The House Municipal Government Committee sent local representatives' Supplemental Tax Bill to the full house yesterday, recommending passage, putting Woonsocket at least seven days behind its billing deadline.
Budget Commission member and Council President John Ward said ideally, the measure would've needed to pass by May 15 to give the city plenty of time to send out bills.
Should the bill, sponsored by Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, (D-Dist. 49) and co-sponsored by Reps. Stephen Casey (D-Dist. 50) and Bob Phillips (D-Dist. 51), pass Wednesday, additional time will be needed to reconcile it with the Senate version, S-0820, introduced by Senators Marc Cote (D-Dist 24) and Roger Picard's (D-Dist. 20).
Ward said the crucial thing the Senate version has that needs to part of the reconciled bill is the provision allowing the City Council to create an elderly tax exemption, fixing the amount annually.
If the bill doesn't pass Wednesday, the House will have to consider the Senate version. If that doesn't pass either, the Budget Commission would either have to cut $5 million from the city budget, or call in a receiver, Ward said.
The supplemental tax is among the most potent in the array of tools the Budget Commission intends to use in its 5-year plan to repair the city's chronic financial shortfalls. But all of them are necessary to make the plan work and avoid calling in a receiver, Commission members say.
Several officials and experts have noted the wisdom of avoiding receivership. In the least dire forecast of a receivership, officials including Ward and Mayor Leo Fontaine said a receiver would pick up the 5-year-plan from where the Budget Commission left it — leaving opponents to that plan no better off.
During a speaking engagement for the Woonsocket Taxpayers Coalition last April, Central Falls Receiver Robert Flanders said receivership would not save citizens from a tax increase. In Central Falls, Flanders imposed a supplemental tax of 19 percent, followed by 5 years of 4 percent increases.
During a hearing with Woonsocket pensioners in February, Director of Revenue Rosemary Booth Gallogly warned bankruptcy would also be worse for them than the alternative. "In Central Falls, the payments were cut up to 55 percent," Gallogly said.