By Joseph Fitzgerald
CENTRAL FALLS - The City Council Monday approved Mayor James A. Diossa's $18.17 million budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1.
“This is a fiscally responsible budget that further solidifies our financial standing and promotes economic development in the city,” said Diossa, who's spending plan was approved after two public hearings before the council adopted it by a unanimous vote on Monday. “For the second consecutive year we have passed budgets that ensure stability for the city and improve the quality of life for residents. This is more positive news on the heels of Moody’s upgrading our bond rating for the second time in just over a year, last week.”
Moody’s rating agency upgraded the rating on Central Falls’ General Obligation Debt to Ba2 from Ba3 with a stable outlook. The rating upgrade was based on the fact that the city has been able to demonstrate stable finances and promote redevelopment through initiatives like streamlining its permitting process and zoning process and reinstating a redevelopment agency.
The budget as adopted Monday includes economic development initiatives for the coming year, including funding for a Main Street business development program. The initiative, would support a financing program for businesses to apply for small loans for visual improvements, is part of the city's goal to promote development in its downtown areas of Broad and Dexter Streets, and transform the visual aspects of the storefronts in those areas.
“I think it’s great that the city is taking steps to help business owners in a way that I haven’t experienced before, said Jairo Echeverry owner of Budare Grille, on Dexter Street. “Sometimes it’s hard for small businesses to come up with enough money to make their businesses better even though it may not take very much.”
Additional economic development plans in the budget include funding for the Central Falls Redevelopment Agency, which will be revived with funding for property development and a staff member to oversee the agency’s aggressive strategy.
Also included in the approved budget is increased funding for “Youth Fellowships” and city sponsored community events that have grown in size and success over the past few years. Funding of these initiatives will allow students to gain meaningful experience and skills as “Youth Fellows” working in various city departments and allow more residents to participate in community events.
“The city has come a long way toward restoring opportunities for our youth, said Carlos Ocampo, coach in the city’s summer basketball league. “Continued funding for the basketball league and youth fellowships really help our youth develop teamwork, leadership, and social skills.”
The newly adopted FY 2016 budget included increased funding for Adams Memorial Library; an increase in pension fund contributions; and money for extensive roadway repaving.
The budget will go into effect at the start of fiscal year beginning July 1.
For the first time, the budget document included a section for city departmental goals, objectives, staffing plans, and job descriptions so that residents can better understand how their tax dollars are spent. The budget is available in searchable form on the city’s website at www.centralfallsri.us.
“I’m happy that my colleagues and I were able pass this budget with overwhelming support,” said City Council President, Bob Ferri. “When the initiatives in this budget come to fruition, the city will really benefit, whether it’s more police officers and equipment, increased funding for community events, and reserves to guard against unforeseen expenses.”
Story can be found in Thursdays (6/4), edition of "The Times."