we can’t seem to do anything in Cranston without hiring a pack of lawyers? Every time the school department needs to hire lawyers to argue a Caroulo action, it costs big bucks — at least the cost of one or two full-time teachers if not more. These are dollars that are not getting to our kids in the classroom. Every time the city has to hire lawyers to argue against the Caroulo action, that’s another several hundred thousand dollars that could be put toward funding the schools.

So, zero new dollars for the schools. This should be interesting. My guess is that Mayor Napolitano is trying to start the bargaining with the lowest offer he can make. So if we come down somewhere in the middle, it means funding the schools with about $2.2 million. Depending on how much of this ends up going to the lawyers haggling over it, the schools will still be down about $3 million, which is not unusual. But given that the proposed budget is already eliminating about a dozen teachers, this could mean more heavy impact on class sizes.

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2 responses

  1. Consider the following fictional scenario:

    The City Council manages to add a small amount – about $800,000 – to the School Department budget.

    The School Department files a Caruolo action, using the failed action of a few years ago as the playbook (now that the court has pointed out its deficiencies.)

    Napolitano asks Ernie Almonte, the State Auditor General, to perform the required audit for free. Unsurprisingly, given his documented bias, he finds that the schools need significant funds to meet “contractual obligations.”

    Because Napolitano initially level-funded the School Department (something not even Laffey did during his tenure) and his attorneys fail to prove the case, the City loses in court and is ordered to pay approximately $4.5 Million ($4 Million for the school budget and another $500,000 for combined legal fees.)

    Napolitano implements his tax increase saying the court has spoken and his “hands are tied.”

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this fictional situation became reality. The fix is in, my friends. The fix is in.

  2. Paul the Paperboy

    Right on, Mark…but the $4.5M comes from the rainy day fund since he’s already taxed us to the 5.25% cap!

    Can you see “plummeting bond ratings?”

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