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Woonsocket City Councilors Spar Over Taxes, Budget Cuts

Ward, Beauchamp argue with Jalette during Monday work session on budget.

 

Woonsocket City Council President John Ward and Councilman Christopher Beauchamp had heated words with Councilman Roger Jalette over the the supplemental tax bill during Monday's work session. 

The councilors cooled long enough to continue discussing possible cuts as alternatives to the supplemental tax bill. Audio of the exchange can be reviewed at Mywoonsocket.com's "In their own words" page under the title June 4, 2012 Woonsocket City CouncilWork Session Budget", at links #14, #17 and #18.

Jalette addressed the council, telling them the only solution to fixing the school department's $10 million deficit he'd heard from the majority of his fellow councilmen was increasing taxes.

"Really? You didn't hear me discuss cutting retirement benefits for healthcare, and 20 percent copay for retirees, and freezing the COLA? Did I leave the room?" Ward asked. He said they'd just spent an hour discussing those options. "And now you sit here, accusing us of sitting around talking about how we can tax our people? It's great rhetoric, but it's not real," Ward said.

Earlier in the meeting, Ward asked Finance Director Thomas Bruce how much those measures would save the city. Bruce said the co-pay and healthcare options would be about $800,000. He said he would give Ward a definite report later this week.

"Why on Earth, I still cannot figure out, why on Earth you guys have been wanting to do a supplemental tax bill in the first place," said Jalette.

The supplemental tax, a permanent 13 percent increase which could raise $6.6 million, has been stalled since Rep. Lisa Baldelli Hunt (Democrat - District 49, Woonsocket) pulled her support for the bill authorizing it. The Woonsocket Budget Commission voted to ask the General Assembly to reconsider the bill Tuesday.  

"We haven't been wanting to do it, Roger. Nobody wants to do it." Beauchamp said, "Nobody wants to do it, it Roger. None of us said, 'We want to do a supplemental tax.' You put words in people's mouths, councilman. That is not true."

Beauchamp said Jalette hadn't listened to Ward's comments on possible cuts to the city's budget when he said the other council members wanted a supplemental tax. "It's getting aggravating when you say things like that," Beauchamp said.

"Don't listen to me. You don't listen to me anyway," Jalette replied.

"No, listen to yourself, is what I'm trying to say," Beauchamp said, "Listen to yourself."

"What makes you think that I don't?" Jalette asked. The two began to speak at the same time and Ward told Beauchamp Jalette had the floor.

"You know councilman Beauchamp, I'm getting sick of you, and I'm going to turn around and I'm going to start coming after you the way you come after me," Jalette said. Ward broke in to the exchange, asking the coucilors to keep their comments on the topic of the budget.

Jalette continued, "Since we knew that we were in trouble, this council has relied on the Mayor and his staff to come up with whatever cuts that they can come up with, and take on the sole burden of this proposed budget. Not once did this council sit down and say, 'Mayor, we've had a meeting and here's how we think we should be making cuts. Not once did we offer to help the department, as a body," Jalette said.

Jalette said on the city side, the position of Economic Development Director, currently staffed by Matt Wojcik, a $70,000 line item, could be cut from the budget. On the school side, Jalette said the district could privatize their trash pickup. "Maybe they could save some money there," Jalette said. 

Beauchamp said economic development, regardless of who staffs the position, is vital to the city. He cited the Highland Park Industrial Park, built decades ago. "Without Highland Park, none of us would be here," Beauchamp said, "I mean, the amount of jobs, revenue that Highland Park created, was economic development." Beauchamp said a better area for cutting the budget would be to privatize the DPW department.

Beauchamp said the Budget Commission would also consider reducing the city's homestead tax exemption. Any cut to that, he said, would be bigger than the 13 percent hike that the supplemental tax would bring. "If they cut the homestead, anything, that tax hit on a residential homeowner, like myself, and probably everybody here, is going to be far greater than 13 percent. So if you think people can't afford the 13 percent right now, which I know, a lot of people can't, get ready for something much more draconian."

