Amid Financial Crisis, Cranston Ponders New Fees for Small Business

UPDATE: The City Council had a tie on the business fee ordinance — 4 to 4 with Pelletier not voting. Here is a link to the article in the Projo.

Geoff Schoos has done us the favor of providing a well-formed opinion on the proposed regulation of all businesses in Cranston being considered by our City Council:

Cranston City Council Alert

Maybe you saw this in Wednesday’s paper, maybe you didn’t. But on Monday, the Cranston City Council will vote on a resolution to request that the General Assembly grant permission for the city to impose a new “regulation” on all local businesses.

You can read the projo article here: link to Projo article.

Or the Cranston Herald article here: Link to Herald article.

Associated with this regulatory scheme is a “Fee” of an undetermined amount. We’re assured that it will be “modest” but modest is in the eye of the beholder. If you’re a small business struggling to keep the doors open, the last thing you need is a “modest” fee associated with a “regulation.”

In the interests of full disclosure, I no longer operate a Cranston-based business. Last month, I relocated to the “dark side”. That’s right, I’ve moved my agency to Warwick. As a result, I have no “skin” in the fate of this resolution one way or the other.

Currently, this regulation/fee will affect all businesses. So, if you run a non-profit agency, you might be lumped in with the for-profit businesses. Mom & Pop stores, auto mechanics, doctors, lawyers, fledgling counseling businesses all could be brought under the regulation.

While I think I understand the motives of the proponents of this regulation, I assert that this is the wrong move at the wrong time. When small businesses are looking for help just to stay open, this amounts to a kick in the slats. Maybe some time when things are better, for a purpose more clearly defined, such a proposal could have some merit. But not now.

If you are a small business owner, you should go to Monday’s council meeting and tell them what you think. This is your opportunity to make yourself heard before the enactment of a new ordinance/regulation instead of complaining about it after it is implemented.

My own personal opinion, and yes I do have a dog in the fight as a fledgling business owner in Cranston, is: please, no new forms to fill out and things to file and charges to pay! As a health professional and a school certified social worker, small businesses like mine are already heavily regulated — to the tune of about $800 a year in associated licensing, malpractice, and organizational fees. There is no reason for paying another fee to Cranston.

If the Cranston City Council wants to help business development by setting up a free online registration for Cranston businesses, that might be a relatively easy and inexpensive way to keep track of things and possibly help promote the wide variety of services available in the city. Beyond that, I think our local government should let us churn our little wheels of employment without added fees.

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50 responses

  1. Sure, the city council can say they didn’t raise taxes. They just levied more fees and increased the fines on parking tickets and traffic violations. Very creative.

  2. Short sighted and narrow minded politicians. If the Herald is right about a commission to study bringing new business in is right, it should be tabled until then.

  3. I have no problem with raising parking/traffic fines. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

    However, I do object to raising fees like this at the same time the general assembly is talking about additional tax cuts for high-end earners.

    That’s borderline criminal. And stupid. And it assumes we’re all stupid, too.

  4. I do have a problem with raising the fines. Something as harmless as parking overnight in front of your house goes from $15 to $50. It is ridiculous.

    The other issue I have is the council is raising rates, but don’t know how much the city takes in from traffic fines. The revenue from the municipal court is apparently lumped into one big pool of money.

    Again, they are being gutless by raising and creating fees in an attempt to look like taxes are not going up. Where are the cuts?

  5. Resident permit parking would be good for me, and generate revenue without the cops having to ticket. I’d be happy to pay once a year and not have to worry, living in congested Providence in a 100 year old house, without even a barn or a hitching post.

  6. Kiersten,
    I like your idea of the online registration process. The issue facing all local and state governments right now is how to bring and revenue during this crisis. Hopefully all elected officials stop to think how anything proposed will affect us in the long run.

    Some Band-Aid quick fixes can cause more damage than good if not properly studied for long-term ramifications.

  7. Don,
    What I found odd was a huge increase in things like overnight parking, but a smaller increase in offenses that actually cause safety issues.

  8. Sorry, Don. Parking on the street is illegal. There are times I can barely squeeze my car down the street. What if a fire truck needs to get up my street at 2:00 am, but can’t because the street is blocked by parked cars?

    Why is this ridiculous? Because it inconveniences you?

    Raising fines on stuff that’s illegal is “fine” by me.

