Council cuts some, adds a bit to East Providence FY19-20 budget

Non-binding moves come at third workshop on proposal

By Mike Rego
Posted 10/4/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — The City Council held another marathon four-hour workshop session Thursday night, Oct. 3, at City Hall, dissecting the proposed $168.5 million Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget …

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Council cuts some, adds a bit to East Providence FY19-20 budget

Non-binding moves come at third workshop on proposal

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — The City Council held another marathon four-hour workshop session Thursday night, Oct. 3, at City Hall, dissecting the proposed $165.8 million Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget submitted by Mayor Bob DaSilva.

The moves made by the council, as has been the case in its previous two workshops, are non-binding. Any changes to the budget can only take place at a public hearing, which is scheduled to be held next week. A third successive workshop was planned by the council for Friday night, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m.

Thursday, the council once more delved into the details of the mayor’s proposal, though it didn’t touch on as many divisions at it had the night before when it took up over a dozen.

The body continued its practice of cutting proposed salary increases for non-union department heads, removing a planned $3,210 increase in pay for city side Finance Department Director Malcolm Moore.

Also from Finance, the council took steps to follow through on a request by Ward 3 member Nate Cahoon to take oversight, as written in the City Charter, of the city’s annual outside independent audit by moving $32,175 into its budget.

Likewise, as recommended by both Ward 2 and Ward 4 reps Anna Sousa and Ricardo Mourato, the council transferred $75,000 from the legal services line in the city’s general fund into a new line “council legal counsel” in its budget.

Similarly, from an earlier discussion on the City Clerk’s office budget, the council removed entirely the $50,000 set aside for printing and binding, which Clerk Samantha Burnett learned can be instead paid for from a 10 percent general recording fee collected by the state.

The council, in addition, shifted $818,750 out of a debt service line for the 2017 Tax Incremental Finance agreement between the city and the developers at Kettle Point. A portion of all taxes collected at the commercial/residential mixed use site are already being used to repay the bond the city took out for its initial infrastructure investment (roads, utilities) made there.

While discussing the Police Department allocation with Chief William Nebus, the sides, at the prodding of Mr. Cahoon, agreed to reduce the request for overtime pay to $1.6 million. The $515,227 difference can be made up by using the EPPD’s share of the settlement from the years-old Google pharmaceutical federal investigation.

On an aside, Chief Nebus told the council the department still has $8.1 million available in what has become known locally as “Google money,” which has strictly defined uses, one of which is to help departments offset overtime expenses.

The removal of nearly half-a-million from the Police coffers along with the other reductions proposed by the council could go a long way in meeting Mr. Cahoon’s stated goal of reallocating $950,000 into those of the School Department, a move that would counter a proposed diversion of funds in the district’s budget by Mayor DaSilva.

The council received another rare update on more dollars held outside the city’s general fund when Ward 1 rep and council president Bobby Britto asked Mr. Moore about ticket sales revenue East Providence is contractually obligated to receive from the operators of the Bold Point Park concert series.

Mr. Moore told the members there is $67,476 in the account, which is earmarked for use in Parks and Recreation. In the three seasons of the series, per a schedule included in the agreement, the city has received incrementally each year $1, $1.10 and $1.20 from every ticket sold at the venue.

Mr. Britto raised the issue because the previous evening the council was considering the request of Rec Director Diane Sullivan to increase the expenditure for the annual July 3 Pierce Stadium fireworks display to $15,000. Mr. Britto noted because of the monies in the Bold Point ticket account there wouldn’t be a need to increase the fiscal budget to meet Ms. Sullivan’s ask.

The council spent a considerable amount of time quizzing Acting Chief Glenn Quick about several aspects of the Fire Department budget, including the potential to situate a rescue full time at Rumford Station 3, but took no decisions. Instead, the council moved to continue its look into the EPFD budget at its October 4 workshop.

Lastly from Thursday, at the behest of department director Leslie Shattuck Moore and appointed board member Nicholas Oliver, the council actually proposed increasing the budget for the Canvassing.

The request was to convert a part-time position into a full-time one, upping the number of Canvassing staff to three. By creating the union post at the first step under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Mr. Moore said it would cost about $65,000 total in salary and benefits.

The department already had an annual line of $15,000 for the part-time position. For FY19-20, at least, $15,000 included for a now scrapped special election on potential charter changes was shifted to offset the increase as was $1,000 from the department’s overtime allotment. In total, for next fiscal year, the change would require about $35,000 in additional spending in Canvassing.

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