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City Manager's Take on Ballot Questions

East Providence City Manager Peter Graczykowski explains the four local questions on Tuesday's ballot, including changing the fiscal year and creating 4-year terms for city officials.

East Providence City Manager Peter Graczykowski explains here the four proposed amendments to the City Charter that are on Tuesday's election ballot. He supports all four of them.

"On the November 6, 2012 ballot, the residents of East Providence will be asked to vote on important amendments to the Home Rule Charter.  The Charter was adopted in 1954 and can be amended from time to time by the electors after the City Council proposes the changes, as allowed by the Rhode Island Constitution.

Question 8, if approved, would allow the City Council to change the current fiscal year by ordinance. Because the current fiscal year is inconsistent with the tax collection schedule, the taxpayers pay for borrowing costs in excess of $325,000 annually to secure Tax Anticipation Notes. The proposed change would save these costs, improve the City’s credit worthiness and prevent potential cash deficits. A synchronization strategy will be developed prior to any future ordinance passage. The ultimate change of the fiscal year to July 1 – June 30 schedule will bring East Providence in line with other Rhode Island communities.

Question 9, if approved, would permanently establish a budget reserve fund, which now operates under an ordinance only and is subject to a relatively easy change. Although the City will be prevented from spending more than 99% of its revenues annually, a taxpayer will not have to pay more because of this change.  The City would save 1% of its revenues, or approximately $1 million annually, and set it aside in a “rainy day fund.” If the city must borrow from the reserve fund under emergency circumstances, it will have to put the money back into savings within 3 years. Once the savings exceed 10% of the annual revenues, the extra amount will be used by the City to pay for capital projects, such as maintaining, repair and purchase of equipment and buildings, as the City currently does not have enough funds to pay for all necessary infrastructure projects.

Question 10, if approved, would allow the City to reorganize its operations for better efficiency and to continue to consolidate departments with the School District. This change will be an important way to create more savings for taxpayers, since each separate position currently required by the Charter costs on average $100,000 per year including benefits. In addition, this amendment brings the Charter into compliance with current State Law by removing the residency requirement for certain employees. It also establishes a preference in hiring for City residents so that the City Council can continue to take this factor into consideration when appointing certain employees. The proposed changes will allow the City to access a larger pool of qualified, professional candidates when hiring and retaining in these positions, as well as to outsource selected functions, if deemed in the best interest of the City.

Question 11, if approved, would establish 4-year, rather than 2-year terms for members of the School Committee and the City Council and would apply to those individuals elected to office in the 2014 election. The extension of terms will allow the Council and Committee members to gain experience when newly elected, get better understanding of the budget process, put together legislative achievements and give the voters a longer measure of performance before the next election cycle. In addition, this amendment brings the Charter into compliance with current State Law with regard to the School Committee terms.

I encourage the residents to focus on these significant changes during the election on November 6th. Whether one may or may not support the individual proponents of the amendments does not change the fact that aligning the fiscal year with the tax year; establishing the budget reserve fund; allowing the City to consolidate its functions further and recruit qualified personnel; and assuring the continuity of experienced government; will have a profound, positive impact on the City’s fiscal stability and health.”     

Paul November 05, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Mr. City Manager, relative to Question 11, one other way for City Council and School Committee members to gain more experience is to earn their re-election every two years. If someone is intelligent, articulate, and honest, it should not take more than two years to demonstrate those qualities. We'll give them the benefit of the doubt on experience if they have the core qualities of a good and able person. Vote NO on four year terms.
Ron C November 05, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I'll be voting yes for 8 and 9 (even though 8 will require a fifth tax bill). I will not be voting for four year terms unless the amendment has a recall provision. As for question 10, based on how screwed up the current, so called, consolidation has gone it is a big NO!!! Why? I found out last week that what we taxpayers used to be able to do at city hall can no longer be done in one trip. i was able to pay my taxes at city hall, however, if I needed a new recycle bin or sticker you now have to go to Commercial Way. If you want to talk to the DPW Director you now have to go to Commercial Way. If you want to pay for one of Debbie's trips or any other recreation program you now have to go to the Senior Center. That's how consolidation has helped the taxpayer. What used to be done at city hall now requires the taxpayer to drive all over to accomplish the same thing. Question 10 is a big NOOOO!!! I was told when paying my water bill that this consolidation was the idea of the city manager. Let's hope the new council consolidates the city manager out the door.
Diane November 05, 2012 at 07:36 PM
I will be voting NO on all city charter changes. Some residents just can not afford a fifth tax payment in the same year. By consolidating they did not tell you about the extra cost of gas to make the extra trips around town.
Bruce Zarembka November 06, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Let's look at this from where it's coming from...the city manager who is beholden to the current majority of the city council...the current city council majority voted to put these changes to the city charter on the ballot. Do you think he is going to go against those who basically sign his pay check...of course not!! With that being said...the change to the fiscal year makes sense. This will provide significant savings for the city. Establishment of a rainy day fund is good fiscal policy. Enough Said.
Rags 1 November 06, 2012 at 04:32 PM
City Manager is right, despite the bloggers excuses based upon personalities, dislike of candidates etc. etc.. We are talking policy, not individuals. 90% of the blogggers haver never held elective office and are sidewalk coaches. There is an old Indian saying that speaks--"don't judge me too harshly until you have walked in my moccasins for two moons". Anything less than 4 years, which by the way is the norm not the exception, does nothing to institute goals and objectives except skip the leadership poiunts because of pending election concentrations. Too bad we tend to vote on emotions rather than long-term goals. Recall, term limits, early voting, etc. can be added as the electorate demands it, and they should.

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