Just how bad do things need to get in the City of Lawrence before the state decides the time is right to send in a finance control board?
As the Senate was giving final approval to a $35 million bailout bill for the cash-strapped city yesterday, School Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy was being indicted on eight counts of fraud and embezzlement. Laboy, who has been on paid administrative leave since June of 2009, is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow in Salem Superior Court.
The Senate Republican Caucus has been pushing for the creation of a finance control board from the start as a condition for giving Lawrence officials the authority to borrow up to $35 million through the sale of municipal bonds. With a structural deficit that has ballooned from $9.5 million to $24.5 million in the last three months, it’s obvious that Lawrence’s problems require immediate intervention and the type of tough decision-making that can only be carried out by a finance control board. Why let the situation deteriorate even further?
When the Caucus proposal was put to a vote yesterday, only three Democrats supported the measure, with the majority opting for the appointment of a state overseer with limited powers. The bill allows – but does not require – the overseer to call in a finance control board at any time. But this does nothing in the interim to protect the interests of the state’s taxpayers, who will get stuck picking up the bill if Lawrence defaults on paying back its loans.
Lawrence’s structural deficit can’t be solved by simply throwing money at the problem. If the state is serious about identifying and correcting the root causes of Lawrence’s fiscal woes, and protecting the state’s taxpayers in the process, then nothing short of a strong fiscal control board is acceptable.