WOONSOCKET – The School Committee has voted its support of a legislative bill that would allow the city to collect scheduled increases in state school aid immediately.
School Committeeman Christopher Roberts submitted the resolution approved by the committee under a unanimous vote on Wednesday that asks the General Assembly to speed up state aid awards scheduled under the state’s revised school aid formula.
In effect, Woonsocket could see approximately $6 million scheduled to be added to state support for local schools (over a period of years) added to the local school budget as a lump sum award, according to Roberts.
The bill is pending in the Rhode Island Senate and could be considered during a public hearing that would grant local residents an opportunity to comment on the city’s school funding needs, he said.
“Hopefully, the next step will be that the City Council and Budget Commission will take a vote in support of this legislation,” Roberts said Thursday.
The school committee member said he’d like parents, school and city officials, teachers, and even local taxpayers to show up in support of the bill if it does come up before the Senate or House in the current term.
“It would make a very significant difference not only for the education department but the city as a whole,” Roberts said.
Although the bill seeks to speed up aid increases for urban districts like Woonsocket, it would not have a similar effect on reductions in aid slated for suburban districts under the plan, according to Roberts. The suburban aid reductions would continue to be made incrementally over the 10-year period set out in the school aid formula changes initiated in 2012 — a point that should reduce potential opposition to the bill in the General Assembly, Roberts offered.
“All it does is accelerate implementation for communities that are scheduled to get more state aid,” he said.
With Woonsocket currently in the process of attempting to set a balanced budget for the next five years under the supervision of a state-appointed Budget Commission, any increase in state aid would certainly assist the city in completing that process, according to Roberts.
In other action on Wednesday, the School Committee also voted to name Joseph Spagna, a senior auditor for the Braver PC accounting firm, as the school department’s new Finance Director.
Spagna will receive a salary of $106,000 and benefits mirroring those provided under the department’s teacher’s contract, according to Roberts.