Woonsocket Socked by Financial Fix

The dark financial cloud hovering over Woonsocket's schools, burst on Monday night, after news that the school department is 7-million dollars in the hole, became public.

“Up until this point the school department has been telling us that there was a surplus, a small surplus, and that the budget was balanced.” said Woonsocket's mayor, Leo Fontaine.

Officials in Woonsocket knew that they were in dire financial straights,
before the results of an audit of the school's finances came out, but
no-one thought that things were anywhere near as bad as they are.

Things are so dire that the school department may not be able to pay its
bills by the end of the month and now bankruptcy is clearly on the
table.

“There's not enough time to cut spending, there's not enough time to get money to fix the cash flow, and there's barely enough time to tax, even if we wanted to tax our way out of it.” said city council president John Ward.

The bad news brought out Governor Chafee, and brought up questions, about the handling of the school department's budget, going back several years.

Many officials put the blame for the fiscal mismanagement, on the school's suspended business manager, Stacey Busby, who apparently was providing inaccurate information, to Woonsocket's school committee.

“We need to have some heads roll on this thing.”said city councilor Roger Jalette. “And as a taxpayer in this city, I'm angry and tired of this bull. The school committee last year and I don't care who's fault it is, they should have known what the hell was going on.”

One of Woonsocket's school committee members disagreed with Councilman Jalette's assertion, but said that its good that the depth of the problem, is now public.

“The truth is out in the community now, and they know the truth, that in and of itself, we haven't had in a few years. So its good to know the truth.”said school committee member Anita McGuire Forcier.

But the hard truth remains that unless major financial obstacles can be overcome, very quickly, Woonsocket could soon be facing bankruptcy or even a takeover by the state.

“We're gonna continue to have conversations and everybody wants to avoid that.” said Governor Chaffee.