Town, School Department to Collaborate on Eliminating $1.2-Million Shortfall

A judge has issued a consent order for the school department, barring it from making any expenditures "out of the ordinary course of business."

The North Kingstown School Department is prohibited from making any expenditures out of the ordinary course of business without the authorization of the town until its project budget shortfall is resolved, following a ruling from a Judge Brian Stern at Washington County Superior Court.

Attorneys for the school department and the town spoke in chambers with the j – including School Superintendent Phil Auger, School Finance Director Ned Draper and the members of the North Kingstown School Committee. Though the suit sought a temporary restraining order, the judge ruled on a consent order that would bar the school department from making purchases that were outside of ordinary business (i.e. paying utility bills, buying day-to-day supplies, etc.) without seeking the approval of Town Finance Director Patricia Sunderland and providing backup information.

According to Town Solicitor James Reilly, the judge opted to not rule on whether the town had the and instead "encouraged" both sides to work together for a resolution.

"Both sides, I believe, are hopeful that this will all be worked out," said Reilly.

Reilly also indicated that an independent auditor may be brought in to look at the school department's basic education program (BEP). According to Town Council President Elizabeth Dolan, the Town Council is willing to foot the bill for a "quick" audit to analyze the school department's finances. Dolan estimates that the cost of the audit would be in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $40,000.

The school department, along with attorney Mary Ann Carroll, is crafting a corrective action plan to submit to the auditor general by Tuesday. If the estimated $1.2-million deficit is not resolved, a preliminary injunction will be scheduled in later January, said Reilly.

