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City tax hike now in hands of General Assembly

April 3, 2012

WOONSOCKET – Now that the City Council has approved sending out a supplemental tax bill, the focus shifts to the General Assembly, which must grant the proposal its blessing before the measure becomes law.
Legislative actions taken in support of locally driven initiatives are known as enabling bills and are often considered ministerial functions of the General Assembly.
But the controversial supplemental tax bill might not be a slam dunk.
“I would think it would be open for debate,” said Larry Berman, a spokesman for House Speaker Gordon Fox.
Berman said he expects the measure to be treated like any other. After receiving a draft of the bill, it would be introduced to the House Finance Committee and scheduled for a public hearing to give interested parties, including city residents, an opportunity to speak for or against the bill.
Mayor Leo T. Fontaine said he was expecting a draft of the proposed tax legislation to be conveyed to the General Assembly by the close of business yesterday. A work session to discuss the measure with members of the legislative delegation is scheduled for Monday night in Harris Hall. State Reps. Robert Phillips, Jon D. Brien, Lisa Baldelli Hunt and Sens. Marc Cote and Roger Picard have all been invited.
Much like members of the City Council, Picard sees supplemental taxes as a less painful option to the inevitable alternatives of a budget commission or bankruptcy, and so he will reluctantly support the measure. He thinks his colleagues in the House and Senate will do the same.
“I think there will be individuals who will be caught between a pledge not to raise taxes and their conscience,” said Picard. “Representatives of other communities who are in a similar situation may need the remedy in the future, and that may come into play as well.”
Supplemental tax bills have faltered at the State House in the past. Several years ago, North Providence asked for enabling legislation to pass supplemental taxes; a bill passed in the House but it failed in the Senate, according to Picard.
With the fiscal gas tank in the Woonsocket Education Department running on fumes, Fontaine said he and Finance Director Thomas Bruce have planned on “a two-week window” for the legislature to act before the money runs out, raising the specter of bankruptcy.
No, Fontaine says, the legislation may not be a slam dunk, but it should be. Cuts in the state aid, approved by lawmakers, are partly to blame for the city’s perilous fiscal condition, so now it’s up to lawmakers to provide cities and towns with the tools to rectify the situation, the mayor argues.
“Clearly we are in this position at least partly because of cuts in state funding,” he said. “I would hope they would at least provide us with some ability to save ourselves in the short term.”
Fontaine said he and members of his administration have already discussed the need for supplemental taxes with Speaker Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed. He stopped short of saying they have pledged support for the proposal, but he said they understand the city’s predicament.
After more than four hours of discussion and vociferous protest from city residents Monday, the City Council passed a 13 percent supplemental tax bill that could raise taxes on a house worth $200,000 by some $626 in that last quarter of the fiscal year. That brings the net tax increase for the year to more than 17 percent instead of the roughly 4 percent hike envisioned at the beginning of the fiscal year.
It’s all due to the surprise discovery of a $10 million deficit on WED ledgers several months ago despite departmental forecasts, now known to be erroneous, of a surplus. The bungled accounting has triggered charges of mismanagement and malfeasance, prompting the council to take the first steps toward launching a formal inquiry that could morph into a criminal investigation.
With cash flow in question, the city remains at risk of losing control of its financial decisions to a state budget commission or, in a worst-case scenario, a Central Falls-style receiver. So far, the state has decided to give the city time to try to work out its financial problem on its own, but time may be running out.
In order to keep the state overseers at bay, Fontaine must successfully piece together a multi-tiered program of cuts and tax hikes that spreads the pain around in a manner State Revenue Director Rosemary Booth Gallogly believes is fair. But major components of that plan are still in play, including a proposal to cut $1.8 million in salaries from city employees for the last quarter of the fiscal year.
That boils down to a 10 percent pay cut for teachers, firefighters, police and other city workers through June 30, retroactive to April 1. Fontaine said Tuesday he’s still waiting to hear back from representatives of six city employees’ unions on whether the rank and file is amenable to the offer. The union leaders met as a group with Fontaine last Friday to hear his offer.
And, despite the council’s 6-1 vote in favor of supplemental taxes, it won’t be a done deal without the General Assembly’s seal of approval. And without the authority to tax, the city will have no way of raising some $4.3 million it desperately needs to run the school department through the end of the fiscal year. The plan is to borrow the money from a bank against the anticipated collection of taxes so the funds are accessible in the short time frame during which they’re needed. But without legislative approval, there will be no tax bills, and nothing to borrow against.

