Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, road-tested economic campaign themes Friday night and took some shots at Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo – without mentioning her by name- as he delivered his annual city budget address to the city council.
As everyone expected in an election year where he is aiming for a rematch of his narrow 2014 gubernatorial loss to Raimondo, Fung’s budget recommends no property tax increases.
Fung praised city employees and what he called his “team” of top aides who helped put together his budget proposal, which now heads to the council. “It is this team’s hard work and dedication that is keeping Cranston on track for another balanced budget,” he said. “This despite so many snowstorms the tendency of those snowstorms to occur on weekends and Christmas.”
“We’ve taken Cranston from dire financial straits, and an made it a nationally recognized gem,” said Fung, according to remarks distributed to the media. “And our balanced budget is just the start… our economic development office is cranking and we’re seeing the city grow by leaps and bounds.”
Fung boasted that the recent burst of development at the Garden City shopping center is underway without a “single taxpayer dollar” of incentives to business. Fung is sure to tout such policies if he wins his party’s nomination and faces Raimondo in November. The governor has generated Republican criticism for her use of taxpayer-financed subsidies to lure new companies to the state.
The mayor’s speech also took more pointed shots at Raimondo. Speaking of the challenges cities and towns face from increase garbage fees at the Johnston state landfill, known as “tipping fees,” Fung said, “We’ve had to absorb an increase of $230,000 for tipping fees to RI Resource recovery.”
“It’s robbing Peter (us) to pay Paul (the state) as the current governor is scooping our increased fees into the great abyss known as the General Fund to fill her budget holes,” said Fung.
Fund also said the budget contains an additional $100,000 to support increased police details at city schools. He also said he is recommending that Cranston schools receive $600,000 more to invest in technology to, “make sure our kids are ready for the jobs of the future.”
City schools will also get $2.5 million in what Fung termed fire and safety upgrades.
He pledged to allocate $4 million for road repairs and repaving. And Fung said the city will invest in upgrades to parks and recreational facilities, including a new softball field at Hope Highlands, dog parks at Stony Acres and Beachmont Avenue, a new playground at Eden Park School and improvements at Cranston Stadium.
Fung also said that Cranston will become the first “major city” in Rhode Island to eliminate library fines for materials aimed at children.
The mayor also said the city will hire three additional police officers, which he said will improve community policing. And Fung said the budget carries no increases in sewer use fees.
Fung also said the city is fully funding city pension contributions. “I’m proud to lead a city that is now in a position to not just do the basics well, but make sound investments for our citizens of Cranston, without raising taxes. I am so grateful for a great team, and appreciate the council’s consideration and hopeful passage of this responsible and compassionate budget,” said Fung.