By James W. Patti
I have followed the activities of the Town Council with interest over the past several months. I have been disappointed on several levels.
First, the level of acrimony has been harmful to the character of our town and provided a poor example to our children. There is no need for me to repeat some of the comments that have been made here as people are all too aware of the language and personal attacks. It’s unacceptable in Washington and it’s certainly unacceptable in our small town. An EGHS student was recently quoted in these pages as saying, “This is not House of Cards…”. I couldn’t agree more.
Second, I find it incomprehensible how a compromise could not be reached with the School Committee to provide support for basic needs like a high school librarian. To hold taxes flat at zero percent for two consecutive years in good economic times when we are at full employment – compounds the problems facing the town. As a resident and parent of four students in EG schools, I would have preferred an administrative furlough (Town Hall staff could work 4 days per week, for example) to making frontline cuts to the schools. I expect most of my fellow residents would agree. Rather than take an action like that – which generates fundamental savings – the approved FY’19 budget relies on a $1 million draw on fund balance (reserves, or the Town’s “rainy day fund”). This is not fiscal conservatism, it’s a gimmick.
Third, if we are to genuinely pursue fiscal austerity, I call upon the Town Council to demonstrate fealty to that principle by capping the new Town Manager salary at $130,000, which is the low end of the published range of the job description. Publicly available data indicates that the currently salary paid to our Town Manager ($160,000) is significant outlier compared to communities in Rhode Island with far greater complexity, populations and budget size. For example, North Kingstown, a town with over 25,000 residents and a $100 million budget, just appointed a new manager in January at a salary of $115,000 per year. Barrington pays $125,000. Westerly pays $123,500. And Providence pays $112,500 to Mayor Jorge Elorza.
Needless to say, I think most people would agree that Providence is a more complex municipality than East Greenwich.
James W. Patti served as East Greenwich Town Moderator from 2010 to 2014.