Council formalizes proposed changes to East Providence's FY19-20 budget

Set up confirmatory vote for Monday, Oct. 14, public hearing

By Mike Rego
Posted 10/10/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — At what doubled as yet another workshop review and a second public hearing on the $168.5 million Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget submission of Mayor Bob DaSilva, the City Council …

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Council formalizes proposed changes to East Providence's FY19-20 budget

Set up confirmatory vote for Monday, Oct. 14, public hearing

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — At what doubled as yet another workshop review and a second public hearing on the $165.8 million Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget submission of Mayor Bob DaSilva, the City Council Wednesday night, Oct. 9, formalized changes to the document and set up one more open forum to finalize its moves.

Facing for the first time new deadlines in the City Charter to enact a budget due to the change in governmental structure earlier this calendar year, the council altered both a handful of lines in the operating and capital expenditure portions of the proposal.

The most notable amendment to the mayor’s budget was the reinsertion of $950,000 into the overall School Department budget at the suggestion of Ward 3 Councilor Nate Cahoon, something the council signaled it might do from the very start of its deliberations some three weeks ago.

Mayor DaSilva took the money out of the district’s operating outlay and instead earmarked the money towards an account set up for future debt service on the new high school. The mayor made the move to the dismay of Superintendent Kathryn Crowley and school side Finance Director Craig Enos, who argued it was needed to pay for the district’s overall anticipated expenses next fiscal year.

In its own division, the council set into motion the transfer to it of S32,175 for the city’s annual audit from the Finance Department and S75,000 into its legal services line from the General Government (Miscellaneous) account. It also voted to create a new line item for the council, but one that exists in most other departments, for professional services, doing so by transferring another $50,000 from the General Government (Miscellaneous) account.

At the request of both appointed employees and board members, the council agreed to formally consider changing a part-time position in the Canvassing Department to a full-time one at a starting expense of $61,805, including salary and benefits.

The council also swapped monies into the Building Inspection and Engineering Divisions, $3,000 and $900 respectively, to cover the costs of cellphone uses. In the aforementioned General Government (Miscellaneous) account, it proposed transferring $15,000 for use as grant match funds and potentially putting back a $15,000 reduction in the earmark for the non-profit East Bay Community Action Program. Lastly, on the operational side, the council switched an allocation of $13,000 into the Water Department.

For capital expenditures, the council agreed to consider an increase in an existing request and add three others proposed by members of the body.

The Fire Department removed an initial ask of $40,000 to purchase a cardiac monitor. Rather, it changed its request to $80,722 for funds to match a recent $800,000 federal grant the department received to buy that apparatus and several others it requires.

At the behest of Ward 2 Councilor Anna Sousa, the council added $75,000 to finish work at Townie Pride Park/Jones Pond and $15,000 for the seasonal rental of restrooms at parks around the city lacking those facilities. The council also agreed to consider a $6,000 earmark from Ward 1 member and body president Bobby Britto to complete a dog park at Hunts Mills.

By the end of Wednesday's meeting, the council had finished five workshops on the budget and conducted two public hearings on it so far with a third called for Monday night, Oct. 14, to finalize the body’s version of the document.

Under the new mayor-council structure, while the former, much like the city manager before, provides an outline of the budget, the authority over and final approval of the terms of the budget remains in the purview of the council.

However, there is also a new caveat as well in the revised charter for the executive. Because the budget is submitted by the council as an ordinance, the mayor has veto power over it. The chief executive has 10 days upon passage to reject the council’s proposal. But, again, the council still has ultimate say in that the body can override said veto by a “super majority” vote, a minimum 4-1 count.

The council, per charter, must approve a budget no later than seven days prior to the end of the city’s fiscal year on October 31. With the 10-day veto window, final confirmation needed to take place by the 14th.

The council, as it had previously, posited the proposed changes made October 9 as suggestions that were not binding. Any alterations, specifically increases to line items, in the budget will only become official upon a final confirmatory vote, which must occur in a public hearing setting and is now scheduled to take place the evening of the Columbus Day holiday.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.