Comments

General Assembly

July 22, 2012 by jeffrose (not verified), 2 years 8 weeks ago
Comment: 1827

You cannot done the deal without General Assembly.

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Tax Hike

April 23, 2012 by Jeffo46 (not verified), 2 years 21 weeks ago
Comment: 1148

First of all, I'd like to address one thing and that is, if the Woonsocket Call is going to print comments on here from readers,I for one would appreciate if they were readable. This mamboob fellow obviously has no grasp of the english language ,which makes his posts very difficult to onderstand, okay ? Now that I have that off of my chest, this is to the General Assembly and that is, please do not pass the supplemental tax hike, here in Woonsocket . Our public elected officals have screwed up big time and by passing this, you are letting them off the hook for their mistakes. Bankruptcy or recievership is the only thing that will allow this city to have a fresh start and show these crooked politicians here in Woonsocket, both on the City Council and the School Committee, the error of their ways. We don't need them screwing up things anymore and we certainly do not need to be paying any more taxes to cover their screw ups. A federal, not state police, investigation is in order as to why 10 million dollars suddenly dissapeared . We, the taxpayers of Woonsocket deserve that.

spred the welt

April 15, 2012 by mamboob (not verified), 2 years 22 weeks ago
Comment: 1132

now tim to spred the welt as obama say an no reson you rich 1%landman shud have all the munies and keep the 99% down
all mens created eqal but you greed an not wan to pay fare shair
if we all hav sam you no crybaby cuas you then pay sam lower eqal as meny otters wud that why we ned to spred welt to the 99 you gots mor so fare you pays mor
if you landman not has so much munies you leeve by now but you stayon and youcrybabyyou all the way to fancee restarant in you new car or you go vakatshun and cry i gotno muny

We need to pay the taxes.

April 15, 2012 by Hitmer (not verified), 2 years 22 weeks ago
Comment: 1131

We homeowners need to pony up and pay the taxes. Without the money the kids can't continue their education and the city will suffer even more. Although paying more taxes may not be popular we need to get this done and move forward. My neighbors and I are OK with making this sacrifice for our children. It is time to stop being SELFISH and get things done - our kids' future is at stake!

you pay mor tax

April 15, 2012 by mamboob (not verified), 2 years 22 weeks ago
Comment: 1129

you landman you pay mor tax you greed an take an selfis
you greed it hurt kids they want go scool an eets too but you tink youself altime wit bigscreentv meny new car an lots munies you crybaby no munies for tax you eet at fancee restarant and buy mor an mor you 1% paymor you tax stop takaway from the 99%
you got lot of mumies you pay landman

more of the same

April 12, 2012 by pac1979 (not verified), 2 years 23 weeks ago
Comment: 1123

Ive lived in RI all my life, and in Woonsocket for the last five years. I like it here, I like my neighborhood. I'll probably stay for a little while longer at least until I can sell my house without loosing my shirt. My property values have dropped 15% since I moved in. I find it HILARIOUS when I see people talk about the rich "paying your fair share" solving this problem. You do know that LESS THAN HALF of woonsocket residents pay ANY property tax, right? That was brought up at the town meeting a few weeks ago. Also, you do realize we live in Rhode Island, right? 5th highest state tax burden in the country?
http://www.taxfoundation.org/taxdata/show/478.html

I can sell my place, walk across the street and pay 2 points less in Mass(11th highest). Then you freeloaders would be missing out on 100% of my taxes instead of just an extra 500 bucks. Just one less land owner to milk. Taking more of my money isnt the answer. Also, we do realize that the mandated step increases(soo radically different from a "raise" but still cost money, imagine that?) are still going through THIS YEAR
http://oceanstatecurrent.com/research/woonsocket-teachers-receive-4-7-mi...

