There have been many changes in East Greenwich in the past few months. The Town Council and municipal staff have been working diligently on your behalf to address some unexpected and unforeseen financial issues, and we want to ensure that residents are informed and engaged. This is the first in a series of communications that will provide you with information and updates about our progress.
As Town Councilors, my colleagues and I work for you. Our duty is to provide effective, professional governance by fulfilling three fundamental responsibilities:
- delivering residents quality services,
- managing the town’s resources wisely, and
- developing policies and procedures to ensure that both of those goals are met.
Over the past few months we have thoroughly examined the town’s operations, and found several significant challenges to our ability to fulfill those responsibilities. These problems are real and quantifiable:
- an emerging structural deficit in the school department of $1.2 million;
- an unfunded pension liability of more than $86 million; and
- a fire department that is unique among all town departments in that it overspends its budget every year.
These problems are the result of past policies and procedures at Town Hall. If these outstanding issues are not addressed, you will see a deterioration of services and continued financial shortfalls. Thirty consecutive years of tax increases under two town managers demonstrate that we cannot simply tax our way out of this.
East Greenwich does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.
Faced with these challenges, we had to make a choice: kick the can down the road and let future Town Councils deal with the problems we can see now, or make changes now and accept the challenges and discomfort that change entails.
We chose to enact change now.
That change starts at the top. We hired a new Town Manager with an extensive background in municipal finance and management. Gayle Corrigan, MBA, CPA has a proven record of organizational turnarounds in municipalities facing even more daunting challenges than ours. Under her leadership, the Central Coventry Fire District went from a $5 million deficit to a $1 million surplus. Her work in Central Falls helped the city go from a C bond rating to a double B in five years. This experienced, professional leadership is what East Greenwich needs right now – and she is already delivering results. Gayle Corrigan’s diligence and know-how resulted in the first town budget in 30 years without a tax increase.
Another opportunity for positive change is sharing resources among departments. The core of our One Town Plan is a unified budget and management structure that encompasses all aspects of our town’s operations – including our commitment to first-rate schools. It is our responsibility to get the maximum value for every one of your tax dollars, and this plan fulfills that responsibility.
Effective change requires transparency and accountability. That’s why we launched a new town website that makes it easier for you to access information about your town government and its operations. We will provide regular reports from the Town Manager and Council President, as well as updates from Council meetings, and we will continue to make spending information accessible online.
I speak for myself and the entire Town Council when I say that we love East Greenwich. That is why we dedicate our time and energy to serving it. As our resident, you have entrusted us with a solemn responsibility. In exchange for that trust, you deserve effective, professional government at all levels. We are making changes to ensure that happens now and for decades to come. It’s our duty to the place we call home.
Thank you for the opportunity you have given us to enact positive change for the future of our beloved town.
President, East Greenwich Town Council