Town, School Department to Appear in Court This Afternoon

A judge will rule on the legality of town officials halting school spending.


Representatives and lawyers from both the town and school department will appear in Washington County Court today as a judge rules on whether the town has the legal right to halt school spending. That hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Earlier this week, the town sent a memorandum to the North Kingstown School Committee urging them not to enter into any contracts or make any additional expenditures after news broke that the school department may face a $1.2-million deficit.

Thursday morning, Town Manager Michael Embury, School Superintendent Phil Auger, Council President Elizabeth Dolan and School Committee Chair Kim Page met to discuss the possible deficit. According to Dolan, the council has agreed to pay for a "quick" outside audit of the school department's finances to help find a solution. The audit could cost in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $40,000.

NKGOP Watch December 15, 2011 at 08:10 PM
This hack Liz Scullin Dolan never wanted an audit when her friend JIM HALLEY was blowing money left and right and MISAPPROPRIATING special needs and other funds. Wow.
Noreswindnk December 15, 2011 at 08:26 PM
Have I gone "stupid" or is this effectively saying that nobody knows where the money is and we need to pay $20-$40k to find it???????
Little Rhody December 15, 2011 at 08:49 PM
No noreswindnk you have not gone "stupid" it is just that in this town the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. SPEND SPEND SPEND who cares it is only our money....
jeff December 15, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Noreswindnk, nobody would ever accuse you of going stupid. They know where the money is. The Town holds the Town's contribution to the budgeted amount, and the School Dept. draws against it. The projected revenues are really what are the problem -- coming up short -- as well as not saving what they thought they would (but still might) through union contract negotiations. They still have plenty of money 'in the bank,' but now have determined that they will come up short if they spend all the budgeted items, as revenue will fall short. So, they need an audit to figure out how to spend less than budgeted. The SC wants the Town to pay for the shortfall, and increase the budget. The TC wants the SC to decrease the budget and have them spend what was budgeted and is available. Personally, I don't read the statute as preventing expenditures based upon a projected shortfall -- I think it just prevents 'overdrawing' the money the Town is holding. I don't think the Court will tie the SC's hands when there is still a ton of money the Town has allocated which is unspent. But we definitely are headed for a crisis if they don't reformulate a budget based on new revenue projections.
mark henricks December 16, 2011 at 07:54 PM
it's pretty pahetic when a school dept has that much power to take it's own town to court because it is fighting the towns governance. unions control that dam school dept.
jeff December 17, 2011 at 02:26 AM
The Town sued the School Committee. And the School Department, by statute, is not governed by the Town.
Govstench December 17, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Here is a nice number to ponder on - $34.5 Million in OPEB pension liability. The town hasn't paid a red cent on cutting this number. All the other pension are managed by the state MERS plans, but this town has just this one plan and they are kicking the can on it. Ask Dolan what is going on with this one! I love it when they pick on the SC but look the other way on their own issues.
Govstench December 18, 2011 at 12:58 AM
Jeff, you are partially right....The SC is not governed by the town but by the people who put them there. There is a state law, 16-2-9 General powers and duties of school committees. – (a) The entire care, control, and management of all public school interests of the several cities and towns shall be vested in the school committees of the several cities and towns. When a TC does not give the SC adquate funding to carry out this requirements of the statute, they can sue the town council for more money. The Caruolo Act was enacted but has failed to deliver the $$!
Govstench December 18, 2011 at 12:59 AM
The TC and Manager also have a law § 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. Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to prohibit a school committee from negotiating and contracting with school employees and teachers for services to be rendered in the ensuing fiscal years pursuant to chapters 9.3 and 9.4 of title 28.
Govstench December 18, 2011 at 01:01 AM
I personally think the SC has the edge on this but both parties have to start trimming the spending. The difficulty with cuts in municipal budgets, as I have been arguing all year, is that there are very few pain-free areas to cut. Personnel cuts are ugly, and along with modifications to health care benefits these cuts pose the risk of emotionally charged and distracting media coverage. Deferring capital infrastructure projects is a temporary remedy at best and potentially sets the stage for more serious budgetary pressures in years to come, as regular maintenance needs, if deferred long enough, become emergency needs. Cuts in non-essential services seem pain-free until we realize that libraries and community centers would be on the chopping block, and the quality of life issues associated with communities no longer able to afford these services cannot be ignored. In reducing local government expenditures there is no free lunch; local government officials have been given the joyless task of desperately seeking the least bad option.


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