Court orders Warren to pay its $400K school district tab
A Judge ordered the Town of Warren to pay the Bristol Warren Regional School District more than $400,000 after the town refused to fully fund the Joint Finance Committee's approved budget last year.
Superior Court Judge Luis Matos ordered Warren to pay $416,229, plus interest, after the town level-funded its contributions to schools for fiscal 2014. School committee Chairman Paul Silva said he was satisfied with the judge’s ruling.
“The town owes the money. I’m very pleased with the outcome. I wish it didn’t take so long to come,” Mr. Silva said.
Legally, Mr. Silva said, “If the town doesn’t pay the money it’s supposed to, they have to pay it with interest.”
Under the law, statutory interest is set at 12 percent, while the enabling legislation that creates the regionalized school district uses a computation to set that interest rate. It is unclear how the interest rate would be assessed.
In Warren, Town Council President Christopher Stanley had a differing view.
“It’s devastating,” he said. “We don’t necessarily agree with the court, but certainly we are going to abide by the court ruling.”
The decision came soon after Warren filed a separate lawsuit against the Bristol Warren Regional School District, contending that since 2011, the school funding formula has been incorrectly calculated. In Mr. Stanley’s view, Warren is being overcharged $2 million on this year’s school bill alone, a cost he has said the town simply cannot bear.
Although he said he recognizes the need to fund the schools, Mr. Stanley blames the school department for wasteful spending. He also blames the Town of Bristol, whose representation on the Joint Finance Committee outweighs that of Warren, in part for Warren’s financial woes.
“Let the state come in and take over the town,” he said of having state auditors examine the town’s finances. “It will lead to one place — the schools. Then they’ll start going over the school’s books.”
The Warren Town Council is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, April 9, when Mr. Stanley will present his suggestions on what the town will have to cut in order to pay its share of the school bill. Included among his suggestions are cuts to parks and recreation and to the town’s dumping facility.
“The town we woke up to this morning is far different that the town we’ll wake up to on July 1,” Mr. Stanley said. “We are in dire straits. I’m sick to my stomach. We don’t have the capacity to generate revenue.”