In a 5-0 vote Tuesday night, the Tiverton School Committee endorsed its fiscal 2012 budget to the Budget Committee. It amounts to approximately $27.9 million in proposed spending. Director of Finance and Administration Douglas Fiore said it comes in at a 3.6 percent increase.
Superintendent William Rearick said they are still perplexed as to how the Budget Committee will want to present the $400,000 sewer replacement project to the voters and come in under the state tax cap. It's been removed from their budget presentation.
The is still sitting in the town's General Fund, restricted due to pending litigation. The School Committee wants those toward the project.
At Monday night's Town Council budget workshop, Councilor Dave Nelson said a special election, or financial town referendum, should occur to say how the funds can be spent, according to Steve Rys' video blog. Nelson said the $367,000 should be considered part of the town's reserve, and be adjusted into their total unrestricted General Fund reserve. The town is still waiting to hear if their petition to the Supreme Court will be heard regarding the disputed funds.
Schools Attorney Stephen Robinson disagreed with the notion of a special election.
"You have an election when you have something to decide," he said about the funds that were approved in the 2010 financial town meeting for the school department. "It's been decided."
Member Deb Pallasch suggested the town could be taking the strategy where, if the schools are unable to pay their bills to the town treasurer, the council could file a claim with the attorney general's office saying committee is deficit spending.
"We would suggest further legal action," Robinson said. "You have a legal decision saying the money is yours."
With the Woonsocket Education Department when it discovered it was in deeper debt than anticipated, Robinson said Tiverton is on "moral and legal high ground" regarding the disputed $367,000, having his opinion, the Board of Regents and the education commissioner in their favor. The schools' 2011 audit also came in the black.
Meet with council
The committee voted 5-0 to see if the council will meet in open session on March 14 or March 21 to discuss the disputed funds. Their suggestions last week were rejected by the council because they said they could not get a quorum.
Robinson said he agrees with arguments to have these meetings in closed session if there's a lawsuit coming to the town, but this issue is "very public."
"Let it continue in public and see what happens," he said. "We made a counter offer which they never responded to, so what’s there to talk about?"
Healthcare premium increase reduced
As the final details of the school's budget and its cuts now get hashed out with the Budget Committee, Rearick reported Tuesday night that the district's healthcare premium came in at a 10.3 percent increase, rather than the originally projected 12 percent.
To watch full-length Tiverton Town Council and School Committee meetings, go to http://www.tivertonvideos.blogspot.com.