School deficit evaporates; Lombardi commends council for holding line

School deficit evaporates; Lombardi commends council for holding line

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Mayor Charles Lombardi is commending the Town Council for standing its ground during budget discussions in the spring, saying newly discovered “accounting and recording errors” reveal that school officials were wrong about claims of a $1.2 million deficit last year.

Lombardi, in an email to the council last week, attached an Oct. 5 document submitted to the Department of Revenue showing budget-to-actual changes.

“I am pleased to inform you that due to accounting and recording errors, the School Department is no longer projecting a $1.2 million deficit for the fiscal year 2020,” he said.

As stated on Page 3 of the attached report, “The deficit estimate was overstated because of the prior year’s payroll accrual that was not reversed in fiscal year ’20. In addition, double postings occurred in the recording of employer deductions due to a changeover in the process of these recordings.”

Lombardi thanked the council for not funding the School Department’s budget based on their projections at this year’s budget hearings, noting how he repeatedly questioned how school officials could make a request for more money when they didn’t have a handle on finances.

School Finance Director Lisa Casinelli explained this week why what looked like a deficit last year turned into a surplus.

“There were a few things that this resulted from. In addition to payroll and health care adjustments, a significant amount of the unaudited projected surplus includes transportation payments to Durham Student Services that were not made due to the COVID-19 shutdown of the schools,” she said. “It should be noted that the issue of these transportation payments remains outstanding.”

Lombardi said the council was wise to put $400,000 aside that members could control instead of giving it to the School Department. He said school officials still don’t have a proper handle on their finances.

“Thank god it was an error to the positive,” said Lombardi.

The mayor also noted in his letter to the council that the schools decided not to join the town in hiring a joint Human Resources manager and has hired Kathryn Gaouette’s replacement, Matthew Hicks. Therefore, he said, the town is also in need of an HR manager. At budget hearings, the council reduced the salary from $95,000 to $50,000, hoping that the schools would reconsider and join the effort to save dollars, he said.

“Unfortunately, the School Department feels differently. Therefore, at this time, I am respectfully requesting that the council restore the $45,000 deduction to the Human Resources salary so we can proceed to hire a Human Resources manager, he said.

On the HR position, School Committee Chairman Frank Pallotta noted that Lombardi placed the position in his budget for this year and has not filled it since July 1. In addition, he said, Lombardi previously told The Breeze that he did not fill three positions in order to hire an assistant director of Public Works.

“Regarding the mayor’s comments about School Department finances, he should review the math relative to the HR request,” he said. “Why would the mayor need an additional $45,000 from the council? He has $50,000 in the budget, has not hired anyone from July 1, and he has not filled three positions,” Pallotta said. “He needs to recalculate his request to the Town Council and save taxpayers’ dollars.”

Lombardi responded that Pallotta continues to show a disregard for taxpayers.

“It appears as though he’s upset that I save money, so I guess he’s not the average taxpayer,” he said. “Instead of commenting on our savings, he should take a page out of our book. If he did, it wouldn’t have cost him $95,000 for an HR director.”

Comments

This incident of "All of a Sudden" found money brings to mind my 3-terms on the Cumberland School Committee, my also serving as Chairman of the Finance Committee. During those 6-years I saw more then enough, and uncovered more then enough, to convince me that there is way too much duplication of jobs in many areas at unnecessary additional cost. Especially the games and Sweetheart Deals with the Northern RI Collaborative!

Even worse is the obscene pay being given within School Systems vs. City or Town Goverment...and, more often than not, it is substantial, often tens upon tens, upon tens, of thousand dollars more.

And then there is the issue, and cost, of Rhode Island having 39-School Districts vs. "County" School Districts as are the case in most parts of the Country...or Regionalization!

NOTE: I believe RI does have "2" Regional School Districts!

Think about it, and the costs!!! Rhode Island DOES NOT need, approximately, 39-Superintendents, 39 (or more) Assistant Superintendents. 39-Business Managers! And 39 of this, or 39 of that, in many other duplicates positions.

But, that is a discussion for another day!

Back to where I started!!

One of the best examples of pay differences (discrepancies might be a better word?) would be between the City, or Town, Finance Director!

Finance Directors whom should be totally in charge of, and overseeing everything regarding the Community's finances...vs. the School System's, so-called, Business Manager! He/she involved with, and controlling, often, up to 75%, or more of the taxpayer's $$$$$$$$!

If this were in place "the Games" School Systems are notorious for playing would not take place!

Or the "So-Called" MISTAKES that get found only when they need be found!

Tom Letourneau