To the editor:
Woonsocket does not have the vision or a plan to become the great City it once was. Last year, I had clear objectives to increase economic development, fix our housing crisis, and improve our reputation. The voters were lied to and now we are forced with sending out an extra tax bill. Let’s be very clear, that there is no such thing as a surplus or deficit in the school department. The City of Woonsocket is responsible for all school funding; for which they receive aid from the Federal and State Government. The School Committee does not have the ability to raise revenue and I would challenge the Mayor and former Council members to prove where the nearly $ 6 million in cuts this year could have been made and why there was no backup plan for lack of grant money to cover expenses?
The negative headlines and on-going public debate over receivership is dividing our city and not solving any of Woonsocket’s long-term problems. We will get past this, however everyone needs to contribute including the companies in a PILOT program like CVS, which made four billion in profit last year and in my opinion, could contribute at least $500,000 to ensure the city does not go bankrupt or a receiver does not take away the program all together. Steward Health Care should pay the full bill in 2013 since they did not ask for a PILOT program and they committed to a $30 million investment in Landmark from the beginning. Yes, the current financial situation is dire, however this City will continue to decline (even with more State & Federal aid) if we do not address the real issues that plague our growth. This City is in dire need of not only a financial plan for the years to come but a real vision for our future.
To spur economic development, we need to levy non-utilization fees on vacant properties. To address the housing crisis, we need to offer tax breaks for building new homes by knocking down blighted/abandoned properties. This will result in more jobs being created, higher sale prices, reduced service costs, lower vacancy rates, and more moderate income people moving to Woonsocket. When the real estate market improves, the city should be incentivizing privately owned subsidized housing to be converted to condominiums for first time home buyers.
We also need to promote the Arts on Main Street by offering tax breaks to property owners that lease space to artists and galleries. Every vacant space should have a gallery and the money for this can be raised by non-profits and grants. Our reputation can be restored by maintaining our properties and having pride in our City. I love Woonsocket and I hope you all stand up with me for this City by defending it against all negativity. As the saying goes, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
Garrett S. Mancieri