    And, Rachel, I wouldn’t have a problem with a bit more enforcing of traffic laws, either. It’s dangerous to drive. People don’t pay enough attention. They take stupid chances. Enforcing traffic laws would be a good thing. And if your insurance goes up because of a ticket, that’s not exactly my problem.

    And revoke the tax cuts on the top end of the income scale. They benefit the most from public goods. They should pay a bigger share than the rest of us. That’s called ‘progressive taxation.’

    See, Don, we have to raise revenue. How many times do we need to make that point? There is no way we can cut expenses enough to get out of the mess we’re in. And the mess was, ultimately, caused by cutting taxes.

    You don’t want to raise taxes. You don’t want to raise fees that might affect you. You don’t have any constructive suggestions for raising revenue. We’re getting awfully close to Republican magical thinking here: don’t raise anything and somehow cut our way to solvency. Sure. That will happen. A 20% co-pay will help, but it’s not enough by itself.

  9. Klaus,

    We can agree to disagree. I live on a side street that isn’t narrow. A couple of years ago, I was doing a home improvement project on my house. I had a 20 ft. dumpster in the driveway. I parked one of my cars on the street overnight, and I got tagged. Could the police officer have used a bit of discretion in that situation? He couldn’t have missed the dumpster in my driveway.

    So my concern is they are jacking up the fines, and then will encourage the police force to tag, tag, tag. Traffic fines should not be treated as a source of revenue. They are there to enforce safety. They should not be excessive, and discretion should be allowed in many circumstances. But if they become a source of revenue, discretion goes out the window. Why don’t we go the way of Virgina and make speeding tickets $300 too.

    You speak of a progressive tax scale above. Who do you think raising fines adversely affects the most? Most likely the people that can least afford it. Also, why do we need to raise fines to be on par with Providence? Will we get a municipal judge like Caprio that will reduce or throw out fines as well?

    I am not against raising taxes. I can see the situation the city is in. Frankly, if I knew the upcoming tax increase was going to go towards the schools (but not to increase teachers’ salaries), I would be 100% for it no questions asked. But, a tax increase should not be used to increase salaries for public employess when we are in a recession. Not when private sector employees are receiving tax cuts or layoffs. If there is a tax increase, I would like to see what the projected increase in revenue will be, and a budget of what the increase will be targeted for.

    Also, cuts should be made as well. One idea is to mothball the branch libraries. That would save the city about $1 mil in salaries. Reopen them when tax revenues are back up. Any contact that is up for negotiation should be level funded for the next 3 years.

    As for raising revenue, the one thing that won’t do it is increasing fees on businesses. Sure, let’s make it harder on the businesses that are here and scare off any prospective businesses by increasing fees. Increasing revenue means attracting businesses to the city. I am hopeful that Stop and Shop builds in Cranston (although I wasn’t for changing the ordinance). I have made suggestions of using Horton School as a small business incubator. We need to attract stores to Garden City to replace Circuit City, Linens & Things. That is probably $30k in lost tax dollars right there. Streamline government processes. It shouldn’t have to take 6 months to get a permit approved.

  10. Jesse from Cranston | Reply

    A couple of notes…

    First, the police department and municipal court ARE listed in the city budget for the revenues they generate. In the FY09 budget, police revenue is listed at $416,026 and municipal court is listed at $575,000. If I’m not mistaken, parking ticket payments are credited to the police department, whereas court fees for high-speed violations or handicapped tag misuse (or appealed traffic stops) go to the court.

    Here’s the city budget link — see page 6 of the .pdf, page 2 as printed on the document:

    http://www.cranstonri.com/pdf/hottopics/FY09%20Adopted%20Budget.pdf

    So, overall, the city takes in less than $1 million in vehicle-related fines. I support the idea of bringing Cranston’s fines in line with other communities, which seems to be the rationale from the Council. And if it adds even another $400,000 to the revenue total, I’m for it.

    Also, I’m with klaus — follow the law, and you won’t have to worry about the fines. It’s not so hard to contact the PD and tell them you have a dumpster in your driveway — a neighbor of mine recently did this when he had his roof replaced, and he had no problem from the 5-0s.

    Next, specific to this point: “Frankly, if I knew the upcoming tax increase was going to go towards the schools (but not to increase teachers’ salaries), I would be 100% for it no questions asked.”

    I’ve made the point numerous times that there are more effective ways to trim the school budget than cut teacher pay. Comment #28 on the following thread is the most recent:

    http://kmareka.com/?p=2706#comments

    I find it unimaginative to insist that teachers must somehow shoulder the burden of budget cuts when administrators can escape any kind of scrutiny. And, lest we forget, it was the school committee that negotiates contracts. They could grow a spine, you know.

