Politics & Policies

Cranston Budget Hearings for Schools and Libraries

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by Josh Wood Monday April 13, 2009

Cranston City SealCranston School Committee member Steve Stycos emailed with this summary of upcoming Cranston budget meetings:

Budget hearings for the Cranston schools and the libraries will be held Tuesday April 21 at 7 PM at Cranston East Auditorium (schools) and Thursday April 23 at 7 PM in City Council Chambers (libraries). Public speaking will be allowed.

Budgets set priorities and education and libraries have rated low on the city’s list in recent years. Please let the city council know your priorities. Although Mayor Alan Fung is proposing major cuts in services, he is also proposing a large 6 percent tax increase. In past years, the City Council has tried to reduce proposed tax increases. Not raising taxes, due to cuts in state aid, would be disastrous.

The budget is on the city’s Web site. Spending for libraries and schools will increase a modest 11 percent since 2004. During the same period, spending for police will increase 21 percent and fire spending will jump 30 percent. In an example of fiscal irresponsibility during the two year Napolitano term, city interest and debt and interest payments jumped 56 percent or $1.7 million. It’s fun to spend money (like putting plastic grass on the football field) and then leave other people to pay the bill.

Another example of bad financial management is seen in the $18 million dollars that is budgeted for the unfunded police and fire pensions. If mayors and city councils before Mayor Stephen Laffey had adequately raised taxes to fund the pensions, today the city would have millions of dollars to finance programs and avoid tax increases.

Without adequate funding and major concessions from the teachers union, I expect the school committee will be forced to cut the EPIC program, the elementary music program, elementary guidance couselors, some high school sports, perhaps have some elementary principals cover more than one school and a lot more.
In response to the proposed budget, the library trustees have already closed all branches on Wednesdays and Thursdays, closed the central library on Sundays and stopped purchasing books and CDs.

Some steps I would like to see the mayor and council explore to produce funds for the education and libraries are: 1) a student parking fee at both high schools, 2) a reduction in the $1.2 million street lighting budget, 3) more effort to divert trash to recycling, 4) an energy conservation program like the school program which has saved more than a million dollars in less than two years, and, 5) A reduction in the municipal court salaries which have increased 68 percent in 6 years.

Adopted Budget 09.

The 2009-2010 budget is available here.

[where: Cranston, RI 02910]

[where: 02910]



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