Warwick Schools: They Know Where to Cut, but Will it Get Done?
Warwick Superintendent Dr. Peter Horoschak knows where to go to make budget cuts that would save sports and other activities:
Superintendent Peter Horoschak calculates that even with the mayor’s plan to save sports and extra curricular activities, the schools still face a $6.1 million budget deficit. In his opinion, the best place to start plugging the hole is with an across-the-board 20 percent health insurance co-payment.
“I advocate that because I think it is the most sensible and fairest thing to do,” Horoschak said Tuesday. He estimated if all school employees paid 20 percent of health care costs, the department could save $3.7 million.
Currently teachers are paying $11 a week for health care as are administrators and middle management. Members of the Warwick Independent School Employees (WISE) that have been unable to reach a contract since the last one expired four years ago have no co-pay.
But while the superintendent favors a uniform co-payment for all employees, implementing it is another matter. Co-payments are a part of the Warwick Teachers Union contract that doesn’t expire for another year and unilaterally imposing higher co-payments, Horoschak believes, would lead to a court battle that he doubts the schools would win. Likewise, the superintendent said the department could save about $3.1 million if it eliminated teacher raises next year. Again, however, this would violate the contract unless the union was to agree to revisions.
Horoschak said schools have asked the union to reopen the contract following Mayor Scott Avedisian’s announcement that schools would shoulder about $6 million of the $10 million cut from the city’s state aid projections.
Similar concessions could be made on the city side of things, too, where workers pay a flat rate, not a percentage, of their salary for Health care. Back to the school budget, though. A salary freeze for FY 2011 would also be a good move. But–surprise, surprise–good luck with any of it.
Teacher union president James Ginolfi said yesterday that he had received a letter some weeks ago about reopening the contract, but heard nothing until yesterday when Horoschak called.
“We’ve been waiting and waiting. There hasn’t been much talk; it”s been in their hands for a response,” Ginolfi said.
“I guess I have a problem that they tell you what they’re looking for and not me and they have had plenty of opportunities,” he added. He did not comment on Horoschak’s proposals, saying those discussions would have to take place at the bargaining table.
The School Committee, Superintendent, Mayor and City Council will all be meeting about this tonight at 6 PM at City Hall.