March 26, 2009

A Short History of Police Budgets in Cranston

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here are the official budget numbers for the last several years of the operation of the Cranston Police department, plus a column showing the change from the previous year…

FY2006Laffey III $16,616,502--
FY2007Laffey IV $17,536,373 $919,871
FY2008Napolitano I $19,919,454 $2,383,081
FY2009Napolitano II $20,679,721 $760,267

I had a chance for a brief interview with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung yesterday on the subject of the police contract and budget. I asked him about the $400,000 savings he is claiming that the contract he negotiated will save. Since the new contract will covers this fiscal year (FY2009), the $400,000 savings is a savings against the budgeted total. For the subsequent years, Mayor Fung's administration is applying zero-based budgeting analysis, calculating how much it should cost to run the department with a full complement of officers, then factoring in how concessions like the hiring freeze, the 18-month pay freeze, etc. will lower costs.

I asked if there were any concerns about overtime related to the positions left vacant by the hiring freeze, and if it could unexpectedly drive costs up. The Mayor answered that that overtime can be driven by different factors, but that the City has been watching its overtime expenditures, and is assuming they will stay reaonably stable. Finally, I asked about the City Council’s claim that this contract "requires" vacancies to be filled at the end of the term. Mayor Fung said that the rules regarding vacancies at the end of this contract will be no different than the rules in the previous contract.

Returning to the numbers themselves, the largest recent increase by far in the Cranston Police Department budget occurred in Mayor Michael Napolitano's first year, an increase of 2.3 million dollars over the previous year (N.B. see the addendum below for an explanation of this expense). Cranston City Councilmen John Lanni, Anthony Lupino, Terrence Livingston and Emilio Navarro were all on the City Council that approved the 2008 increase that significantly raised the "structural" baseline that they are now expressing concern about. If they had concerns about structural problems being created during the Napolitano administration, they never took a stand on the steps needed to correct them. What could have changed in Cranston, I wonder, to make the Councilmen discover their inner fiscal conservatives?

Unfortunately, this is Cranston as a microcosm of Rhode Island politics. Spend like crazy when it's all one, big happy (Democratic) party. Then blame someone else for not doing enough, when it comes time to correct the problems.

The logic of Democrats in Cranston has been that, without the contentiousness might arise from having a Republican administration deal with unions, they can negotiate deals that deliver qualiy services at reasonable costs. But compare the theory to what actually happened; look at the change in the police department budget in FY2008, under a Democratic Mayor/Democratic council, and look at what is happening now. The Dems here don't really seem to be able to deliver on either half of their promise -- they somehow manage to spend big and create turmoil at the same time.

If this City Council is going to kill this police contract, they need to be specific about the "fundamental changes" they want to see carried out. To borrow the description that Justin recently offered of the state's situation and apply it to the local level, standing around like frozen deer in the midst of a financial crisis isn't sufficient action. What exactly does the council want to see done, to mitigate the structural budget problems that took a mighty big leap under the all-Democratic watch of FY2008?


Commenter Donald Botts makes a fair point explaining the big budget increase in Napolitano year I...

The reason for the huge jump during [Mayor Napolitano's] first term is a $1.2 mil jump in the rent line item. I would assume this can be attributed to the new police station.
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"Cranston City Councilmen John Lanni, Anthony Lupino, Terrence Livingston and Emilio Navarro were all on the City Council that approved the 2008 increase that significantly raised the "structural" baseline that they are now expressing concern about."

Hold it right there, Andrew. Don't go suggesting that the past has anything to do with current conditions.

Next you'll be telling me that actions have consequences.

What's next? The Easter Bunny?

Posted by: oz at March 26, 2009 11:16 AM

This contract is a giveaway to the police union. Fung rode their endorsement to victory and this is his giveback to them. Are you people too idiotic to see this?--Russ

Posted by: Rasputin at March 26, 2009 11:35 AM

I'm not a defender of Napolitano by any means, but the reason for the huge jump during his first term is a $1.2 mil jump in the rent line item. I would assume this can be attributed to the new police station.

Your claim that the council spent big during the heady days of the Napolitano era is misleading.

Posted by: Donald Botts at March 26, 2009 11:58 AM

There needs to be 20 percent healthcare coshares and pension reform.

Regardless of their motivation, the council is correct to demand fiscal responsibility!

Posted by: Carlos Montalvo at March 26, 2009 12:16 PM

Fung is playing a shell game. On the one hand, he is "negotiating" this "great deal" with the police union (whose president's wife he gave a job in his administration). The deal itself doesn't actually save the city much (if any) money over the course of the contract, especially if the cops run up the overtime, which they will.

