UPDATE: Steven Bloom attended the city council’s special meeting last night about the 2007-2008 deficit in the Cranston schools. He states in an email: “The forecast is worse than predicted by about $1.1 million which is partially offset by School District reserves of about $500,000.” Click here to see the School Departmentâ€™s summary of the deficit.
It’s always amazing when someone steps forward to address a problem in a community and brings knowledge and expertise (for free!) to the table. Steven Bloom appears to be doing just that. He is a Cranston resident and businessperson with a Masters in accounting who has made it his own personal project to help Cranston be more fiscally smart and responsible.
The Providence Journal has an article on Bloom today, and he was also interviewed by WPRI. Bloom has invested many hours in reviewing the city’s budget and interviewing city council members, in order to provide an alternate budget. He describes his concerns about Mayor Napolitano’s budget in this email which I received through my Eden Park PTO listserv:
The Mayor’s proposed budget is seriously flawed on several counts, jeopardizing the City’s solvency and exposing it to large tax increases in the future. I have outlined my reasons in the attached letter. Unfortunately, for fiscal 2008-2009, I think we are facing a 3% tax increase along with some additional personnel cuts on both the City and School sides of the budget. The resulting alternate budget preserves the City’s solvency, funds approximately 85% of the School District’s budget increase, and maintains a minimum baseline of services (education included), while limiting the tax increase to no more than the rate of inflation (3%).
I was able to talk to Steven Bloom on the phone for a while this morning. I suggested to him my theory that Mayor Napolitano was putting the schools on a pre-contract starvation diet, to ensure that contractual obligations are as pared down as possible. Steven Bloom emphasized that it is not the city’s lack of funding for the schools that is the main culprit — he reminded me that the new cap on property taxes mandated by the state, combined with the state not funding education, and further combined with costs continuing to rise — are the bigger factors that have created financial crisis for the Cranston schools.
Bloom’s budget proposes $1.8 million in staff cuts on the city side of the budget, including some mechanics, laborers, clerks and assistants in various departments. It would also give the schools a 3% increase, which would help alleviate the current financial crisis and might also prevent, or at least postpone, another Caruolo action.
Bloom also talked about the need for more transparency in our budgets. He has requested more detailed budget information from the schools — an employee listing (without names), listing position, payroll grade and step and current payroll, summarized by department line item — but has not received this information yet.
Here’s hoping that more people like Steven Bloom get involved in Cranston’s education and finance issues. We need all the help we can get.