The Woonsocket Education Department is facing a $10 million deficit, pushing the city to the brink of municipal bankruptcy. And Woonsocket homeowners may be footing the bill.
The City Council has scheduled a special meeting at 7 p.m. tonight to consider imposing a supplemental property tax bill this year, which the state General Assembly would also have to approve. The city would seek an extra $3.15 for every $1,000 of assessed residential property value, $4.51 for commercial property, and $5.81 for motor vehicles. Homeowners with houses valued at $150,000 would get a bill for nearly $500.
City officials said the supplemental bill would raise about $6.6 million, leaving another $3 million the city and school department must make up through cuts or alternate revenue streams. Some City Council members are pinning their hopes on an infusion of cash from the state, but with several other Rhode Island communities facing similar deficits, there's no indication additional education aid is on the way.
Even if the council and legislature approve a supplemental tax bill, Woonsocket will still have to borrow money to keep schools open. The education department is expected to run out of money by April 6, leaving the city no ability to pay teacher and staff salaries, or even the electricity bill. Revenue from the supplemental tax bill wouldn't arrive by then, likely forcing additional borrowing.
So what do you think? Should the city impose an immediate supplemental tax bill, or are residents stretched too thin already? Vote in our poll and add your argument to the debate in the comments section below. And don't forget to check back with WoonsocketPatch tomorrow morning for full coverage of tonight's meeting.