    Lastly, I don’t agree with the idea of closing library branches. If anything, it is MORE important in a recession that people (particularly those out of work) have access to resources that can help them — including use of public computers to search job sites, college and university information to look into new educational opportunities, and free resources to improve literacy, learn English, and receive public assistance. Those resources are only available at publicly-financed libraries.

    That $1 million in spending — whether you know it or not — could be the main engine to helping put people back to work, or, at very least, improving their station in life. Not to mention, parents tend to push their kids to read more and learn more in tough economic times to help improve the kids’ work potential down the road. Telling them to spend money at Border’s isn’t the solution.

    If anything, we need more libraries. The planned branch near Cranston Print Works should be built, and soon. Cutting vital services to those most in need only hurts the city more.

  11. Jesse, Klaus, Don, and all,
    Billon points here… rules are rules, if the rule states that there is no overnight parking, then don’t park in the street. There have been a number of times when I needed to park in the street overnight (dumpster, re-done driveway, out of town visitors) and I notified the police dept and lo and behold I did NOT find a ticket under my wiper the following morning. I agree with Jesse and Klaus, our city’s teachers are NOT the villans here. I do not want to see a situation similar to the one in E.P. unfold here. I fear that if the EP teachers prevail at the state Labor Board hearings it will actually play into the hands of the school committee and they, the teachers, will be portrayed as greedy and overpaid, instead of the 6-figure suits in the school administration and our school dept. is just as top-heavy salary wise. Lastly “mothballing” our libraries is perhaps the most short-sighted idea I have ever seen posted on this blog. Our libraries are there for those in need in both good times and bad and are in my opinion one of our most valuable assets. As far as the language-bending/ word-changing ordinance 7-08-2 (the Stop & Shop ordinance for lack of a better name),
    I think our Council got too “cute” for their own good.
    If Churchill and Banks had simply gone about getting a variance in the traditional manner, or if our Planning Dept. had sought a zoning change—complete WITH resident imput, I think that the ground breaking on the project might have already taken place. Couple Council’s arguement that we (Cranston) need to become more business friendly with their new pet-project to impose a “registration fee” on all businesses in our city and Council starts to look (pick your descriptive phrase) schizophrenic/spineless/confused/grasping at straws/or my favorite “rudderless”.

  12. the libraries are a public service we can’t afford to do without. no one would dare mess with Rochambeau because enraged East Siders would clog up city hall. but all of them are a supplement to public education and a resource for everyone.

  13. I had only heard of Providence’s “grand” library idea, I didn’t know Cranston was considering it. I too had heard of a potential (desired) library at Cranston Print Works.

  14. As for the business fee, I have been told the Journal didn’t get the story right on the amount of the fee. Someone in the know told me it would most likely be $25 or $50. This fee for the license would be used as leverage in the case taxes are owed by the business (like how you can’t register your car if you owe the city taxes). If this is the case, then I am for the fee. In the end, this will help the city collect missing revenue.

    Who said anything about the teachers being villains. When 89% of your total budget goes to compensation and benefits, and the other 11% has been cut to the bone, there is no other place to go. The bottom line is, the school committee will end up asking the city council for $4 million over last year, and it is not going to happen. So try finding $4 million in savings without meaningful concessions from the employees. Most non-classified employees in the school dept. have either seen cuts or level funding of their salaries in the last budgets. And it’s not just the teachers. If you look in the school committee minutes from Jan. 20, I challenged Mr. Scherza to take a pay cut like his direct reports did 2 years ago.

  15. Or like you can’t register your car if you have unpaid overnight parking tickets?

  16. I paid my ticket Dick. Nice snark there though.

  17. I wasn’t snarking dick, err Don… but now I have.

  18. Actually Richard, I apologize. I should have taken a breath before I posted.

  19. Okay Don, Richard, Dick, Tom and Harry,

    Time to get the conversation focused back on the issue. So Don, your “in the know” person explains the value of this new regulation is that then we can get taxes, by which I’m assuming you mean property taxes, out of all our local businesses. Here’s my question: aren’t most local business owners renters in the city? Aren’t most of the business properties in the city owned by a handful of landlords? So in order to make sure we collect all the taxes, we are going to start a way of tracking every business in Cranston and whether they’ve paid their $50 yearly fee and whether the property they are in has its taxes paid, and if not, then what?

