Surplus, market forces drive budget proposals made by East Providence City Manager

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EAST PROVIDENCE — East Providence City Manager Peter Graczykowski is of the opinion “if not now, when?” as it pertains to certain elements of the Fiscal Year 2013-14 Budget he and Finance Director Malcolm Moore have proposed.

The two key portions to stand out immediately in the $167,762,071 package were requests for significant raises for the city’s top administrators, including both the manager and director, and to trim the city’s actual contribution to the police’s pension fund in order to assist in East Providence’s fiscal year transition.

Accepting the premise there’s likely no good time to seek pay hikes, including and especially one for himself, Mr. Graczykowski said it was simply a means of making sure the city holds on to its current personnel or be in a better position to seek replacements if and when openings occur in the future.

“We do a periodic review of compensation. It’s something we do every year, look at our salaries and how they compare,” Mr. Graczykowski continued. “As you know, 10 of the 12 contracts with school and city personnel have been renegotiated. Their compensation was readjusted over a five-year period. Obviously that set the framework for COLAs (Cost of Living Adjustments), wage increases throughout the city. We also do an outside comparison to see where our salaries fit in the marketplace. What we’re really looking for here is parity of wages.”

He added, “We are recommending these increases. The money is there in the budget to effect these changes if the Council chooses to do so.”

Mr. Graczykowski pointed to the incremental elimination of longevity pay non-union employees will receive going forward as another reason why the raises are necessary. In addition, the $8.7 million surplus the city finished with in FY2012-13 makes money available to afford the hikes.

“We, both the city and the Budget Commission, have implemented a number of revenue increases and cost-saving programs,” Mr. Graczykowski said. “I think it shows a two-year track record of good management. What we’re really looking for here is equity of pay and to keep the city competitive in the open marketplace.”

The change to East Providence’s fiscal calendar, from one that shifts to a July 1 beginning instead of one that starts November 1, would align the city’s budgetary process with the state’s and end its annual disadvantageous monetary position. The change was first proposed by the former Budget Commission, on which the manager sat, and was approved by voters during the November 2012 election.

Mr. Graczykowski and Mr. Moore propose funding the change mostly by going out to bond rather than implementing a one-off supplemental tax increase. Also as a means of initiating the restructuring, the administrators are proposing a one-time shift of some $2.7 million in police pension dollars, offset by last year’s infusion of Google case settlement money, towards the fiscal calendar switch.

“The supplemental tax route is really not a fair way to do it to the taxpayer,” Mr. Graczykowski said. “We’ve looked at in the past and came to the conclusion it would be overwhelming to the taxpayer to ask them to do it that way. They really can’t afford it.

“However, we do need to do more leg work on the matter. I do agree with the Finance Director. We need to do our due diligence. But no matter when we decide to do it, we need to have the money in reserve.”

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