Commission keeps traffic court intact for East Providence FY13 budget, likely beyond

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EAST PROVIDENCE — In a move that can be deemed a victory for those employees and politicians seeking to keep it as part of the city coffers, the East Providence Budget Commission retained the traffic aspects of Municipal Court entirely for its Fiscal Year 2013 forecast and likely beyond.

The official move to keep the Traffic Court in city as opposed to returning it back under the state’s auspices came when the Commission voted to approve the FY13 budget to conclude its second public hearing on the plan Thursday, Oct. 18. The Commission’s decision ended several months of speculation and discussion on the topic.

According to the notes in the actual FY13 Budget document created by the Commission, the City Clerk’s office underwent a consolidation with Municipal Court during FY12. Much like other departments since the Commission came on board late last year, the Court changed from a three-staff person department to a one-person consolidated department within the Clerk’s Office.

City Clerk Kim Casci confirmed her office’s budget has been combed of some 30-percent of its previous expenditures, which was in line with what most other departments were reduced.

The separate Deputy City Clerk, with its roughly $55,000 a year salary, and Court Administrator, a job which was paid about $49,000 a year, were combined following the retirement of a long-time staffer. The position is now handled by one person at a cost of approximately $57,000 a year, about half of what the city had paid out previously.

Also according to the FY13 Budget notes, “Within the Clerk’s office the staff job descriptions and titles were changed so the staff could be effectively cross trained to do both clerk and municipal court work. The Deputy Clerk retired and the Municipal Court Administrator, now located in the Clerk’s Office, took on those duties.”

As of August 2012, 10 months of the 2012 Fiscal Year, the Traffic portion of the Municipal Court had brought in nearly $316,000. Its expenses (salaries, benefits, supplies, etc.) came at a cost of about $76,000. The actual net revenue to the city was $184,537.97, according to Ms. Casci.

Of the over 6,000 citations handed out by the East Providence Police Department through the same period, 3,780 were traffic tickets and came from 252 details paid for by Municipal Court revenue through the “Safe Streets Program.”

If the Commission had moved on its initial leanings towards returning traffic violation proceedings to the state, the city would have seen its share of revenue greatly decreased and a program like “Safe Streets” would likely have been cut or significantly diminished.

Ultimately, once again according to the FY13 notes, one of the goals of the Clerk’s Office and the Municipal Court is to “bring in the same revenue stream and provide the same services with decreased staff.”

Ms. Casci said she does not plan on asking for permission to hire any additional staff members in either the near or long term, which likely means the Court is safe from further Commission cuts.

“As long as the numbers are good, I don’t expect any future changes,” Ms. Casci added.

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