Budget Crisis Meetings for Cranston Schools

This message comes from our school committee chairman, Michael A. Traficante, and the school committee clerk, Andrea Iannazzi. Some have probably already received it from their PTO listserv, but in case you missed it:

Due to the school department’s budget crisis, the members of the Cranston School Committee and school administration have set aside two dates to brief all PTO and individual parents on the proposed school budget for 2008-2009 prior to presenting it to the Cranston City Council on Tuesday, April 22, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. at Cranston East.

The purpose of the budget briefings is not only to educate your membership and individual parents on the proposed budget but also, of equal importance, to hopefully gain your support and encourage your presence on April 22nd when the budget is discussed before the Cranston City Council.

The first budget briefing will take place in the Cranston High School East Auditorium on Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. for the following schools:

Arlington
Edgewood Highland
Waterman
Charter School
Barrows
Gladstone
Bain
Adult Education Program
Dutemple
Rhodes
Park View
Sanders Academy Program
Eden Park
Stadium
Cranston East

The second budget briefing will take place in the Cranston High School West Auditorium on Monday, April 21, 2008, at 7:00 p.m. for the following schools:

Garden City
Oak Lawn
Stone Hill
Glen Hills
Orchard Farms
Woodridge
Hope Highlands
Peters
Western Hills
Cranston West

Your presence at these budget briefings is extremely important, and your support on April 22, 2008 is critical.

Please make every effort to attend. Your child’s quality education is at risk.

If your membership cannot be present at the assigned date and time, you are more than welcome to attend the other scheduled session.

Thank you.

Michael A. Traficante, Chairman
Andrea M. Iannazzi, Clerk
Cranston School Committee

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27 responses

  1. Jesse from Cranston

    …And what, exactly, does the school committee intend to accomplish beyond what they’re clearly indicating here — working up the parents into a frenzy and setting them loose at the City Council meeting?

    (By the way, is it the 22nd or the 23rd? Both are stated.)

    Other than blaming the city for “underfunding” the schools and dodging the reality that the city could raise taxes to the max again this year and STILL not meet the school department’s proposals (thus raising the specter of yet another Caruolo action), what are these people planning to do?

    You’d think, finally, that the school committee might try something different, given the budget reality in the city and the state. But no, Cranston will get another round of negative press for another “budget battle,” while another election looms and another set of school board candidates makes another set of promises that they won’t keep, again.

    Sorry for being such a bummer. I just don’t have any faith that this will work out positively in any sense of the word.

  2. I’ve asked for some clarification on the date issue and will revise the post accordingly. Thanks for the heads-up, Jesse.

    Yes, I’m sure there will be many things being cut that will be a bummer for all of us. Hopefully, though, this will finally force some restructuring and consolidation, and any other money-saving measures that can be accomplished without further stripping our schools to the bare bone.

  3. The correct date for the city council meeting is on Tuesday April 22nd. I have corrected the original post to this date as well.

  4. Jesse from Cranston

    Did anyone else see this story today?

    link to Projo

    While Cranston’s top-10 highest paid municipal employees were nearly all police officers, school administrators filled the other list. Here it is:

    CRANSTON SCHOOL PAY
    Ten highest paid in 2006.

    Scherza, M. Richard, Supt., $129,324
    Balducci, Joseph A., CFO, $110,610
    Laliberte, Norman D., E.D. Programs and Svces., $110,015
    Votto, Raymond L. Jr., COO $105,720
    Nero, Peter, Asst. Supt. $104,511
    Lundsten, Judith A., E.D., Programs and Svces., $96,571
    Zisserson, Joel M., Transportation Director, $96,036
    [Ciarlo, Catherine M., Supt. $95,811]
    Silvia, Michael J.,Exec. Dir., Charter School, $95,718
    Campbell, Jean M., Administrative. Coordinator $95,420

    [Mrs. Ciarlo passed away in 2007]

    Can I just ask: Why does the school department need a CFO and a COO? Or two directors of “Programs and Services”?

    This list of 10 people represents $1 million — the same amount that the school committee claims will be “saved” by moving the 6th graders.

    I just hope when PTO parents go to these rah-rah sessions, they remember that they’re being asked to support a department where 10 people make $1 million — and that 9 of those people are still in these jobs — while the 6th graders are being forced back into elementary school (among other “savings” plans).

