Often one of the signs of a marriage in big trouble is when one of the parties starts spending money they don’t have. It signals a major breach in the trust that is the foundation for the relationship — that one person is knowingly doing something that may bring financial harm to the couple or group.
It could be argued that we have suffered a similar kind of breakdown here in Cranston with our schools and our city not being able to maintain a strong enough relationship to keep away financial harm. We are not alone. Other cities in the state, including West Warwick, have suffered a similar fate.
But now, in West Warwick, there are signs of hope:
[...] In recent years, the chasm between the town and schools widened, as council members resented the schoolsâ€™ increased spending, and the School Committee replied that it had no choice because of costly mandates and shrinking state aid. The two groups barely spoke, except around budget season.
In exchange for paying the schoolsâ€™ outstanding bills, the town was able to build in a communication structure. The deal, brokered days before the suit was set to go to trial in Superior Court last month, requires the Town Council and School Committee to send liaisons â€” the town manager and superintendent, respectively â€” to a meeting once a quarter with the other body. The groups also agreed to meet together â€œas many times as necessaryâ€? to talk about financial and other matters.
With better communication, â€œthis could have been settled back six months ago,â€? said outgoing School Committee Chairman Daniel T. Burns Jr. â€œIt wasnâ€™t. And now weâ€™ve paid a lot of lawyers on both sides.â€?
Town Solicitor Timothy A. Williamson said Thursday that he plans to provide the exact cost to the town next week, including the costs of experts, transcripts and an $85,000 program audit. He did say the defense cost the town â€œless than Cranston,â€? which spent more than $207,000 to defend against a Caruolo lawsuit earlier this year.
Apparently we’re the big spenders on Caruolo actions here in Cranston. Other municipalities make themselves feel better by comparing their Caruolo spending to ours.
[...] THE AGREEMENT also calls for the School Department to seek to renegotiate its current contract with the West Warwick Teachers Alliance. Unofficial conversations between members of the School Committee and union officials have already begun, said Burns. As for official talks, the teachersâ€™ union hasnâ€™t gotten a formal request, said its president, Donald E. Vanasse. But he said, â€œI stand by the proposition that it never hurts to talk, or at least meet.â€?
The agreement also calls for the town and schools to develop a joint plan to consolidate departments â€” such as finance, human resources and building maintenance â€” by the end of the month. The schools are also required to meet with a labor lawyer who will inspect their current labor contracts and advise them.
The talk about consolidating departments goes back 20 years in Cranston, and probably just as long in other cities and towns. Hopefully this money-saving consolidation will become reality now.