Taxes stay flat; spending up $4.4M
Mayor Allan Fung’s proposed budget, which will be heard by the City Council this month, doesn’t include a tax increase, despite a $4.4 million increase in spending from the current budget.
Some city residents may still see an increase in their taxes through property taxes, however, because of a revaluation. Cranston’s residential real estate value went up by about 17 percent and its commercial value went up by about 9 percent, according to the mayor.
Residents whose property values went up by more than 13 percent will most likely see a property tax increase, the Mayor said, while those whose properties went up by 13 percent or less in value will either stay the same or see a decrease. He said that he thought condos would get hit by an increase, and Finance Director Bob Strom added that “three or four family or greater rentals” are up as well.
The overall budget is $289.6 million, a 1.55 percent increase from last year. The increase, the mayor said, comes from an additional $3.1 million in state aid that will be going to Cranston schools, and he said that most of the rest of the $4.4 million is in real estate fees paid to the clerk’s office stemming from an influx of people into Cranston.
The budget proposes an additional $600,000 in city funds that will go towards the schools’ operating budget for next year. Superintendent Jeannine Nota had asked in January for roughly an additional $1.3 million from the city for the schools’ proposed $158,517,989 operating budget for next year.
While the $600,000 will go to that operating budget, Fung said that $2.5 million of the state appropriation would be used for safety and fire upgrades and construction needs of the schools throughout the city.
Between the $3.1 million from the state and $600,000 from the city, Strom said that schools are getting around 85 percent of the additional budget.
Other added expenses for this budget include the two new dog parks at Stony Acre and Beachmont, a new playground at Eden Park Elementary, a new softball field at Hope Highland Middle School, and a new liner at Budlong Pool.
Another expense of $100,000 will be going to the Cranston Police Department to increase police detail at schools. Fung said that Chief Michael Winquist will decide how to best allocate the money, but it will be used for getting policemen into schools, in addition to the school resource officers and regular patrol officers that make random stops at the schools, the Mayor said.
He also said that three police officers will be added to the force, bringing it up to a full complement, and that multiple fire fighters, including two females, will be added as well. There will also be a new police substation opened at Hall Manor in Edgewood and two new fire engines added to the Fire Department’s fleet.
Strom said that the appropriation for all the city’s equipment, from public works to police and fire, has been increased.
Fung also said $25,000 will go the Cranston libraries, which will be used to forgive library fees and fines for children/teen materials, which Fung said would affect many “low-income” kids.
The budget will also continue the city’s trend of investing dollars in capital needs.
“In the past, they haven’t invested dollars in capital needs,” Fung said. “You end up playing catch up. Whether it’s the roads, buildings, equipment, these are things I wish they had invested in over the years.”
He said that the city will be spending $4 million on road paving this year, which is the same amount as last year, and will continue to “have a systematic way to do it based on actual need” of the streets around the city.
“We’ve got a lot of things we’re funding to make sure we’ve got a great city still,” he said about not decreasing taxes. “Making sure our schools are properly funded, a commitment to safety, tackling some problems we see going on.”
Strom said that the city’s pension fund and OPEB (other post-employment benefits) is down this year, and will continue to be 100 percent funded by the city, which helps debt liability to be reduced. He said that investment returns on savings have been good. He also touted the city’s bond rating, saying that it is the highest it’s been in 25 years.
There will not be an increase in sewer use fees for a second year in a row, the Mayor said.
“It’s a responsible budget that cares for our residents and takes care of our residents and their needs based on what we see year after year,” he said. “We look at the programs we provide and see the value of them.”
The proposed budget will now be heard by the City Council in council chambers in the coming weeks, all at 6:30 p.m. The schedule is:
Monday, April 9:
Parks & Recreation, Public Libraries, City Council, City Clerk, Probate, Canvassing
Wednesday, April 11:
Municipal Court, Economic Development, Executive, Law Department, Insurance Claims & Risk Management Personnel
Monday, April 16:
Fire Department & Fire Alarm, Police Department, Animal Control, Harbor Master
Wednesday, April 18:
Public Works, Highway Maintenance, Building Maintenance, Engineering, Fleet Maintenance, Bureau of Traffic Safety, Refuse, Care of Trees Sewer Enterprise Fund, Planning and Capital Budget, Boards & Commissions
Thursday, April 26:
School Department, School Health Insurance
Thursday, May 3: