Warwick School Committee, mayor remain at odds over funding

West Bay

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Mayor Joseph Solomon and the Warwick School Committee remain at odds over the city’s budget nearly three weeks after its approval.

The school committee was recently forced to balance their budget after the city offered them $7.7 million less than what they initially requested. The lack of funding will, in turn, lead to massive cuts – including school athletics and clubs – in the district.

The school committee says Solomon is pulling out of mediation efforts to resolve budget issues, but Solomon says those rumors are “grossly inaccurate.”

In a statement, the school committee says they were advised that Solomon would no longer participate in mediation over the 2018-2019 school year budget and would not discuss any mediation for the following year unless it was about ways to keep sports and clubs in the city’s schools.

As a result of this, the school committee says they would be forced to illegally withdraw $4 million from a pension fund for the 2018-2019 budget. They also said cuts would have to be made to the 2019-2020 budget, including purchasing textbooks, 1st-and-2nd-grade teaching assistants, custodial hours and all teacher professional development and workshops.

“These cuts are devastating to the district and the community, the school committee said in a statement. “We implore the Mayor to come to the table to discuss the budget for both 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 for the benefit of the students, employees and all Warwick constituents.”

Solomon responded by saying the school committee is spreading misinformation about the mediation.

“The rumors that mediation efforts have been halted and/or suspended are grossly inaccurate and are a complete misrepresentation of the good faith efforts brought forth by my administration to resolve these serious budgetary concerns,” Solomon said in a statement. “During the mediation session relative to FY18 – FY19, a mediator issued a decision that was agreed upon by both parties. As such, that matter has been put to rest.”

Solomon also said that as they prepare for mediation in the 2019-2020 budget, his focus will be on the children. He hopes through mediation the city can prevent sports and extracurricular activities from being cut.

“I will not allow the emotions of our students, parents, faculty or staff to be used as pawns as these discussions proceed,” Solomon said. “I remain committed to ensuring Warwick remains fiscally responsible and that the monies in any budget are spent wisely and for the greater good of our community.”

added that as they prepare to mediate the 2019-2020 budget, his focus will be on the children and sports and extracurricular activities that they deserve and to not allow the emotions of students, parents, faculty or staff to be used as pawns as discussions proceed.

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