City Gets Surprise Bill for $1/4 Million for Commission Work
BUDGET COMMISSION CHARGES CITY $1/4 MILLION $245,339 Taken From EP City General Fund
Since they arrived in East Providence on December 11, 2011, the budget commission strongly asserted to city residents that they were here at "no cost to the taxpayers". Former chairman and current member Michael O'Keefe, often told anyone who asked, "we are here at no cost to you. We are already on the state payroll and are just loaned to this effort...". However, upon following up on news sources, The Reporter has confirmed that the budget commission has billed the city council for $245, 339 with no discussion. The city was billed for the period of December, 2011 through October 31, 2012. "The money was not budgeted, it just came from the city's general fund," said a commissioner staffer. The payment was confirmed by Michael O'Keefe. When reminded that O'Keefe often told people that the commission was not costing East Providence "one dime", he relented and acknowledged the payment. "Well, the state decided that the effort was more than expected," said O'Keefe. Were you surprised?, O'Keefe was asked. "Well, yes, I was a bit surprised," he said. Staffers also stated that there would be more bills to the city going forward.
On at least several occasions several local residents inquired about the cost to the local budget for the commission. During recent public hearings on the abolishment of middle school sports in which over 100 people attended, a heckler shouted at the commission, "why don't you cut your pay like our coaches and teachers had to." The quick response from commission members was - "we don't get paid a penny."
Former Mayor Bruce Rogers was in attendance at the commission meeting today (1/31/13). The Reporter asked Rogers, who was also a commission member for almost a year if he ever heard any discussion of paying the commission. "I never heard a word, either as Mayor or as a sitting commission member, any discussion of this. When they first arrived, I asked many times what the cost and impact would be on our city. I was constantly assured that there was no cost for the commission. The thought was always advanced that they were already getting paid and were just on loan to us from the state," said Rogers. The total of $245,339 is evidently for four commission staffers, not members like O'Keefe and current chair, Diane Brennan.
Assistant Mayor, Tom Rose is not happy nor is council member Chrissy Rossi. "I am mortified," said Rossi. "I haven't heard anything about this. No one told me anything," Rossi said. Rose intends to follow up at the next city council meeting. "I have lots of questions. We should only be billed for 1/3 of that because commission staffers are in three other towns. They are not here full time," added Rose. "The budget commission refused once again (tonight) to approve a grant for school safety or for police car purchases - all free grant money to the city, but they want $245,000 for their 'volunteer' work. I am sick of hearing how they are volunteers," stated Rossi. The commission wanted further bidding done for a school safety grant which would come to the city with no strings attached. This is the second rejection of a similar expenditure. If the security work isn't fully completed by March 31st, 2013, the grant will not be available. After the meeting, police and school officials were privately upset but said they would work with the commission's bureaucracy.
State budget director Rosemary Booth Gallogly has not yet returned the Reporter's phone call. Follow the ReporterToday.com for further updates.