Autiello: officers not closing door on extra money to colleges

06/01/2021

Liga is aiming for a one-time reduction in funding

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Although North Providence City Council voted last week to keep Mayor Charles Lombardi funding the Schools Department, Council President Dino Autiello says it wasn’t the end of the story.

City guides want to continue to ensure that the schools receive funding, Autiello said, but the city council doesn’t want that funding to become part of sustaining taxpayers’ effort requirements in the future.

Autiello said he could see a scenario where the council again put some funds in an emergency account to be delivered to the schools in the coming fiscal year if it turns out they need the money.

Although city officials claim the schools didn’t need $ 400,000 last year, school principals recently sent a letter stating that they needed a large chunk of the money.

Autiello said the city could, with a good ongoing working relationship, make up the schools deficit of $ 280,000 from last year, despite finding schools in surplus of $ 1.3 million for this year .

The city council saw more than $ 35,000 in savings from Lombardi’s zero-increase budget during last week’s budget deliberations, which will not result in a tax increase.

Lombardi rejected the schools’ calls for more funding last week, saying they, like many other districts, had made a significant surplus this year.

At an earlier public hearing on the 24th, Joseph Goho pleaded for an additional $ 1 million in additional city funding, a proposal that was ultimately rejected. He said 92 percent of the school’s budget is fixed costs, including contracted wage increases, transportation, pensions and health premiums, with only the remaining fraction being used for discretionary items such as sports supplies, tools, teaching materials and other non-contractual items.

Goho pointed out that schools are in the middle of the range in terms of spending per student, or 33rd out of 63 nationwide, showing moderate spending. Teachers have received only small increases in salaries in recent years, he said, and the city continues to give small increases to education only occasionally.

Lombardi responded this week that the district has received an additional $ 11 million in government funding over the years the city has phased schools. They asked for $ 1.2 million more last year, he said, and ended up getting $ 1.4 million more from the state. This year’s proposal is a very meager budget, said Lombardi, who was particularly impressed by the preparation and questions from City Councilor Mario Martone.

Lombardi and the League of Cities and Towns urge the General Assembly to allow municipalities to reduce the total number they need to provide temporary schools as part of the sustaining effort.

League executive director Brian Daniels, who testified before the General Assembly last week, told The Breeze that many local officials were concerned that additional recruitment and new programs brought in through the stimulus funds could create a permanent new burden, and said those one-time dollars should only be used for one-time expenses.

Many districts have had significant surpluses this year, he said, which is an even more important reason the additional $ 500 million in funding for those districts should be used to raise local funding for things like upgrading local school facilities to replace .

The problem right now, he said, is that the Rhode Island Department of Education hasn’t yet distributed the federal money or definitely said what it can be used for, which means the counties can’t access it yet, even if the communities run out of budgets and graduate school districts are demanding more money from local taxpayers.

North Providence schools are expected to receive $ 9 million or more in federal funding, Daniels said.

Erin Dube, president-elect of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees and vice-chair of the Pawtucket School Committee, said one of the key elements of the state meetings last week was that none of the federal spending can be operational like that which the counties have in recent years three years could not finance. Your interpretation is that districts cannot simply hire someone and later cut their position.

Dube said municipalities shouldn’t try to match local funding sources with federal or state funds, as doing so results in underfunding of schools.

When asked about other districts like Cumberland who suggested they could use the funds to hire people and then drop the jobs, she said, “I don’t know if RIDE will approve this.” Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green made it clear last week that districts can only hire staff if there is a plan to keep the positions going, she noted.

“We have tried to make it clear that it is okay for districts to want to hire staff, but they must have a plan if that money is not there,” Infante-Green said at the May 26 meeting.

State officials said at the May 26 meeting that they expect the guidelines to be back in the districts by June 7.

Dube said that municipalities should really view this federal money as grants that are requested for specific purposes, rather than as a lump sum deposited into the municipality’s bank account.

Don’t open the door to extra marketing campaign darkish cash

The BDN Opinion division operates independently and does not set newsroom guidelines and does not contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

Lisa Graves is the executive director of True North Research and a former assistant assistant attorney general in the US Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy. This column was produced for Progressive magazine and distributed by the Tribune News Service.

On April 26, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could overturn decades of transparency laws even if dark money spending continues to rise due to special interests.

The court’s new majority is being asked by billionaire Charles Koch’s nonprofits to broaden the notion that “money is language” by ruling that the first amendment prohibits disclosure laws that might discourage large donors from using nonprofits anymore To give money.

On the surface, the case known as the Americans for Prosperity Foundation v Bonta is about whether a state can require a nonprofit group to publish a list of their donors who are donating $ 5,000 or more. This data is not public, but a bug in California’s electronic filing system accidentally made it briefly searchable by other filing devices, which Koch’s Americans for Prosperity Foundation discovered.

The rule that requires secret disclosure has been followed on millions of nonprofit filings since 1970. There is no evidence that it has been abused or abused by regulators or anyone else, and the California bug has been fixed.

But that wasn’t good enough for Kochs Americans for Prosperity, who had apparently refused to share that data with California anyway, despite the Internal Revenue Service’s request to do so on Appendix B of their annual tax returns. The IRS has allowed nonprofits to edit the names but requires public disclosure of the largest amounts.

This rule is the only reason we know, for example, that after Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February 2016, a group called the Wellspring Committee received almost all of its funding of more than $ 28 million from a single donor. The donor’s identity is still unknown.

Between 2016 and 17, Wellspring donated a total of $ 38 million to a group called the Judicial Crisis Network, which spent millions pressuring the Senate to block President Barack Obama’s candidate for the US Supreme Court, Merrick Garland and then push for confirmation of President Donald Trump’s candidate for that seat, Neil Gorsuch. After Wellspring spent an additional million to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, he closed.

The Supreme Court case continues Koch’s attack on minimal transparency and scrutiny of nonprofits that became increasingly embroiled in elections following the controversial Citizens United ruling in 2010.

Since then, Koch has helped raise and spend more than a billion dollars to influence the elections, but the donors are being kept hidden. This is why spending on groups like Americans for Prosperity is so robust. Unlike funds that are donated directly to a candidate or political party and must be disclosed, donations to groups like Americans for Prosperity are classified.

In fact, we don’t even know how much Koch himself or Koch Industries spent since Senator Mitch McConnell blocked the disclosure bills.

Americans for Prosperity has spent millions helping GOP candidates win the election and validating Trump-appointed judges. That includes helping Amy Coney Barrett get re-elected shortly before the 2020 election, which is why Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island and others asked that she withdraw from hearing the case. Barrett refused.

But now Judges Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch are ready to support the agenda of the dark money groups that took them to the Supreme Court. They could even deal a fatal blow to disclosure laws like HR 1, the For the People Act, which would shed light on billionaires like Koch, who secretly spent countless millions to influence elections.

This is the wrong way. Our democracy urgently needs more sunshine, not more darkness.