§ 16-2-21.4 School budgets Compliance with certain requirements. (a) Notwithstanding any provision of the general or public laws to the contrary, whenever a city, town, or regional school committee determines that its budget is insufficient to comply with the provisions of § 16-2-21, 16-7-23, or 16-7-24, the city, town, or regional school committee shall adhere to the appropriated budget or the provisions of § 16-2-23 in the absence of an appropriated budget. The chairperson of the city, town, or regional school committee, in accordance with the provisions of § 16-2-9, shall be required to petition the commissioner, in writing, to seek alternatives for the district to comply with state regulations and/or provide waivers to state regulations and, in particular, those which are more restrictive than federal regulations that allow the school committee to operate with a balanced budget. Waivers which affect the health and safety of students and staff or which violate the provisions of chapter 24 of this title shall not be granted. The commissioner must consider alternatives for districts to comply with regulations and/or provide waivers to regulations in order that the school committee may operate with a balanced budget within the previously authorized appropriation. In the petition to the commissioner, the school committee shall be required to identify the alternatives to meet regulations and/or identify the waivers it seeks in order to provide the commissioner with the revised budget which allows it to have a balanced budget within the previously authorized appropriation. The commissioner shall respond within fifteen (15) calendar days from the date of the written petition from the school committee. If the commissioner does not approve of the alternatives to meet regulations or the waivers from regulations which are sought by the school committee, or if the commissioner does not approve of the modified expenditure plan submitted by the school committee, then: (1) within ten (10) days of receiving the commissioner's response, the school committee may submit a written request to the city or town council for the council of the municipality to decide whether to increase the appropriation for schools to meet expenditures. The decision to increase any appropriations shall be conducted pursuant to the local charter or the public law controlling the approval of appropriations within the municipality; or (2) in a regional school district, the chairperson of the school committee may, within ten (10) days of receiving the commissioner's response, submit a written request to the chief elected official of each of the municipalities to request that the city or town council in each of their respective towns meet to decide whether or not to increase the appropriation for schools to meet expenditures. The decision to increase any appropriations shall be conducted pursuant to the local charter or the public law controlling the approval of appropriations within the municipality.
(b) In the event of a negative vote by the appropriating authority, the school committee shall have the right to seek additional appropriations by bringing an action in the superior court for the county of Providence and shall be required to demonstrate that the school committee lacks the ability to adequately run the schools for that school year with a balanced budget within the previously authorized appropriation or in accordance with §§ 16-2-21, 16-2-23, 16-7-23, and 16-7-24. In no event shall any court order obtained by the school committee have force and effect for any period longer than the fiscal year for which the litigation is brought. Any action filed pursuant to this section shall be set down for a hearing at the earliest possible time and shall be given precedence over all matters except older matters of the same character. The court shall render its decision within thirty (30) days of the close of the hearings. Upon the bringing of an action in the superior court by the school committee to increase appropriations, the chief executive officer of the municipality, or in the case of a regional school district the chief elected officials from each of the member municipalities, shall cause to have a financial and performance audit in compliance with the generally acceptable governmental auditing standards of the school department conducted by the auditor general, the bureau of audits, or a certified public accounting firm qualified in performance audits. The results of the audit shall be made public upon completion and paid for by the school committee to the state or private certified public accounting firm.
(c) The auditor general shall select the auditor if the audit
is not directly performed by his or her office.
(P.L. 1995, ch. 173, § 1; P.L. 2008, ch. 244, § 1.)