    I have yet to hear the purpose of this regulation adequately defined. We’ve heard it’s going to make businesses good neighbors, it’s going to make businesses more accountable for taxes, but I ask — how? At what cost all this enforcement?

    And don’t we already have a way of making all properties in the city accountable, in the form of tax liens? If businesses aren’t paying their property taxes, why doesn’t the city put a lien on them like they do a house?

  20. I believe it is the collection of tangible taxes, not property taxes. Other than using bill collectors, there isn’t a way to put leverage on businesses that don’t pay their tangible taxes. Apparently applying for a license every year allows this leverage.

  21. Interesting, it sounds like there is a lot more to be discussed about the business “tax” and hopefully it will all be clarified. It should be a wild night in Council Chambers tomorrow night:)

  22. Ghost of Christmas Future | Reply

    In the end, it’s the consumer that pays for all taxes levied on business in the form of higher prices. Economics 101….. Open your check books.

  23. Don,
    An apology accepted and an apology extended as well…

  24. I agree with Kiersten, let’s get back on topic.

    First, the bottom line question is the relationship of the “fee” to the “regulation”. Going to Don’s point, even if the fee is “modest” in the $ 25 – $ 50 range, just exactly how does that pertain to “regulating” businesses in Cranston? There are numerous state and local processes ranging from licensing to zoning to permitting to ensure that businesses become “good neighbors.” Such a scheme as proposed here would not have prevented the Cullion debacle. The city was very much involved in that issue and, in some ways, abetted Cullion in his quest to locate his plant. I don’t think “good neighbors” entered into the city’s analysis of the building permit or the zoning regulations.

    As for enforcement, I took a (very) cursory review of relevant state law, the city charter, and the city ordinances. While there is authority to set and collect taxes, I could find no specific authority to enforce that collection. However, I would assert that government’s power in enforcing its laws is inherent. In order to protect the due process rights of the delinquent taxpayer, perhaps definition of the process employed to collect delinquent taxes ought to be spelled out – but that doesn’t require a separate fee. And perhaps in that process, part of the penalty could be the reimbursement to the city of the costs of collection. That would seem to be a better method to get at the folks you want to get at rather than a broad-based “fee”.

    As for getting at “home-based” businesses flying under the radar, I can attest from personal experience that the city does just fine. I ran my private practice out of my home for a few years and the city had no problem locating me to send me the tangible property inventory and assets form. Every year I’d turn the form over to my accountant, who would complete it and send it to the Tax Collector on my behalf. And every year I would get a bill from the city, which I paid.

    If regulation is the purpose, that can be accomplished with no fee. Impose a penalty for failure to register and apply the fines to the operation of the registration/regulation program. Collections of fines could at least offset the administrative costs of the program.

    I think what’s bothersome about this fee proposal is that the city already knows for the most part who is doing business in Cranston. Without question, the vast majority of businesses is known to the city, pay their taxes, obtain relevant licenses and permits, etc. What this fee does is impose a financial burden on those who follow the law, do the right things, in order to subsidize the cost of getting at the miscreant businesses that try to fly under the radar. That seems inherently unfair.

    If the goal is regulation, then there are other ways to go about it. If the goal is raising money for the city, then this fee will do so. I just think the proponents of this resolution (to eventually become ordinance) should provide some clarity as to the purpose of this proposal and details of which businesses will be affected and how the “regulation” will work, along with detailing the relationship of the fee to the actual regulatory process.

  25. Are there any other cities/towns in RI that have a “fee” similar that is mostly geared towards regulating home-based businesses?

    Is there anyone in the GA that has agreed to sponsor this if it passes the Council?

  26. Jesse from Cranston | Reply

    Kiersten et. al.:

    Trying to root out home-based businesses by imposing a fee for permits will not work. As one example, consider the eBay seller. How is the city going to prove that their PC is their “business equipment” — and then try to tax it?

    That is the ultimate point of all this — to raise taxes. Overall, though, it would be a drop in the bucket.* I’d also argue that we can ill afford another layer of bureaucratic “enforcement” that doesn’t even justify itself financially.

    What worries me the most is, how much revenue does the City Council expect this to create? I hope it’s not just some arbitrary number that becomes part of next year’s budget estimates.

    And on a side note, where is Mrs. Fogarty’s alternative? Didn’t she have some kind of fiscal plan as a candidate? Why not try to suggest it now? I mean, didn’t she run on the same ticket as the 9-0 Dem Council?

