Closing Cranston’s Budget Hole, By Saying Let’s Pretend It’s Not There
Randal Edgar of the Projo captures both the tone and content of last night’s Cranston City Council meeting, where the Council seems to have decided how they will “close” Cranston’s budget deficit: by assuming union concessions that have not yet been obtained…
The City Council charted a financial course Tuesday that differs sharply from the wishes of Mayor Allan W. Fung, approving a fiscal 2010 budget that restores more than 40 jobs, reduces a projected tax hike, levy increase and counts on more than $2.2 million in not-yet negotiated union concessions to make the numbers balance….the Republican mayor called the budget irresponsible, saying before the meeting that it makes no sense to add $2.6 million to the personnel costs he proposed when the council is also reducing tax revenue and counting on concessions that may not materialize.This decision by the City Council to assume non-existent as of yet concessions was made, of course, after they refused to accept a police contract that included $1.4 million in concessions over three years.
The Council approved the final budget by a vote of 7-2 with Councilmen Mario Aceto and Robert Pelletier voting against. I asked Counciman Pelletier the reason for his vote, and he answered that he did not support the tax increase contained in the budget.
Edgar’s article makes mention of the most contentious exchange of the evening, where City Finance Emilio Navarro expressed skepticism about using $1.7 million in Federal stimulus money targeted towards education to compensate for reduced state education aid:
The most heated debate last night centered on the school budget, the one area on which Fung was allowed to comment because he was asking the council to approve an amendment. Fung asked for a $4 million increase for the schools, in part because he had made an error in calculating the minimum city contribution to the schools, which is $86.4 million. The actual city contribution will be $87.4 million because Fung had pledged to provide $1 million more than required, a plan to which the council agreed.
The total school allocation is $122.6 million when state and federal dollars are counted, but councilman Emilo L. Navarro, chairman of the council Finance Committee, questioned Fung’s plan to use $1.7 million in federal stimulus money reach that figure.
Navarro asked Fung repeatedly if he was using one-time money to fund the schools. Fung replied that the issue is whether or not the money counts toward the base budget figure that determines what the city must provide in local dollars each year. Since $1.7 million does not count toward the base figure, the city is not obligated to provide the money again, he said.