A Short History of Police Budgets in Cranston
Here are the official budget numbers for the last several years of the operation of the Cranston Police department, plus a column showing the change from the previous year…
I had a chance for a brief interview with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung yesterday on the subject of the police contract and budget. I asked him about the $400,000 savings he is claiming that the contract he negotiated will save. Since the new contract will covers this fiscal year (FY2009), the $400,000 savings is a savings against the budgeted total. For the subsequent years, Mayor Fung’s administration is applying zero-based budgeting analysis, calculating how much it should cost to run the department with a full complement of officers, then factoring in how concessions like the hiring freeze, the 18-month pay freeze, etc. will lower costs.
I asked if there were any concerns about overtime related to the positions left vacant by the hiring freeze, and if it could unexpectedly drive costs up. The Mayor answered that that overtime can be driven by different factors, but that the City has been watching its overtime expenditures, and is assuming they will stay reaonably stable. Finally, I asked about the City Council’s claim that this contract “requires” vacancies to be filled at the end of the term. Mayor Fung said that the rules regarding vacancies at the end of this contract will be no different than the rules in the previous contract.
Returning to the numbers themselves, the largest recent increase by far in the Cranston Police Department budget occurred in Mayor Michael Napolitano’s first year, an increase of 2.3 million dollars over the previous year (N.B. see the addendum below for an explanation of this expense). Cranston City Councilmen John Lanni, Anthony Lupino, Terrence Livingston and Emilio Navarro were all on the City Council that approved the 2008 increase that significantly raised the “structural” baseline that they are now expressing concern about. If they had concerns about structural problems being created during the Napolitano administration, they never took a stand on the steps needed to correct them. What could have changed in Cranston, I wonder, to make the Councilmen discover their inner fiscal conservatives?
Unfortunately, this is Cranston as a microcosm of Rhode Island politics. Spend like crazy when it’s all one, big happy (Democratic) party. Then blame someone else for not doing enough, when it comes time to correct the problems.
The logic of Democrats in Cranston has been that, without the contentiousness might arise from having a Republican administration deal with unions, they can negotiate deals that deliver qualiy services at reasonable costs. But compare the theory to what actually happened; look at the change in the police department budget in FY2008, under a Democratic Mayor/Democratic council, and look at what is happening now. The Dems here don’t really seem to be able to deliver on either half of their promise — they somehow manage to spend big and create turmoil at the same time.
If this City Council is going to kill this police contract, they need to be specific about the “fundamental changes” they want to see carried out. To borrow the description that Justin recently offered of the state’s situation and apply it to the local level, standing around like frozen deer in the midst of a financial crisis isn’t sufficient action. What exactly does the council want to see done, to mitigate the structural budget problems that took a mighty big leap under the all-Democratic watch of FY2008?
Commenter Donald Botts makes a fair point explaining the big budget increase in Napolitano year I…
The reason for the huge jump during [Mayor Napolitano’s] first term is a $1.2 mil jump in the rent line item. I would assume this can be attributed to the new police station.