    (Lest anyone ask, my alternative is the one I’ve been crowing about for months: Cut school administrative costs. Why can’t the City Council ask the state for power to negotiate directly with school administrators?)

    *Now, the background:

    The current state of taxation in Cranston is that businesses are taxed by value of property (the same way residential properties are) and by tangible taxes. Tangible taxes are levied on office furniture, specialized equipment, etc.

    Cranston’s value of tangible property is currently $270 million. By comparison, all property in the city (residential and commercial) is valued at about $8 billion.

    Even considering the exemptions (including homstead and veteran exemptions), this property value generates $169 million in taxes. Only a small portion of that comes from the tangible tax, is the point.

    Here’s the link for the valuation info: http://www.cranstonri.com/pdf/taxroll_2008/TaxRoll2008_totals.pdf

    I’ve posted the city budget link before; see page 5 of the .pdf for the tax levy information.

  27. Jesse from Cranston | Reply

    P.S. There’s been some developments in the school budget situation — the ProJo reported on $3.5 million in cuts identified by the recent audit ordered as part of the Caruolo suit.

    It’s also reported (buried in the article, natch) that the school board and teachers’ union are headed to mediation over the pending contract.

    Link: http://www.projo.com/ri/cranston/content/CRANSTON_SCHOOLS_AUDIT_02-16-09_NNDAP4I_v29.3846c2e.html

  28. I couldn’t make last night’s meeting and just read the ProJo article. Did Pelletier abstain from voting or was he not there for the vote? Just curious.

  29. Pelletier spoke out against the resolution. I had to leave at 9pm when deliberations were still on going. I think he must have left.

  30. I also forgot to ask, how did the votes go? 4-4

    Thanks for the update, Don.

  31. 4-4. Navarro, Lupino, Lanni, Livingston for. Aceto, Archetto, Bergin-Andrews, Santamaria against.

  32. I had to leave the council meeting just before 9:00 as well, and Pelletier did speak against the resolution as did Bergen-Andrews and Archetto. Evidently the 3 newly -elected councilpersons speaking against the resolution ruffled a few feathers among the “veteran” council members. Lupino scolded Bergen-Andrews and Pelletier for sounding off, stating “As the Majority Leader on this council, I strongly recommend that you reconsider your positions”. Which prompted a friend of mine to comment to me that the table where Pelletier, Bergen-Andrews, Aceto, and Archetto were sitting was being treated like “the kids table”. As I stated earlier in this post I am having a difficult time reading this council. Thus far it appears as that they have pro-business leanings (no business registration fee/ definition change to aid development)… it was just a few months ago that Aceto,Lupino, Lanni, and Pelletier fought tooth and nail to stop the Phenix Terrace project, but now appear to have had a change of heart when it comes to preserving our neighborhoods. Initially I didn’t buy into Kiersten’s notion that council’s support of the residents of Natick/Phenix Avenues was an eastern Cranston v. western Cranston/ wealthy v.”low-moderate” battle, but I think I’m having a change of heart as well.

  33. Correct me if I am wrong, but wouldn’t the difference be that Phenix Terrace was a residential project that would add to the city’s tax burden by adding additional children in the school and requiring more services by the city vs. a business development that for the most part would be adding tax revenue to the city with minimal requirements in services (ignoring the environmental aspects)?

  34. Also, one thing that occured to me if the general business license resolution passed last night was that it would be a trojan horse. Mr. Livingston argued that this was just a resolution to seek permission from the G.A. to institute a general business license. He said once the G.A. allowed Cranston to do that, we could discuss particulars.

    But why put the cart before the horse. Why not have the particulars up front? You don’t send something to the G.A. unless you have a specific plan in mind. I’m also curious where the $100 in the Projo article came from.

    Next year’s deficit is projected to be even worse than this year’s. What if property taxes are raised to the maximum allowed, and the budget still cannot be balanced? Would fees that don’t fall under this cap be raised to cover any shortfalls?

    Also, I’m curious how much of the $400K in tangible taxes that they said were unpaid for last year are from businesses that have gone under? Would we even see that money anyway? Probably not

    I know I said earlier in this thread if the fees were low, I was in favor of it. But after further thinking, I’m happy this measure wasn’t passed.

