Menard Freezes Disbursements to School Department

While not taking our eyes completely off the fast and furious developments at the state level, a glance northward is in order. From today’s Valley Breeze.

In a letter addressed to Superintendent Gerardi, [Mayor Susan] Menard said, “Continued operation of the school department at the projected costs will cause a significant deficit to accumulate.”
She added that she has, “directed the finance director to withhold any further draws against the city’s appropriation until you are in compliance with the city’s Fiscal Year 2010 Enacted Budget.”

Speaking, regrettably, for the Woonsocket School Committee,

Superintendent Robert Gerardi, who wasn’t sure there would be funds for Friday’s paychecks, suggested, “We run the schools and the city pays the bills. If they choose not to pay the bills, then that will be their problem to solve.”

“Regrettably” because only part of the concept clearly defined in state law seems to have been grasped here. The city does not just pay the bills. It also sets the amount that will be spent by the school department. The law does not oblige a municipality to fund either chronic overspending or budgets inspired, respectfully, by fantasy.

In response to the mayor’s contention that the school department is required by the charter to “provide the administration within a prescribed timeframe a budget balanced to enact” its city appropriation, the committee maintains the school department “did send the City an amended budget” on July 16, 2009, which completed that step.
The amended budget was based on two stipulations — the approval of requested waivers by the Commissioner of Education and an agreement from the Woonsocket Teachers Guild establishing 40 unpaid work days for its members — that never materialized.

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