  5. Ghost of Christmas Future

    $1 mil and not considering benefits?

  6. Jesse from Cranston

    GCF:

    Apparently, yes, that’s the case.

  7. There was also an article in today’s Herald about the cuts to the Vo-tech programs at West.

  8. I don’t post often, but I always read the comments & just want to say I appreciate the discussions, in case you’re wondering if anybody reads this stuff. I’ll be at the budget mtgs.

  9. I don’t post often, but I always read the comments & just want to say I appreciate the discussions, in case you’re wondering if anybody reads this stuff. I’ll be at the budget mtgs.

  10. Ghost of Christmas Future

    JOC, Benefits typically cost 25-30% of salary. cha-ching

  11. Jesse from Cranston

    GCF:

    So we’re up to something like $1.3 million.

    Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to suggest that these people somehow don’t deserve their salaries (Peter Nero, for an example, was once an assistant principal at Western Hills and worked his way up). It just strikes me as hypocritical that the school board would protect these huge salaries while throwing the 6th grades into chaos and still cry poverty.

  12. Jesse,

    I mean this with all due respect….I hope you and the other blogsters will be going and asking these specific questions. Someone in our household will be going to ask a question…..maybe I will have my 6 year old ask why can’t some jobs be merged? And if you don’t think you can merge them, than we the people will arbitrarily figure which one’s get nixed. The old adage goes….when someone or a few in a department are let go…the slack always seems to get done. Amazing how that works.

    Personally, I want to see R.I. do as Helen Glover recently suggested. Go down to each District (5) versus each City & Town (39) like many other states that are much bigger than us successfully oversee. I was told by the Governor’s office this is strictly a City Town thing. I think Aram is right and we need to take a harder look at this and see how we can support our children’s schools better. We are not doing a good job being one of the highest paid with some of the poorest results in the country. I don’t care how many Ph.D.’s or how many CFO, COO’s there are….we are not creatively looking at ways to cut.

  13. Jesse from Cranston

    Suzanne:

    I’m hoping that this year’s bill realigning the taxes in the state will do something to help. As you rightly point out, our tax burden for schools is among the highest in the nation.

    I’d only point out (I don’t know whether HG has) that our state support is among the lowest. State money is provided by a broader base of taxpayers, and yet it’s been dwindling every year. Our local Rep. Art Handy has it right — people move out of the state because of property taxes far more than business taxes.

  14. Rep. Art Handy and Senator Maura’s recent Tax Relief Bill and Economic Growth is a brainless attempt to wave a wand and drain what little extra I and other struggling families put into our savings each month. This Bill is dead.

    The Governor today made great strides in pushing the ILLEGAL (emphasis added) are sucking us dry and driving our costs up. Their children occupy our schools, they bear babies in our hospitals, jails, institutions, using our credit cards etc etc. Rep. Peter Palumbo’s upcoming bill (which mirrors the recent Arizona 1/08 Illegal bill) will make them leave. Companies will have huge fines and there are some other innovative bills on the floor that will generate revenue from companies polluting from 1-25% a day etc. These are the types of things we need to enforce. RI doesn’t enforce anything and people get away with blatent crimes.

    I work with someone from Georgia – all education is “FREE”. Imagine getting free college. There needs to be a revolution of sorts that communities WAKE UP and get fed up enough and take it back. I’m going to ride that wave and put my HOPE HERE …at least for a year or two more before my kids get too used to their school.

  15. Ghost of Christmas Future

    Susan, Amen!!!

  16. Jesse from Cranston

    Suzanne:

    Now, you and I generally agree on a number of topics, and for that I’m grateful. But I just can’t go along with your contention that illegal immigrants are somehow draining this state of its resources. Even if estimates are true, that the number is 40,000, that’s .4% of our population.

    I’d invite you to look at another small percentage of our population — those who earn more than $200,000 per year and have been given generous tax breaks the last few years — and consider the drain on the state’s revenue that they represent.

    Carcieri’s plan amounts to little more than fear-mongering over the only issue Republicans think they have a chance on this year, since it’s clear they can’t win on Iraq, the economy, education, health care, Social Security, etc., etc. Plus, it’s a total dodge from the actual problems that Masto Don has created in this state — namely, running the state government into the ground and starving local communities in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”

    So, I’m sorry, but I just can’t agree with your statements this time.