  35. Don, to the 2/24 5:15 post:
    If one was to believe the projections of the developer (E.A.Fish)the Phenix Terrace proposal would have brought additional tax revenues into the city as well. Granted the developers, during their powerpoint presentation, estimated that only 8 school-aged children would reside in the 198 unit apartment complex; call me a cynic, but the 8 student figure is a real stretch. In all likelyhood the projected additional tax revenue for the Phenix Terrace proposal would never be realized. The Warwick Avenue Stop & Shop projections, based on the larger Phenix/Atwells Ave, S&S, would have come in at under $200,000 p/year (Santamaria used a $200k + 13K in water/sewer charges–which in my opinion, the 13k h20/sewer should not be counted as additional revenue–based on the figures released from the Atwells S&S, in his article with the ProJo). The Sierra Club has a formula they use in figuring out the actual amount of additional tax relief projects bring into a community using initial city costs(infrastructure improvements/police,fire,rescue, the cost of educating children of a stores employees, etc…)and when the numbers projected are plugged into the equation it is really quite surprising how little tax relief large developments truly offer a city.

  36. Don,(5:34 post)
    This is just an educated guess on my part…but in the ProJo article I believe it was the owner of Roman Jewelers on Reservoir that stated that he currently pays $100 per year in fees to sell used goods. I would guess items sold from estate sales and the like might fall under the used goods umbrella.
    I believe that Livingston attempted to explain the reasoning behind submitting a proposal to the GA that did not include an actual dollar amount, but apparently neither those in attendance nor those on council that voted against the measure bought his explaination. The trojan horse analogy is a good one; both Livingston and Lanni threw around small potato figures ($10,$20,$30), but once they receive it back from the assembly the council will be the ones setting the price. When Pelletier stated his opposition to the fee and suggested instead a nominal fee of $1, there were a number of prominent jaws whacking the chamber floor, OUCH.

  37. Jesse from Cranston | Reply

    Somebody ought to remind Mr. Lupino that he was only elected to the Council two years ago. That whole “as majority leader” stuff really has no place in a Council meeting.

    Thanks for the reporting, folks.

  38. Not to mention when there isn’t a minority.

  39. Isn’t the job of the majority leader to get the message out as far as what the council is standing for (since it is a 9-0 council)? If so, he totally botched the business license resolution. The one he should be scolding is himself for not getting in front of it if this resolution was that important.

  40. What should also not be lost was Mr. Lupino’s comment that “if a Cranston business can not afford a $10 nominal fee, they they should find a new location.” Does that sound pro business to anyone?

  41. Ghost of Christmas Future | Reply

    Jim, sound like typical “open mouth, insert foot” politics to me……………

  42. Jesse from Cranston | Reply

    It looks as if, yet again, Cranston’s leaders are going to allow a real opportunity for progress to slip away.

    Evidence provided by the ProJo:

    1. Fung blames “budget trouble” on Napolitano. Because, you know, nothing says “I’m addressing the situation” like “It’s all his fault.”

    http://www.projo.com/ri/cranston/content/CRANSTON_SHORTFALL_03-02-09_TKDFTU6_v124.31824fe.html

    2. School committee passes last-minute budget that reinstates politically popular programs, leaves admin costs untouched and hopes for union concession to save their tails. Although, to be fair, giving up on a $24,000-a-year courier (!!!) is quite a sacrifice.

    http://www.projo.com/ri/cranston/content/CRANSTON_SCHOOL_BUDGET.1_02-27-09_HHDF3FD_v34.378aa2c.html

  43. The city council passed the budget we are currently operating under prior to July, 2008. Who was mayor at that time? Napolitano had a mandate from the city council to seek $1.5 million in concessions from the city bargaining units? Did he get any? No. So where does the blame lie? On a mayor that has been in office 2 months? Of course, the laborers’ contract was negotiated by Napolitano and approved by the city council in Nov. Any concessions there?

    Really, EPIC and elementary strings are politically popular programs? You mean, they have advocacy groups and lobbyists fighting to make those programs mandated by state and federal law? I see items such as Title I mandates, IDEA mandates, IEP mandates. Where are the music and advanced learning advocacy groups?

    No, it is not that they are politically popular. Or why else to they end up on the chopping block every budget cycle? It is that they are not political at all, not mandated, and thus an easy target come reduction time. Thankfully, the school committee realized that eliminating these programs degrades the quality of education the school system provides. I was at the school committee meeting. Whatever reinstatement was made, it was equaled by a cut somewhere else.

