PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza left Thursday for the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Honolulu, as his office continues to negotiate with the Providence City Council on a new budget and tax plan for the fiscal year that starts Monday.
The previously planned trip also comes two days after the release of a damning report on Providence Public Schools. Elorza attended a public forum about the devastating report at an elementary school on Wednesday night. Another forum is scheduled for Thursday night.
Elorza is also still in budget negotiations with council leadership over the city’s budget, which he has said needs to be passed soon or the city will run out of money in mid-July.
The Council Finance Committee cancelled a scheduled meeting about the budget proposal Thursday night. Billy Kepner, a spokesperson for the council, said it was cancelled because of ongoing negotiations between the council and the mayor’s office.
Victor Morente, Elorza’s press secretary, said the mayor would be in “close contact” with his staff in Providence to “stay updated on ongoing conversations” about the schools report and the budget.
“The most responsible thing to do would be to cancel the trip immediately and to stay home and address the school crisis,” Council Finance Chairman John Igliozzi said.
Morente said Elorza, who serves on several task forces and committees for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, would be participating in panels on the U.S. Census (which held a test in Providence last year), education and health, community development and housing, and immigration.
“As always, while at the conference, Mayor Elorza will use this opportunity to connect with municipal leaders from across the country and share best practices, new advancements and discuss the work and challenges here in Providence with global thought leaders,” Morente said.
He said the mayor’s travel would be paid for by the Providence Tourism Fund, a nonprofit that covers much of his travel expenses and pays for inauguration events. Elorza has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the fund over the years, and has said his out-of-state travel is important to promote the city.
The fund was initially founded to help pay for a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors held in Providence in 2009.