At the time of the 2010 election, our previous City Council and School Committee were very busy signing contracts and planning to follow through on their agenda, despite election results.
After a very unpleasant inauguration in December 2010, our new School Committee discovered the true financial status of both the School Department and the City. I knew that the financial picture was bleak, but I had no idea how devastating our situation was.
The debt was incredible, our bills were not being paid, our buildings were/are falling apart, and our administrators had just been signed to very expensive three-year contracts.
While absorbing the stunningly bad news, a realization came over me that every elected official and key administrator had to have known how critical our situation was. Moreover, as I discovered how widespread the financial distress was in the city and the state, I realized that every elected official in this state must have known how dire the situation was/is.
How could they know and not take corrective action?
The problems have only worsened.
Isn’t public service about solving problems ?
Within a short period of time from our swearing in, the City Council and the School Committee began receiving letters from Rosemary Booth Gallogly and the Governor demanding a Deficit Elimination Plan in accordance with R.I. General Law. A plan had never been submitted and approved for years by our predecessors. For many years we were delinquent in providing this plan to the state since, by law, a city has five days to notify the state of its five-year plan of recovery.
For years East Providence had operated in a deficit and for years the plan was pushed aside. Furthermore as a matter of record school employees took a pay cut and a 20-percent medical co-pay was initiated, yet not one penny was paid toward the deficit. The R.I. Supreme Court is just now deciding the case which dates back 2008.
Never did a Deficit Elimination Plan Come from this city, until now by way of the Budget Commission.
The “Rossi Plan” had been adopted by the majority of the City Council. Soon thereafter, the Budget Commission arrived and will likely be here for an indefinite period of time, with unlimited power and authority.
Being on the School Committee for the last two years has been a real education in the financial distress of our city and state.
Solving problems is part of public service. Best wishes to our newly elected officials, although wishes alone will not do the job. Some of us will be watching.
— By Charlie Tsonos
Mr. Tsonos is the out-going School Committee chairman and one-time candidate for State Rep. District 63 seat.