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Donoyan Submits Corrective Action Plan to Auditor General

Superintendent outlines six point plan to address FY 2011 deficit.

The Woonsocket Education Department has devised a plan to address the estimated $2.2 to $2.6 million deficit identified in a draft report by auditors last week, and although some actions can be taken immediately to reduce the shortfall, the department will likely have to make arrangements to bring down the debt gradually over the next five years.

Superintendent Dr. Giovanna Donoyan submitted the corrective action plan to Auditor General Dennis Hoyle on Wednesday, outlining six steps that could be taken to potentially see immediate savings. After in staffing and programs last year, however, Donoyan emphasized that the department has little left to cut.

"With no additional sources of revenue from which to draw for fiscal year 2011, coupled with the reduction of programs and associated staffing, any additional cost cutting measures may cripple the teaching and learning obligations of the Woonsocket Education Department," the letter states.

The plan is considered a temporary solution as auditors have yet to finalize their report on school spending for the year that ended last June. The city hired the auditing firm last year to examine WED's books after the department submitted a budget which included deficit spending.

The department implemented many of the cuts recommended by the auditors from Braver PC and until last week, Business Manager Stacy Busby was for the year. In a meeting with city officials last Thursday, however, Busby explained that the 'surprise' deficit, identified just weeks before the department's final deadline, was s for positions recommended by the former superintendent, Dr. Robert Gerardi.

Donoyan was required by law to submit her plan to address the issue after a meeting on Monday with State Revenue Director Rosemary Booth Gallogly. 

Without a five year plan, Donoyan explained, the school would inevitably need more funding from the city or the state.

"While we recognize the economic hardship of the citizens of Woonsocket, any corrective plan must necessarily involve either an increase in appropriations from the city or a five year deficit reduction plan to amortize the deficit in five consecutive years commencing fiscal year 2012," the letter stated.

Starting immediately, the education head has implemented a spending freeze on all non-essential purchases. "Scrutiny of expenses will be a priority," she wrote.

Additionally, Donoyan has put a hiring freeze on all unfilled district positions, and intends to analyze all current programs and staffing in search of potential cost savings. One program the superintendent has already identified for possible elimination is the Feinstein Learning Academy, a middle school program for troubled youth which she stated has been "under performing" for the past five years. Donoyan estimated the move would save the department $350,000.

School Committee members presented with the communication Wednesday night questioned the logic of cutting Feinstein.

The program, Donoyan said, was intended as a temporary solution for children with behavior problems, but after studying success rates of Feinstein students, Principal Patrick McGee reported that the issues actually seemed to escalate for the youth in the program. "Their needs would best be met in a regular classroom," Donoyan said.

"These are the children in the city that would be extremely disruptive and at times even dangerous," said McGuire-Forcier. "I would need to see a lot more proof that they'd be successful in a regular classroom.

Other measures presented in the two page communication included determining if staff positions that were paid with local funding should have been paid with federal dollars and securing additional accounting staff for the school department. The accounting firm that generally examines department books at the end of the month will be hired to provide general ledger transaction oversight.

The department must still provide Gallogly with a payroll schedule, a document which Busby said she will submit by Friday.   

According to a report presented by Busby Wednesday evening, the department has spent 35% of their budget to date for the current year which began in July. 

joe December 15, 2011 at 01:45 PM
An excellent, well-thought out plan indicative of the Superintendent's fiduciary (and ethical) background. Fiscal decisions must not be diluted by emotionalism, but driven by data. If analyzed evidence does not support Feinstein, what's the point?
Sharon Cross December 15, 2011 at 03:29 PM
It's too bad it got to this point before "action was forced". Woonsocket has been fiscally irresponsible for many, many years. Now, if we could just the Mayor's office to sit up and pay attention. :-/
Steve December 15, 2011 at 05:13 PM
"I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!"
Novan for Life December 15, 2011 at 06:02 PM
See communication and research does wonders when given time to do it right
Steve December 15, 2011 at 06:50 PM
A solid plan? One, to eliminate a program that has been underperforming for the past FIVE years? (Hmm, maybe we should have ditched this program 4 years ago?) Two, a plan to gradually reduce the current 2 MILLION dollar deficit over the next five years? (Hmm, who pays for this current deficit up front so we can kick this two MILLION deficit can down the road for the next five years?) Let me guess, the TAX PAYERS! Yeah, another fountain of knowledge spewing from the WED....... Know I feel better!
Steve December 16, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Well Robert, you call $12,600.00+ per student underfunded? Read some of my earlier posts to get a better understanding of the "Funding" that the actual Tax Payers of Woonsocket are putting forward. Do some homework before posting next time. How about this as what else to do, live within a COURT ORDERED BUDGET!
The Chorus December 16, 2011 at 03:01 PM
"Meet the new boss...same as the old boss..." The Who I'd like to know what corrective action the Supt is planning for the deficit spending in the current fiscal year. It could already be as high as $750k and we're only in December.
Steve December 16, 2011 at 03:42 PM
A quote from the Call on the current year's WED budget: There is already concern that the issue may not be whether the WED is racking up another deficit, but how big it is. During a meeting with him earlier this week, Fontaine said the superintendent told him that she believes the current budget is tracking about $750,000 in the red. Oh my achin' head!
give me a break December 16, 2011 at 04:25 PM
no problems as in the past, come election time we have a surplus, after election we in the hole hmm no surprises here
Steve December 16, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Don't you just love how good ole' Giovanna and the WED plan to solve their deficit problems now and in the future? Quote: Donoyan says that ultimately the solution may boil down to amortizing the deficit over five years, as well as an increase in taxpayer-generated revenues. Taxpayer generated revenue, now that's progressive thinking huh? Hey Giovanna, get your hand out of my pocket will ya! There ain't nothing left!
Novan for Life December 17, 2011 at 04:12 PM
You know for all that critizice the school department, I don't see none of complainers do something or offering any new ideas at school committee meetings, so unless you can do better don't critizice other people PUT UP OR SHUT UP
Steve December 17, 2011 at 05:26 PM
How about this Robert, do the job you're getting paid good money to do! Don't bankrupt the city of Woonsocket because you don't know how to handle the books. It's a moot point at this point anyway because the state is bringing in people who will oversee the finances from this point forward. The WED brought this on themselves, so now they and we the taxpayers will suffer the consequense.
The Chorus December 17, 2011 at 06:24 PM
New Idea? How about setting a budget and following it? Robert, I wish you luck in your upcoming campaign and can't wait to read your platform.
Steve December 17, 2011 at 09:43 PM
You're planning on running for a School Committee position in two years? Good luck there buddy. By that time, we'll be another 4 MILLION in the hole, and turning to the bankrupt taxpayers for their last drop of blood. I see tumbleweeds blowing through here in the next year or so once the next round of tax increases goes through.

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