August 3, 2009

Really? The State Can only Provide One Kind of Relief for Local Budget Woes?

Monique Chartier

Woonsocket's Caruolo lawsuit kicks off today. (Side note: you were correct the first time, Your Honor: a performance audit must be conducted). In the meantime, the attorney for the plaintiff - i.e., the school committee - has identified the cause of Woonsocket's school budget shortfall.

when the real problem isn't the city's or the school committee's, it's the state's failure to fund education properly.

To stay local for a moment, surely it didn't help that the Woonsocket School Committee listened to the siren song of a well paid superintendent who presented budget "scenarios" instead of working with the s.c. to formulate one realistic budget (as required by law)

Attorney Stephen Robinson expresses an erroneous belief shared by many around the state that the sole solution to be provided by the General Assembly for local budget woes is more money. So nothing to be done on the expenditure side?

During the course of a well informed comment regarding Woonsocket's school finances a couple of months ago that Andrew turned into a post, commenter John points to one way that the G.A. could lend a hand.

I know it [the school budget shortfall] can finish out at $5 million if the GA passes real pension reform

Indeed, pension reform was one of two badly needed structural reforms that the General Assembly either got a good start on (not the same as completing) or simply left untouched.

As a prelude to ascertaining whether Woonsocket itself would benefit from the other structural reform - lifting of state mandates such as minimum staffing - we can debate some of John's other points, including whether teacher/pupil ratios in Woonsocket have been cut to the bone (probably) and the fact that teacher pay in that municipality is in the bottom third state-wide (so ... bottom third of the top 20% pay scale nationwide),

Minimally, however, Woonsocket needs pension reform from the state legislature. And unquestionably, most other cities and towns would benefit from both pension reform and the lifting of many unfunded state mandates. Even Mayor David Cicilline, not exactly an anti government right wing nut job, supports the latter.

Many members of the General Assembly have been reluctant to augment the disbursement of local aid, understandable in view of a second (third?) year of sliding tax revenue. Honorable solons, don't allow Attorney Robinson and others to artificially narrow your options for helping to address local budget shortfalls. There is an alternative to your writing a check: you can empower local governments to reduce their expenditures.

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Looks like Woonsocket caved in last night meanwhile they are going to jam binding arbitration down our throats apparently because the unions want it now the towns will bend over and take it.

Posted by: doughboys at August 4, 2009 11:54 AM
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