June 5, 2017 – The Town Council meets tonight (6/5/17) at 7 p.m. at Swift Community Center in a special session to review results of an outside town audit, discuss the 2018 fiscal year budget and hear comments from the public. In addition, the council will vote on changing the language in the Town Charter to formalize the abolition of the Financial Town Meeting. Voters approved eliminating the FTM last November but the General Assembly had to agree to that before the charter could be revised.
There will be no vote on the budget at tonight’s meeting. There is a second meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 8, for a vote. Time is of the essence – by Town Charter the budget must be approved by June 10.
As the proposed budget stands now, there would be a 43 cent decrease in the tax rate, every town department would receive more money than last year, and the school department would be level funded. The School Committee had voted on a budget in April that called for a 4 percent increase. That’s a difference of $1.36 million.
Town Manager Tom Coyle said the level funding was because he was waiting to hear the results of an outside audit by Providence Analytics. Those results were reviewed at a budget hearing May 15th. No significant new information was uncovered but discussion centered on the schools’ structural deficit of at least $1.2 million.
The same auditor that reviewed the school district finances – Providence Analytics – is the one who will be presenting info about town finances at tonight’s meeting. Town Council President Sue Cienki said last week that they had been getting updates from the auditors and that the council would “take care of the schools.” She said their objective was to “make sure there are no programs cut for the kids.”
At tonight’s hearing, we should learn more.
Coincidentally, the School Committee voted 5-1 last week (5/30/17) in favor of hiring a member of the Providence Analytics team – Linda Dykeman – to serve as interim director of administration. She will share the position with Christine Spagnoli, who will serve as the day-to-day finance manager, for the same salary as former director of administration Gail Wilcox. (Spagnoli does not have the proper certification to serve as director of administration, hence the oversight by Dykeman.) Committeeman Jeff Dronzek voted against hiring the duo, noting a potential conflict of interest since Providence Analytics was hired by the Town Council. The committee did agree to post the position to find a permanent replacement. Committeewoman Mary Ellen Winters was absent.
– Elizabeth McNamara