EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


June 28, 2013

Council OKs school bailout

Outside firm to review education spending


The council also approved Fiorentini’s request to form a panel of School Committee members and city councilors for the purpose of developing a proposal to consolidate the school and city finance operations. But the School Committee rejected that idea at its meeting later last night. Several members said they would consider the merger in the future, after the management audit of school finances is completed.

The mayor and school superintendent, along with City Auditor Charles Benevento and new school business manager Leighton O’Connor, will review proposals from companies to do the audit and eventually make a recommendation to the School Committee. O’Connor is set to replace 17-year school finance chief Kara Kosmes on Monday. Kosmes is leaving for a similar job at Whittier Regional Technical High School.

The financial review, which is to be paid for by the School Department, is expected to cost at least $100,000. Paying for it will result in further cuts to the school budget, Scully said.

For that reason, Ryan argued to allow Scully and O’Connor to develop their own plan for improving the School Department’s accounting procedures.

“This is a political vote and a foolish vote to take money from the schools for an audit that is going to make classes larger and hurt students,” Ryan said of hiring an outside accounting firm, which passed 6 to 1.

The mayor countered that hiring an outside agency to review the school budget is the only way to satisfy bond-rating agencies that the city has a handle on school spending.

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