Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Cumberland Lincoln 04-12-2018

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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CUMBERLAND LINCOLN EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | APRIL 12-18, 2018 CUMBERLAND 3 Mayor's blue ribbon commission on education short on recommendations Its counterpart, a council-appointed board, wants town to commit to schools CUMBERLAND – A blue ribbon commission started by Mayor Bill Murray last year is offering "no offi- cial recommendations" about wheth- er local schools are being properly funded, said Chairman Jim Thorsen, but is still offering valuable informa- tion to the town. Thorsen, of Cumberland, conceded that he intended to make recom- mendations when the commission started out, but due to a lack of con- sensus and a feeling among members that they shouldn't make comments about the "mind-numbingly complex" manage- ment of schools, members decided against it. The panel is wrapping up its work this month. Members did offer individual com- ments to Murray, gave some con- structive criticism of the Cumberland School Department, and provided financial information about the town that could be useful, he said. The mayor's blue ribbon advisory commission on education presented its final report to the Town Council at a meeting last Wednesday, April 4. The committee will present findings at a forum next Tuesday, April 17, at 6:30 p.m. in meeting room two of the Cumberland Public Library. Also presenting at last Wednesday's meeting was Jeff Mutter, former Town Council president and chair- man of the School Committee, on behalf of a separate educational fund- ing and development commission established by the council. Mutter said that commission reached enough consensus to make recommendations. These include a strong endorsement of the Cumberland Public Schools strategic plan's call for investments in schools to take the district from ninth best to a top-five district across all grade levels. Schools Supt. Bob Mitchell met with the board several times, outlin- ing investments that would be needed to make Cumberland a top-five school, said member Armen Casparian. Members are urging the coun- cil to pass a resolu- tion to affirm a com- mitment to the goal, said Casparian. Murray said he felt his blue rib- bon commission did "exactly what I wanted to be done," which was to have people with "vast experience" offer opinions on school funding, as he tries to get a handle on future needs and spending. Thorsen spoke to the Town Council last week "as a courtesy," Murray said, but the find- ings of the report were really "for my own edification." The report from the blue ribbon commission discusses, among other things: • Cumberland per-pupil spending being the lowest in the state • Future projected funding gaps • The biggest cost drivers for schools, particularly salaries • The percentage of school funding related to the town budget • The town's strong financial posi- tion • Staffing and enrollment trends • Evidence that Cumberland families are struggling financially and may not be able to absorb large spending increases "We want school excellence, and that requires significant funding," Thorsen told the Town Council, but taxpayer ability to pay is in question. Though no official recommenda- tions were made, said Thorsen, he recommends that budgets not be increased more than inflation or the rate of economic growth. He suggested one of the only ways for schools to save money is by eliminat- ing salaries. Both education funding advisory commissions agreed that officials need to make a decision on what an appropriate fund balance is for the schools. Another recommendation of the council-appointed board was that the council as the funding authority should sign off on the fiscal note for any collective bar- gaining agreement with school unions. The council's board, led by Mutter, also recommended that a town-wide sur- vey be done to see what the appetite is for increasing fund- ing to schools, and to take advantage of school aid construction reim- bursements. School officials are being good stewards of the money they have, said Mutter, and there's "no data point to suggest otherwise." Members of the council-appointed committee included council mem- bers Tom Kane and James Metivier, School Committee members Stephen Hess and William Dennen, School Business Manager Alex Prignano, Cumberland Finance Director Jason Parmelee, town resident Armen Casparian, Blackstone Valley Prep's Christine Losea and Jessica Waters, and Cumberland resident Linda Teel. Members of the mayor-appoint- ed committee included Kristen Sukatos, of the Cumberland School Volunteers, Melissa Travis, commer- cial sales director for HealthSource RI and chairwoman of the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, Brian Silvia, former Cumberland finance director and current city trea- surer in Warwick, and Tony Nobrega, former councilor and school board member. Also called in to advise the committee were former school board members Erika Sanzi and Tom Letourneau, former school board member and council member Don Costa, and former Town Councilor Art Lambi. Councilor Kane, who originally suggested starting a second education funding advisory board last year, questioned Thorsen at the April 4 meeting about whether the mayor- appointed board had any recommen- dations. Thorsen responded that no, there are no official ones. Kane said he's eager to see a reso- lution come before leaders to see how many will support the goal of By ETHAN SHOREY Valley Breeze Managing Editor See FUNDING, Page 5 MURRAY MUTTER THORSEN Check Our Website for Today's Low Heating Oil Price 139 HAMLET AVENUE WOONSOCKET, RI 02895-0628 Consumers Propane 762-5461 BOUSQUET OIL 769-0146 SERVICE – SALES – INSTALLATION OF GAS & OIL HEATING EQUIPTMENT • Boilers • Furnaces • Hot Water Heaters WWW.CONSUMERSPROPANE.COM WE FILL GAS GRILL TANKS GREAT VALUE QUALITY SERVICE 36 BLACKSTONE STREET WOONSOCKET 401-766-3270 WWW.TERRYAUTOLTD.COM Gil & Meika 2011 TOYOTA RAV4 AWD ...................................................................$10,999 2011 NISSAN ROGUE AWD, 89K ..........................................................$10,495 2007 NISSAN MURANO SL LOADED, AWD .........................................................$9,495 2003 MERCURY GRAND MARQUIS 1 owner, 60K .............$4,995 2003 TOYOTA CAMRY LE ...............................................................................$3,995

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