Council concludes workshop series on proposed East Providence FY19-20 budget

Ends non-binding meetings having cut around $800,000 from initial draft

By Mike Rego
Posted 10/5/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — The City Council concluded a series of workshops on Mayor Bob DaSilva’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget with a third consecutive lengthy discussion at City Hall Friday evening, Oct. …

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Council concludes workshop series on proposed East Providence FY19-20 budget

Ends non-binding meetings having cut around $800,000 from initial draft

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — The City Council concluded a series of workshops on Mayor Bob DaSilva’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget with a third consecutive lengthy discussion at City Hall Friday evening, Oct. 4.

The council took little action of consequence during the over four hour gathering. No decisions the body made Friday nor during its three previous workshops are binding per City Charter until the council votes formally on the budget at a public hearing now definitively set for Wednesday night, Oct. 9.

State-appointed Municipal Finance Advisor Paul Luba, aiding the council in the stead of absent city side Finance Director Malcolm Moore, late in the evening approximated the amount of cuts the council proposed to make in the FY19-20 draft approached $800,000.

Members spent the bulk of the Friday workshop reviewing the proposed allocations for the Animal Shelter, Harbor Master, Wastewater and Law divisions, leaving Mr. DaSilva’s outlines in place for each.

A look into the Fire Department’s budget, which carried over from the previous night's October 3 workshop, included a detailed presentation on the potential for adding a fourth rescue into the rotation based out of Station 3 in Rumford, currently the only station without a full-time vehicle in service.

Council president and Ward 1 member Bobby Britto initiated the discussion. EPFD Emergency Services Director John Potvin guided the council through a PowerPoint presentation. It harkened back to a trial run for a Station 3 rescue conducted back in 2017, when a vehicle was put in service from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. for several days a week. Using the data, it was estimated to cost an additional $300,000 of overtime expense to man the rescue based on current staffing levels.

The council made no decision on the matter and after questioning an approximately $500,000 increase in anticipated total overtime in the department for FY19-20, likewise, left the line alone. Acting Chief Glenn Quick explained the extra pay was expected because the department is currently down some 10 firefighters. It’s also needed to cover training of the new firefighters expected to join the ranks next calendar year as well as support necessary training and certifications of current employees.

On an aside, Ward 3 Councilor Ricardo Mourato broached an aspect of the mayor’s budget pertaining to the homestead property tax exemption not touched upon since Mr. DaSilva made his initial presentation to the body in mid-September.

Originally set at 15 percent, the state-appointed Budget Commission began a yearly reduction in the exemption back in 2012 and 2013, dropping it a percent each fiscal year. Previously seated councils subsequently halted the reduction, leaving it at its current 13 percent. Mayor DaSilva is seeking to increase it back up to 13.5 percent for FY19-20.

Mr. Mourato, while saying he would eventually like to see the rate back up to its original 15 if not higher in the future, nonetheless said he did not think now was a “smart time” to make a change to the homestead. He cited expected costs related to the new high school construction as among the factors in his decision to question the move at the moment.

Mayor DaSilva, arguing his stance, countered, “I think the residents of East Providence deserve some type of relief...While not breaking a multimillion budget, it will offer some modicum of relief..I would strongly urge you to keep it in.”

The council concluded Friday’s workshop with a broad review of the proposed $3,690,897 Capital expenditure budget. Most of the time was spent listening to proposals made to repair, replace and maintain the historic Looff Carousel itself and the grounds around it. Some Public Works proposals were discussed as was the mayor’s plan to expand an existing parking lot proposal at Riverside Middle School/Riverside Rec Complex to include a soccer/football field. Again, the council took no action on any of the line items.

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