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School Committee readies for court date with town

January 20, 2012


NORTH KINGSTOWN – The battle over the North Kingstown school budget continues.
Last December, the school district announced that it is expected to run a deficit for fiscal year 2012. As a way to stop it from getting worse, the town attempted to file a restraining order to halt any spending without prior approval.
Washington Superior Court Judge Brian Stern informed both the town’s and school’s attorneys that they had a month to work it out on their own. That month would have ended Tuesday but the date has been re-scheduled for Jan. 24.
Both the town and school departments signed a consent agreement where the school district would notify the town of any out of the ordinary expenses but would continue paying ordinary expenses as normal. Both organizations also agreed to confer with the appointment of an auditor and that the school district would cooperate.
Now, however, school committee attorney Mary Ann Carroll feels some of the aspects of the consent agreement aren’t being followed.
And she’s addressing those concerns in a letter to the town council.
Last week, Carroll questioned town council attorney James Reilly as to what would be going on at the Jan. 24 hearing.
“In terms of bills, we seem to be working it out,” Carroll said during Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting. “Initially, Mr. Reilly didn’t see a need to go back to court and to leave everything status quo.”
Reilly is handling this case with fellow attorney Dan Kinder but is currently out of town. Carroll received a call from Kinder Monday afternoon asking what would be going on at court on the 24th.
Carroll informed the committee that Kinder wasn’t comfortable doing nothing on the 24th and that he felt the school committee may have to agree to live within the budgeted amount for fiscal school year 2011/2012.
“I explained that there would be no way I would advise you to sign any such order, because you don’t know if that’s possible,” Carroll said. “You could have an emergency tomorrow that could cause you to spend money over the budgeted amount.”
As it stands now, Carroll and Superintendent Dr. Philip Auger have sent a letter to the auditor general informing him about a deficit reduction plan and are still awaiting a reply.
As stated in the consent agreement, an independent auditor would be chosen by both organizations to identify areas in which cost savings can be achieved, so as not to incur a deficit.
Richard August, a member of the town’s audit committee explained to the committee that in the proposal submitted by Nadeau Wadovick LLP, the auditing company chosen to do the audit, there was no mention of any intention of finding cost savings. Rather, it was geared towards a basic education plan audit and finding what it costs the school department to comply with that education mandate.
Because it was a non voting agenda item, Carroll felt it was necessary to bring the committee up to speed on the current litigation.
“We are going to be living within our budget, however, at this time, we won’t be signing anything because we don’t know what the future holds” Chairperson Kimberly Page said.
The school committee is scheduled to meet again Tuesday night for a business meeting. If attornies from both sides end up going to court, the committee will be brought up to speed on what occurred.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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