EDITORIAL: Surplus in Providence? Only in Elorza’s World

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Mayor Jorge Elorza
GoLocalProv receives a lot of press releases each day - some days hundreds. On Wednesday, GoLocal may have received one of the most absurd press releases -- ever.

The release was circulated from the press office of Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

It claims that Providence has a surplus of $10 million dollars. It is analogous to celebrating that you have money to order pizza while your house is being foreclosed on and the car is being repossessed.

According to Jorge Elorza, “This is a good day for the City of Providence," said Mayor Jorge Elorza. "While we still have a lot more work to do, we've turned an important corner and are seeing the results of our hard work and new budgeting practices pay off. We have eliminated the cumulative deficit three years sooner than expected and will establish a ‘rainy day fund’ for the city.”

The self-congratulatory press fluff failed to take into account that the City of Providence has nearly a billion shortfall in paying for the pension obligation of its existing and retired workers. The pension obligation is funded at less than thirty percent -- abysmal and the second worst of any peer city in New England. Hartford, CT, which is moving towards bankruptcy pension system is funded at 70% plus.

Add more than a billion for the long-term unfunded obligation for benefits for workers and retirees — healthcare, dental, and beyond.

Recently, a statewide panel found that Providence Schools need hundreds of millions of dollars to fix deficiencies at the schools.  The cost to get Classical High School up to standards is $17.3 million.

The dollars needs at Carl G. Lauro Elementary School is $23 million. Hope High School’s cost is $37.8 million and Mount Pleasant another $31 million. And on and on.

Every school in Providence needs at least a million — even the recently improved Nathan Bishop ($1.4 million) and the Providence Career and Technical Academy ($4.7 million) have million plus needs.

Add in roads and sidewalks (over $868 million in deferred maintenance) as well as the understaffing at the Providence Police Department — we are now pushing over $3 billion in unfunded obligations.

Elorza’s “operating budget” may have a “surplus” but he has a stack of unpaid bills from floor to ceiling — he only needs 300+ more years at $10 million surpluses, no increase in obligations, and the city will be able to tackle its obligations.

Only in Elorza's world would we be celebrating Providence's financial condition. 

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