Town Manager v. School Committee in West Warwick

Paul Mueller of WLNE-TV (ABC 6) is reporting that the West Warwick Town Council has voted to have the Town Manager “take over” reconciliation of the school committee’s budget deficit…

ABC 6 Reporter Paul Mueller: A town council meeting, packed with hundreds of West Warwick residents and teachers, searching for answers to help fix their financial woes…
West Warwick Town Manager James Thomas: In my 25 years, I have never seen a school district so dysfunctional from the financial side.
PM: Town Manager James Thomas, moments after the West Warwick Town Council gives him the nod to take over the entire school district’s finances and take the steps he deems as necessary – only if approved by the council. The reason, he says: school superintendent Kenneth Sheehan is breaking state law.
JT: After the financial town meeting, if your budget is out of balance, within 30 days, you have to submit a revised budget. He has not done that.
However, the Projo‘s Lisa Vernon-Sparks writes in today’s paper that the action by the West Warwick Town Council was something significantly less than a “takeover”…
After protracted and sometimes heated debate, the Town Council last night rejected Town Manager James H. Thomas’ request that he be authorized to take full control of the School Department’s finances.
Instead, the council — meeting before more than 300 residents in the West Warwick High School auditorium — passed a resolution encouraging him to pursue in-depth discussions with the school board and top administrators in an effort to produce meaningful budget savings.
An earlier item by Ms. Vernon-Sparks makes reference to Section 508 of the West Warwick Town Charter as the basis of the Town Manager’s and/or Council’s rationale for their action, whether that action is a “takeover”, “discussions” or something in-between…
The budget of the Town of West Warwick shall be balanced for each fiscal year so that total expenditures shall not be greater than total receipts. If any time during the fiscal year the town manager shall determine that actual revenue receipts will not equal the original estimates upon which the budget was based, the town manager, for purpose of maintaining a balanced budget, shall recommend to the town council such reductions or suspension in the appropriations for any or all departments, offices or other agencies of the town government as will, in the town manager’s opinion, prevent the occurrence of a deficit. However, there shall be no reductions or appropriations for the town debt payments or the retirement fund or lease purchasing contractual obligations to balance the town budget. The town council shall by ordinance either approve the same in whole or part or make such other reductions or suspensions in total equal to that proposed by the town manager as will prevent the occurrence of a deficit.
It does seem to be something of a stretch to allow a Town Manager to take over school committee labor negotiations, whatever the budgetary situation, based on an official listing of duties that stops at “shall recommend”.

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15 years ago

Uh…it’s ABC6, the of Rhode Island news channels.
Fast. (In)Accurate. And always playing to the lowest common denominator.

15 years ago

The West Warwick school committee is inept and should allow the town manager to look at the books. I have serious doubts the committee knows what they are doing when in the budget meeting they were asked to state for the record what the total budget cost was and they had no idea what the number was. Incredible as that may seem, that they were prepared to pass a budget without knowing its cost, incredibly it is true. How can anyone have confidence with them? And why are they so hell bent on not opening the books up so we can see where and how they are spending OUR MONEY?

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