EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence City Council gave unanimous initial approval to an amended version of the Fiscal Year 2013-14 Budget during a workshop held Wednesday night, Oct. 9, a proposal that increases the tax rate by three-quarters of a percent and holds the line on impending Homestead exemption and early pay incentive decreases.
“It’s an excellent job, a tremendous effort went into revising this budget and reducing expenditures,” Council President James Briden said at the conclusion of the workshop. “This process and the result are a reflection of some very hard work and it’s a great success for this Council and our city.”
The Council made its decision on the tax hike upon the recommendation of newly-seated Fiscal Advisor Paul Luba. At another workshop last week, the Council first signaled it wanted to raise the rate by only half a percent, below the one percent proposed by City Manager Peter Graczykowski and what the former Budget Commission had suggested in its five-year plan.
“Given the potential instability in some of the revenue streams, I’m probably more comfortable with the quarter percent addition to the tax increase to three-quarters of a percent,” Mr. Luba, an appointee of State Director of Revenue Rosemary Booth Gallogly, said.
In addition, the Council opted to freeze the Commission’s plan to decrease the Homestead exemption, leaving it at its current 13 percent. Likewise, the Commission’s plan to cut the early pay incentive for taxpayers was frozen at its current 1.5 percent.
The three provisions each passed on 5-0 votes.
Overall, the Council opted to trim about $960,000 from the original outlay of $167,762,530 submitted by Mr. Graczykowski and Finance Director Malcolm Moore. Roughly $3.75 million of remaining surplus dollars will be set aside to help augment the city’s attempt at fiscal year synchronization with the state. The Council also accepted in total the $72,858,459 budget proposed by Schools Superintentent Kim Mercer.
“I would like to assure the Council and the residents of the city we did a detailed, line-by-line review of this budget,” Mr. Luba said, offering specific acknowledgement to Councilors Tom Rose and Chrissy Rossi for their extended efforts in the process.
“I really believe, in my opinion, this was a really good budget review,” he added.
The Council backed away from its original intent to veto pay raises for department heads and other non-union personnel. Instead, on a narrow 3-2 vote, it approved a two percent Cost of Living Adjustment.
Ward 3’s Mr. Rose, changing his initial stance against the measure, joined Ward 4’s Mrs. Rossi and At-Large Councilman Tracy Capobianco to vote in favor of the raises. Mr. Briden and Ward 2’s Helder Cunha, as they were last week, remained in opposition.
In explaining his change of heart, Mr. Rose said it had been about four years since most non-union personnel had received any increase in wages. Mr. Luba, prodded by a question from Mrs. Capobianco, voiced his support for the raises.
The Council took four other votes, approving each item. A Law Department position was kept in the budget on a 4-1 vote, Mrs. Rossi voting against. Mr. Briden also voted against the addition of a Highway Department position in a 4-1 tally. He and Mr. Cunha were in the opposition to a plumber position by a 3-2 vote. And the Council agreed completely on a position for the Building Department.
The Council holds its regularly scheduled second meeting of the month on Tuesday, Oct. 15. A public hearing on the FY13-14 Budget was scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Chamber.