Editor's note: The following letter was submitted to the Woonsocket Budget Commission Sept. 2:
Budget Commission Members, I would like to share my thoughts and ideas with you as you work towards closing our deficit here in the City.
We need to look at alternate ways of producing revenue without going to the taxpayers first. One way of doing that is applying fees to vacant/abandoned property owners that are creating blight in our neighborhoods and bringing down our property values.
There is a list of nearly 250 vacant properties which we could be producing revenue off of if we assessed fines for being on that list. I would suggest that after one year of being on the list, we place a $500 fine, and then a $100 fine for each month after that.
If the fines are not paid in six months, a lien should be placed on the property to be paid by the owner when they sell the property. All property must transfer free and clear of title and any liens on the property.
We also should be using the non-utilization fee for property that is not for sale for one year or no work has been done on the property for one year. I would also like to see this be applied to vacant land that is prime for economic development. We could afford to hire one or two individuals to monitor this and still end up with positive cash flow from the money we collect.
We also need to sell any assets we can before a supplemental tax is implemented. I would like to see the budget commission sell our former middle school at Park Place and the Feinstein Learning Center on Social Street. It would be bring in money and put two properties back on the tax rolls. These properties need to be listed with a brokerage firm to bring in higher offers than an auction would.
We also have many vacant lots in the City that we could sell for little money but at least we would not be responsible to maintain them and would bring in some tax dollars.
We are struggling to upkeep our properties and parks and we need to reduce our supply in order to better upkeep our city appearance. I am not satisfied with just an universal healthcare plan and small pension obligation changes, as I feel that most likely will not result in enough saving to produce a lower supplemental tax bill.
The taxpayers in Woonsocket are maxed out with higher water and sewer fees coming as well. I am strongly urging you to warn our residents months before what their tax bill will be so they can save money and give them as least three months over time to pay the bill. I see how many foreclosures and short sales dominate our real estate market and I do not want more to come because of this increase in taxes.
I also believe the supplemental tax increase should go down every year and be eliminated completely as our state aid increases each year.
It is also disappointing to see your meetings at 3 p.m. If you want people to be involved and ask questions, you should meet at a time more convenient for the people who work during the day. I care about my city greatly and I hope that you will listen to all our concerns and comments. I can appreciate the difficult work that you have before you and I truly hope that you are successful. I have forwarded this email to the council and media as well to inform them of these ideas to generate public support and get more people involved in helping our community.