john boscardin December 15, 2011 at 10:57 PM
Judge Brian Stern, Thank-you for doing the right thing; limiting the spending of Dr. Auger and certain members of the school committee. Pay the utilities and teachers. Provide necessary supplies essential to teaching and learning. I hope the corrective action plan benig crafted will be made public so all can see. When will James Marcello, the Athletic Director do his part and submit his plan for across-the-board reductions? This was asked of him last school year during the planning stages of this current budget. He has yet to produce it.
Noreswindnk December 15, 2011 at 11:58 PM
Secondary beneficial outcome of this ruling......... we don't need the SC to meet or vote anymore!!! It's Christmas. Can we get a judge to rescind their bond issuance vote too? No more "Dollars for Dysfunction".
jeff December 15, 2011 at 11:59 PM
This was a "consent order" -- an agreement by the parties, not a decision by the Judge.
john boscardin December 16, 2011 at 01:03 AM
First paragraph..The North Kingstown School Department is prohibited from making any expenditures out of the ordinary course of business without the authorization of the town until its project budget shortfall is resolved, following a ruling from a Judge Brian Stern at Washington County Superior Court. Question: If it was a mutual agreement, why was there a need for a judge? Answer: Because without a judge, it would have never happened. Both sides met prior and could not agree.
jeff December 16, 2011 at 01:55 AM
John, I'm sorry, but you are just wrong here. The Town went to Court asking for an injunction preventing further expenditures. After meeting with the Judge, the parties agreed to the order, which is what a Consent Order is. It is true that the Judge signed it, and it becomes a Court Order, but it was an agreement between the parties, not something which the Judge came up with independently. My comment was just that your thanking the Judge, in my opinion, is misplaced, when all he did was sign an agreement reached between the parties. I also understand that the article calls it a ruling -- so you may feel right in quoting the article, but the article is wrong. It was not a ruling, It was a consent order. That doesn't mean that it wasn't a concession by one side or the other (and really, in this case, by both), just that it wasn't something that the Judge decided.
Dave December 16, 2011 at 03:02 AM
This was a win for the School Dept. The Judge ruled that almost every single action the SC takes does not have to be authorized unless it is a DRASTIC expenditure. Examples that were ruled to be ordinary expenditures were the purchase of a truck and entering into contracts and paying bills as usual. Nice spin, but the Town lost this one. They wanted to prevent the NKSD from writing ANY CHECKS. It was a total waste of taxpayer money to get a high priced lawyer in at this stage of the game with a ridiculous premise, and was typical of the antagonistic while still over- spending Town Council and Town Manager.
Dave December 16, 2011 at 03:05 AM
Both sides didn't meet prior. Per usual, you have your facts wrong. The NKSD now has the authority to do pretty much exactly as it was doing before today.....expect we the taxpayers are out about 20k for the 4 or 5 lawyers we paid for on both sides of the issue. The Town went to war without even trying to talk things out. It's ok for them to raise your taxes though, you don't mind, do you?
Dave December 16, 2011 at 03:06 AM
I repeat, the Town tried to prevent the NKSD from issuing ANY CHECKS at all. They lost. IT was premature immature and combative. When will they learn to work with others? we shall see......
john boscardin December 16, 2011 at 03:37 AM
The consent order would bar the school department from making purchases that were outside of ordinary business (i.e. paying utility bills, buying day-to-day supplies, etc.). This is hardly business as usual. If you read elsewhere, the SC and TC did meet earlier before meeting with the judge. Unless you were there, how do you know the article is incorrect?
NKGOP Watch December 16, 2011 at 05:19 AM
As soon as the school committee gets an NKGOP leader, it's mayhem all over again. Then Page conspires with her Halley-loving pals Dolan et al, and we have audits, court action etc etc. No wonder good people run from this school department like Dr Phil, these nkgop whack jobs make life unbearable. As to that athletic director not producing the fiscal plan as instructed, if true, he should be FIRED. And I dont see any info on WHAT went over budget anyway. Maybe it was UNAVOIDABLE like for example a number of special ed kids move into the district, or other unexpected cost increases. Or maybe it was careless spending. Which is it? WHY is there no statement explaining the shortfall in plain English. If there is publish it here in these comments immediately, if only to stop Dolan from using the situation to pay her friend Halley back with ad hominum audit attacking, if in fact thats what she is up to.
Dave December 16, 2011 at 11:22 AM
Actually, not true, business as usual (which was broadly defined by the Judge) is exactly what the Judge said could be done by the Department. The Town wanted to take over all expenditures, every single check written by the NKSD. Again, they lost. A little bird told me that during the meeting with the Town MAnager, Super, and heads of the 2 boards, the Super received notification (through his office) that suit has already been filed prior to the meeting even starting. The MAnager and TC president apparently didn't even tell the Super and chair during the meeting! Word gets around town hall pretty quickly about what went down.
Dave December 16, 2011 at 11:26 AM
Nothing went over budget. This wasn't a matter of overspending. Apparently revenues came in under budget in several areas, one of which was fewer Jamestown students than expected (perhaps the complete harrassment by both SC members and TC members of Jamestown may have had something to do with that??). The nksd is arguing that the Town is still responsible to fund them as they pledged to do via the appropriation of their budget, since they approved the school budget in it's entirety.....that's has yet to be ruled on.
Tired of Tired December 16, 2011 at 03:15 PM
Wake up people rome is burning and emperer embury is rosting marshmelos. Time for town hall enema starting with the emperer & tc while there is still time to save whats left in this town.
mark henricks December 16, 2011 at 07:52 PM
What? huh??
NKGOP Watch December 17, 2011 at 06:24 AM
Somebody doesnt like Town Manager Embury. But he HAS TO do as the town council says. I think he gets unfairly blamed and I've never seen any specific policy, action, or decision made by Embury that was bad, only what he implements when TOLD TO DO SO by his bosses which are the town council. I say lay off, and take it to the elected town council if you dont like something. Just my 2 cents.
Noreswindnk December 17, 2011 at 02:38 PM
NKGOP Watch, I have no problem with Manager Embury myself, but we can't be completely black/white here. It's a both thing, not an either or. The TM IS the most powerful non-elected person in town politics right along with the town solicitor. All the town staff from DPW to the planning department are directed thru his office, not the TC. Yes, TC, as elected council members, direct the manager, however I don't believe the council President is calling the Town Manager and saying "hey, tell the planning dep't to set us up some windmills and while you're there, let's sue the SC". I think (just my ignorance maybe) that it likely STARTS the other way around with TM "informing" the TC of issues and strategies and how that information is passed is what starts the ball rolling. Again, maybe just my ignorance.
Govstench December 18, 2011 at 12:41 AM
What we have here is a jousting match between to government groups. The SC has a job to do and so does the TC. The problems in this town are basically same with all municipalities, they have to learn to spend LESS. The SC is charged by state statute to keep their buildings in good repair - they passed a bond to that end. The bond is dead on arrival with the taxpayers of this town. There is no money left. The revenues are slowing down because houses are being foreclosed on and the town gets no tax revenue until it sells. Both groups have debt problems - the SC has to cut back but has members with political agendas and nothing gets accomplished. The TC has baggage as well. They are not talking about another major headache facing the town - pensions!! They still manage one and it is a deep whole. The Manager is supposed to be "managing" it but there is no discussion by those members - again, some savory characters there also. Next year will be a watershed year for the voters - I believe the term "incumbant" may become a target word. If you have had it with these people "serving you", do something about it. Vote them out - there needs to be fresh blood with fresh ideas on these panels. People need to get off their behinds and take a turn at the table, like our forefathers have done before us. These jobs were never intended to be careers as it appears, but the voters have allowed it. Time is now for change.
NKGOP Watch December 18, 2011 at 08:41 AM
respectfully, I think you have it backwards. the scheming morals-challenged TC members such as dolan and hueston etc DO make themselves feel important and take care of their friends by just such interference. and it costs the taxpayers millions and gets us hideous windmills. if embury defies the council, he's out. so he kinda has to march to their beat. you do know that huestons mother is harriet powell on planning? this is like "Deliverance, a Yuppie Town's Edition..." "Go see the Griner Bros."
NKGOP Watch December 18, 2011 at 08:51 AM
Gov, just electing nonincumbents wont do it we need great candidates to primary their way past the gatekeepers of BOTH nkgop and nkdems. Otherwise you get just the other side's insiders and nothing will change.
Govstench December 18, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Perhaps but the big problem is "how does the process attract those great candidates?" So many people, including the young adults, could be bothered with this. You have a hard enough time just getting them to vote. Voter apathy has been a problem. What is the sweetner needed to attract them?
Noreswindnk December 18, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Gov, fair question. In my view it starts at the national scene. There was a time everyone wanted to be President, like John Kennedy. Now? Now the Presidency is a target of rants and disgusting inexcusable incivility for whichever group is not in it so that they can be in it next. Agreement is a dirty word. It's not much different at the state or town level. Look at how Gina Raimondo was treated with the pension reform. Look at how an independent Lincoln Chafee is shot at from both the right and left because he's center (and both D's and R's want the seat next). Go local. How many blogs do we read regarding personal issues, some very long ago, about our council President? Would you want that? Disagreeing, providing researched informaton, and trying to gain executive level attention are all fair play, however our society's newly found lack of civility, likely due to our national leadership and the ability to hide behind a computer, is probably causing good people to hide from the spotlight of public office. Who wants to get on the football field when it's much easier to shoot arrows from the sidelines? PS, this is not pointed at anyone and if you read it that way, look inward. This pertains to us, me included, at differing levels.
NKGOP Watch December 18, 2011 at 07:56 PM