  17. Federal Immigration and Nationality Act Section 8 USC 1324(a)(a)(A)(iv)(b)(iii). Section 274 felonies under the Federal Immigration Nationality Act.

    “A person (including a group of persons, business, organization, or local government) commits a federal felony when she or he: *assists an alien …”

    I was a child that brought home every injured salamander, gartner snake, rabbit, cat, bird – you name it. We can’t house them all and give them what they need. I am actually referring to the Disababled and Mentally Ill that took a $39K cutback under Carcieri recently. The DCYF cuts, the Veterans, the homeless, Mothers on Welfare, eldery, community clinics, Municipalities getting cuts etc. The money being cut from our established Legal Citizens (which includes those with Visa’s, Legal immigration status etc., but excludes Illegals) is wrong, and last year over $400 MILLION was attributable to Illegals.

    Based on this Jesse, I must say we will disagree. While I am acutely aware of the genocides, philosophical and political differences which bring people to be smuggled into the country – the reality is….most are not from these countries. Rather, there is a high ratio of Illegals that are criminals in their countries. The argument could be made for some that these are due to some of the political views – but for those that have been for example studying sex offender names…I will tell you they are not from Sudan, Tibet or Russia.

    I am always open to see another point, but on this one we will just have to agree to disagree.

  18. Ghost of Christmas Future

    Jesse, can you tell me more about the tax breaks for those that make more than 200K. I’d love to pay the state less than the 14K I paid in FY2007. And I’m even more interested in any breaks you are aware of that will reduce my federal liability. Thanks in advance.

  19. Jesse from Cranston

    GCF:

    Look back over your tax payments since 2004. Were they always $14k? I’d tend to doubt it — I’d even guess they were higher a few years ago than they are now. Unless, that is, you’ve had a big increase in income — which, by definition, holds you to a higher tax liability.

    (And you neglect to mention whether you get any of that back in the form of tax deductions for mortgage interest, student loan interest, etc. That would have been helpful.)

    As for federal tax breaks, it’s been well-publicized that the Bush plan targeted those with incomes over $200k — people who can afford stock portfolios, buy houses for speculative purposes, and report capital gains from business operations. Same goes for the RI tax giveaways.

    For information, I’d suggest you research the tax break laws that went into place in 2002 and 2003, check the differences in the federal and state tax codes since 2002, and review your own 1040s.

  20. Ghost of Christmas Future

    JOC,

    you don’t get mortgage interest deductions or tax shelters from your 401K? Unforunately, I get no special tax breaks put forth by those evil republicans or Bush. I’m going to fire my tax advisor. Can I rely on your help next year?

  21. Jesse from Cranston

    GCF:

    Still haven’t given up on the pithy replies, eh?

    And maybe I missed it, but I thought we were talking about reforming the tax structure in the state to help people stay in their homes and, by extension, support their schools. Did you have anything of substance to say on that?

  22. Jesse from Cranston

    Suzanne:

    I’m just wondering how $400 million can be “attributable to illegals.” I’ve heard big numbers thrown out there — Rep. Joe Trillo claimed it was $200 million in Newsmakers over the weekend — and yet I haven’t yet seen how these numbers are calculated.

    But I do know how budget cuts are made, and it seems to me the ones responsible for that are the Governor and the too-pliable General Assembly. I simply can’t agree with the argument that the budget cuts are the result of mobs of undocumented immigrants sucking away our public funding. I’ve made this point before: Carcieri got elected running as a CEO; how many CEOs run a company with no increase in revenues for 6 years? Carcieri has been a Bush clone from the beginning, and it seems he will be until the end.

    Turning the State Police and other agencies into a local version of the INS will not change the overall poor management of the state’s finances.

    And allow me to leave you with a question to consider: after 6 years of going from minor surpluses to major deficits, why is it this year that Carcieri decides to blame it on illegal immigrants? Why, all of a sudden, are the estimated 40,000 undocumented immigrants in this state the core problem with the state’s budget (as opposed to, say, declining gambling revenues, tax breaks to the wealthy, resistance to small tax increases each year, etc.)?

