East Providence takes note as Governor signs Budget Commission changes into law

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EAST PROVIDENCE — City Manager Peter Graczykowski and Department of Revenue employee Christy Healey each offered clarification to significant changes made to the Fiscal Stability Act, commonly referred to as the Budget Commission legislation, by the General Assembly at the end of the 2013 session and signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chafee Monday, July 15.

Because of amendments to the original legislation, East Providence will no longer be required to hire an Administrative and Finance Officer (AFO). Instead, a fiscal advisor with much more limited authority will be selected by State Department of Revenue Director Rosemary Booth Gallogly and seated in the position. Of note as well, the city and the state will split the cost of the fiscal advisor’s compensation, believed to be in the area of $150,000 annually, 50-50.

Mrs. Healey, who first served in an advisory capacity to the East Providence Budget Commission and now sits on the oversight body, spoke on the matter prior to the July 18 Commission meeting at City Hall. Mr. Graczykowski, also a Commission member, released a statement later the same day. In it, the City Manager acknowledged the contributions of local representatives on Smith Hill — Reps. Helio Melo, Gregg Amore and Katherine Kazarian and Sens. Daniel DaPonte and William Conley Jr. — in getting the amendments passed.

As chairman of their respective Committees on Finance, Rep. Melo and Sen. DaPonte were especially active in changing the legislation to better reflect and correspond to the Manager-Council form of government of the city.

Calling it “good news” for East Providence taxpayers, Mr. Graczykowski noted because of “the amendments, in East Providence, when the Budget Commission leaves, the position of administrative and finance officer (AFO) will not be appointed. Instead, a fiscal advisor will assist the City and Schools with monitoring the overall budgetary and financial administration, and fiscal health of the City. The existence of this advisor does not remove any duties from existing City positions; and is more compatible with the City Council – City Manager form of government in East Providence or similar municipalities.”

The fiscal advisor will be appointed for a period of five years and at the discretion of Mrs. Gallogly, who will do so when “she determines in writing that the financial condition of the City has improved to a level such City of East Providence –  that the Budget Commission is no longer needed,” Mr. Graczykowski’s statement continued. The Budget Commission is currently seated for matters of personnel.

Mrs. Healey, during a conversation earlier Thursday, said there is no timetable for the appointment of the fiscal advisor, adding the changes to the legislation means the process of filling the position must be restarted. Mrs. Healey said she must draw up a new job description for the position. It then must be posted as open and another round of interviews must be conducted. Mrs. Healey added Mrs. Gallogly is currently on vacation, so when the process actually begins remains unclear.

Once the Budget Commission is disbanded, personnel matters will return to the jurisdiction of the City and Schools, not the fiscal advisor. Most importantly, according to Mr. Graczykowski’s statement, “the fiscal advisor will be helpful to the City and Schools in adhering to the structurally balanced five-year fiscal stability plan developed by the Budget Commission.”

The City Manager concluded, “The East Providence Legislative Delegation, as well as City Council and School Committee members who have pursued this meaningful change, are credited with amending the law in a way that will benefit their constituents.

“I would especially like to thank the Chairman DaPonte and Chairman Melo, Senator Conley, and Representatives Amore and Kazarian for their hard work in crafting and ensuring passage of this important legislation; as well as Assistant Mayor Rose for his tireless advocacy on this issue.”

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