Town business postponed as school funding battle takes center stage

Town business postponed as school funding battle takes center stage

NORTH SMITHFIELD - With the controversy over school district funding dominating discourse between residents and town officials over the past several weeks, large-scale projects to update the Town Charter and create a bond proposal for improvement of town-owned buildings have been delayed.

The Town Council's past two regular meeting agendas were cleared of virtually all other business by necessity, after students and parents were encouraged to show up for the meetings and testified for several hours about the importance of funding school activities in reaction to a deficit reduction plan that has slashed district activities.

"I am concerned that the school budget issue has caused a delay in other town business," said Town Council President John Flaherty. "We've been postponing business in order to allow people to express their concerns."

The issue dominated the Jan. 21 meeting, when council members were able to address the proposed rezoning issue for Anchor Subaru only by staying well into the evening and tabling other items. At the council's Feb. 3 meeting, other business was again bumped for school budget talks.

"I understand this is a very important issue and that the council needs to allow the public ample opportunity to make their concerns known," Flaherty said.

At least two of the items moved, however, are both time sensitive and substantive, according to the council president.

The first is the public hearing on a plan to put a $9.5 million bond before voters on the November ballot to finance repair and reorganization of 16 town buildings. The Public Facilities Advisory Task Force, a committee with members representing every facet of town government, has been working on the project since last May, and is ready to solicit feedback from residents. The town will need authorization from the General Assembly to put a bond to fund the proposal on the ballot, and although the technical deadline to submit such legislation in Feb. 14, Flaherty said he believes the town could send it as late as March. The item is currently on the council's tentative agenda for their Feb. 18 meeting.

The second delayed item is the second reading of potential amendments to the Town Charter, which will also require approval from the state. That reading is also now scheduled for Feb. 18.

"I'm confident that we'll still be able to get these bills drafted and acted upon before the General Assembly adjourns, but I would have preferred to get it done on time," Flaherty said.

Other business delayed includes presentation of the Branch Village Redevelopment Plan, discussions on outstanding capital items and open meetings act complaints, and an update on the status of the Dowling Village land purchase and settlement costs.

A complete plan to address the $470,000 School Department deficit, announced in mid-January by school Business Manager Lisa Marcotte, has still not been agreed upon by town and school leaders.

Comments

As some of the school-related organizations have stated in circulated emails - "we will shut down the town!" Nice to see that they really care about the town, it's residents and it's students. I will gladly forward verbatim, emails that have circulated around stating those exact words. That and the fact that high school teachers have circulated petitions amongst the student body and have pressured the students to sign them! Talk about scare tactics. Shame on those teachers for engaging the students in this money grabbing scheme.

High school teachers have NOT ciruclated the petitions or pressured them to sign. The petitions were circulated by students. Students who care about their educatin in North Smithfield. Please do tell which school-related organizations stated in their emails "we will shut down the town"? This is the first I hear of it and I have recieved many emails. Shame on you!!

uhh...sorry...I have children in that school and they tell me what goes on.
As far as a school-related organization, here's one:

From the MEANS committee emails that were sent out:

On Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 5:55 PM,
(user name deleted)wrote:

We need to go on Monday night, get the room over capacity again and shut down town business. They refuse to put this on their agenda for Monday.

If they won't do our business, they shouldn't be allowed to do any business.

(user name deleted)

I will gladly forward you the entire email if you wish...email address please?

Feel free to sign...

On behalf of all students who deserve a quality education and equal opportunity to succeed and in the interest of the future of North Smithfield, we, as parents, taxpayers and residents of the Town of North Smithfield demand the following:

That the core leadership of our town convenes in retreat to develop a mean for communicating with one another in a way that is respectful and productive and in a manner that proves to residents that decisions are based on sound reasoning. This core team shall include:
• The Town Administrator,
• The Town Council President,
• The School Committee Chair,
• The Superintendent of Schools.

That per RI General Law (16-2-21.4), the town shall immediately work with the Auditor General to undertake an independent audit of the North Smithfield School Department;

That town leadership develops protocols and guidance for public comment and behavior during public meetings, including but not limited to the scope and length of comments so as to ensure that all residents have equal opportunity to express concerns and ideas.

IF YOU PEEL THE ONION BACK YOU WILL DISCOVER THAT THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR AND THE TOWN COUNCIL PRESIDENT TOGETHER HAVE ATTEMPTED TO BRING TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ONLY TO BE UNDERMINED BY THE "SABOTEUR".

Here's my email, because I do want to send you all emails that I've received over the course of these past weeks related to the conspiracy to shut down town business. And it is just that - a conspiracy - a group of people "conspiring" to cause trouble to get their way. The businesses in town are having their issues pushed aside because of the tactics employed by the conspirers. These are businesses that CONTRIBUTE to the tax base of this town. Anchor Subaru and other businesses need to get their issues handled in a timely manner, but the conspirers don't care about anybody else but themselves. THAT is plain to see. My email:

bobj654321@yahoo.com

This is really pretty nasty talk,

Only time will tell what the truth is.

and somebody will be eating crow.

Come on folks - please be cordial in conflict. You can do it if you want to.

If history is any indicator, and 99.9% of the time it is, especially as to these kinds of School Department Financial Irresponsibility.

I would venture to say nothing is going to change as to the situation in North Smithfield wherein the School System has acted irresponsibly and then resorted to what are the known, and always used, Terrorist tactics of saying they have to shut down sports, music, etc., etc.

WAKE-UP North Smihfield parents and direct your wrath where it belongs,and against those responsible....not the ones left holding the bag!

If the TA and TC president are the only ones attempting to bring transparency and accountability then have them go along with an independant performance audit of the schools. Let's be transparent about how and where the money is spent. Let's get answers once and for all!!!! Is the school dept adequately funded or underfunded? Is it the SC or the TC causing these issues yearly. If transparency is really what they want why delay any longer this is years overdue!!!!!
The only reason, They are afraid of what the TRUTH will show.

I forget where and when I heard it but the phrase:

"What this town needs is a good enema"

comes to mind as a potential solution.

It sort of puts a lighter touch on a terrible situation and may actually be the beginning of a long term solution.

Tomorrow is the Lord's Day. Please spend it in peaceful thought.

The movie was Batman and the quote was from Jack Nicholson as The Joker.

Even more appropriate now don't you think? http://youtu.be/a1Tpe-dbPQI Though I'll admit, I never thought I'd see that quote referenced along with the Sabbath.

Enjoy the shoveling at home this weekend all...we have had enough shoveling on the VB Comments. :)

Art Bassett

Art, I remembered it was good ol' Jack Nicholson as I was clearing snow from the driveway a minute ago...and yes it is so appropriate at this point in devolution of dialog.

PS: your a peach!

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