Woonsocket leaders avoiding takeover, schools asking for it

PROVIDENCE, RI – The head of the budget commission overseeing Woonsocket's finances said Wednesday he wants to avoid moving the city into receivership or bankruptcy. The commission hopes to close the city's current $7 million deficit through consolidation and spending cuts.

The commission held its first meeting since Woonsocket's three state reps blocked an effort to close the deficit with a 13 percent supplemental tax. Commission chairman William Sequino Jr. says the panel plans to try on to cut expenses, because other approaches would have an even more severe effect on Woonsocket.

"No one wants to see another municipality go into receivership, go into bankruptcy," Sequino says. "It affects all of us. There are 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island. We're all in this together. We don't need a contagious effect, we don't need a ripple effect."

Three residents spoke out during a public comment period of the commission meeting. Two residents opposed a tax increase. The other one accused Woonsocket's three state reps of playing politics with the city's fiscal crisis. The lawmakers didn't return calls seeking comment for this story.

Woonsocket Schools Request A Takeover
In an email to Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, Woonsocket schools says it doesn't have enough staff to run the district finance office and do all of the budget monitoring and reporting that's required. So it's asking the state to take temporary control of the finance department.

The teacher's union supports the idea, though it has concerns about the loss of control over school policy. If the state takes over Woonsocket Schools, RIDE would have the power to appoint a school board.

The Rhode Island Association of School Committees says a complete takeover, similar to the one in Central Falls, requires passage in the General Assembly.

The Woonsocket School District is facing a $10 million budget gap and says it doesn't have enough money to make payroll.

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