It’s time to fight for the right to quality education for children in Cranston. School committee member Steve Stycos gives a good rallying summary for why it’s important for parents to come out for Tuesday’s meeting:
If passed by the Cranston City Council, Mayor Michael Napolitanoâ€™s budget will be a disaster for the schools. Supporters of education need to attend the councilâ€™s budget hearing on the schools, Tuesday April 22 at 6:30 pm in the Cranston East Auditorium. They also need to communicate with individual city council members. Just coming to the hearing will not be enough to convince the council to raise taxes to fund education.
The mayorâ€™s April 1 budget presentation to the city council took five minutes. Only four of the nine council members (Santamaria, Barone, Garabedian and Lanni) attended. Five members of the school committee were present.
The mayorâ€™s budget has three major problems.
1. The school committee requested an $8.5 million increase from the city. The mayor proposes a one million dollar increase. $8.5 million is a lot of money, but that is because the mayor and council only gave us an additional $900,000 last year and consequently we are running a $4 million deficit this year. The mayor proposed a four percent increase for the fire and police departments and less than one percent for the schools. If the council does not drastically increase the mayorâ€™s proposal, I expect the EPIC program, middle school sports, JV and freshman sports and many other programs will be cut. Other programs, like the charter school and bussing, would also be subject to possible cuts. Under the city charter (section 6.04), the mayor is supposed to explain proposed cuts to the school department budget, but he said nothing in his speech.
2. The mayor proposes taking $2.7 million from the surplus or rainy day account to balance the budget.. This means that next year, the city will have to raise taxes by $2.7 million just to level fund all departments. A five percent tax increase, the maximum allowed by state law, would raise about $7 million dollars.
3. The mayor proposes no tax increase. Taxes need to be raised to fund the schools and eliminate the raid of the rainy day fund. We cannot run the schools with less than a one percent increase for the second year in a row. I see no other option, except raising taxes.
The school budget growth is dominated by pension and health insurance cost increases. Pension costs are determined entirely by the state legislature. They send us a bill and we have to pay. Health insurance costs cannot be altered with agreements from the employee unions. If the unions do not agree, under state law, things stay the same. After cutting $8 million from the superintendentâ€™s proposed budget, we have few options.
Please attend the April 22 meeting at 6:30 PM at Cranston East and talk with your city council representative.