School Funding Discussiontabled at Committee Meeting

Ward 6 Councilor Michael McLaughlin hoped to address the mayor on Monday, March 25, at the meeting of the Committee on Government Operations, Public Safety, and Public Service of the City Council, but the mayor did not attend the committee meeting.

Councilor McLaughlin had invited Mayor Carlo DeMaria and the City’s Chief Financial Officer Eric Demas to Monday night’s meeting to update Committee members on the progress of several measures proposed by the mayor last year to appropriate funding earmarked for the School Department.

The mayor’s steps were threefold:

•Conduct an operational audit of School Department to investigate best practices and cost-effectiveness of spending habits.

•Ask School Finance Review Committee to make budget recommendations, and;

•Create a business committee of local businessmen and businesswomen with financial backgrounds to advise on how to spend school funds.

The School Commission – also known as the Blue Ribbon Commission – was supposed to have provided these recommendations last fall, but so far nothing has come through.

Meanwhile, the City Budget will be coming out in 45 days and McLaughlin wants the Council to be able to assess it accurately.

McLaughlin submitted his inquiry two weeks ahead of Monday’s committee meeting as was requested and was surprised when he arrived at the Committee meeting to be told that both Mayor DeMaria and the Chief Financial Officer were away at a conference.

It wasn’t immediately clear that anyone had been present to speak on their behalf. The Committee then voted to table the issue until its next monthly meeting in the hopes that DeMaria and Demas can be present.

“I’m hoping the administration has these recommendations and audit done so that we can review it before [the budget comes out],” said McLaughlin. “I think the School Department does a great job spending money but there’s always room for improvement.”

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