But Fung says its a huge savings. (Yay!) Then he goes to the council and submits the proposal. The council says no, it doesn't save enough money. So Fung whispers to his police union pals "watch this..." and proceeds to strong arm the council by threatening to lay off police officers instead, if they don't approve his giveaway contract!

It's smart, and its precisely the way Avedisian extorts his city council in Warwick. Fung has learned well.

Fung never sat down with the council (and hides behind the same Avedisian line: "per the city charter their role is only to approve/disapprove" blah blah). And Fung also never sat down with the police chief to talk about overtime and staffing levels, and about which 11 officers he should lay off "if he must."

Both Fung and Avedisian know that good, loyal Democrats would never be seen to cause harm to their police and firemen brothers. So Fung has essentially put the ball in the council's court, and is daring them to call his bluff.

All of this is ridiculous of course, because if Fung was serious about saving money, he'd just go ahead with the damn layoffs (which saves much more money than this stupid contract). But Fung needs to make sure the cops are nice and happy...since they're the ones who put him in office.

The council should force Fung's hand, and make him carry through with his threat to do the layoffs.

Of course if that happens, then Fung is in deep trouble. The cops would be so pissed that it would nearly guarantee Fung is not re-elected in 2010.


Posted by: matt at March 26, 2009 12:17 PM

Yea, this is bull****. Who doesn't see through this? This saves, maybe, 400 grand, and there's a 6 million dollar hole in the budget? hahaha. get a clue, mayor.

if this is the best a republican can do in the middle of a huge national recession and state fiscal crises - tiny little co-pays and a few furlough days off - then what the heck is gonna happen in the next few years when we begin to recover?

Fung is no republican, and is certainly not interested in saving the city money, not if it means making tough decisions...he'd prefer to lay off the part-time, no healthcare, no pension, $8/hr kids then to actually try to reform the serious areas of his government.

joke's on cranston.

Posted by: tom at March 26, 2009 12:25 PM

Fung is playing like the democrats on the city council are the "bad guys."

Everyone forgets that when he was on the council under Laffey, he broke ranks with his own mayor and voted with the democrats multiple times...even on the crossing guards stuff.

Fung always got along with the Dems on the council...they always saw eye to eye.

So quit the act, mayor, and work on saving the taxpayers some real money.

Posted by: RhodyRhodyRhody at March 26, 2009 12:33 PM

Carroll Andrew Morse has no credibility in his writings with Anchor Rising because he posts information that is completely false.

He should do some research before writing his falsehoods just to push the Mayor's contract he has with the police union. Here are some of the facts I was able to research.

Nappy's administration had nothing to do with the budget increases during his term.

The increases Carroll mentions all have to do the the 2006 police contract that was approved by the 04-06 council that Mayor Fung was a part of. Most, if not all of the increases were contractual. For instance, 3% raises each year explaining the jump in salary line item in FY07. The holiday bonus where increased from 25% to 32.5% which explains the increase in the Legal Holiday Pay line item. Finally, the 1.2 million jump is for rent for the new police station which was Laffey's deal.

All the increases in the FY07 & FY08 budgets were all contractual, which Napolitano's administration and previous council had absolutely nothing to do with.

It's too bad AR gives someone like Carroll a forum to commumicate, who obviously does no research, and let him post such inaccuracies.

Abe L.

Posted by: Abe at March 26, 2009 2:10 PM

I went over the budget Andrew is alluding to and here are the major increases in expenditures from FY2007 to FY2008:

1,152,250.00 Rent
  762,684.00 Retiree Health/Life
  417,749.00 Salary
  270,140.00 Longevity
  140,000.00 Replacement Vehicles
   58,210.00 Maintenance Contracts
   27,746.00 Uniforms

Four of the line items (Retiree Health, Salary, Longevity, Uniforms) are all contractually obligated. The contract was approved on Aug 31, 2006. Navarro and Lupino were not on the Council at the time, but Mayor Fung was, and he voted to approve the contract. So who is responsible for the current situation we are in?

Posted by: Donald Botts at March 26, 2009 2:22 PM

Matt you are so right about Warwick and Avedisian. The contract he just negotiated with the three unions is even worse then Cranston's.

Dazzledisian claimed about $2 million in savings that is deferred compensation for holidays and uniform allowances that will be paid in the future.

The small increase in co-pay from $11 a week to $14 for individual and $28 for family and the cap on prescription drugs will cost taxpayers millions.

The council eat that up like free lobsters at a claim bake.

In another two years Warwick will be on the verge of bankruptcy. Councilman Joe Solomon indicated that the city liabilities increased over $30 million last year.

