By DANIEL WALL The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown people's lives into upheaval in every possible way. Both health and economic concerns have brought unrest to our people and our institutions. Consequently, when the Cranston City Council passed the city
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown people’s lives into upheaval in every possible way. Both health and economic concerns have brought unrest to our people and our institutions. Consequently, when the Cranston City Council passed the city budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year they did something unprecedented. The council voted unanimously to amend the budget and to remove approximately $4.1 million of state educational aid from the school department’s budget. That sum, coupled with $1.2 million that the city underfunded the schools, left the school department with an approximately $5.3 million shortfall. What remains is the monumental task of making cuts to balance the budget by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Please understand that it is not this writer’s intention to vilify the members of the council. I fully comprehend their reasoning. Reports of a state-budget deficit, of upwards of $900 million, have made the members of the council unsure of the likelihood of the schools receiving all their projected state-educational funding. The fact that we are not likely to see a state budget until sometime in July only adds to the anxiety. However, the Cranston School Committee is bound by the city charter to pass a balanced budget by the end of the current fiscal year. To achieve this goal the school department will be required to make severe cuts. In addition, we will be forced to request that our employees agree to sacrifice contractually bargained raises and step increases which have been previously ratified by both the School Committee and the City Council. This move will certainly create a considerable measure of strife and hardship for our employees.
To that end, on Monday night the School Committee passed a resolution requesting that the Cranston City Council amend the city budget to include the $3.2 million necessary to fulfill the contractual obligations that were ratified by both the city council and the school committee. I realize that $3.2 million is a large figure – a figure that should not be thrown around carelessly. However, we made a promise when we ratified these contracts, and I believe that we have a moral obligation to keep that promise.
Daniel Wall represents Ward 6 and serves as chairman of the Cranston School Committee.