CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Cranston Mayor Ken Hopkins is slashing 21 city jobs to reduce spending and balance the city budget, but other city officials are questioning his financial management.

In a news release issued Friday afternoon ahead of the holiday weekend, Hopkins said the job cuts along with $1.1 million in other cost-cutting measures should save $2.6 million.

“I take no pleasure in making this announcement,” he said. “But I have determined that it is in the long-term interest of the city’s fiscal health and Cranston taxpayers that we begin the formal process to reduce the size of our government.”

Democrats on the City Council have estimated that Cranston faces a $12 million structural budget deficit. The Republican mayor said city governments aren’t immune to the impacts of inflation.

“In these difficult times managing past the pandemic with limited resources and historic inflation, our city
government has been seriously impacted,” he said.

The mayor said the decision was made after months of discussions between the city and the four labor unions that represent municipal employees.

“We first asked each group to consider reopening their contracts and work with us to reduce some costly benefits including scheduled pay raises,” Hopkins explained. “As is their right, no union, after consulting with their members, was willing to do that.”

“I respect that it is their right to take that position but I have an obligation to find savings in our budget and, unfortunately, salaries and related benefits consume approximately 70% of Cranston’s municipal budget,” he continued.

Hopkins said nine city workers received termination notices Friday, which specified that their last day will be July 15. On top of that, the mayor said seven city workers plan to retire and another five will voluntarily resign.

“While we will be disappointed that our fellow workers and friends are gone, I expect that our great city workers will all be professional and carry on their public duties with the same dedication they have always shown,” the mayor said. “Taxpayers deserve our best efforts every day and I am confident our employees will do just that.”

Anthony Moretti, Hopkins’ chief of staff, told 12 News on Tuesday that the departments impacted by the layoffs include building maintenance, highway maintenance and parks and recreation.

Cranston Councilwoman Jessica Marino, a Democrat, said she doesn’t believe laying off city personnel is the right move.

“We have a skeleton crew in Cranston,” Marino explained. “Compared to Providence, compared to Warwick … we do not have a lot of staff here. So to make these kinds of cuts … we just don’t think that’s a wise decision.”

Marino blamed the city’s financial troubles on poor management by Hopkins’ administration, adding that the City Council wasn’t advised of the layoffs before they were announced.

“I think as council members we should have known much more in advance,” Marino said. “I don’t think it was well thought-out.”

Moretti disputed that, saying Hopkins did ask the council for its input on a number of occasions prior to the announcement.

“It’s not us versus them,” Moretti said. “We just hope we can all come through this with the least amount of damage.”

Meanwhile, Cranston Councilwoman Nicole Renzulli, a Republican, supports Hopkins’ decision.

“I am glad that Mayor Hopkins is willing to make the difficult, less-than-ideal decisions, and take the necessary steps to keep Cranston on firm financial footing,” Renzulli said. “Cranston continues to be the best place to live, work and raise a family due to over a decade of sound leaders making difficult decisions in the best interest of our taxpayers, no matter the political chatter.”

Hopkins said further budget cuts will be evaluated and implemented as necessary in the future, adding that this “is not the final step in our reorganization of city government.”