Steve Stycos, member of the Cranston School Committee, provided the following email update on events and issues in our city:
UPDATE FROM STEVE STYCOS
SCHOOL AND LIBRARY BUDGET HEARINGS
Budget hearings for the Cranston schools and the libraries will be held Tuesday April 21 at 7 PM at Cranston East Auditorium (schools) and Thursday April 23 at 7 PM in City Council Chambers (libraries). Public speaking will be allowed.
Budgets set priorities and education and libraries have rated low on the city’s list in recent years. Please let the city council know your priorities. Although Mayor Alan Fung is proposing major cuts in services, he is also proposing a large 6 percent tax increase. In past years, the City Council has tried to reduce proposed tax increases. Not raising taxes, due to cuts in state aid, would be disastrous.
The budget is on the city’s Web site. Spending for libraries and schools will increase a modest 11 percent since 2004. During the same period, spending for police will increase 21 percent and fire spending will jump 30 percent. In an example of fiscal irresponsibility during the two year Napolitano term, city interest and debt and interest payments jumped 56 percent or $1.7 million. It’s fun to spend money (like putting plastic grass on the football field) and then leave other people to pay the bill.
Another example of bad financial management is seen in the $18 million dollars that is budgeted for the unfunded police and fire pensions. If mayors and city councils before Mayor Stephen Laffey had adequately raised taxes to fund the pensions, today the city would have millions of dollars to finance programs and avoid tax increases.
Without adequate funding and major concessions from the teachers union, I expect the school committee will be forced to cut the EPIC program, the elementary music program, elementary guidance couselors, some high school sports, perhaps have some elementary principals cover more than one school and a lot more.
In response to the proposed budget, the library trustees have already closed all branches on Wednesdays and Thursdays, closed the central library on Sundays and stopped purchasing books and CDs.
Some steps I would like to see the mayor and council explore to produce funds for the education and libraries are: 1) a student parking fee at both high schools, 2) a reduction in the $1.2 million street lighting budget, 3) more effort to divert trash to recycling, 4) an energy conservation program like the school program which has saved more than a million dollars in less than two years, and, 5) A reduction in the municipal court salaries which have increased 68 percent in 6 years.
EARTH DAY CLEAN UP
Friends of the Pawtuxet will hold an Earth Day Clean Up Saturday April 18 at 9 AM. We will meet at the DEM Supply Depot, across the river from Shaw’s, 230 Warwick Avenue, Cranston. We will be picking up litter, planting some small trees and doing other trail work. Bring gloves and shovels. We also need yard waste bags. Kids welcome. Stay as long as you like.
Tuesday April 14 we will have a mailing party to prepare the Friends of the Pawtuxet/Farmers Market newsletter. We need help. We will meet at 6PM at the home of Sam and Penelope Hough, 25 Berwick Lane, off Broad Street in Edgewood. Feel free to come late, or leave early.