School Department Submits Proposed Fiscal Year 2020 Budget to Council
$50,124,777. or 5% Increase Proposed
School Director of Finance, Craig T. Enos has submitted the department's proposed FY 2020 Budget to City administration and Council members. "On behalf of the East Providence School Committee, it is my pleasure to submit to you our proposed Fiscal Year 2020 Budget. In FY2019, local funds in the amount of $47,733,474 constituted 56.16% of our total budget. In FY2020, we are requesting an increase of 5% for a total of $50,124,777. This represents 57% of our budget, " writes Enos.
Highlights of this year's budget include contractual raises for certified and non-certified staff. The contractual salary and benefit increases total $2,029,270 of the request. T hese obligations represent 85% of the requested increase. This leaves $362,033 to go towards programs and services impacting students.
"For capital projects in FY 2020, we are continuing the work outlined in our 5-year capital plan by concentrating on deficiencies delineated in the RIDE Jacobs report. Our efforts will focus on replacing all exterior windows at Riverside Middle School and beginning a re-design of the academic houses for Martin Middle School. When Martin Middle School was built in 1977, it was designed as a junior high school with an open classroom concept. We need to begin the application process with RIDE in order to transform Martin Middle School into a 21st century learning environment.
In addition, we will be focusing on necessary masonry work for the chimney at Silver Spring Elementary; and the chimney and other re-pointing work on the exterior of Hennessey School," explained Enos.
"We intend to strengthen the safety and security features of our buildings by adding secure entrances to school buildings that currently do not have that feature. We will begin with Whiteknact and Riverside Middle School for the next fiscal year and then progress to Silver Spring and Hennessey the following year. With this concept, we can prevent potential intruders and threats from entering our buildings; protecting our students and staff," stated Enos.
Other significant investments in the 2020 budget are increased expenditures on technology hardware. With the 5-year technology plan in place, it is imperative to refresh devices and hardware components within the schools' established cycle program. "If we do not make the necessary investments within set timeframes, it will cost the district more in the long run. Investing in current technology assists our students in becoming 2l5t century learners."
The budget was presented to the School Committee on Tuesday, August 6, 2019. It passed with a unanimous vote. The Superintendent and staff will make the presentation formal at the East Providence City Council meeting on September 3, 2019.
130 Year Old Odd-Fellows Home is Sold
The City Council approved a purchase and sale agreement to have the long empty Odd Fellows Hall in Watchemocket Square developed by an investor. Mayor Bob DaSilva had negotiated a sales agreement with Indigo Holdings LLC. The long dilapidated building was sold for $1. The two and a half story 11,853 square foot building was built in 1889 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's assessed 2019 value is $183,800 according to city assessor records. About half of that is for the land. One problem - it's falling apart. Former City Manager Paul Lemont told the council in 2014 that the roof leaks so bad that "workers can't and won't get up there to fix it". It's getting worse by the day," said Lemont who showed little interest in spending money to fix it. "The entire renovation, to bring the place up to code, could cost as much as $2M," said former city officials.
Although prior city administrations have tried, no investor was willing to take on the expensive renovations and code requirements needed to develop the property. According to the RI Historical Society, the The Odd Fellows' Home Association of Rhode Island was founded in 1903 to manage a retirement home for indigent Odd Fellows. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows didn’t cut corners when they built a new meeting hall to accommodate their growing brotherhood in the 1880s. They hired leading Providence architectural firm Gould & Angell to design the new building in the then-fashionable shingle style and gave it an ample 8,300 square feet of interior space. For a location they chose the bustling center of 19th-century East Providence, the riverfront western end of Warren Avenue known as Watchemoket Square. The building at 63-65 Warren Avenue would serve as the Odd Fellows’ Rhode Island headquarters for 82 years, but eventually the influence of both the fraternal organization and their neighborhood would wane.
"This is a long vacant property with many serious issues," said Ward Two councilwoman Anna Sousa. Sousa introduced the measure to support the purchase and sales agreement. "This has been put out to bid many previous times," said Sousa. "It hasn't met with success. We have an interested party who wants to preserve its historic nature," Sousa added.
"I'm proud to announce that we have sold the Odd Fellows Home on Warren Ave to a person who will be restoring this building to its former glory," said Mayor DaSilva after the meeting. "That property has been a blight for about 20 years. It represents a great piece of our history and culture and I'm proud that we have found a person who wants to restore it to its former glory," added the Mayor.
The city’s Community Development Block Grant coordinator Dave Bachrach and the Mayor's office were credited by councilman-at-large Bob Rodericks with an "aggressive recruitment of a purchaser," in making this happen. The council vote to approve was unanimous.