One last thing, how much do you want to bet the morons wanting to "tax the rich" more and calling us greedy for wanting to keep our own money are renters? RI unemployment isnt high because rich people keep thier own money. Its high because every time you try to do better the state's got its hand out slapping you back with regulations or emptying your pockets.

Re: More of the same

April 13, 2012 by abmtwolf (not verified), 2 years 22 weeks ago
Comment: 1127

I could not have said it better myself! Everyone has a stake in the game. However small, everyone needs to contribute to society. The free ride is over. This is a responsibility we all share. And that is the true meaning of fairness, not the propaganda out of Obama.

Google Law suite

April 10, 2012 by vaz185 (not verified), 2 years 23 weeks ago
Comment: 1116

Hello Mayor The state of Rhode Island just won a 265 million dollar Google Law suite why cant we used $10 million dollars from that money to help Woonsocket out instead of coming after the tax payers we don't have the money? Do you hear me PLEASE! How about CVS instead of them donate to charity why cant they donate to there home town? Thank you.

City of Woonsocket Taxes

April 10, 2012 by vaz185 (not verified), 2 years 23 weeks ago
Comment: 1115

Hello I live here all my life and owned many houses in Woonsocket every time you turn around they are raising something all I am trying to do is make a honest living here,just cant do it anymore in woonsocket. The water & sewer bills are though the roof and now they want to kill us with another tax bill. The dam city officials cause these problems! There the one that bankrupt the city not the tax payer! Now they are trying to bankrupt the tax payer! Do you understand English We don't have the money to pay for your mistakes HELLO! No matter what I say will not change anything cause they just don't care what the people have to say! I am tired of fighting they are all no good crooks! They have force me & middle and high class right out of this city! I am selling everything & moving. All my houses are in mint condition very well care for & up keep they have lost another good home owner

pay you taxes rich woonsocket peopl

April 5, 2012 by mamboob (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1101

you wonnsocket peoples is greed an not wan to pay your fare shair. you greed it come back an bite you and you rase you rents some mor and you rase you stor price some mor then we don't buy nuthin from you an we dont pay yo big rents we get somewher cheaper an you hoses an you stors they get plowed under. i laugh at you.

shame on you

April 5, 2012 by pocahontas9021 (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1098

I would like to know what cuts the city and school department are making other than proposed salaries decreases? This is crazy that we as tax payer,home owners and business owners have to have our taxes increased to bail your poorly run fiscal departments out of a hole. And as this article says the SURPRISE discovery.. are you kidding me why wasn't someone watching what is being spent. Someone from the outside should step in and find out what is going on. Where is our money going??? If we ran our households like you run the city we all would be living out of cardboard boxes. I personally would love to see where every penny is being spent for the last 2 years.

Say No To The Supplemental Tax Bill !!!!

April 4, 2012 by Jeffo46 (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1093

Let's hope that the General Assembly has at least enough common sense to vote and say no to this supplemental tax bill. The City Council and Leo Fontaine have had their chance to straighten things out and have failed miserably . The School Department along with the Committee needs to be investigated by the federal government in order to truly see how 10 million dollars dissapeared . The people of Woonsocket have had enough of the lies and shenanagans of the City Council & The School Committee and it's about time that something be done about it. Let the state take over and put the city into recievership and let the idiots on the Council & Fontaine sit back and watch powerless while the state can hopefully, put things back in order here in Woonsocket !

Tax equity also at State House

April 4, 2012 by Working Stiff (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1092

While at the General Assembly, any Woonsocket resident should insist that their reps and senators back Rep. Maria Cimini's bill, H-7729, that restores tax cuts given the rich six years ago. With all the lip service given to "shared sacrifice" by this General Assembly, it would be nice to see their words reflected with deeds. Deeds like passing this bill so that those making more than $250K/yr can pay their fair share towards getting this state back on track.

This bill is slated to raise $131 million in revenue. That money could then be spent in a myriad of ways, from providing tax relief to property owners in distressed communities, fixing roads and bridges, restoring the cuts to programs for the developmentally disabled; cuts that were made at the end of the session last year with no hearings or debate.

