Budget Commission Beginning School, City Finance Merge Talks

Budget Commission hosted sit-down with School Committee last week.


The Budget Commission and the School Committee met in an open session after their last meeting Aug. 23 to trade questions and information, including some preliminary talk about the possible consolidation of the city and school finance departments.

That topic got started with Commission member Peder Schaefer's observation that, "You can help us by having high quality financial information."

Commission member Dina Dutremble asked about the status of the Woonsocket School Department's search for a controller for the school's finance department. Superintendent Giovanna Donoyan said the department had been close to a finalist for the position, but the individual seemed concerned about the job, and backed out. "We had to re-post that position," she said.

"I think they're (candidates) concerned with job security," said Ralph Malafronte, interim finance director for Woonsocket Schools. 

"I'm more concerned about the people who aren't applying," said City Council President John Ward. He said candidates shouldn't be scared away by the specter of a possible merger between the city and school finance departments. (The item was listed on that day's agenda for the Budget Commission, though they didn't end up discussing it during that session). The controller position will be needed regardless of a merge, he said. "That's not going away. Someone has to be in that building doing that work."

Malafronte noted that with a consolidated finance department, the school department wouldn't need a finance director. 

"Mr. Bruce, you job's getting bigger," said School Committee member Anita McGuire-Forcier, addressing City Finance Director Thomas Bruce.

Budget Commission Chairman Bill Sequino said the Budget Commission's appointment presents a good opportunity to re-organize the two finance departments to enhance budget communication. "Now is the time to do it. Now is the time for transparency," Sequino said.

Schaefer noted a merge would be done as a pilot program, to see how it works, and wouldn't necessarily be a permanent move. 

"Will you be going to School Committee meetings as well?" McGuire-Forcier asked Bruce. 

"Yes," Bruce said. "Wednesday nights, everybody knows at home."

Ward noted a shared finance director between the school and city finance departments wouldn't necessarily bring significant savings, since the school department would still need an operating manager for the school finance office. 

Mayor Leo Fontaine said a merge should happen one step at a time. He said the process involves so many separate interests, most stakeholders say, "forget it". "Can you get by that? I don't know. Nobody's ever tried," Fontaine said. 

During their regular meeting, the Budget Commission also voted to allow the school department's lawyers to proceed with an appeal of the dismissal of their lawsuit against the state, Woonsocket School Committee, et al v. The Honorable Lincoln Chafee, et al. The suit alleges the General Assembly has failed to provide adequate funding to meet obligations they've mandated during the last 15 years.

Jerry September 03, 2012 at 01:08 AM
I also agree....3 months on the job and budget commission still hasn't addressed the school department...no finance person...no cuts...no decisions....I have to wonder about the credentials of the budget commission and what their problem is..is this the best Woonsocket could get??? It sounds like our school committee...pathetic..
Russell Archambault September 03, 2012 at 02:02 AM
John Lavimodiere ;if you only knew what those past administrators are getting paid now and what they are doing. what suckers we are. they just keep on going. most high level people who make their living off of taxpayers, or federal or state grant systems are nothing more than scum with no concense. they can justify buying 3 rolls of toilet paper instead of one, when we can do with half a roll, and no one goes up against them. I would do it in a minute. I would fire as many of them as i could and put the next ones on notice. play a game and your gone !
Memere September 03, 2012 at 02:31 AM
The schools did not cause the deficit. The schools raise no money on their own and receive the money from the city, the state and the feds. The auditors have all stated the schools have been underfunded for years. That is not the schools fault - it is the fault of the state, the feds and the city. With continual mandates coming both from the state and from the feds and no extra money coming in to fund those mandates, the schools necessarily fell into a deficit and we are left in the mess we are in. And ours is not the only school district and city to be in financial difficulty because of this. It's happening all over the country. The blame lies with our politicians - both state, federal and yes, city too.
Novan for Life September 03, 2012 at 03:17 AM
I agree thats the best the state could do wow, just another reason why i didn't vote for chafee and Ms.Gallogy needs to resign she sat back and watched this get worse and now where screwed royaly. JOKES ON YOU GOV CHAFEE HAHA
Novan for Life September 03, 2012 at 03:20 AM
yeah waiting to reintroduce the supplemental tax bill in Febuary when GA reopens for session


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