Let’s talk about the budget

Posted 5/17/22

By Nicole Renzulli

I simply cannot bite my tongue any longer. I need to express my utter disgust with the Democratic Caucus of the Cranston City Council for chasing headlines instead of budget …

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Let’s talk about the budget


By Nicole Renzulli

I simply cannot bite my tongue any longer. I need to express my utter disgust with the Democratic Caucus of the Cranston City Council for chasing headlines instead of budget cuts, and misleading the public to believe they actually “did something” by not voting for an amended budget that “some” of us actually put the work into improving.

On Wednesday, May 4, 2022, at a Special Meeting of the Cranston City Council, I proposed nearly 70 individual line item amendments in the first three hours, for a total of approximately $1.2 million dollars. I was met with continuous contention from my Democrat colleagues, who I now recognize were not at the meeting to do the same thing I was. I refuse to be bullied because I was more effective at my job than they were.

After seven hours of proposed budget amendment deliberations that resulted in bi-partisan approved changes totaling $1.35 million in savings (and there were many more voted down), six council members voted to not approve the Council’s modified version of the Mayor’s FY 2023 budget. Meaning they voted not to approve the package of changes they just spent seven hours approving individually. It should be obvious now that they had no real plan to improve or pass any budget that night, and yet they kept us there for seven hours to engage in political theater.

While some council members will continue to claim they voted against a structural deficit, a tax increase, and use of ARPA funds for the next six months leading to the election, that’s pure political posturing. If their points and convictions are so strong, then I don’t understand why they need to mislead the public by saying things in in their press release like: “a bipartisan super majority of the Cranston City Council voted to not approve Mayor Kenneth Hopkins’ proposed Fiscal Year 2023 Budget” More accurately, that is exactly what their votes enacted into law. With respect to transparency, the way we say things matters.

In voting “No” on the amended version of the Mayor’s budget, my colleagues have shown that they are not concerned with the best interests of our taxpayers in the long-term.  It’s a fact that the budget enacted as a result of their votes, would result in a larger structural deficit, larger use of ARPA funds, and more tax increases in the future than the reduced budget would have. They can say $1.35 million dollars is minimal all they want, but last year they had no problem cutting departments’ paper supplies to give raises to a select few of their choice. Cutting the budget shouldn’t be a matter of convenience. My colleagues are smart and creative, if they wanted to, I am confident we could have chipped away at this budget. Making any real attempt to pass a better budget would have ruined the headlines though, I get it... I get it.

I have openly acknowledged that there are financial challenges, including a probable $12 million deficit in the Mayor’s FY 2023 budget, due in large part to contractual obligations, global inflation, and past underestimated healthcare and claims costs. Voting “Yes” on the amended version of the Mayor’s budget does not necessarily signify my agreement with every component of it, but I understand that there are some things outside of anyone’s control and that part of my job as a Councilwoman is to find savings in the budget each year. So rather than pointing fingers on the news in pursuit of 15 minutes of fame heading into election season, I worked diligently and collaboratively with my caucus, the administration and literally anyone who would talk to me about finding ways to minimize the negative effects on Cranston’s financial wellbeing. 

Unfortunately, there’s no honest way around a tax increase this year. It’s been three years without one, including two fiscal years of holding the line during the peak of the pandemic. While none of us want to pay more in taxes, I’m focused on paving a route to ease residents’ tax burden in the years ahead. But since the Democrats decided not to pass the tax levy, the City can’t currently even send out tax bills. Their “history making” votes also tied the City’s hands in regards to completing capital projects, including paving your roads this Spring. They must have been too busy brazenly creating a spectacle and doing a disservice to their constituents to recognize the complete repercussions of playing politics with the budget. 

I appreciate the collaboration of my Republican colleagues and their support of my unwavering pursuit to find savings in this budget. Don’t worry, I’m not done. I also want to thank the dedicated Directors who revisited their budgets repeatedly, for the good of the City. Your efforts do not go unnoticed.

Our Charter instructs us to act on the Mayor’s proposed budget and our residents expect us to pass a better one than we received. Our job is not to just point out problems, it is to find any and all solutions to those problems. When times are tough and an election is around the corner, this can be a test of leadership versus politics. I am committed to being a leader who will continue to chase solutions for the good of Cranston.

Nicole Renzulli is a Cranston City Wide Councilwoman

budget, op-ed


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