    You allude to admin costs being untouched? Central custodial saw a $90K reduction in their budget. And yes, they eliminated the $24K on the courier service to pick up the daily lunch receipts from the schools. While I would agree that the Supt. should see a cut in pay (as his direct reports took one two years ago), where else would these cuts come from?

    As far the $1.2 million in concessions, secretaries will see their health co-pay go from 3% to 8% and teachers will go from %5 to 10%. Given that Frank Flynn was in attendance and didn’t fly down the aisle to voice his opposition, I suspect there some sort of agreement in place. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go far enough.

  44. …Unfortunately, it doesn’t go far enough….

    Don, couldn’t agree more. I think that part of me has trouble dealing with all of this because I have the sense that, really, all we’re doing is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    (Sorry about the cliche, but it’s just too apt.)

    Listening to the backa and forth over the past few years, I am led to the conclusion that our problems cannot be solved at the local level. Nothing short of a truly radical reorganization of…pretty much everything is truly going to help.

    39 school districts. Everyone says it’s a good idea, but no one wants it to happen. Well, people, it’s getting to the point where it–or something very similar–has got to happen. I will say it again: the problems we are facing were not created at the local level. Therefore, they probably cannot be solved at the local level.

    Once again, we’re on B-Deck arguing about who has to give up the comfy deck chair. East Prov is doing the same thing on C-Deck. In the meantime, the ship is sinking.

    I know, I know. Tradition. Local Control. Well guess what? Nice stuff, but maybe it’s time to look at the bigger picture here. I mean, 1 million people isn’t even a particuarly large city. And yet, we’ve carved it up into 39 separate entities? Anyone ever heard of economies of scale?

    Heck, I’ll go one further: abolish all the separate city governments. Run the whole state as a single political entity. But that can’t happen. Some metaphorically) gated communities would find themselves rubbing shoulders with the great unwashed. Can’t have that, now can we?

    What’s up in E Greenwich? Or Barrington? Or Little Compton? Or Lincoln? Are they having these problems? If not, why not?

  45. Rachel McNally | Reply

    According to today’s ProJo (sorry for not including the link), the Police Union and Mayor’s office have reached an agreement on a new 3-year contract.

  46. I read the Projo article. Fung said it saves the taxpayers $1.6 million over three years, but that is a vague statement. Does it save $1.6 million from what the projected cost of the new contract was going to be? Or is the cost of the new contract $1.6 million less than the expired one?

  47. Kristen made the point – As a City, how can we better track businesses, landlords et al. to collect fines? Well, this is hardly a job for our Council to address when you have people like John Lanni saying carte blanch that “buses can go anywhere” there is really nothing anyone can do attitude]; or mini king Lupino who makes “foot in mouth”, I disagree, arrogant/purposeful/plain mean comments such as those in reference to the Natick Bridge room of 100 angry residents “Be careful what you wish for, because there will be more traffic [inferring to the City fixing the bridge problem]” and so many other thoughtless comments. I don’t need to enumerate on the new King, mini-King and Court…but let’s just say after Councilman Santimaria’s variance of the Stop & Shop we are not in for resident voices to be heard.

    Klaus’ point of 39-5 was even talked about by by first female Senate Speaker Poison Weed that she too thinks we should look at this. DA! Yah, how long have we been talking about this here, darn right radical thinking needs to be acted on, not pontificated about – just do it.

    I. The City does not follow the Snow Removal Ordinance:
    12.16.010 Snow and ice–Removal of snow–Penalty.

    The owner, occupant or an building or lot of land bordering on any street, highway, square or public place where there is a sidewalk supported by curbing, shall, within the first twenty-four (24) hours after any snow has ceased to fall, cause the snow to be removed from the sidewalk adjoining such building or lot of land.

    NOTE: You will note there is a pathetic fine of $20 and the structure of this fine is archaic. The businesses (ex: Park and Reservoir intersection) continue to disregard this Ordinance and pedestrians are forced to walk dangerously in the busy road. I can think of 2 publicized incidents over the last several years which are below. We must protect mother’s walking children to the bus, the elderly – literally everyone in Cranston and this oversight and neglect of the “City to collect fines” is shameful. (Note, Providence had this issue last year and actually mailed letters to businesses with a warning and the police were going to issue tickets – WHO does this in Cranston, how many fines have been given, how much generated…these are just rhetorical, no need to answer this one) I have brought this up at previous council meetings and inquired are notices sent to the businesses and then are they fined on the 2ND complaint? I was told by Councilman at Large that this would not be a “business friendly act” because it is hard enough to get businesses here. Sorry, that’s gobbledygook and you want to generate revenues and have our City run like a City that cares about the residents -then protect them please. I reached out as recently to Councilwoman Michele Begin-Andrews who agreed with me, but I have not heard anything more on this issue. Where exactly do we stand on this – wouldn’t fines help offset the costs for our DPW?

