By MICHAEL W. FAVICCHIO In response to many communications received by all members of the City Council concerning the recently passed budget and now the recent suggestions made by some to defund the Police Department to provide more money for schools I
In response to many communications received by all members of the City Council concerning the recently passed budget and now the recent suggestions made by some to defund the Police Department to provide more money for schools I felt, in my capacity, as vice president of the City Council and Finance Committee chair, compelled to respond to those communications and requests.
With regard to the budget adoption, in which I had the unenviable task of requesting a vote to decrease school revenues and expenditures by approximately $4.1 million, the council weighed the delicate issues it faced. As a result of the pandemic we still are not sure what funding will be received from the state, which in turn is depending on the federal government for assistance. At the same time tax bills are required to be sent to taxpayers to keep the city operational. The only prudent action the council could have taken was to base the budget on what revenues we were certain to receive. To do otherwise would be imprudent, and would certainly result in a tax increase which, worse yet for our citizens, would need to be in the form of a supplemental tax in the middle of fiscal year, should we receive only a portion of the state funding. We will, however, fight to obtain the additional monies requested by the School Committee, which the council believes should come from the state and go directly to the schools solely for the benefit of education.
Some have suggested the school department’s requests for additional funding have not been met, while the police requests have been satisfied. First, comparing the police budget to the school department budget involves much different budgetary requirements and constraints and therefore is not at all a fair comparison. Second, it should not be lost on the residents and taxpayers of this city that approximately 54 percent of the city’s budget goes solely and directly to the school system. With the recent budget close to $300 million, the school system accounts for around $180 million. Requests have been made over the years for millions more dollars. But the simple truth is that it is not fair or practical for the taxpayers to shoulder the burden for large tax increases every year. Even small percentage increases of a $185 million budget can be devastating. Councilman Brady indicated in some of his responses that “with revenues significantly declining due to COVID-19 and state aid also potentially declining every department including the police had to make sacrifices. I think everyone in this message would agree we wish we had more funding to give the school department.”
Numerous emails were sent requesting defunding the police department. This suggestion is just plain dangerous. While all of us feel what happened in Minneapolis was horrific and avoidable, we have to exercise sound judgment in managing the city. My questions to those that propose having no police are simple. Who would you call if your home or car were broken into? Who would you call if you were a victim of domestic abuse or sexual assault? Who would you call if there were an active shooter in one of our schools? I trust the answer is clear.
Moreover, our resource officers work closely with the school administration to protect the students. In fact, we held numerous hearings on our City and School Buildings Safety Committee listening to students, educators and all departments of government, resulting in more resource officers and social workers for the schools.
In addition, our city is always seeking to hire minority police officers. That effort will bring diverse perspective to the police department, which I believe brings long-term change. Our command staff is highly professional and is very interactive with the community they serve. We all need to step back and employ common sense in dealing with problems in our city. That is what we do on the council and will continue to do.
Michael W. Favicchio represents Ward 6 on the Cranston City Council and serves as the body’s vice president.