No need to be all philosophical. Look at Doreen Costa. The NKGOP DID NOT want her, they even threw a 3rd candidate in the primary to attempt to thwart Doreen. Doreen WORKED at meeting voters and was able to EASILY get past those gatekeepers at the NKGOP. Similar newcomer/noninsiders include Ceresi, Avanzato, and even lets face it Bill Mudge. These were people that NO ONE in the old NK political scene wanted in office. The problem is the NKGOP, and who they try to get on the ballot and to a slightly lesser extent the NKDEMS.. There are now people in both parties who are higher quality and the old drunks, morons, hacks, and self-servers in the parties are starting to have some competition now. But the quick fix is for a decent, articulate and energetic person to run in a primary for either party and win. You only need THREE people on that town council to fix EVERYTHING once and for all. Clean out the ones who are rodents on planning and zoning etc and start fixing things. And the problem is NOT the town manager or the superintendent. They are good enough to administer their jobs. Just need THREE fresh new on the council. Too bad the McGwiun NKTO failed, because under Camarra that group was great at clarifying the issues and helping get people informed.
Dark star December 19, 2011 at 01:25 PM
The only problem with your "noninsider" example for the Dems is that Ceresi and Avanzato are the defacto leaders/gatekeepers. Newcomers cannot collaborate and call an emergency meeting to censor a long time member such as Mrs. Benson. You are a Ceresi/Avanzato rump-swab, just admit it. The sooner you admit it, the sooner you can save yourself.
Govstench December 19, 2011 at 01:37 PM
I can say that winds of change are in the air. The Halley crew's days of influence are waning including the RINO's sitting on that town council. The NKTO failed because it lacked a leader. McGwin was no Camarra - she had much class and was respected by many. I do take exception to the comment on the town manager. If he was doing his job, why is the town's OPEB Pension obligation of over $34.5 Million dollars at a funding ratio of zero? That is not managing! He uses a very weak law to attempt to stop the school committee from doing their job, by another state statute! They have a $6.4 Million bond they are trying to float to fix a school roof (which I believe has zero change of being approved by the voters). That mismanagement of the school budget is not unique to NK, it is going on all over the state. What is not happening are for people to sit down and work out their differences instead of poltical posturing. That has to end! And don't think one minute that NK (AA-) bond rating will last - that too will be coming down because of the pension mess. The bond rating agencies are onto this state and they now see a swamp drained and it is ugly. The mess has to be cleaned up and that requires people to step up and throw out those responsible. RI will be into years of hard economy before it gets better.
Richard December 19, 2011 at 02:09 PM
The political party commentary that is put forth on this page is so inaccurate that it is laughable. NKGOP you have no clue what you speak about. For a longtime I have told you to open your eyes & ears. If you had you would know that the NKGOP is in totally different and NEW hands. This has been undertaken with military precision and executed in kind. True noninsiders (as you call them) have emerged and taken control. WE are strong community minded people. NK will be put first and that includes the grossly dysfunctional SC (they'll get it or else). The Dems have completely destructed from inside, because of what was done to Benson. (your fair haired boy was the prime reason). This election will be the waterloo. The people of NK will decide what they want their town to become. NK can remain in a chaotic mess with constant in fighting or the necessary steps will be taken to get the house in order. Either way its not going to be pretty. The time has passed for all the partisanship! Get with it or get out is the mantra! It's so easy to hide here spitting and spewing venom. I say to all who profess an interest in our town becoming a better place to live---get involved openly with the process. Good civic minded people are needed at all levels. NK is collectively everyone who resides here. We are all responsible for what NK is or will become!
seed and soil December 19, 2011 at 08:14 PM
A much larger issue is that the vast majority of NK residents do not read the papers, do not read the Patch...and are not in any way, shape or form tuned in to what is going on at town hall, with the TC or the SC. Name recoginition plays a huge role in who gets elected in our small town. If any of you have ever attended the candidate forums, you know how very few attend. Voter apathy, lack of community engagement is the root issue. I would be very interested to hear a few good ideas pitched out by those of you who are so clearly interested and vested. Any thoughts about how to correct this core problem? Without the correction, I am afraid we will see the same names/faces serving.
NKGOP Watch December 20, 2011 at 12:28 AM
Richard is thats true (I didnt think the change got that far) the Hallelujah, and I really mean that. let the NEW ones be far, far higher quality than those halley-lover drunks loike dolan and hueston etc. I am very supportive of good leadership. Even if it makes decisions I dont agree with, as long as they are arrived at openly and in the interest of the residents North Kingstown.
Govstench December 20, 2011 at 02:31 AM
There are a few groups out there that sponsor candidate forums in addition to the League of Women Voters. South County Patriots sponsored a large gathering at the old Carriage Inn on Tower Hill Road and had many candidates present. The Tea Party groups also sponsored some on the last cycle. As a candidate for public office myself, I made myself available to all the candidate's events and saw the turnouts. I would rate them as fair. North Kingstown has a total voter list of approximately 21,000 and the turnouts have been disappointing. Perhaps the tax bills have not risen high enough yet to get them angry. 2012 will be a good year to run for office as I believe the incumbants are in for a rough ride. Unless they come out and vote, these voters have NOTHING to complain about! Either get involved or shut up - that simple.


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