Update on Schools, Community from Steve Stycos

Steve Stycos, member of the Cranston School Committee, provided the following email update on events and issues in our city:

UPDATE FROM STEVE STYCOS

SCHOOL AND LIBRARY BUDGET HEARINGS

Budget hearings for the Cranston schools and the libraries will be held Tuesday April 21 at 7 PM at Cranston East Auditorium (schools) and Thursday April 23 at 7 PM in City Council Chambers (libraries). Public speaking will be allowed.

Budgets set priorities and education and libraries have rated low on the city’s list in recent years. Please let the city council know your priorities. Although Mayor Alan Fung is proposing major cuts in services, he is also proposing a large 6 percent tax increase. In past years, the City Council has tried to reduce proposed tax increases. Not raising taxes, due to cuts in state aid, would be disastrous.

The budget is on the city’s Web site. Spending for libraries and schools will increase a modest 11 percent since 2004. During the same period, spending for police will increase 21 percent and fire spending will jump 30 percent. In an example of fiscal irresponsibility during the two year Napolitano term, city interest and debt and interest payments jumped 56 percent or $1.7 million. It’s fun to spend money (like putting plastic grass on the football field) and then leave other people to pay the bill.

Another example of bad financial management is seen in the $18 million dollars that is budgeted for the unfunded police and fire pensions. If mayors and city councils before Mayor Stephen Laffey had adequately raised taxes to fund the pensions, today the city would have millions of dollars to finance programs and avoid tax increases.

Without adequate funding and major concessions from the teachers union, I expect the school committee will be forced to cut the EPIC program, the elementary music program, elementary guidance couselors, some high school sports, perhaps have some elementary principals cover more than one school and a lot more.

In response to the proposed budget, the library trustees have already closed all branches on Wednesdays and Thursdays, closed the central library on Sundays and stopped purchasing books and CDs.

Some steps I would like to see the mayor and council explore to produce funds for the education and libraries are: 1) a student parking fee at both high schools, 2) a reduction in the $1.2 million street lighting budget, 3) more effort to divert trash to recycling, 4) an energy conservation program like the school program which has saved more than a million dollars in less than two years, and, 5) A reduction in the municipal court salaries which have increased 68 percent in 6 years.

EARTH DAY CLEAN UP

Friends of the Pawtuxet will hold an Earth Day Clean Up Saturday April 18 at 9 AM. We will meet at the DEM Supply Depot, across the river from Shaw’s, 230 Warwick Avenue, Cranston. We will be picking up litter, planting some small trees and doing other trail work. Bring gloves and shovels. We also need yard waste bags. Kids welcome. Stay as long as you like.

MAILING PARTY

Tuesday April 14 we will have a mailing party to prepare the Friends of the Pawtuxet/Farmers Market newsletter. We need help. We will meet at 6PM at the home of Sam and Penelope Hough, 25 Berwick Lane, off Broad Street in Edgewood. Feel free to come late, or leave early.

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7 responses

  1. Kiersten Marek | Reply

    It’s upsetting the see the libraries being forced to cut back — Wednesday afternoons my older daughter has been using the library to do her homework and the place is packed. Libraries are one of the only placed people can go who do not have computers in order to get into the job market, enroll in school, do school projects, etc. It’s a vicious downward spiral that we’re feeding into when we cut off those most in need of resources who are trying to rejoin the workforce.

  2. Jesse from Cranston | Reply

    So, this is Fung’s creative answer to the budget situation: raise taxes beyond the state cap, spend $7+ million from the surplus, and go after the librarians.

    I don’t expect that this plan will go anywhere, and that, in fact, the City Council will pass a more responsible budget.

    As for Mr. Stycos’s statement about “adequate resources and major concessions,” I would only suggest that the school board’s priorities should be the opposite — major concessions first, before seeking more funding. We also heard these same threatened cuts last budget year — EPIC and so forth — only to have them reinstated.

    So far, the school board has not shown the will to make real changes to the school budget — for example, reducing the cost of administration above the principal level. My suggestion would be to remove collective bargaining coverage for upper administrators (or, at very least, change the culture of tying upper admin salaries to classified and certified salaries) and reduce some of the energy and other costs that now go into the upper administration offices.

    … Oh, and maybe stop the costly litigation. That would also be helpful.

  3. Priicipals are taking home 125K plus bennies .

  4. Principals are taking home 125K plus bennies .
    Four sped directors suck 700k out of the system (not including legal expenses defending their moronic decisions).
    Or the city could just layoff 30 or so 30K/yr employees, that actually do the hard work.

  5. Jesse from Cranston | Reply

    There’s an update on the city budget in this week’s Herald. The Council decided not to follow Fung down his doom-and-gloom path, and instead put together a reasonable budget.

    Here’s the link:
    http://www.cranstononline.com/pages/full_story?page_label=home_top_stories_news&id=2569196-Budget+veto+planned+to+follow+budget+vote&widget=push&article-Budget%20veto%20planned%20to%20follow%20budget%20vote%20=&instance=home_news_2nd_left&open=&

    The spending plan cuts the anticipated tax increase, preserves positions Fung wanted to cut, and sets aside $1.2 million in the city’s surplus account for potential future school costs — all while using just $2.7 of the surplus.

    Fung’s answer? “I’m going to lay off people anyway, and putting money into the surplus account is stupid.” (Okay, I’m paraphrasing.)

    Instead of complaining, Fung should get to work negotiating those union concessions — he may even be able to do a better job than Nap, who failed to hit the $1.5 million target the Council set last fiscal year. Plus, Fung has a lot more time to work on concessions.

    Fung has an opportunity to do something positive; he should recognize the situation as such and take advantage of it. This continued spat with the Council will do him no good, especially if he’s planning any kind of run for office next year.

    (Odds are he’s eyeing the AG’s office, by the way.)

    If he were smart, Fung would stop trying to hold the monopoly on how things are done in the city and try to turn the Council’s decisions to his own advantage. He should know that vetoing the budget will be an empty and meaningless gesture, and that he’ll have to run the city under the budget guidelines anyway.

  6. Jesse from Cranston | Reply

    Oh, just a quick PS…

    Fung says: “If you run a surplus through sound and efficient budgeting, at the end of the year, the surplus gets rolled over into that account and you build up a cumulative surplus.”

    Actually, no. If the Mayor does his job and runs the city efficiently day-to-day, he can have a much bigger effect on the end-of-year outcome than the Council’s blueprint for spending.

  7. Kiersten Marek | Reply

    Thanks, Jesse! I will try to do a post about the budget being passed. Post topics are piling up, meanwhile I’m trying to finish one called, “Some Facts on Marriage.” And then there’s everything else going on!

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