Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 06-07-2018

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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12 NORTH SMITHFIELD JUNE 7-13, 2018 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION proposed budget came with the cuts of several new positions, notably a $70,000 economic development direc- tor Baldelli-Hunt says is necessary to advance commercial growth in the city. The cut signified a sharp contrast in approaches to economic develop- ment, with members of the adminis- tration claiming a full-time director would boost development in the city, and Cournoyer and several other council members saying only a lower commercial tax rate more in line with the rates of neighboring suburban communities, and not a new position, would accomplish that. "If they're smart, they're going to go to Dowling Village or Smithfield Commons," said Brien, referring to business owners. "What we need to do is lower the commercial rate and get out of the way." Cournoyer's proposed budget includes a 3.3 percent decrease in the overall tax levy from the current fis- cal year. While the amended budget still includes a 5.6 percent increase in the overall commercial tax levy, that increase is significantly smaller than the 15.1 percent increase in the overall commercial tax levy proposed in the mayor's original proposed budget. Cournoyer's proposal would bring the commercial tax rate down to $33.20 per thousand, compared with $36.19 in the mayor's proposed budget. The amended budget also cut a chief of staff position from the mayor's office, but added a "floating" adminis- trative assistant under the council bud- get, along with a full-time grant writ- er/planning analyst in the Planning and Development Department and increased the planning director posi- tion to full-time from four days per week. The amendments also reduced funds dedicated to eradicating blight in the city and added $150,000 for the lease/purchase of three new police cruisers. The remainder of the cuts were achieved through the elimination of "temporary services" funding, a bud- get item across several departments that was questioned by members of the public at last week's public hear- ing. "I just don't understand what the word temporary means. Are we going out hiring temporary help so we don't need to hire people, so we don't have to pay them benefits?" resident Gary Thurber asked of members of the administration during the hearing. While some of those services were clarified to refer to regular part-time positions, such as library administra- tive assistants, others, according to Cournoyer, referred to positions that could be better served by the city's full-time employees. His budget proposal included a 2 percent raise for salaried city employees across all departments, an amendment that low- ered some of the salaries in the may- or's proposed budget and increased others. Despite the changes, the mayor and the council reached a consensus on the addition of a deputy police chief, a new position that came after two years of lobbying by Chief Thomas Oates. Oates told The Breeze the position would assist with ongoing restructur- ing of the police department, hopeful- ly leading to a reduction in overtime. "It's something that the public may not see directly, but there'll be ben- efits that they don't see," he said. The amendments also eliminated the absorption of the firefighters' retirement benefit contributions into the general revenue, a move Cournoyer and other councilors said would have been an inappropriate use of funds dedicated to post-employ- ment benefits. "It is completely irresponsible to say that anyone could or should take that in one lump sum," said Gendron. "Firefighters have contributed of their own money, and it's being wiped out to disguise an election year budget." The proposed budget amendments passed by a 4-3 vote, with council members Christopher Beauchamp, Richard Fagnant and Melissa Murray voting against. Councilors voted to table the final vote until the June 18 meeting and revisit the budget at that time. Several heads of departments pres- ent at the meeting expressed concern with the budget amendments and indicated a desire to meet with council members to discuss the changes prior to June 18. Gendron said he hoped the City Council would be able to reach a consensus with the mayor and members of the administration by that time in order to avoid a veto of the approved budget. On a separate matter, council mem- bers approved Scott MacLennan as a full member of the Zoning Board of Review by a 4-3 vote. MacLennan previously served as an alternate on the Zoning Board, a mayoral appoint- ment that did not have full voting powers. Council members were also considering appointing former City Council President Albert Brien to the vacant seat, but the vote on his appointment was tabled at his request. Council members also voted to appoint Martha Tetreault as a member of the Board of Canvassers and Registration, reappoint Ernest Dispirito as a member of the Library Board of Trustees and reappoint Stephanie Roberts as a member of the Library Board of Trustees. BUDGET From Page One Delicious, Slow-cooked & sliced daily • Sandwiches • Salads • Sides • Desserts Serving Beer & Wine The Ultimate Roast Beef Sandwich! 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