EAST PROVIDENCE — Residents got their first semi-official glimpse of how members of the City Council viewed the draft Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget submitted by the administration of Mayor Bob …
EAST PROVIDENCE — Residents got their first semi-official glimpse of how members of the City Council viewed the draft Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget submitted by the administration of Mayor Bob DaSilva when the body held the first of two mandatory public hearings on the proposal Monday night, Oct. 2.
The Council began making some significant adjustment's to DaSilva's proposed $219,664,964 operating outline for the next 12 months beginning on November 1, 2023.
Because the budget is done through the ordinance process any votes taken Monday were not final, though they can be viewed as a means of deciphering how members may cast their lots at the second public hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 10.
This past week the body made little in the way of true cuts — only about $3,000 was trimmed from the top-line figure. Rather, it reallocated about $1.9 million in operational and capital spendings to areas the mayor did not.
For example, right out of the shoot Ward 4 Councilor Rick Lawson suggested, and his peers eventually approved, removing a DaSilva earmark of $114,446 for a junior position in the Planning and Economic Development Department. Lawson cited the lack of any additional project's in the mayor's '23-24 Capital Improvements subsection as a reason for his proposal.
Ward 2 Councilor Anna Sousa offered up an amendment to remove $750,000 from a $1 million line in the Police Department budget set aside to pay for personnel and vehicle pay for construction details. Sousa noted that contractors are obligated to fund details, so there was no need for the city to budget those monies. As pointed out by City Finance Director Malcolm Moore, the corresponding figure was removed from the revenue side of the mayor's draft. The move was approved.
Ward 1 Councilor Frank Rego since taking his seat in January of this year has, to no avail, lobbied the administration for a full-time rescue vehicle to be positioned at Station 3 in Rumford.
Last Monday, he set out finding the funding in DaSilva's existing outline, including within the mayor's office itself. He suggested an appropriation of $111,469 in support of the Director of Administration, ostensibly the mayor's chief of staff/right-hand associate, be reallocated towards the Fire Department salary line. That money along with taking $300,000 from the department's overtime budget would provide over $400,000 towards the roughly $1 million needed to add the fourth rescue.
Of the move to delete the funds for the DOA post, Rego said he believed it wasn't what the public voted for in the switch to an elected-mayor from appointed-city manager form of government. The mayor, he said, should have a more hands-on role in the city's day-to-day operations, instead of delegating those actions to a subordinate. He also said the mayor had access to the insight of eight department directors, including Human Resources that should he handling some of the aspects currently being performed by the DOA.
Other operational reallocations of note made by the Council earlier in the week included proposals by Lawson and Sousa to reassess the deputy position in the City Clerk's office while adding a position dedicated to assisting with Council business in the same department. That move would transfer some $82,000 between lines. Rego also suggested the body return the number of public safety communications specialists (dispatchers) to 12 by reallocating funds of $75,160 in said department.
Knowingly or not, At-Large member and Council President Bob Rodericks often appeared to be playing the roll of "blocking" back for the mayor's budgetary scheme. Rodericks stated his likely intention to not go along with his cohorts on a handful of their suggestions when formal votes are taken next week. Less vocal than his colleagues, Ward 3 member Frank Fogarty backed all of the moves suggested by the rest of the Council last Monday.
Rodericks, however, did seem leaning likely to support the proposed Council changes to the mayor's Capital expenditures, all of which were swapped for needs expressed by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sandra Forand earlier in the budget process.
In making some of the suggestions, Lawson said he and his peers were "not cannibalizing" the city side capital budget, noting the Department of Public Works was still set to receiving funding for a handful of other vehicles/apparatus.
The Council eventually agreed to remove the following from city allocations: Public Art, $50,000; Dump Truck, $75,000; Plow Truck, $90,000; Trash Compactor, $80,000; Equipment Trailer, $25,000; Recyling Rolloff Container, $15,000. Total-$335,000.
Those monies were reallocated to the School Department, though remaining under the auspices of the Council, as follows: Riverside Middle School cafeteria/gym divider, $35,000; Francis Elementary HVAC, $130,000; Orlo Elementary Playground Fence, $52,000; Front Loader Vehicle, $60,000; Mail Carrier Van, $30,000. Total-$307,000.
As Rodericks correctly pointed out per state law the Council has no direct oversight of funding use by the School Department. However, by maintaining the monies in its Capital budget, the Council can control how it releases those funds to the district.