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.

Mr.Sluggo August 30, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I'm a little concerned about the lack of news on union talks.Is it reasonable to assume that the lack of information is bad news?
Common Sense August 30, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Yea good luck with that. They're not giving up anything without a fight
Russell Archambault August 30, 2012 at 09:46 PM
I think their all laughing at us! its all a big joke to them
Russell Archambault August 30, 2012 at 09:51 PM
hey john; the only thing missing in the second picture is of you with your hands together is a pair of handcufs. If I was at that meeting and had any power everything would be solved in 3 hours. like it or not. see ya. thats no joke!!!
Bob Loblah August 30, 2012 at 10:36 PM
You trolls have no idea how a city runs. More blah blah blahhhhhhh
Novan for Life August 30, 2012 at 11:02 PM
thats what happens when there are to many hands in the cookie jar
Novan for Life August 30, 2012 at 11:04 PM
you should be concerned like always nothing is getting,time for a RECIEVER MS.GALLOGY
Russell Archambault August 31, 2012 at 01:07 AM
novan i agree with on everything on this, LOBlah are we all trolls, the committee or just the blogers. you did not make yourself clear.
Misty Harbor August 31, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Hmm, it's been 3 months and they are now talking about consolidation? Could the Budget commission move any slower??? It takes 5 heads to talk about what's best for the school and city? really?? The city has a phenomenal finance director and they are not putting him in charge of the school's finances until they can hire someone permanent?? I can't believe the budget commission didn't appoint Mr. Bruce temporarily since the Mayor and John Ward both admire him. Mrs. Dutremble was called in by Mr. Bruce to help out the school department previously, so I can't imagine she wouldn't want him to help out with school. I thought the budget commission would be an asset to the City, but can't make a decision after 3 months. This is really disgusting that no one can make a logical decision. I thought they would actually do the "right thing" by this mess. This is embarrassing to the taxpayers who love this city. So if the budget commission keeps stalling, it's only a matter of time before a receiver comes in. Yes, 1 person is going to run this city, but 5 can't??
P-nut August 31, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Sure we do,with more debt,debt,debtttttttttt
John Lavimodiere August 31, 2012 at 04:04 PM
district administrators for years assured the school committee over several years,that the budget was balanced,which i think was a crock of %$#^. My opinion this has been progressively getting worse through the years , and in fact un addressed properly.... when in fact the budget was already millions in the hole.A Really great way of keeping in good status for keeping credibility with the state and federal funding..... some of the solutions to the problems, are just as bad as the problem. Don t you think fixing the problem first would be a better solution ......... c mon people step up to the plate
Russell Archambault August 31, 2012 at 08:02 PM
I think Mr. Bruce has to be one of the nicest persons in city hall. we realy do have a great bunch of workers execpt a couple.I wont name them but I would them in 2 seconds. also I see him work and answer important questions with be best common sense answer every time. No dought they will work him to death without any compesation. If the city had to raise my tax just to give him a raise, i would do it in a second. Afew people who are wortless at city hall make more than him. yes he is saving our city in his own way. maybe a thankless job but I as a tax payer THANK HIM. please show support for him.
Russell Archambault August 31, 2012 at 08:04 PM
MISTY well said !
Jan Allard September 01, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I also agree with Misty. If the budget commission was truly concerned about our deficit, knowing the school caused it, why haven't they appointed an emergency finance person there at least temporarily? It's been over 3 months and it looks like the budget commission has no clue what to do...I'm surprised with Dina Dutremble's knowledge of the school operations and also John Ward since he was on the school committee, they haven't put Mr. Bruce in charge. He is the only one it seems to be able to straighten this whole mess out, and they don't do it???? It must be politics cuz something is really wrong here. We are still no better off and it's been too long....WAKE UP BUDGET COMMISSION and do your JOB !!! I'm sick and tired of people not getting along and making the right decisions. I'm starting to wonder what the real agenda is here...are they stalling on purpose? It makes you really wonder......
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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