— Pawtucket —

December 16, 2010

Receiver: Merge Central Falls/Pawtucket

Marc Comtois

Former Judge Mark A. Pfeiffer, appointed as receiver for troubled Central Falls, has come out with his recommendation (PDF): merge Central Falls with Pawtucket (via 7to7).

"The problems are so severe that they cannot be solved solely through efficiencies and additional revenue at the city level," he wrote. " ... state action is required if the city is to avoid fiscal collapse in its immediate future."

The major problem is the city, with an annual operating budget of about $16 million, is facing about $48 million in pension and after-retirement obligations, he said. Essentially, the city spent years giving out pension and retirement benefits without figuring out how to pay for them, he said.

That mistake was exacerbated by municipal officials who didn't notice or appreciate the problems, he said, ignoring them when they were manageable and only reacting when it was too late.

A merger with Pawtucket would put Central Falls in a municipality with similar demographics and issues, Pfeiffer said....The lower income population of Central Falls would make it easier for Pawtucket to attract government grants, he said, and the increased population would make the new combined entity the second biggest city in the state, enhancing its legislative clout.

Pfeiffer outlined a plan, which, interestingly enough, would basically involve statewide reform. It includes:

1) Consolidating pension funds across the state and modifying the current system (ie; increase retirement age, payouts, etc.)
2) Implementing a statewide health insurance plan for government employees at the state/municipal level.
3) Reforms to how Collective Bargaining Agreements are constituted, including a "zero-baseline" re-negotiation mandate every 10 years to account for changes in fiscal situation of the municipality.

February 25, 2010

Stop Me if You've Heard This One: School Department Overspends Budget

Monique Chartier

... by millions more than the millions some people initially suspected.

The Valley Breeze has obtained a copy of the preliminary version of the school performance audit which

says school administrators have been overspending taxpayer dollars by at least $10.4 million per year.

The performance audit (apparently and inexplicably long delayed) was conducted as a function of a Caruolo action filed by the Pawtucket School Committee. However,

The preliminary performance audit results now call into serious question the $4 million lawsuit against the School Department's host city and its taxpayers, concedes a school leader. That's the amount of added funding that school administrators have maintained they need to adequately operate the schools.

So the School Committee thought the department was overspending by $4 million, which it sued the city to obtain. But now it turns out the department was overspending by $10 million? How can the body officially charged with defining and administering the school budget have lost track of $6 million in spending? This makes me feel just swell about the state tax dollars we're sending to Pawtucket.

By the way, I'd like to second at least one of the recommendations of the audit, which is to

Eliminate all 32 floating building assistant positions pending further study. Cutting 11.5 of those positions at minimum would save the district $518,995, while cutting the rest would presumably save an additional $1 million;

A "floating" position? That's always nice. "No, I'm not at your school today, Principle Smith, I'm at one of the others. See, I float. So no one can really keep track of where I am or what I'm doing at any given time ..." Isn't that how the Central Landfill education coordinator got into trouble?

December 30, 2009

Pawtucket and East Providence Have a New Rep. With Old Ideas

Carroll Andrew Morse

The last paragraph of Alisha A. Pina's story in today's Projo on Democrat Mary Messier's victory in Tuesday's District 62 special election (former Rep. Elizabeth Dennigan's old seat, mostly Pawtucket with a little bit of East Providence) provides a perfect example of how the state Democratic Party's intellectual bankruptcy on fiscal issues continues to propel Rhode Island towards the more conventional form of fiscal bankruptcy…

During her campaign, [Ms. Messier] said the “need to control taxes” is a top priority and also supported the development of a new school district financing formula that would be fair to all cities and towns.
Alas, as has occurred all too-often in Rhode Island, we have a brand-new Democratic representative who believes that a "funding formula" can do the impossible: bring more money to her community, without requiring substantially higher new taxes to raise that money -- unless 1) soon-to-be Rep. Messier meant during the campaign that Pawtucket, already one of the largest recipients of state aid, should receive less money from the state, when she discussed making things "fair to all cities and towns" or 2) "controlling taxes" has become a new Democratic codephrase for "raising statewide taxes", i.e. "we controlled them by not raising them as high a we could have!"

Rhode Island won't be able to pull out of its fiscal and economic crisis if it keeps electing representatives who expect that state's problems to be solved by revenue-shifting programs funded by magic money that will fall from the sky.

September 13, 2009

Pawtucket Teachers: a Good News/Bad News Situation

Monique Chartier

The bad news is that they are among the lowest paid in the state, accordingly to the president of the Pawtucket Teachers Alliance, Charleen Christy.

The good news, however, is on a multitude of fronts. First, as they teach in Rhode Island, Pawtucket teachers are still in the top twenty percent pay bracket nationwide.

Next, they have some - enough is the question - Pawtucket elected officials willing to overlook some pretty serious city, state and national economic realities and obtain for them

1.) a multi year contract;

2.) inclusive of pay raises years two and three (of course, in addition to step raises);

3.) health insurance co-pays (you'll need a magnifying glass) of 5%, 6% and 9%.

Now back to the bad news. Support on the school committee for these contract terms is not unanimous. Actually, School Committee Chairman David Coughlin is a tad upset about them.

I found it interesting to read that our disingenuous, illustrious 'gang of four,' who think via 'Executive Session Privilege' they can gag the Chairman and educated members of the Committee, ram rod the teachers contract through passage behind the taxpayers' backs, guarantee future school and city deficits, set the city taxpayers and School District up for future Caruolo lawsuits, and set the teachers up for almost guaranteed future layoffs by sneaking this proposed teachers contract through ratification ...

Just a tad. With a final vote on the proposed contract to take place Tuesday, what has Coughlin done? He has contacted state Auditor General Ernest Almonte and Education Commissioner Deborah Gist to

request advisory opinions as to “whether it is fiscally, legally and educationally responsible for the Pawtucket School Committee, coming out of FY09 deficit reduction Caruolo Action, contemplating FY10 deficit reduction Caruolo Action, lacking a four year-old court-ordered performance audit, contemplating the filing of an adequacy lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island due to insufficient funding and recognizing the state government's predilection to level fund or reduce state aid to local school districts and municipalities to contemplate entering into a multi-year teachers' contract with no reasonable expectation that funds will be available to meet future year contractual obligations.”

D'oh! He invoked the r-word. Let's hope the good news continues to exceed the bad news and that he doesn't infect too many other Pawtucket officials with this sort of thinking by Tuesday's vote.

[Source: Thursday's Pawtucket Times]