Mayor Rivera delivers FY2023 Budget Address highlighting pandemic recovery and city’s progress
CENTRAL FALLS, RI – Central Falls Mayor Rivera tonight proposed a $19,410,030 budget for Fiscal Year 2023 that accelerates the city’s Pandemic recovery and keeps Central Falls on a path progressing forward. Mayor Rivera delivered her second-ever Budget Address to the City Council, residents, businesses, and community virtually via Facebook Live.
“My focus this second year in office has been on five areas that have a direct impact on the future of our city: housing and a healthy community; education and our youth; jobs and our economy; improved city spaces and infrastructure; and public safety,” said Mayor Rivera in her Budget Address. “While Central Falls may be the smallest city, we have big vision and have made bold progress.”
Mayor Rivera’s FY2023 balanced budget is a commitment to empowering a government that works for every resident, from the city’s youngest children, to working families, to its seniors.
“We’re focused on responsible spending of city resources, while developing millions in new grant and federal dollars to bring in new, life-changing opportunities,” Mayor Rivera added.
Highlights from Mayor Rivera’s FY 2023 Budget Address include:
Housing and a Healthy Community
- El Centro, a new one-stop supportive community center for residents. El Centro will help residents address food and housing security, provide mental and behavioral health support, and assist families impacted by domestic violence. The city has secured $3 million in federal dollars and additional outside resources, secured several streams of funding for substance use prevention, and has identified a location.
- Expansion of safe, affordable housing. Mayor Rivera reported tonight the city currently has 80 new housing units on a path to completion, and retained a new Housing Project Manager. Mayor Rivera also highlighted the city’s new effort to combat its rate of child lead poisoning – the highest in RI – and has already made more than 200 existing units of housing lead-safe. New additional resources for families – like the city’s first Healthy Homes and Families Fair next month – will help property owners and renters more easily make their homes lead-free.
- Targeted tax rate cuts to help ease the burden of inflation. Housing costs have dramatically increased in the Northeast, with home prices and values soaring. This enabled Mayor Rivera to propose in this budget the largest owner-occupied tax rate cut in city history. An owner-occupied tax cut will also be extended to small business owners, who will additionally get both their commercial tax and tangible tax rates cut as well.
Education and Youth
- Progress on new Central Falls High School. Mayor Rivera announced the city has identified Higginson as the new high school location, and over the last year, many parents and community members have been engaged in the planning process. The city and school district are working together toward a spring 2023 groundbreaking.
- New state-of-the-art middle elementary school. Mayor Rivera announced the city has been creative with school construction funding and will be turning the old high school site into a new, state-of-the-art elementary school.
- Upgrades to Calcutt Middle School. Central Falls applied for and received the most funding out of any municipality in Rhode Island to accelerate renovations at Calcutt Middle School. Between now and the end of this year, Mayor Rivera shared that the Calcutt community can expect to see $4 million in renovations wrapping up, from new furniture and technology, to a new multi-media library, to a beautiful new entranceway.
- Vision to modernize every school in Central Falls within the next five years. Mayor Rivera emphasized the importance of having a plan and resources to maintain school buildings. The city is creating a new Revolving Capital Fund in partnership with the School District and with the help of the Department of Education so that a one-time contribution – split between the City and District – will be able to complete $2 million worth of projects over the next five years for a net cost of just $16,000.
- Supporting youth and their success beyond school buildings. This budget continues the great work happening in both the Parks and Recreation and Planning Departments that provide resources, spaces, and programs to youth. The budget provides for a new afterschool opportunities coordinator who will be stationed at El Centro, the continuation of the city’s beloved Summer Food Program, the creation of Summer Nonviolence youth opportunities to keep high-risk youth engaged, and continued improvements to outdoor fields and recreation spaces.
Improved City Spaces and Infrastructure
- Upgrades to the parks, fields, and courts around Central Falls. The city is breaking ground at Pierce Park in June on a new basketball court – expected to be open next spring – and will complete the renovations of its Saul Tarlow Little League Baseball Field thanks to the Narragansett Bay Commission and a $380,000 grant from the Department of Environmental Management. Two new grant-funded tennis courts are being installed at Sacred Heart Park this summer, and at Jenks Park, the first two phases of work will begin of the city’s Master Plan funded by grant and federal dollars: a new playground with safe, modern equipment and the restoration of Cogswell Tower to make it safer for residents and visitors to enjoy. The city is also breaking ground on its new Phillips Street Community Garden this July.
- Key upgrades to city infrastructure. Mayor Rivera highlighted a big change: the city’s rotary has been removed, which was consistently a challenge for residents, visitors, and nearby businesses. The next step of that project is to repave Charles Street – a gateway to the city. This comes as the city completely upgrades the road, sidewalks, and streetscape on Sylvian Street, replaces sidewalks and plants trees within the Conant Thread Train Station District, and follows recent improvements to Cross, Central, Jenks, and Madeira, along with paving and improvements along Dexter and Broad Streets. There are plans for paving and improving Lonsdale next – a long overdue upgrade. Construction will begin next month to install underground green stormwater infrastructure that will reduce sewer overflow into the river thanks to the Narragansett Bay Commission.
Jobs and Economy
- New bilingual Workforce Development and Small Business Assistance coordinator. This new position allows the city to better help its businesses thrive – like connecting them with state and federal resources and access to talent – and supporting residents by hosting new job fairs, improving access to high wage job opportunities, and boosting workforce advancement opportunities.
- Safer streets and progressed community policing. Violent crime last year was the lowest it’s been since 1988, and overall crime was the lowest since 2004! This is credit to the work of the Police Department – from expanding community policing to the entire department, to becoming the first department in the state to have every member trained in nonviolence, to increasing the city’s domestic violence prosecution rate. Further, with speeding being the number one safety complaint, the city rolled out a “safer streets” campaign with new traffic cameras to directly combat dangerous speeding citywide, new speed bumps coming soon, red light cameras expected later this year, and now a new city law that cracks down on the illegal use of ATVs on city streets. The city is also bringing the most modern camera technology to parks – like Jenks, Sacred Heart, and Macomber – to increase safety, all as the police expand their presence on bicycles and walking to continue building positive relationships with youth, families, and businesses.
- Supporting the life-saving work of the Fire Department. The Fire Department has been a lifeline over the last year even though they faced major equipment challenges, like operating without the use of a functioning ambulance for eight months despite thousands of EMS calls. Paired with the many devastating house fires that displaced families throughout 2021, the Fire Department urgently needed resources. Through work with Congressional leaders and Rhode Island Commerce, the city secured more than $800,000 in critical federal grant funding to provide the Fire Department with two new ambulances, additional firefighter training, and other necessary equipment.
Events and Engagement
- New and Exciting Community Events. Mayor Rivera announced the city is bringing back its popular Salsa Night for the first time in three years, along with Central Falls Restaurant Week that will attract diners from around the state to explore the city’s amazing, diverse cuisine. There will also be a new Food Truck Fest, Car Show, more fun activities with seniors at the city’s high rises, and more opportunities for the community to come together and enjoy all Central Falls has to offer.
“Over the last year, we made progress for future generations, while working hard to support our city’s neighbors, families, and businesses – all who have been impacted by COVID-19 and its devastating lasting effects,” said Mayor Rivera in her Budget Address. “Together, we can begin the next chapter of the City of Central Falls.”