Rocky Point cleanup in House budget
On Tuesday evening, the House Finance Committee approved a 2014 state budget of $8.2 billon, which includes support for Rocky Point and education, but less to the distressed pension plans.
According to Larry Berman, spokesperson for Speaker Gordon Fox, the proposed $2.5 million in the governor’s budget for cleanup of Rocky Point Park was maintained in the House’s budget.
“It’s still in there,” said Berman in a phone call to the Beacon.
Gail Mastrati, secretary to Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Director Janet Coit, said it was “still early” to look at planning a start date for cleanup at the park since the budget has only made it through House Finance and still needs to work it’s way through the full House and Senate before approval.
“It will be at least next Friday until we know the full outcome,” said Mastrati.
Despite another week and a half until the budget is final, Mastrati said Coit is hopeful the funds will be approved.
Mayor Scott Avedisian was also hopeful for the funds.
“Director Coit and I have been planning for the capital budget once approved. This will allow us to demolish the unsafe buildings and remediate the land. This is the next big step to making Rocky Point a full park with the state and the city in full partnership,” said Avedisian in an e-mail to the Beacon.
Representative Frank Ferri (D-Warwick) was also pleased to learn that the cleanup for Rocky Point was still in the budget. Although he is a member of the House Finance Committee, he had not had the chance to look through the final budget line-by-line.
“It’s important not just to me because I am from the area, but to the state,” said Ferri. He feels renovating the park is helping to put the state in “the right direction.”
“We need to move on it,” said Ferri. He is glad the funding was included because it means that, if approved, the Rocky Point project will be able to move forward soon.
While Warwick will benefit from an eventual cleanup of Rocky Point, state aid in the form of pension relief will not be as much as planned.
The House allotted half of what Governor Lincoln Chafee had proposed for a new pension plan for cities and towns.
“We did adopt his plan, but only put $5 million towards the cities and towns that comply with pension payment,” said Berman.
According to Avedisian, this will provide Warwick with $394,570 in additional funding in terms of pension contributions.
“Since I did budget this, it will be an additional payment that we will make this year,” said Avedisian.
Berman explained that the House did not give the program the full $10 million Chafee budgeted due to a $30 million shortage discovered at the revenue estimating conference.
Although Ferri said the House was unable to provide the full $10 million to the pension program, cities and towns can expect to receive $9 million through both the pension program and PILOT money.
PILOT, or Payment In Lieu Of Taxes, is given to cities and towns in place of taxes on state property, such as the CCRI campus in Warwick’s case.
“We allotted $2 million to the 2013 PILOT money and $2 million to the 2014 PILOT money,” said Ferri.
Avedisian said this will provide Warwick with an additional $69,000 in PILOT money.
Finally, with the city providing Warwick schools with $119 million, but $3.4 million less than requested from the city, the Warwick School Department will be pleased to know it can expect an increase in state funding.
According to Ferri, the House allotted more than requested to education for FY2014. The increase is a reported $1.7 million from the governor’s budget.
“There will be more money going into education to ensure the formula is fully funded,” said Ferri.
According to Anthony Ferrucci, chief budget officer for Warwick Public Schools, he had not heard any changes from the Department of Education (RIDE) as of yesterday morning following the announcement of the House budget.
As of a week and a half ago, Ferrucci said RIDE was estimating Warwick schools would receive $35,021,987. That is the same amount from the department’s April 23 budget presented to the School Committee.
That would be a $614,262 increase in state funding to Warwick schools.
According to Ferri, that should still be the case because of the House fully providing for the school funding formula.
“[School departments] are going to get what they expected,” said Ferri.
Other budget highlights for cities include a cut of the retirement incentive aid program from $10 million to $5 million, the road and bridge improvement trust fund supported by General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Fox was included instead of Chafee’s $10 million road improvement program, and a reimbursement for refunded school debt.
According to the House’s press release regarding the budget, Fox’s Municipal Roads and Bridges Revolving Loan Fund, backed by Raimondo, was allotted $10 million and will create a loan fund that municipalities can borrow from at a lower cost to repair major roads.
The full House is expected to vote on the budget bill on Tuesday. If it passes, the Senate will vote later next week.