    We need to be part of the solution and many above state some great vision, however, I think it is LOST on the current council voices that are representative of entities like Churchill & Banks, Domestic Bank, Cullion and the like.

    II. Pulling Permits. Just like the Recycling Program (John D.) whom has saved the City $$$, I believe there was someone whom entered our homes and it was re=assessed. Is there someone that cross-references the downstairs being finished or partially with the new assessment that was done? Example, I am recently living as a tenant in a house which never pulled the permit for the finished basement. This is an Ordinance that is also finable. Surely, having someone go out and play cop or cross reference information – there is money to be had like the recycling guy found and the salary would be paid for by the money they generate.

    III. Under the Landlord/Tenant Guidelines there is money to be had if you find out whom the Out-of-State Landlord’s are that have NOT filed a Non Resident Property Agent. There is a $500 fee for such breach of duty. Until recent, I had not had a reason to know this information and I found myself needing help and the Cranston Building Dept. (Jim Holt) was exceptionally helpful and I learned about the $500, but the Tenant needs to know about this in order to report it. There must be a way to cross-reference to collect revenue.

    In closing, I would like to express my distress in hearing the Mayor say “fun things” will be the one’s cut like the pool. I know this is not something any of us want, however, I do believe we can generate more money in different venues rather than …take to the wand.

    For instance, where does the money go for the $53,000 unclaimed Cranston Lotto ticket? Why doesn’t the School Committee JUMP on this to go to their fund? Where does it go, and where has the money in the past gone???

    Also, we pay $$$$ for the ACI to utilize services which must be expensive over the year of our Police and Fire – this is all FREE. The Council needs to come up with a better plan period.

    Come’on Jesse – you should know some of these answers as you have lived here a long time. Please enlighten me-thank you!

    “Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.â€? Conrad Hilton

  48. sorry to be so long, I have been holding it in – LOL!

  49. Jesse from Cranston | Reply

    Don:

    Rather than refute my point, as I think you actually intended, you proved it — why are we talking about who to blame? I know it’s convenient to find a scapegoat, but where does it get us? Besides, it was the Council that put the $1.5 million line item in the budget (don’t take this as defending Nap, he really should have done a better job at contract negotiations).

    And yes, I think those school programs ARE politically popular, or else they wouldn’t get the attention every year — when the school board does this kind of thing every year, all I see is a cynical ploy to bring out local parents, get them riled up against the city, and generate a few “Woe Are We” headlines in the ProJo.

    I have previously pointed out that administrative costs, not counting salaries, total somewhere north of $30 million in the $130 million school budget. Sorry, but $1.2 million in secretary and teacher co-pays won’t reduce those costs. Neither will $114,000 in custodial layoffs. Putting personnel and budget operations under city control will.

  50. Jesse from Cranston | Reply

    Suzanne:

    I’m flattered that you ask for my input on your concerns.

    I. The city has been criticized for poor snow removal enforcement for as long as I can remember. I, too, think this would be an excellent opportunity to 1.) improve pedestrian safety and 2.) raise money for the city.

    II. To my knowledge, finishing a basement generally does not require pulling a permit. There would have to be some sort of mechanical, plumbing, or electrical installation on a fairly large scale to require it. Putting up some paneling and hanging a couple of lights from existing electrical junction boxes would probably not require a new permit.

    On the other hand, I see your point about enforcement of permit-less construction and renovations. Here’s the problem — Cranston has no quick way to issue permits. There’s also the reputation (fairly or unfairly) of Cranston as somewhere that “you have to buy a ticket to see the show,” if you get my drift. Then, places like Home Depot lead homeowners to believe that they can just do whatever they want, regulations be damned.

    And finally, who wants to pull a permit when it means they’ll have to pay higher taxes? When you put it all together, it’s understandable that some people will just build or renovate with no concern for following city permitting procedures.

    III. The state pays Cranston PILOT funds (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) for hosting the ACI & state offices at the Pastore Complex — currently $3.8 million. Cranston has been making the argument for years (at the General Assembly and in mayoral campaigns) that it’s not enough because of the fire and police overage we provide. The reply? *Crickets chirping*

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