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School board reviews $64.6 million budget

May 13, 2012

WOONSOCKET — Members of the School Committee spent Saturday afternoon reviewing a proposed $64.6 million 2012-2013 budget but continued the work to a second session this afternoon without voting approval of the spending plan.
The committee spent the four-hour-long session considering line items in the budget proposal with the budget consultant who helped prepare it, Water Edge of B&E Consulting, School Superintendent Giovana Donoyan, and City Finance Director Thomas M. Bruce III.
School Committee Chairwoman Anita McGuire-Forcier said the budget review would continue in the Hamlet Avenue Middle School today beginning at 5 p.m. The remaining members of the School Committee, Vimala Phongsavanh, Eleanor Nadeau, Christopher Roberts and John Donlon, also participated in the review.
Members of the City Council had planned to hold a joint work session with the Committee as part of Saturday's meeting but canceled after a quorum of the members was not expected to attend.
Bruce advised the school officials that the budget proposal's projection for a state aid increase of $4 million for the coming year may be optimistic at best and suggested the proposed increase in local revenue of $1.8 million for the coming year might be too low as a result. The city would have more funding to award schools beyond its current $12.9 million annual contribution if the state were to approve the city's request for a supplemental tax increase. The House of Representatives finance committee is expected to consider the city's tax increase request on Tuesday.
As part of its discussion on Saturday, the School Committee agreed to seek the hiring of a deputy superintendent of schools and also to increase the salary for a school department business manager from $90,000 to $106,000 in an attempt to attract a top candidate to that position.
The school department has been attempting to complete its budget preparation process with the help of part-time consultants after terminating former Business Manager Stacey Busby following the discovery of a projected $7 million deficit in the current budget.
Donoyan has also been working with the Deputy Superintendent's position vacant since arriving in her post last summer. The district's former Deputy Superintendent, Mark Garceau, left the $116,000-a-year position for a job with the State Department of Education.
The School Committee on Saturday approved shifting $16,000 of the deputy superintendent's pay to the business manager's salary to cover raising the salary to $106,000.
Committeeman Christopher Roberts voiced objection to the immediate hiring of a deputy superintendent given the still clouded state of the department's finances, and School Committeewoman Eleanor Nadeau opposed the hiring while suggesting the panel could be better served by a curriculum director's position.
As the meeting broke up on Saturday, Roberts said he believed the School Committee has a good chance of completing the budget review today. The committee has already made a number of changes to the proposal, he noted, that must be worked in with any additional changes made today before a final budget figure can be set.
Whether a final budget package can be prepared in time for Tuesday's Statehouse hearing on the supplement tax increase remains to be seen.
“I think we will have something to give to the House of Representatives to review on Tuesday,” Roberts said.

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