Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 05-23-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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Page 14 of 39

SMITHFIELD SCITUATE FOSTER GLOCESTER EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER | MAY 23-29, 2019 SMITHFIELD 15 Judy Paolucci, who's urging the School Committee to reassert its power under the law to control edu- cation spending. The town's deep divide between its town and school officials was again evident at a school board meeting Monday, where Town Councilor Michael Lawton ripped Paolucci for her newsletter put out that same day where she suggested "tongue in check," as she put it, that if she could eliminate one thing impacting schools, it would be town councils. The title of Paolucci's post on her blog "Super Scoop" was "roles and responsibilities of school commit- tee," and was responding to what she saw as the council's overstepping of its authority in deciding school line item spending at a meeting May 14. When board member Kellie-Ann Heenan suggested that perhaps Paolucci shouldn't have gone that route, Paolucci noted that the very first line of her post told readers to read to the end and that to quote any phrase out of context would be detrimental to understanding its con- tent and intent. The schools are not comply- ing with the council's vote to slash $203,000 in funding for new Chromebooks, with Paolucci emphasizing that not investing in the technology on an annual basis would equate to mismanagement. Instead the district must find savings elsewhere within an already tight budget. Monday's discussion included plenty of brainstorming about how those savings might be found, with member Richard Iannitelli sug- gesting one way would be to start charging outside groups again for use of local gym space. He said he doesn't understand why the district would continue to pay for janitors and other costs for a program that isn't benefiting local students. The savings might be small, at around $13,000, he said, but it's a step in the right direction. The board ended up approving a series of changes that brought the remaining gap between school revenues and expenditures down to $85,000, but the committee declined to make a vote for now on a series of other line item options presented by Paolucci. Those included adding additional money from the school savings accounts, an option most members weren't in favor given the fact that they're already taking $300,000 from fund balance, add- ing tuitions for career and technical education programs, not adding a part-time science teacher, eliminat- ing a night custodian, eliminating music/trip buses for Smithfield High School, and eliminating other posi- tions, among others. Iannitelli said he was strongly opposed to using more money from the savings account, saying the state is heading into a recession and it wouldn't be wise to leave the district with too small of a cushion. The School Committee did the hard work over many weeks to eval- uate each line of the school budget, said Paolucci, and the Town Council then came in and made its own decisions about how money should be spent. The town is not funding improve- ments to buildings, cutting some $500,000, she said. The district is also coping with far lower state aid this year. Paolucci said the council's motion on May 14 to respond to the public's pleas by restoring $28,000 for the music department was understand- able, given the impassioned nature of that meeting, but such decisions are not supposed to be up to the council. All that work happens before the town budget hearing, she said. The council is supposed to act on the overall appropriation, not individual line items. She illustrated what she thinks could happen next year if this is allowed to continue: The council could in theory approve $20,000 in spending to paint the library, she said, but then a few minutes later decrease the budget by $140,000 to cut the assistant superintendent's position. "We can't do that, that's just not the way it's supposed to be done," she said. Factoring in a $203,000 cut by the council at the May 14 budget hearing and the money restored for the music teacher's salary, the total school budget was cut $175,000 that evening. Town officials emphasizing that they're funding the schools an addi- tional $1 million for year starting July 1, but school officials say that doesn't account for the $1.4 million in lost state aid and additional cuts. Paolucci and others Monday said they want the town and schools to have a positive relationship, but it's not up to either side to step on toes and meddle in one another's business. The superintendent said she's happy that there are upcoming workshops with the council, saying, "We definitely have to nip this in the bud." Also of concern, said Paolucci, is a proposal before the state to autho- rize decreasing the town appro- priation to the schools by $860,000 for 2019-2020 and approving it to be held in an escrow account. Funds would not be expended until the state budget is finalized and approved, and if the school receives more state aid, the town's appropria- tion would decrease accordingly and released to the schools. Paolucci said if the state pro- vides additional aid to Smithfield, the town will decrease its funding, ensuring that the town is obligated for a lower amount to the schools next year and worsening the situation in the schools. Under the Caruolo Act, towns are required to fund at least what they gave the previous year, an action called main- tenance of effort. The district is "running on fumes," said Paolucci, and Smithfield can't keep offering the quality educational system it is known for if "constantly undercut" on the town side. The district has already cut "all the low- lying fruit," she said. Smithfield High School Principal Dan Kelley on Monday gave a lengthy presentation on how the various additions and subtractions within the budget are impacting class scheduling. SCHOOLS From Page One PAOLUCCI 2044 Smith St., North Providence, RI (401) 231-2370 fax (401) 232-9220 Tuxedo RenTal h e a d q u a R T e R s $ 40 Off with this ad! 14 Days Notice! • Largest selection of Tuxedo Styles • Largest selection of colors and shades of accessories • All stocked in one location locally • We honor competitor's coupons We're close, just 15 minutes from Providence off Rt. 146. 152 School St., North Smithfield Open 6 days: Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-4 p.m. We speak "cat." (401) 762-2400 • Cat have a language all their own. 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