New EPHS "Temporarily" Over Budget
Athletic Fields in Front of School May Lose Turf & Lights as Planned
The East Providence School Committee was told at an August meeting that the new EPHS project is currently "over budget," but that was a normal course of business. "I'm confident that we'll get the cost back by the end of the project. It is not uncommon and it is in line with similar projects at this point in time," said project manager Sam Bradner, of the Peregrine Group. In order to bring down the cost, several changes have been made. The original footprint has been shortened causing the building height to be raised in some areas. Athletic fields may now get real grass instead of synthetic turf as originally planned. The school may now have two elevators instead of the planned three.
"We've had to roll up our sleeves and see what we could look at for cost savings opportunities without compromising overall intent of the community," said Bradner. "We have to (cut) $10M to achieve the budget as presented to the public (from bond issue)," added Bradner. Bradner went on to tell the School Committee that planners actually suggested just North of $14M in cuts while trying to get shy of $9.2M. "Our goal is not to undermine what is deliverable to the community, students, faculty and district and make sure we can meet budget numbers," said Bradner.
School board chairman Charles Tsonos told Bradner that "these are complicated documents that will take time to absorb. Tsonos asked about the fields while saying that "the building is the most important, we can always do something later (for fields). Bradner indicated that the original plans for athletic fields in front of the school included turf and lights and now are planned for real grass and no lights.
Board member Tony Ferreira wasn't thrilled with the possible change from concrete to asphalt in some areas of the campus. "I have a serious issue with how we do maintenance in East Providence. I'm concerned with the change from concrete to asphalt."
"Converting sidewalks to asphalt is an easy way to cut costs but we have to consider the constant use and the heavy salting and plowing. It's a balance, some can regret the use of asphalt," said Bradner. "I have a serious issue as I had from day one, with how we're going to maintain this $200M building so we can get 60, 70, 80 years out of this," said Ferreira.
Building consultants and construction managers remain confident that when all of the adjustments are made, the final cost will be at the bonding approval of $189M.
East Providence Superintendent Named RI Superintendent of the Year
The Rhode Island School Superintendent Association ( RISSA) recognizes East Providence Superintendent Kathryn M. Crowley as 2020 Superintendent of the Year. "The award recognizes outstanding achievement in school district leadership, dedication to the education of all children, commitment to the community and service to the RISSA," said a RISSA press release.
Crowley has served as East Providence Superintendent since 2015. She has previously served as Little Compton superintendent and an assistant superintendent in Johnston. She has also been a high school and middle school principal and worked at Providence College.
RISSA said that "During her tenure as Superintendent, East Providence has experienced a resurgence in student performance including graduation and attendance rates and district wide school culture. Of note is her leadership in the approval of a new $189.5M new high school and an extensive pre-K program begun during her tenure."
"Congratulations and thank you for your service to our community, children and families," said a statement from the Mayor's office. "Mrs. Crowley demonstrates singular ability, champions the cause of all young women and men, and is, in a phrase, squared away. She is as uniquely suited to do this impossible job as any human being could be, and I've never seen a better leader. Bravo, EP is blessed to have you on our team," said a strong showing of support from Ward 3 City Councilman and former School Committee member Nate Cahoon.
EP Senior Center Named for Retiring Director Bob Rock
At its August meeting, the East Providence City Council approved a recommendation from Mayor Bob DaSilva to name the senior center after the city's only center director Bob Rock who is retiring. “Bob Rock, together with a number of dedicated volunteers, have been the backbone of the Senior Center,” Mayor Bob DaSilva said. “We thank him for his more than two decades of service to our senior community and wish him well on his retirement. Rock was a city police officer for 21 years before retiring in May 1998 to become director of the Senior Center.
Under Rock’s leadership, the Senior Center added a 5,500-square-foot addition and fitness room and launched a number of programs including Reiki, massage therapy and yoga. The Senior Center currently consists of a dining room, meeting room, lounge and gift shop – all located on the ground level. The center also features a craft room, a computer lab and health center located on the upper level. On the lower level, the center features a fitness room, clubroom and billiards room. The center operates with approximately 120 volunteers.
Rock attributes the center’s success to knowing how to meet members’ needs. “They are their own community,” Rock said. “I have listened and I believe that I will leave this place better than the way I found it.” Rock, who has been involved with a number of organizations including the Alliance for Better Long Term Care, East Providence Lions Club, and the National Institute of Senior Centers, said he plans to split his time between volunteering and spending time with family. The resolution proposed by councilman-at-large Bob Rodericks, passed unanimously.
