No tax increase, but school leaders unhappy with mayor's budget plan

No tax increase, but school leaders unhappy with mayor's budget plan

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was edited to reflect that school leaders are still seeking nearly a $6 million increase from taxpayers that they say is needed to bring the school into compliance with the state Basic Education Plan.

CUMBERLAND - The mayor's plan to split up increases in school funding next year – adding $900,000 more from taxpayers to the school budget and another $651,000 as a municipal line item – is prompting an outcry from school leaders who say it fails to "adequately fund the Basic Education Plan."

Supt. Phil Thornton and School Committee Chairwoman Lisa Beaulieau are expressing unhappiness with both McKee and with The Breeze over the story in Thursday's paper.

Beaulieu is saying the schools, in fact, are still seeking the $5.893 million increase that would raise taxpayers' investment to the level that school leaders say is required by the state BEP's statute. The Breeze story reflects only the $1.5 million originally sought by Thornton, and reported in error that schools would be receiving the full amount requested, although not all within the school budget.

She said in an emailed mesage, "Rhode Island General Law, Chapter 16-7-24 reads as follows: '…A community that has a local appropriation insufficient to fund the basic education program pursuant to the regulations described in this section and all other approved programs shared by the state and required in law shall be required to increase its local appropriation in accordance with § 44-5-2 or find efficiencies in other non-education programs to provide sufficient funding to support the public schools.'

"We believe governing bodies should comply with all state laws," added Beaulieu. "We remain steadfast in our belief that the children of Cumberland deserve an education equal to the education being given to children in other cities and towns of Rhode Island. Our children are worth it. They deserve an equal playing field and they deserve to be as prepared as students in Burrillville and Barrington, Warwick and West Greenwich."

Thornton was particularly harsh on The Breeze's story, saying in an email, "Our students deserve an equal playing field. I’d also like to add that our community expects transparency, accuracy, and accountability from us. We expect the same from our community journalists. Misinformation and poor fact checking can and does harm the process and creates distrust of such organizations.”

The BEP funding was added just before the budget deadline in a single $4.34 million revenue line item titled "BEP compliance" and correlated spending items were marked in bold within the budget. Committee members had voted 6 to 1 to "submit" the budget, rather than approve it.

Town Council members are getting their first look at the spending plan this week and will begin official deliberations on May 22 at 6:30 p.m. when the finance subcommittee meets under the leadership of Craig Dwyer.

As proposed, the budget overall adds 1 percent in spending, up $93,022 compared to last year's adopted budget, and requires no increase to the tax rate, although taxpayers will be contributing an added $1.5 million overall, bringing the anticipated levy to $61.5 million.

Revenue line items suggest some economic improvement: $310,000 in impact fees from builders compared to zero this year; $35,000 more in building permits, $15,000 more in realty transfer taxes, $20,000 in meal taxes.

Public hearings on the $88.03 million proposal are scheduled on May 29 at 6:30 p.m. and June 2 at 7:30 p.m., with the first vote on June 2 and a second and final vote on June 4 during the regular 7:30 p.m. council meeting.

Taxpayers are welcome at the subcommittee discussion as well as public hearings.

Complicating this year's budget discussions, in addition to school funding, will be the unsettled police contract, McKee is saying.

Savings expected to be available through negotiated changes in the officers' health care coverage, retirement eligibility and town's pension obligation remain uncertain while the town argues in court that the police union reneged on its agreement late last year.

McKee said the town is not filling openings at the Police Department, but continues to pay the health insurance of three would-be officers who completed the academy last December and are awaiting promised jobs with Cumberland.

McKee expected to attach a detailed addendum to the budget plan that outlines the full implications of the contract impasse.

Looking at the municipal side of the budget, the increase is small, aside from the money for schools, and includes no new staff positions, McKee said.

Shifting rescue, highway and Town Hall employees to a high-deductible health care plan is yielding the expected savings that contain the overall bottom line, said McKee.


No...misinformation and poor fact checking aren't what caused the distrust. The communities have lost trust in the public schools because of the TERRIBLE RESULTS! And each and EVERY time the results are sub-par, the answer is ALWAYS MORE MONEY! And it always starts with the same "OUR CHILDREN DESERVE BETTER" speech. If the public schools haven't figured it out yet, the taxpayers are investing in other educational experiences, not (yet) run by the corrupted and greedy unions. We are moving past the old "song and dance" of a another promise of better results. WE DON'T BELIEVE YOU ANYMORE! Yes, we distrust your organization...but it has NOTHING to do with a slanted editorial in the local paper! And they are OUR children, not YOURS...we, parents are sick of you teachers using OUR children as pawns in your greedy negotiations! STOP IT!

