March 27, 2009

A Slightly Longer History of Police Budgets in Cranston

Carroll Andrew Morse

Two substantive objections offered in the comments section to my short history of the Cranston Police Department budget were…

  1. The figures for the Napolitano years include some million-dollar-plus temporary "rent" costs associated with the construction of a new police station, and
  2. Napolitano's first police budget was the 3rd year of a contract negotiated by his predecessor (that would be Steve Laffey, for those not paying attention), and therefore can't be held against him.
So here are the police budget numbers again, with the rent item removed, and all of the Laffey contract years (delineated with boldface) plus the year before included...

FY2005Laffey II$17,709,556--
FY2006Laffey III$16,616,502($1,093,054)
FY2007Laffey IV$17,447,623 $831,121
FY2008Napolitano I $18,677,744 $1,230,151
FY2009Napolitano II$19,424,221 $746,447

In FY09 (the "year" that started July 1, 2008), the evil Laffey contract had expired. If the Democratic Mayor/Democratic Council believed that the City had been snookered into a backloaded contract, their hands were free to make the corrections and "fundamental changes" they thought were necessary to get department spending down to levels they thought reasonable. It certainly appears that that's what Mayor Laffey did in the first year of the contract that his administration negotiated, where the amount spent decreased by over 1 million dollars from the previous year.

But the only major adjustment that Mayor Napolitano and the Democratic City Council called for in the FY09 budget was a pay freeze. Mayor Fung has gotten the police union to agree to a pay freeze, plus only a small raise for next fiscal year -- but now the Council and other contract opponents are saying that the pay freeze doesn't really count as savings. That doesn't strike me as wholly consistent. I'd appreciate it if the next commenter who says that "this contract is a giveaway" would explain how an 18 month pay freeze, followed by a small increase after that, plus the increased health care co-shares, all with no retroactivity, is a "giveaway".

If the Democrats on the City Council think that more drastic measures, like layoffs or pay cuts have become necessary, they should inform the public and the Mayor of this. They might also consider providing an explanation of why their eleventh-hour call for "fundamental change" should be seen as anything more than political posturing, when the Democratic Mayor/Democratic Council certainly didn't act during calendar year 2008 as if changing contract terms scheduled to take effect in July of 2008 was a significant priority.

I don't think the Cranston City Council has any better idea of what "fundamental change" is this year than they did last year, when they saw no need to act on the police contract. Maybe the Council's actions are being driven by something that changed between last calendar year and this one; I wonder what that could be?

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.


You are really going out of your way to paint the City Council in the wrong on this. So I have to ask, what horse do you have in this race? Is Allan a friend of yours? I can't help but think if this budget was presented by Napolitano instead of Fung, your take on this would be totally different.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. We have been told that if there is any silver lining in this recession is that it presents opportunities not normally seen. In the case of this budget, Mayor Fung is throwing away any opportunity to make changes that can save not only now, but in the future. If the city has been operating with those 5 vacancies without a noticeable increase in overtime, eliminate the positions instead of deferring filling them for 2 more years. Get health care co-shares up to 20% in all the contracts.

I would also point out that I do not have any problem giving contract employees raises when the city can afford it. Does anyone in their right mind think the city and its taxpayers can afford pay raises in FY10 and FY11? The state budget deficit is worse next year. We will not see ANY state aid. I was at the city council meeting Monday night, and Sgt. Antonucci mentioned the city has $20mil in the rainy day fund. That actually isn't true. I think it is more like $16 mil, but that money should never be used to support a contract under negotiation. Ever.

Posted by: Donald Botts at March 27, 2009 11:30 AM

I have lots of respect for the people here at, but we need to get rid of this mentality that if a Republican does something than it HAS to be fiscally conservative.

It seems like in Rhode ISland all we're allowed to do is accept less than mediocrity.

So what if the private sector workers are paying 30 percent healthcare co-shares on premiums, if they're lucky. (Small busineses employees pay as much as 60 percent.)

So what if there is no pension reform in this contract.

