EAST PROVIDENCE — For the second time in six months, the state-appointed Budget Commission convened what it expected was its last meeting seated in charge of East Providence last Thursday afternoon, Sept. 12, in its familiar Room 306 on the third floor of City Hall.
The meeting was relatively brisk, one of the more important announcements made was that of Paul Luba as the new Municipal Finance Advisor, an amended position in the Fiscal Stability Act that serves as part go-between, part watchdog for a period of five more years. The MFA will work closely with the city administrators and report to several state agencies in an attempt to keep East Providence on right fiscal path for the foreseeable future.
However, there always remains a chance the Budget Commission could be reconvened by State Director of Revenue Rosemary Booth Gallogly, who hired Mr. Luba and who herself will keep a watchful eye on the city.
The last time Director Gallogly tried to dissolve the Commission, City Manager Peter Graczykowski attempted to remove Police Chief Joseph Tavares from his position only two weeks after the state-appointees vacated. In response, the director almost immediately reseated the Commission, staying on until last week.
“Hopefully, that’s something we won’t have to do. I’m confident we won’t have to come back, providing nothing out of the ordinary occurs,” Director Gallogly said following the final scheduled Budget Commission meeting.
Some 24 hours after Mr. Luba officially took his post and the Commission was dissolved for a second time on Monday, Sept. 16, Mr. Graczykowski presented the City Council with a first draft of the Fiscal Year 2013-14 Budget, a document that included some interesting pay hikes, including one for the manager himself, and a decrease in the amount the city would put into the police pension fund from what the Commission had suggested in its five-year financial plan.
“We could still come back if we had to, but with the Finance Advisor in place I don’t think we’ll have to,”Director Gallogly continued. “I think Paul will do a good job. He has a great personality. I think he’ll be able to deal with all of the department heads on a personal basis. His resume speaks for itself. He has invaluable experience in the private sector that I think will benefit him in this position.”
Based on what the Budget Commission has done with the five-year plan, things are pretty much set up for the city manager and the council, Director Gallogly added.
“They (the Commission) fully funded the OBEP (Other Post Employment Benefits), the pension arc, created the ‘Rainy Day Fund.’ And then you have the recently reported surplus for the city. It’s really their (City Council’s) game to lose,” she concluded. “I’m very optimistic about the City of East Providence. I see it as having a great opportunity to succeed financially and economically in the future.”