If you feel so "stuck" here, please leave, and take your ravings with you. By the way, my real name is Jeanne Ballou and I'm pretty sure I can guess yours. "Terrible results" you say? If you want to see terrible results, you will have to look at some of the communities that spend many more dollars per pupil on public education than Cumberland does.

I'm guessing that, as a retired teacher, you will NEVER agree that the results are terrible. So, please confirm for all of us that you are pleased and happy with the results that we are presently getting from our public that we can officially dismiss any future comments. YOU'RE ONE OF THEM!

I am a mother of 2 one in elementary on in middle school. Can someone explain a few things?? Why doesn't my 5th grader have a math book? How us he supposed to learn without having something besides a problem worksheet to bring home to do his nearly impossible and ridiculous core math? Why is the elementary school in such poor shape, paint peeling, floors chipped, but they spend what a few hundred grand on a new football field. Yes, I see where the priority is. No books, old school, no extra help. Seriously? The schools are terrible, their ratings..not great!! Stop throwing money at the problem and fix it, teach the kids fix the schools and get them so e damn books!!!!!!!!!! Oh yes my sons teacher says there is a paper shortage now so she can't copy things if parents want them, and can't send home extra copies of anything....really???!!!!! This is infuriating!!!

I don't usually agree with the mayor on some his half baked ideas ie:the charter school or clear cutting 50 acres at the Monastery to build either a "sixth" village or a 12 million saftey complex that we don't need. At least he understands you can't keep putting the burden on the tax payers (even if his charter is a main culprit) I've lived in Cumberland my entire life (36 years) and currently have 3 children enrolled 2 in the high school and 1in elementary. This town has been hijacked by progressives, bent on spending all our money - on their socialist agenda.

Two years ago, I looked forward to having my son enter (full day!) kindergarten here in Cumberland after having lived here and paid taxes for quite a few years to help fund the school system. In anticipation, I toured my local school and was shocked to see the same sort of antiquated amenities (if they could be called that) and technology that I had in elementary school 35 years ago! And my son's potential classroom had only a handful of tattered books and very few basic materials on display during an open house. His prospective future teacher was prickly on the first interaction with him. I was beside myself. I'm a proud product of public education and hoped to see my children be the same.

I very quickly changed the plan and my two kids now go to the French American school in Providence instead. It is difficult to afford the expense of private school on top of the local and state taxes that should already be providing the education "our children deserve", but my kids don't get a do-over when it comes to education! I had to vote with my feet, but it certainly is not what I would have wanted. I would ask where the money is being spent now if these schools do not have paper and reasonable facilities, let alone modern computers, language training, enrichment via the arts and music and all of the other aspects of education that would make our children competitive on the world stage. The cynical part of me points to pensions and a system that does not adequately reward - or sometimes even trust - great teachers instead focusing on the lowest common denominator. I understand the seismic shift that the common core seems to be causing in public education and frankly it terrifies me to see that public education seems to be ever more intent on thinking that teaching to tests is a way to create bright, motivated learners.

I respect the hard work that Dr. Thornton and the teachers are trying to accomplish. But money is neither the problem nor the solution (clearly). I would invite these intelligent leaders to solve the actual problems that are preventing our children in Cumberland from getting what they deserve. They certainly deserve an explanation at the least.

Please be brave and fix these schools.

RI Public School System Ranked Worst in New England
New Hampshire ranked No. 1 in the country...Not to mention, no sales or income tax, no vehicle excise tax, open carry etc, etc, etc.

For all the people saying that money isn't the answer and there should be no more spending, and complaining about the condition of the school, try to answer this for me please. Where does the Cumberland school system rank, out of the 39 cities and towns, for per pupil spending? And, where does Cumberland rank based on student performance? Anyone have the answer to those questions?

What difference does it make comparing Cumberland to the other school systems in RI - the entire state is a failure and should be dissolved. We constantly rank last or near the bottom on just about everything. Perhaps we should set yhe bar higher, RI Public schools were just ranked near the bottom and worst in New England. New Hampshire was ranked #1 in the country, perhaps we should be looking to the Granite State, for the way forward.

Ok Neil, when you want to get real, let us know. Dissolve the state? Sure, go ahead, get to work on that. Or just move to NH.

I have 2 kids in the system and I am very impressed with the quality of Cumberland teachers. I am an educator as well and think that gives me the proper credentials to evaluate what is happening in the Cumberland School system. These teachers do incredible things with the resources they have to work with. Do they need resources that could improve their results? Absolutely! People are comparing apples to oranges. You need resources to create students that can compete in this highly technological society which means you need money! These children are the future and they deserve to have the same opportunities as every other child in the state and country. These are the kids that will be taking care of you when you age and will be running our country in the future. Providence schools have had 5-6 computers per classroom as well as 1-2 computer labs in each middle school as far back as 12 years ago. I believe Cumberland Schools are at a disadvantage and need to catch up with the times. I guess there is a reason this law was put into place. Maybe to make sure all children have equal opportunities. I guess it's hard to believe why they had to make this a law. The things that make you go hmmmmmmmm. Wouldn't it be nice if all children in Cumberland were able to get any supplementary services that they might need? Unfortunately, they are turned away due to the lack of funds. The things that make you go hmmmmmm. Money makes the world go round! It takes a village to make it happen. teachers, administrators, parents, neighbors, business leaders and taxpayers. Have you thanked a teacher today?

Dear everyone who uses the argument "Cumberland's per pupil expenditure is among the lowest blah blah blah..." for the 10th time, most of the cities and towns in RI factor in the cost of retired teacher's health care cost into that figure, Cumberland does not. The comparison is apples to oranges.

Trust me, I am moving to NH, as soon as I can sell my house. I feel bad for the delusional people who think pissing away their hard earned money in a state that by all accounts is a miserable failure - will actually make a difference.

Well, “teacher”, if your written words are truthful…if you actually believe that “Cumberland schools are disadvantaged”, and, by your own statement, you, as an educator have the “proper credentials to evaluate” the school system, then the morally correct thing to do is to immediately urge all of your colleagues to contact the union rep and strongly urge the union to begin to negotiate to re-balance the budget to fix these egregious conditions. It is of public record that OVER HALF of the school budget is appropriated for teachers’ salaries and pensions…OVER HALF! If you are sincere about acknowledging that the “children are our future”, then it should not be a hard nor complicated decision to re-appropriate 5% of the budget from the teachers’ salaries and pensions to the students experience in the classroom. I’m sure your fellow teachers will fully support you if they too feel as strongly as you that “the children deserve to have the same opportunities as every other child”. PROBLEM SOLVED! After the budget has been properly adjusted, the next point to discuss with your rep is the actual time spent in the classroom. It doesn’t take a dedicated educator (like yourself) to see that the time spent in class directly correlates to better and more successful results. In fact, not only would I suggest a full 8 hour day in the classroom, but, for also increasing the 180 day/year minimum to 210…adding 6 weeks in the classroom for additional instruction. After all, you have pointed out that these children will “be running our country in the future”. Surely, this reason ALONE is enough to call your rep TODAY! I know that you and your fellow teachers will do everything it takes to insure that “our future” has the best possible chance at succeeding…because it IS that important to our country’s future. Please let us all know how it goes with your fellow caring teachers and the union representative. Enjoy the summer off and thanks for not letting me down with your regurgitated response.


It's true that Cumberland has been reducing its retiree health care costs. I'm not sure if other communities are doing the same.

But if you look at the financial data that is on the RIDE web site (UCOA for FY2012), Cumberland paid $1,039,029 for "Payments for Retiree Benefits."

RIDE defines this category as "health benefits, pension payments and other similar payments to or on behalf of Retirees."

This amounted to $232 of Cumberland's "per pupil expenditure" total, which was $12,417 that year.

17 districts spent more PPE than Cumberland in the "Payments for Retiree Benefits" category. But, 37 districts spent less than Cumberland in this category.

If you remove this category from the PPE calculation - making for a more apples to apples comparison - Cumberland still ranks near the bottom in the state in terms of per pupil spending.

As a travelling IT worker, my kids have been to many schools. My oldest in *seventh grade* in Cumberland, RI says his school year was a repeat of sixth grade material. The pay rates in New England are great, but not at the expense of my kids education. "Backward" places like Georgia and Tennessee provide a better education than Cumberland, RI. We will finish out the school year then leave. Only RI and MI have fewer people now than 10 years ago. Now I know why. The Cumberland School District is run by a bunch of dumbed-down socialist control freaks. Good riddance to their "how dare you question us" mentality.