But Dazzledisian doesn't care. he is going to get the hell out and run for higher office. God help RI if he makes it.

Posted by: dazzledisian at March 26, 2009 3:53 PM


In all sincerity, I appreciate your use of real numbers to call me out. I’ve made a note of the effect of the rent item on the budget in the main post.

However, while I agree with you that the rent makes the Napolitano budgets look 1.2 million dollars bigger than they should for purposes of a year-to-year comparison (in a more rational world, the rent expense should be folded into the capital budget), the line-items also make it clear that it’s highly disingenuous for the Council to not count the flat-salaries they assumed between FY2008 and FY2009 (at least $400,000 in savings) as actual savings.

If I understand things properly, the Council-backers here arguing that 1) Napolitano I is Laffey’s fault, because it was Laffey’s contract and 2) there is concern that the contract being negotiated might be similarly “backloaded”.

However, in the 3 Laffey contract years, the first year cost about a million dollars less than the pre-contract baseline, and the second year cost about the same as the baseline. If Mayor Napolitano and the City Council thought that the third-year FY2008 expenses were the result of outrageous backloading and were going to distort things going forward, but that they were helpless to do anything about them in that year (a debatable point, but I'll assume it here for the sake of argument) then why didn’t they reform the provisions they thought were unreasonable in the FY2009 budget -- the year after the evil Laffey contract had expired -- and make their push for layoffs, or a permanent pay decrease, or whatever it is they're calling "fundamental change" then, instead of adding $760,000 to the budget even after assuming a pay-freeze they did nothing to implement?

And besides the bogus vacancies issue at the end of the contract, are there seriously any concerns about backloading in this contract?

Posted by: Andrew at March 26, 2009 3:56 PM

What I find very interesting here it that either, we have a new cast of characters motivated by this story to do research and post their findings... or we have a bunch of regulars changing their names so they can talk inside baseball with anonymity.

Either way, I sense a real war brewing.

With Laffey it was really clear...taxpayers first, then employees. I'm not so sure that's what's going on here.

Posted by: George at March 26, 2009 3:59 PM


Thanks for the mention. It just seemed strange to me that there was such a large rise between '07 and '08 that there had to be an explanation besides careless spending.

As to George's comment above, I can assure you that I post under my real name (I finds that it keeps me honest in my posts and keeps the snark to a minimum) and I have no agenda other than what is best for the city of Cranston. As Oz alluded to in a previous thread, I was Emilio Navarro's campaign manager in the last election. I also did some work for Laffey's mayoral campaign back in 2002 and 2004. I am not beholden to any one party or a particular candidate. Councilman Navarro would be the first to tell you that I will always give my point of view regardless of what his is, which sometimes makes his life difficult.

We can keep harping on the past and who approved what to get us here. But how does that help the situation we are in now? We currently have a contract being brought forth without true and lasting savings. Now the past couple of days have shown that there are some hidden agendas within the contract as well.

The City Council was very shrewd in tabling the contract for further discussion. They didn't make the mistake Warwick made in rushing the contract approval.

Posted by: Donald Botts at March 26, 2009 4:31 PM

I agree wholeheartedly with Don. It was very good that the council tabled this bogus contract. At least they have the backbone to stand up when they smell a rat, instead of caving-in like the councilmen in Warwick.

This contract stinks in so many ways its scary...really scary...for the taxpayers of Cranston. Fung and Laffey may have shared a party label, but they don't share anything else.

This contract is a giveaway pure and simple. Build it up and try to sell it like it was some huge sacrifice for the union, then say "whew" when it passes the council. If it passes, you'll hear all the cops talking about how they got away with it "not being that bad" a deal, considering the circumstances.

Fung is not as good an actor as Avedisian is...not as convincing. The people in Cranston are smarter, anyway, as they've been accustomed to a lot of scam artists over the past two decades.

I hope they see through this...

Posted by: matt at March 26, 2009 5:24 PM

At least you guys see through this contract, and, while better than most, still doesn't protect taxpayers enough, and thus, doesn't bring up to safe financial ground.--Russ Canty

Posted by: Rasputin at March 26, 2009 5:45 PM

At least you guys see through this contract, and, while better than most, still doesn't protect taxpayers enough, and thus, doesn't bring up to safe financial ground.--Russ Canty

Posted by: Rasputin at March 26, 2009 5:45 PM

The day has truly come for us Rhode Islanders to set up a tea party in every city that ratifies or agrees to a bad contract.--Christian

Posted by: Rasputin at March 26, 2009 8:34 PM
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