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.”