February 21, 2019

What Can We Afford?


To the Editor:

By early summer, the City Council will likely be asked to place a bond referendum question on the November ballot for the construction of a new high school. Prior to doing so, we will learn what the State reimbursement will be for the project and thus the monetary cost to East Providence.

The Council would at that point be required (and without much time) to make an important decision: do we proceed with the recommended plan by placing the bond referendum question on the November ballot or must the plan for the high school be modified in order to reduce the bond and expense to the city?

This raises the question: what can we afford?

I believe the answer can be figured out sooner than later and does not require us to know the cost to the city of the school project.

Recently, the Council passed a five (5) year budget plan which projects an annual tax increase of 3%. This projection does not take into account the cost of a new high school.

Moreover, note that most of what is contained in a municipal budget is contractual in nature or otherwise mandated by law. In other words, the ability to cut our budgets in the future is far more limited than most realize. Basically, "there ain't a lot of wiggle room".

In previous letters, I have discussed the topic of forgoing the goal of synchronizing our tax year as an option to help pay for the high school project while staying within the parameters of our multi-year budget plan.

In order to figure out what we can actually afford to spend on our high school, we can examine and refine our five (5) year plan. This will include consulting with our financial advisors about our bonding options, how our borrowing capacity factors into the equation, deciding whether to forgo synchronizing our tax year and determining what portion of the synch fund will be devoted to the high school.

I recommend that we commence this process soon.

James A. Briden
Mayor & At-Large Councilman


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