Cart-Before-Horse School Budgeting

During tonight’s Citizen Good and Welfare (public comment portion – cities and towns around Rhode Island, take note: in Woonsocket, this item is close to the top of the agenda) of the School Committee meeting, a citizen asked a question about a payment received by the city from the state, how it was applied to the deficit and how the school budget wound up in the red to begin with. Superintendent Dr. Robert Gerardi answered the question and, in the process, revealed a potential flaw in the Woonsocket School Committee’s budgeting process.
The words are paraphrased; the order of events is not. Dr. Gerardi said, the original budget was presented and approved by the School Committee; then, the Mayor and the City Council gave us our appropriation and we were $7.1m in debt.
Okay. Except that Rhode Island law dictates that the city/town council sets the amount of the school budget. It is the role of the school committee of that municipality to determine how the money will be spent.
Presuming that Dr. Gerardi did not misspeak as to the order of events, wouldn’t it have made more sense for the School Committee to have ascertained from the City Council the amount that would comprise the school budget before the spending got under way?

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George Elbow
George Elbow
14 years ago

Very simply, the School Committee broke the law, with an assist from the City Treasurer. See below laws prohibiting deficit spending… City Charter Sec. 7. Exceeding appropriations prohibited: No department or agency, including the school department, shall expend or contract to expend any money or incur any liability or enter into any contract which by its terms involves expenditures of money during the fiscal year in excess of the amounts appropriated Rhode Island General Laws: § 16-9-1 Receipt and payment of school funds by town treasurer. – The town treasurer shall receive the money due the town from the state for public schools, and shall keep a separate accounting of all money appropriated by the state or town or otherwise for public schools in the town, and shall pay the money to the order of the school committee; provided, however, that school expenditures, encumbrances, and accruals shall not, in any fiscal year, exceed the total revenue appropriated for public schools in the town. Should the town treasurer, finance director, or other charter officer charged with general responsibility for town finances, or the school financial officer, estimate that actual public school expenditures, encumbrances, and accruals may exceed the total revenue appropriated for the expenditures in any fiscal year, the school committee, the superintendent of schools, and the chief elected officials of the town shall be notified. Purchase orders or financial commitments shall not be authorized even on the order of the school committee unless it can be proven that there will not be an excess of expenditures, encumbrances, and accruals over revenues. § 16-2-9 General powers and duties of school committees (d) Notwithstanding any provisions of the general laws to the contrary, the requirement defined in subsections (d) through (f) of this section shall apply. The school committee of each school… Read more »

14 years ago

Like I’ve said before, Woonsocket should just be put up for sale and let some surrounding town buy them and merge in. Make it a village of Cumberland, or Blackstone, MA.
While we’re at it, just have Pawtucket take over Central Falls and be done with it. What a mess these inept cities are.

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