That's what the average Woonsocket resident should be agitating for, restoring taxes to the rich that were given the breaks to create jobs. Where are all the jobs? Nowhere, that's where. Rhode island now has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country and yet, the rich here just get richer and the General Assembly leaders think they shouldn't be taxed any more. Maybe Speaker Fox, Majority Leader Matiello and Senate President Paiva-Weed should get out and talk to their constituents a little more, maybe then they'd know that taxing the rich is a very popular idea, one they should be more willing to explore. Then again, maybe they don't want to get re-elected.

supplemental tax

April 4, 2012 by watcherofcity (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1091

One of Woonsocket's politicians said that if the city goes bankrupt, we "will lose control of our city". The school committee and city council have already lost control of our city. We elected them to act as watchdogs for us. They failed miserably as did their predecessors. There are many people in the city who are much better qualified to guard the chicken coop. We need a group of volunteers to monitor every aspect of city finances. Bankruptcy is our best option: all contracts with unions will be terminated, all agreements with vendors will be renegotiated, etc etc. Teachers who are hired will start at step 1, benefits will be stipulated by the city, along with other financial changes to the taxpayers advantage. The city belong to the taxpayers, not to labor unions. This must not happen with the current gang of politicians sitting on the council and school committee. They have demonstrated their incompetence, uncaring, and special interests. Now is the time to clean house and start with new leaders. Help us taxpayers dear Lord, we are trapped and need your help.

Democrats, the party of more taxes.....

April 4, 2012 by Marcel (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1090

I live in California, a state run by Democrats. The state is in financial trouble as is Woonsocket and RI. Both states are controlled by a Democratic party that seems to go the "increase the taxes" route rather than curtail spending and operating cost.

I do pay more property tax on my 1400 sf condo on Allen St than I do on my 2100 sf home in Anaheim CA but on both ends of the continent I'm being taxed to death.

Anaheim CA is located in Orange County CA, a county that had to declare bankruptcy over five years ago. Public services dwindled for a while and adjustment to spending were made but we survived and almost out of the woods now. Proposed tax increases by our Democratic governor are looming and people are leaving the state. As you read this, a lifelong friend of mine and a Woonsocket resident, is driving to South Carolina for a new start as he escapes the lunacy of the legislators in Woonsocket and RI. So as these income producing people who are tired of being over taxed for the mistakes of others,leave behind those who only live off the system. That seems to be the Democratic model of a perfect place to live.

So pay I must but not another dime will I invest in RI until I see constraints on spending and better jobs being done to change what's necessary for the state and Woonsocket to recover. More money thrown at a problem is seldom the answer if the infection's not treated first.

Discusted with it all!

April 4, 2012 by Simple Citizen (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1086

I HAVE LIVED IN WOONSOCKET FOR OVER 18 YEARS AND BOUGHT A HOUSE HERE 6 YEARS AGO. WORST THING I EVER DID! THIS TAX WILL DISTROY A LOT OF FAMILIES AND FORCE MORE PEOPLE OUT OF THE CITY.(MY SELF INCLUDED) I AM BARLEY GETTING BUY NOW AND JUST DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY TO ONCE AGAIN" BAIL OUT A FAULTY ADMINASTRASION" PAST AND PRESANT. IF I HAVE TO COME UP WITH A LUMP SUM OF $500.00 OR MORE FOR YET ANOTHER TAX THAN SOMEONE BETTER BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THIS MESS. WHERE DID THE MONEY GO AND HOW DID IT GET THIS BAD. DO NOT BLAME BUGIT CUTS. IT IS OVER SPENDING AND STEALING, PLAIN AND SIMPLE. WEATHER PAST OR PRESANT SOMEONE NEED TO PAY. THE CITIZENS OF WOONSOCKET DESERVE ANCERS AND WILL NEVER THEM FROM THE CITY, I THINK A STATE POLICE INVESTIGATION IS THE WAY TO GO. PEOPLE NEED TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE OR WE WILL BE HERE AGAIN IN A FEW YEARS. STEELING LAST I CHECKED WAS A CRIME! THIS IS A CRIME AND SHOULD BE TREATED AS SUCH!

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