Budget season screeches to a halt as session called off

Budget season screeches to a halt as session called off

NORTH PROVIDENCE - The 2014 budget season took a sudden turn into uncertainty Monday when Town Council President Kristen Catanzaro called off an evening session without consulting with all of her colleagues.

Council members tried for much of the day to get some sort of explanation from Catanzaro on why the meeting was called off. Because the meeting was canceled, a planned final budget hearing on May 20 was also nixed and the scheduled adoption of a 2014-2015 town operating budget on June 3 is now very much in doubt.

Catanzaro did not respond to a request for an explanation of her unusual move. While most council members were unaware of why the meeting was called off, Councilor John Lynch said Catanzaro was forced to cancel after Mayor Charles Lombardi's administration, particularly Finance Director Justin Cambio, failed to get council members the financial information they needed by Monday morning.

Lynch said there was "a load of backup financial information" that was still missing following requests for information at a budget workshop last Thursday, but he didn't talk specifics.

Lombardi initially proposed a budget with a 50-cent tax increase to fund increased pension, pay and health care costs in local schools (school officials had requested another $600,000 for technology upgrades, but were denied). The mayor's proposal has since grown to 70 cents after Catanzaro got her wish of a freeze on spending of the police department's $60 million Google windfall and Lombardi inserted $250,000 that would have come from the Google fund into the regular budget.

Cambio is denying that there was any missing information that would have necessitated a delay of Monday's meeting. He claims Catanzaro refused to answer him when he asked her on the phone what she was missing.

There may have been a couple of line items that needed clarification, said Cambio, and Catanzaro did ask for last year's total pay numbers for 27 employees, but those items had no bearing on the proposed budget for 2014-2015 and the council president had given him no deadline when she asked him for the information last Thursday.

According to Cambio, Catanzaro's action could have a detrimental impact on the town's finances going forward. He emailed council members Monday pleading with them to reconsider canceling the meeting, saying it's not in the best interest of the town or its taxpayers to deviate from the budget timeline.

"A departure from the dates and times which have already been set forth could lead to tax bills being sent out later than expected," he said. "In the event this is the case, we could be straddled with a situation where we do not have the cash necessary to meet our financial obligations. This could lead to the need for short-term borrowing which will not only unnecessarily cost the town tens of thousands of dollars but may shed a negative light upon us in the financial community."

Councilor Dino Autiello said he wasn't happy after receiving a brief email Monday morning from the town clerk's office declaring without explanation that the meeting was canceled.

Councilor Manny Giusti was also displeased about the abrupt cancelation and lack of explanation, saying Catanzaro's decision could end up costing taxpayers money. Giusti said the proper way to cancel a meeting is to have all council members show up and call for a vote, but instead he and others were left out of the process.

Lynch said that Cambio and others who are upset at the meeting being called off "are "making it sound like tomorrow is do or die" time for the town budget.

"It's comical how in one day the town goes into lockdown," he said. "This doesn't have to be rectified tonight or tomorrow."

Lynch said North Providence almost always has about $6 million of funds in the bank, giving the town plenty of cushion in the event of a potential cash flow problem.

Cambio said he heard the same argument from Catanzaro when he talked to her Monday, and he said it's a faulty one. That $6 million doesn't look like so much when you consider that the next payroll date will consume about $2.5 million of it, said Cambio, and then there's millions more to be paid in vendor invoices and other bills.

Cambio said he's not happy about being treated like a "scapegoat" in what appears to be a political standoff over the budget. He said he will not allow his professional reputation, carefully built over 15 years in the financial sector, to be tarnished by a controversy he has no control over. He came to North Providence to manage its finances, said Cambio, not to always be dragged into the latest political fight.

Lombardi said Monday that Catanzaro's "Vaudeville show" reached new heights when she canceled the meeting. Cambio was prepared to answer any and all questions asked of him by council members, said the mayor.

Comments

First of all, why doesn't the Mayor give all requested information to the Town Council. By the way, the councilors that didn't understand why the meeting was canceled are part of the problem, if they don't know the details then how can they make an informed decision on the budget.
The Mayor has a problem of opening up the laundry basket when asked by the town council for information, it's been that way from day one for Mayor Lombardi. Lynch is the financial guy on the Town Council, I would tend to believe he has the right scoop on information not coming forward and is correct in delays not costing the town to fall off the cliff. One last item, the Mayor does not have to SPEND the $250K for fire dept at a $0.20 tax increase either, the scare tactics are all a sham. The real details must come out to have an intelligent budget determination, don't ya think!

1. "Cambio is denying that there was any missing information that would have necessitated a delay of Monday's meeting. He claims Catanzaro refused to answer him when he asked her on the phone what she was missing"

2, "but those items had no bearing on the proposed budget for 2014-2015 and the council president had given him no deadline when she asked him for the information last Thursday."

3. "Giusti said the proper way to cancel a meeting is to have all council members show up and call for a vote, but instead he and others were left out of the process."

How can this be the Mayor's fault. She cancelled a meeting without input from fellow councilors.

OK OK I'll stay in Cumberland.

Remember the days when Mancini would bring in a budget, nobody would look at it, and it would get approved.....because it was his.
We forget how this town was run by dictatorship for 30+ years.

ok I am from Prov so I am used to lack of comm skills but I just bought a hse in NP did I make a mistake?? maybe