By EMMA BARTLETT
Four potential questions for the November ballot came before Cranston’s finance committee at a special meeting on June 16. The questions ask voters for authorization to …
By EMMA BARTLETT
Four potential questions for the November ballot came before Cranston’s finance committee at a special meeting on June 16. The questions ask voters for authorization to allow the city to go out to bond for $3 million for public buildings, $2 million for financing fire equipment, $3.5 million for playgrounds and athletic fields and $4 million for city infrastructure.
“This is just at some point in the future if we want to do a project, we have the voters’ approval to go out and start the process,” said Acting Finance Director Michael Igoe.
Igoe said if the finance committee approved the bond questions, they would go to the full council and then added to the ballot. If voters approved the bonds, the city would have the ability to use them, however, the city would need authorization from the council before issuing the bonds.
The city would also have to put forth a plan which would go to the council and then the planning commission. Once at the planning commission, if approved, the funds are added to the budget and after that the funds can be borrowed and expended. This is not an authorization to spend money, just the start of a process.
“A vote tonight is not a vote to spend money,” said Council President Chris Paplauskas.
The funds from any potential bonds would be used to finance the acquisition, construction, improvement, renovation, repair and alteration of public buildings, playgrounds and athletic fields and infrastructure within the city.
Chief of Staff Anthony Moretti said the only specific projects in mind are recurring items such as street paving and infrastructure programs.
“There’s nothing immediate per se that we foresee, but things do happen,” Moretti said.
Moretti said the next time this opportunity would come up for voters to approve a bond would be two years from now. Although there are circumstances where a city could hold a special election, those elections are costly. Moretti said this money would be for lasting two elections; it would be a proactive rather than a reactive measure to have the funds available should the need arise.
Councilman Robert Ferri voted no on adding the four questions to the ballot, along with councilwoman Jessica Marino voting no to adding the $3 million for public buildings and $3.5 million for playgrounds and athletic fields bond questions to the ballot.
“With this bond as well as the others, I think we need to take a clear path to avoid borrowing this kind of money,” said Ferri. “I would be against voting for the $4 million on this bond as I voted against the others because I don’t know if anyone else is getting the phone calls and emails I’m getting in the city where their jobs are at stake and here we sit trying to borrow another $12.5 million.”
Marino inquired about Cranston’s bonds and how much the city has been approved to borrow.
Igoe said in 2014, 2018 and 2020, voters approved bond money for the Parks and Recreation Department, and the city has a remaining balance of $455,000. Additionally, Igoe said the city currently has $6 million available to borrow in the highway bond and has $2.7 million on hand.
“There are some outstanding invoices that’ll be going against that for the current paving and vehicles that they have purchased,” Igoe said.
Between $2 million and $4 million is spent on infrastructure each year within the city, and Igoe said the city’s last ask for voters was to approve $10 million and, of that, $4 million has been used.
Ferri asked if the city could use money from the rainy day fund should the bonds not be approved and there was an immediate issue that needed to be addressed.
“You could use rainy day fund money, but you would have to replenish it in the next budget cycle,” said Solicitor Stephen Angell. “It’s only for the rare emergency purposes...you would have to exhaust all other possibilities for it to be an emergency.”
Ferri asked Igoe how much the interest would be incurred from borrowing funds. Igoe said there is no way to develop that number considering the fluctuations of the current interest rates. The city would only know that value come the time they city went out to bond.
Should the bonds be approved by the council and passed by voters, the earliest the administration could go out for bonding would be August 2023.
Nick Lima, registrar and director of elections, said two charter questions were adopted in 2020 for the 2022 ballot. One question is on the notification for council meetings and calling of special meetings and the second is on eliminating a duplicate requirement for campaign finance filings for the city clerk’s office; both questions were kept off the 2020 ballot due to the ballot’s length.
Lima told the committee that any questions the council would like on the ballot should be submitted to him by mid-July. On July 28, the Board of Canvassers will hold a meeting to certify all ballot questions for the November election since certified questions have to be sent to the state by Aug. 10. Any questions submitted after that date would not be eligible for this year’s ballot.
The four bond questions brought before the finance committee will now go before the full council.