Cumberland Public Schools using UCOA had an average of 4470.21 students per day and they spent an average of $12,418 per student.

The Mayoral Academies (BVP) had 519.39 students per day and they spent $11,708 per student.

That is one heck of a spending ratio that the BVP spent per child vs. the Cumberland Public Schools. So money does talk!!!

We all can moan about the education, but in this years budget proposal by the mayor, he gave money for text books and chromebooks in a separate line item on the General Town Budget side and not the schools.

But then he really level funded the Cumberland School System. The proposed increase he is giving is to cover the increased (mandated) pension cost directed by the state and the (mandated) increase that the Cumberland School System has to give the Mayoral Academies (BVP). Those never go away.

The increase for text books and chromebooks is not even included in the annual maintenance of effort. Next year that money disappears. So how does the school system keep up with technology?

So much for the educational mayor! How can this not be an ethics violation? Really now, he heads the town and a separate public school system and he alone make the proposal to the town council to short change the public school system vs. his school system. But his money to BVP is always guaranteed.

No dog and pony show in front of the town council asking for increases. Cumberland was incorporated in the year 1746 and it has taken all that time to get to $12,418 and the BVP has been around 8-9 years and they are only $710.00 per student less.

Bottom line is Cumberland funds their schools at a lower rate than most other schools in Rhode Island and we get better results than what we pay for.

Under current state law S3050 Cumberland is capped at 4% for this year for a tax increase. We all received our property tax bills in the mail. About 66.6% of your property taxes goes to the School Department, the town gets the rest. That 66.6% is paid by all the property owners. That's not chump change. We worked hard for it.

Supt. Phil Thornton and School Committee Chairwoman Lisa Beaulieau are seeking $5.893 million MORE! That would raise taxpayers' investment OVER the S3050 CAP! Town taxpayers are being forced to comply to a state statue brought on by the School Fair Funding Formula.

The problem in the state and in Cumberland is the union negotiated portion of the contracts ie: salaries, step increases, raises, health benefits, pensions, etc. are untouchable. When you finally get to what is left very little goes to the materials and supplies.

All of these things will affect education and the resources we can devote to it. Can we afford the unions? Can we afford a tax increase brought on by mandated rules and regulations due to the Fair School Funding Formula?

We keep throwing more money and more money at education but seniors need to take remedial classes once they graduate CHS and get in college.

We need to develop programs that work first and then pay for those that develop results. We sure aren't getting results now. If we aren't getting good results today, why should taxpayers invest $6 Million more just because the state says so. What if we still don't see good results, then the school department will come back next year and say: "We Need MORE Money.

Cumberland taxpayers have given over $12 million dollars over the last several years and the results are no better now than they were $12 million ago. Nothing has changed.

Mark, in his proposed budget, the mayor allocated more money to the schools without raising taxes at all. While a $5.893M increase in one year could/would raise taxes in excess of the cap, it's worth considering a plan to boost the budget over multiple years.

As for money spent in recent years:

In FY2008, the town allocation to the schools was $35,758,000. In the current year (FY14) the town allocation is $38,690,000 -- an increase of $2,932,000.

But, what about inflation? According to the CPI/inflation calculator: $38,690,000 in 2014 (most recent year avail) dollars equates to $35,137,000 in 2008 dollars.

So actually, when you account for inflation, the town allocation this year was LESS than what it was in 2008.

Everyone complaining about Unions and funding need to wake up and research Common Core. Does it not seem strange that a simple division problem such as 90/18 = 5 now takes a child 100+ steps to calculate? Do you all believe this new curriculum is challenging our children? Do you???

How about the fact that many parents have no clue how this new Math is taught/works rendering them useless in helping with homework. Does this seem strange to anyone?

How about the fact that there were zero educators, child psycologists involved in the development of this curriculum. How about the fact that this curriculum has never been used or tested anywhere in the world, meaning there is zero proof that it is an effective system.

Anyone find it weird that Common Core was pushed on the states by the Federal Government who have no rights being involved education. Anyone know why the states agreed to force this curriculum on our public schools? Let me tell you why, MONEY! Not to mention waivers from the stricter regulations of No Child Left Behind.

I encourge you all to do your own research and enlighten others before its to late for our children and our country.

Check out what this 15 year old has to say:

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

In my opinion, common core is not the problem.