City Council gets Audit Update
The City Council received an update from State Finance Advisor Paul Luba in August. The update was descriptive of a correspondence from city auditor Blum-Shapiro. "In planning and performing our audit, we will consider the City of East Providence, Rhode Island’s internal control over financial reporting in order to determine our auditing procedures for the purpose of expressing our opinions on the financial statements and not to provide assurance on the internal control over financial reporting. We will also consider internal control over compliance with requirements that could have a direct and material effect on a major federal program in order to determine our auditing procedures for the purpose of expressing our opinion on compliance and to test and report on internal control over compliance in accordance with the Uniform Guidance," wrote Ronald W. Nossek, CPA of the auditing firm.
The audit areas of focus were on Cash, Investments, Receivables and revenues, Capital Assets, Payables, Accruals, Expenditures, Payroll Expenditures, Debt, Grants and Federal Single Audit update.
Luba noted that no significant problems or issues have been discovered at this time. Ward 3 councilman Nate Cahoon said that he would like to direct the auditor to some specific areas in addition to those required by law. However, Luba said that such a request could be entertained but at a much higher cost to the city. The auditing firm will report again to the council with specific findings.
City Recruiting for Firefighters
The City has announced a Firefighter/EMT Recruitment for 2019. The Pay grade is $54,390 - $64,976 (as of November 1, 2019). Duties listed are: "Perform skilled firefighting work in combating, extinguishing, and preventing fires; in rendering medical assistance at medical and other emergency scenes; and in operating and maintaining Fire Department equipment, apparatus, and work environment."
The application period is Thursday, August 22, 2019 through Thursday, October 31, 2019. The application deadline is October 31, 2019 by 11:59 PM EST.
MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS TO APPLY:
- Must be at least 21 years of age by October 31, 2019.
- Must be a United States Citizen, and furnish a birth certificate.
- Must possess and furnish a copy of valid driver’s license.
- Must possess a High School Diploma or General Education Diploma (GED).
- Successful completion of the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs Physical
- Performance Assessment (PPA) by October 31, 2019. (October 2018, April 2019 certifications will be accepted).
- Must be able to obtain Rhode Island Emergency Medical Technician Basic Certification by the start of academy (March 2020).
EXAMINATION WEIGHT is 60% Written and 40% Oral. The minimum passing score required on both examinations shall be 70 points.
The City of East Providence Police Department has announced the promotion of a new police lieutenant. Sgt. Brian Mulvey was sworn in last month by Mayor Bob DaSilva to the rank of lieutenant. Mulvey, who has been a member of the force for 22 years, took the oath of lieutenant before his peers and members of the EPPD command staff including Major Christopher Francesconi and Capt. James Nelson.
“Lt. Mulvey epitomizes pride and professionalism,” Chief William Nebus said. “It’s an honor to see him rise through the ranks.”
Mulvey has served as sergeant with the Office of Professional Standards since 2018. Prior to serving in that capacity, Mulvey was a sergeant in the Patrol Division from 2014 to 2018. Before his promotion to sergeant, Mulvey was a patrol and field training officer and member of the Community Policing Unit.
A former member of the Traffic Division, Mulvey was also an Accident Reconstruction Specialist and Field Training Program Coordinator.
Lt. Mulvey attended Lynchburg College where he studied Sociology. He also studied at Roger Williams University where he majored in Criminal Justice.
“Today’s promotion is a testament to Lt. Mulvey’s hard work and dedication,” Mayor DaSilva said. “As a resident of East Providence, Lt. Mulvey takes additional pride in serving the public of this community.”
Whiteknact School Volunteers Complete Playground
The Emma G. Whiteknact School on Grosvenor Avenue was the last East Providence school without a formal playground for its students and neighborhood kids. All that changed with the completion of the volunteer - built playground last month. The playground has concrete, climbing bars, an aero-glide, adaptive play areas and various traditional slides and other playground equipment.
"The building of this playground has been a true labor of love for the students that we serve. This has been an incredible 2 days (the final build) of the entire East Providence community coming together for one goal for the students of Whiteknact. Thank you all for you generosity and hard work! A special thank you to the Whiteknact Playground Committee for your tireless work over the past two years to fundraise for this build," writes Whiteknact Principal Laurie Tubman Marchand.
Whiteknact PTA president Joshua Perreira led much of the fundraising and organizing of volunteers. "We had so much community help. We had to raise $85,000 and we did that," Pereira exclaimed with a wide smile. A special ribbon cutting ceremony was scheduled for just before the start of school.