As the former mayor of the Capital City has said on his radio talk show, referring to the General Assembly, “ They all know what they have to do.”
The clock is ticking. The longer it takes for our elected leaders to act decisively, the longer the path to recovery.
Give credit where credit is due. Gov. Lincoln Chafee has addressed the problems of weakened cities and towns by way of Central Falls, Woonsocket, and East Providence. I cannot say that people enjoy the “ cure,” but at least he has had the fortitude to take action. The laws are not perfect and the process is painful, especially when it is your hometown. Perhaps, now with the Budget Commission, there is a chance that East Providence will not go into bankruptcy. Pensions and jobs may be saved. Overdue repairs may be made to dilapidated and antiquated buildings.
Consolidation and regionalization have been discussed and, in some cases, acted upon in recent years. Give the outgoing School Committee and City Council some credit for that beginning.
We must go further statewide. For example, Rhode Island does not need 37 Superintendents and administrative staffs. There is a real shortage of very good administrators. Also, there is a lack of money in the Budget. Through the General Assembly, we must consolidate at state level. This cannot be done at city level to the proper extent. Consolidation must be led by the State, saving state dollars.
Finance, Human Resources, Purchasing, Facilities, IT, Special Education are all areas where administrative staffs could be combined within multiple communities.
City officials and the Budget Commission have struggled to find suitable administrators, especially on the school department side. We have survived. The question of how well we have survived will be judged in the future, perhaps a future with more money. Perhaps.
We have operated without a full-time Superintendent and without a full compliment of administrators for an extended period of time. In recent years, we have closed elementary schools and there is the very real probability of more school closings and program cuts within the next year or so. Our student population is dropping each year. East Providence is not alone. Similar circumstances exist statewide.
Consolidation and regionalization will standardize our school districts and cities, while allowing for the differences in demographics. Regionalization has already begun in pockets of the state. Consolidation and regionalization must be a part of the solution for more efficient use of our state’s tax dollars.
— By Charlie Tsonos