May 8, 2010

Please Don't Turn Woonsocket's Finances Over to the State

Monique Chartier

This was the prospect raised at a meeting Wednesday between Mayor Leo T. Fontaine, the city's finance director and state officials.

Granted, the state already funds 75% of the Woonsocket school budget. And yes, the School Committee has an almost comical approach to bookkeeping.

School officials, who were predicting an $800,000 surplus just weeks ago ...

Except that, "just weeks ago", the school department was already three months behind on health insurance premiums to the tune of over $2.5 million and had issued $2 million of payroll checks that were no good. (Citizens Bank made good on most of them but from now on would like the money in advance, please.) It's not clear how how it's possible to project a surplus as you're looking at $4.5 million of red ink on the ledger.

And there's no question that the multi million dollar deficits that the school department, as directed by the school committee, has been running for several years has not enhanced Woonsocket's financial problems. Moody's even cited the school department's over-spending as a factor when they downgraded Woonsocket's borrowing to junk bond status last week (ouch), one of the reasons for Wednesday's meeting between the city and the state.

So clearly, the school committee has not been helping in all of this, which is why I would not be averse to its dissolution, presumably a side effect (see Central Falls which has a Board of Trustees rather than a s.c.) of the state stepping in.

That, unfortunately, might not be the only side effect. Another one could well be the state hauling out its own (overdrawn) checkbook to kick in even more money to the city at some point. While I'm very appreciative of the considerable efforts of the City Council and the current - emphasize current - Mayor to deal with this matter in a responsible manner and sympathetic to the plight of the city's taxpayers, with the state's shortfall at $220 million this year, $440 million next year and three quarters of a billion in 2012, more state aid to any municipality is simply not a remotely feasible option for the foreseeable future.

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This is why I keep saying that cities should be treated as businesses with regard to being able to be purchased by another city or town. If they can't run things themselves, let another town buy them for their current value on the books, which in the case of Woonsocket, would be $0, just absorb their debt.

Posted by: Patrick at May 8, 2010 3:38 PM

Ah, turn it over to the state.

The state, in turn, already following Greece in spirit, can follow it in practice and apply to the IMF for bailout funds.

If we throw enough of RI's illegal aliens at the front of the dog and pony show perhaps we can fool the IMF into believing that RI is indeed a third-world country deserving of bailout from the advanced nations (or as Obama puts it "spreading the wealth around").

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at May 8, 2010 4:39 PM

And West Warwick is not that far behind!!!!

Posted by: Aldo at May 8, 2010 5:38 PM


That's what I've been saying for years.

Why in the world are we paying to educate the children of illegal aliens?

That would be like me living in France and expecting them to pay for all the living expenses of my children.

Aside from that, why in the world is Woonsocket so bad as accounting or is this just a case of creative financing that finally caught up with them.

Posted by: Roland at May 8, 2010 7:48 PM

This is the master plan to force the suburbs to pay for all the expenses of the metro areas.

The 'fair funding formula' for schools, and having the state take over those communities in real trouble because their tax base is significantly under the table.

Central Falls, West warwick, North Providence, Woonsocket, and watch out when Providence comes to the table.

Rhode Island has far too much metropolitan area for the suburban areas to support.

Posted by: doughboys at May 9, 2010 8:55 PM
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