WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — If the Warwick School Committee does not receive the funding it has requested from the city, athletics and school clubs may be on the chopping block, according to Superintendent Phillip Thornton.
Thornton showed Eyewitness News a list of possible cuts the district would have to make if the city does not provide them with the roughly $7.7 million they requested. That list includes possible cuts to athletics, clubs and new textbooks for students.
“Right now, if the school board were to approve this list, I believe it’s $118,000 of our clubs that would be cut, those clubs wouldn’t happen next fall,” Thornton explained.
The school department said they can’t lay off more teachers, meaning cuts will have to come from elsewhere. Students rallied outside of a Warwick City Council meeting Monday night, wearing their sports uniforms to highlight the importance of after-school programs.
Thornton said the district has done plenty to cut costs already but is now struggling to find a balance, since different costs increase across the board year after year.
“We have costs next year increasing in the teacher contract to $2.3 million, we have pension up to $700,000, medical is up $3 million, we have to cover these costs,” he said.
Warwick City Council President Steve Merolla argues the city is offering the school department about $8.2 million in infrastructure grant money, state funding and payments of bond debt. Mayor Joseph Solomon’s proposed school budget is about $166 million, which is roughly $1 million more than last year’s budget. The school department is seeking about $174 million.
“I can speak to the fact that we don’t have that type of money to pay that type of benefit,” Merolla said.
Merolla said it is up to the school department to decide how their money is spent and what programs need to be cut.
“I don’t know what else they expect us to do, and this blame game and this gotcha has to stop,” Merolla explained. “They need to look at their own books.”
While Thornton says the need for more money is the result of a funding problem, Merolla believes it’s a spending issue.
“You can’t create your own hardships and then blame somebody else for not funding schools appropriately when we’re funding schools 20% more than Cranston,” Merolla said.
Solomon is extending the negotiations process to allow more time for the school committee and city council to come to an agreement.
Thornton said the new budget begins on July 1. He said ultimately, the school committee will approve any cuts made from the proposed list, and he hopes they will have it all figured out by the end of the month.