    And, to bring the issue back to the local level, how many illegal immigrants do we have in our schools? You’d think that if it were a problem, the school committee would be saying something. But they’re not. Traf is a Republican, after all; if he thought this was really a problem, he’d follow the guv’s lead, wouldn’t he?

  23. Ghost of Christmas Future

    JOC,

    We were taking about your post which I have pasted below. I take offense to your statement. I’m quite sure many of the 1.9% households in the state with an annual income greater than $200K get no special tax breaks and I assure you many, like me, kick a hell of allot more into the state coffers than we take. So lets stop posting discrepant statements.

    “Now, you and I generally agree on a number of topics, and for that I’m grateful. But I just can’t go along with your contention that illegal immigrants are somehow draining this state of its resources. Even if estimates are true, that the number is 40,000, that’s .4% of our population.

    I’d invite you to look at another small percentage of our population — those who earn more than $200,000 per year and have been given generous tax breaks the last few years — and consider the drain on the state’s revenue that they represent.”

  24. Jesse from Cranston

    GCF:

    It’s “JFC” (Jesse from Cranston) not “JOC,” first off.

    Secondly, by your own admission, the population of $200,000+ households is nearly 5 times as large as the alleged illegal immigrant population. And yet you argue there’s no reason to compare the verifiable costs of tax breaks for wealthy households to the pulled-from-thin-air estimates of public services to illegal immigrants?

    (At least, it appears that’s what you’re saying beneath all the dodging.)

    And, really, “I’m quite sure” doesn’t meet a very high threshold of proof. Here’s what offering proof looks like:

    73.9 percent of all people who claim capital gains in Rhode Island make $200,000 or more. The average income of that group is $462,755.

    Now, let’s compare this set of facts against your statement: “many of the 1.9% households in the state with an annual income greater than $200K get no special tax breaks.”

    a.) The number of households is now 2.4 percent, up from 1.9% in 2006, meaning 50,000 new households in the $200,000+ range since then.

    b.) The majority of tax filers — 73.9 percent, or nearly 3 out of 4 — who were exempted from capital gains taxes earned more than $200,000.

    That means, of the estimated 240,000 households that report incomes of $200,000, “many” of them actually DID “get a special tax break.”

    Let’s review your statement one more time, just to see how it matches up:
    “I’m quite sure many of the 1.9% households in the state with an annual income greater than $200K get no special tax breaks…”

    Yeah, I guess you really told me!

    Here’s what we have: A guess based on an outdated number, and an assertion that has no basis in fact vs. a verifiable set of numbers and proof that what you’re saying is, in fact, the opposite of reality.

    Now, let’s see… what do you have left in your arsenal?
    Oh, yes, the time-worn argument that some of us “kick a hell of allot more into the state coffers than we take.”

    This is also a fallacious argument. What you really mean is, you don’t count road and bridge upkeep, school aid, state police, unemployment and disability payments, waste disposal, water quality, and utility regulation against what you pay because they’re generally invisible to you. But food stamps (so they can eat), child care (so they can work), and emergency medical care (so they can recover from illness or injury) — those count, because they go toward less fortunate people than you.

    Now, don’t just attack the state services I mentioned (the “invisible” ones). They’re part of what we, as state taxpayers, fund. So your $14,000 — contrary to what you seem to be arguing — actually helped you.

    And, if Rep. Handy’s bill is passed, you’d actually be getting a tax break — a 15% property tax credit, lower sales taxes, and more state aid to education that you wouldn’t pay in local property taxes.

    Thanks, though, for copying the earlier point I made, because it’s caused me to, indeed, “consider the drain on the state’s revenue” represented by tax breaks for wealthy Rhode Islanders.

  25. Jesse from Cranston

    P.S.

    For those who may be wondering, the stats I mentioned above are from the General Assembly Press Office release of Jan. 29, 2008.

    Full release here:
    http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/News/pr1.asp?prid=4634

  26. Ghost of Christmas Future

    JOC, Clearly your a brighter than I

  27. Jesse from Cranston

    The Mayor just unveiled his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. Story here:

    link to projo article

    It includes $1 million in additional funding for schools. Certainly not enough to make the school board happy (Deb Griefer is quoted as predicting “the dismantling of Cranston schools”), but reality is here: Cranston can’t afford a $4 million hike, and Nap and the Council seem to be united against a tax increase.

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