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Raiding the central falls schools budget

May 12, 2011

The receiver for cash-strapped Central Falls is looking to move $1.8 million from city schools into city coffers. Attorney Robert Flanders, Jr. says the shift will cover a deficit for current fiscal year, and buy his staff more time to craft a plan for long-term solvency.

The Central Falls school district has a surplus of $2.2 million this year. Superintendent Fran Gallo says losing that money would likely mean program cuts in the next school year.

“We were hoping that by gathering these funds we could sustain over the course of the worst of the economic distress the interventions in our classrooms,” Gallo said. “They certainly now are quite threatened.”

The state has picked up the bill for Central Falls schools since the city faced an economic crisis in 1991. Gallo says ultimately it will be up to elected officials to decide the fate of those funds.

“I know that the money belongs to the people of the state of Rhode Island,” Gallo says. “If they take it away, then it’s gone, and I have to face that reality.”

Receiver Robert Flanders, Jr. says his staff is still combing through Central Falls’ books looking for another way to plug the budget deficit. It is not clear whether the city can divert state funding away from its public schools. Flanders says a bill at the General Assembly may be necessary.

Under the new state formula for distributing education aid, Central Falls would have to gradually start taking over more of its own school funding. The budget proposal for fiscal year 2012 decreases state funding for Central Falls schools by more than $3 million.

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