So what if this contract still keeps the management rights in the hands of the EMPLOYEES. None of that matters if a GOP mayor does it.--Daniel

Posted by: Rasputin at March 27, 2009 11:54 AM

Politics interferes with good government. I see a lot of politics here. Not much good government coming from either side.

The City Council has approved larger budget increases. Why suddenly do they have a problem with this one. Don says the recession presents opportunities? So, opportunities do NOT exist in better times. Is the head of the finance committee not forward thinking enough to see opportunites before we reach crisis?

But there's politics going on on both sides. As soon as an agreement was reached between the administration and the police union, without contention, I knew it couldn't be the best deal for the taxpayers. Speaking of opportunites and to Rasputin/Daniel's latest point... there is a great deal of room for improvement (at least from the benefit-to-the-taxpayer perspective) in this contract.

I am also very uneasy about the apparent ill will between the adminstration and the Chief of Police that I heard about on the Dan Yorke show the other day. If the mayor is excluding the Chief from important management discussions and has a more cozy relationship with the Union than the chief; he is losing my confidence.

Memo to City Council and Mayor: It's really simple. Taxpayers first!

The taxpayers are your customers and shareholders. Employees are important, but no company can stay in business putting employees before the customer and the stock holder. The same applies to good government.

Posted by: George at March 27, 2009 12:14 PM

mcgrath backed up lillian rivera and her waste of money no show diability pension...for that alone he should go
mcgrath thrashed the laffey admin for how it handled the rivera situation, when thr laffey admin was simply trying to get the truth and save money

the union and mcgrath may not like each other, but the taxpayers should not like mcgrath(rivera's buddy) either.

Posted by: mcgrath wastes money at March 27, 2009 4:22 PM

Donald and Rasputin,

The big 3 compensation issues in a contract negotiation are salary (including longevity, overtime etc.), healthcare and pension. The contract under consideration contains an 18-month pay freeze. When you ask if taxpayers can afford to fund pay raises, the answer is that the City Council and Mayor Napolitano's answer was "yes", after 12 months, when it came to the LIUNA contract ratified in December. On co-shares, again the Council they settled for less than 20% with LIUNA. The police contract moves towards 15%, across the board. That's two big legs that progress has been made on.

Pension costs are the other big fiscal issue. People should feel free to correct me if I'm wrong here (like I need to say that), but I don't think there's lots of money to be immediately saved in the city's operating budget from pension reform. Changing COLAs or retirement ages for active duty officers would somewhat reduce the contributions the City has to make for future retirees, but Cranston is so badly underfunded right now, big contributions are still needed for current retirees.

This is where I wholeheartedly agree with George's comment above: Good fiscal management isn't something to be done only in a crisis, it also needs to be practiced when times are good, and it is difficult to uncritically accept that good fiscal management is the top priority of the City Council now, when there's scant evidence that it was before, for example during calendar year 2008, when the combination of a Democratic Mayor and Democratic Council decided they didn't need to negotiate the new police contract.

(If the City Council does have a pension reform plan that they've yet to tell anyone about, have someone email it to me and I'll be glad to post it.)

Anyway, the point is that, unless someone is making a strong case that either layoffs or some kind of substantial pay cut is necessary, the financial terms of the contract on the surface seem reasonable. People may disagree with that assessment, and should feel free to state their case here. But when the City Council turns sour on a contract, without offering specifics beyond the 15% versus 20% co-shares, without making clear that they actually understand what the term "deferred" means with respect to compensation, when they waste energy on the difference between vacancies versus eliminating positions which won't make a bit of difference in the amount of money spent over the next 3 years, then hearing "trust us, we're Rhode Island Democrats, and we'll tell you what a good financial deal is" isn't all that reassuring.

Posted by: Andrew at March 27, 2009 6:00 PM

McGrath had to deal with pervert on the PD who greated the Rivera situation. Sounds like the pervert has friends in high places.

Posted by: lilian vs the pervert at March 27, 2009 9:18 PM
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