"I don't want to vote for the supplemental tax but I'm cognizant of the fact that if they reduce the homestead by 5, 10 percent, it's going to be a much bigger hurt on a lot of people. So, I mean, I know its nice to say, 'Don't raise taxes. We can't afford one red cent,' but those are the things you've got to factor in," Beauchamp said.

Tommy Tutone June 08, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Jallette's right,talks been all about taxes.It's been a one way street until now.Chop,chop.
la_mouffette June 08, 2012 at 07:02 PM
" Jalette said on the city side, the position of Economic Development Director, currently staffed by Matt Wojcik, a $70,000 line item, could be cut from the budget. ... Beauchamp said economic development, regardless of who staffs the position, is vital to the city. He cited the Highland Park Industrial Park, built decades ago. " Key words in that statement : BUILT DECADES AGO. I'm not picking on Matt Wojick here, but it's hard to see what economic development we've had in recent years. The truth is, we are economically eroding at an alarming pace, and have been for a long, long time. We invited Wal-mart in, and began raising our business tax rates to try to keep taxes low for the single family home owner, and those two factors have virtually killed local business. Wal-mart, typically, left us the moment something else looked better, leaving behind nothing but a large, empty, ugly box structure and a traffic vacuum. All the other large, non-local businesses are preparing to follow suit. They have no personal investment in our town, and they don't want to pay our sky-high property tax rates. Why would they, when they can squat just over the border, continuing to siphon out our cash while paying less than half the taxes! Change needed to take place YEARS ago. The local business cornerstone is almost dead. What can an economic developer even do, with the city's current problems and policies? I don't know. Anyone have some ideas?
give me a break June 08, 2012 at 08:10 PM
all they want is to pass the supplement tax bill
Meesh June 08, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Hopefully when Steward Health takes over Landmark that they will look into the property where the French Worsted stood and build a medical complex.
Daniel Kaffee June 08, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Roger Jalette continues to display how out of touch he is with the silent majority of the community who understands the need for a supplemental and permanent increase in taxes. Roger Jalette likes to play the role of Robin Hood as much as he likes to play the role of small business owner and Councilman. The bottom line is Roger Jalette is over his head on all counts and thank goodness we have smart and reasonable people like Mayor Leo Fontaine and City Council President John Ward to help lead us through this crisis.
Novan for Life June 08, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Um Daniel have you benn living under a rock for the last three months or so because Mr. Jalette is sticking up for the taxpayer. I don't see whwere he comes across out of touch he just needs to listen once in a while thats all not out of touch, he's sort of closed minded.
Novan for Life June 08, 2012 at 10:59 PM
just to continue LOWES is leaving by end of 2012 or early 2013 and the tax your referring to is the commercial tax which stands at $36.15 it's the highest in the northeren part of the state.
Novan for Life June 08, 2012 at 10:59 PM
i agree dead in the water
Tommy Tutone June 08, 2012 at 11:24 PM
A silent majority of sheep,all being led to slaughter.
Frankie June 09, 2012 at 10:41 AM
Here's the problem - you are all not looking at the big picture here. You, as citizens, get city services. You get your trash picked up, you get police and fire protection, your children get schooled, etc. There already have been severe cuts to the city employees as it is....we are down to bare bones, and still able to run the city efficiently. I support the supplemental tax - it is the LESSER of the evils to come down the road. If the tax goes through, there is a chance that the city can pull out of this. If it does not, and we all go into bankruptcy, you can be GUARANTEED that your taxes will be raised more than 13%. Suzie-Q did none of us a service. Had she increased taxes at small incriments, we would not be faced with this now.
Tommy Tutone June 09, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Under your "big picture" scenario,i guess if people can't afford it then too bad.Money doesn't grow on trees.You're a real humanitarian. I can't wait for The Exodus!
Memere June 09, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Now that would be a great idea!!!!!!!
Memere June 09, 2012 at 12:06 PM
I totally disagree!!!! There should always be someone questioning so that all matters before the council can be thoroughly investigated and thought about from ALL angles.
Still Hope June 09, 2012 at 07:42 PM
la_m. I agree with your sentiment here. The city changed 70 years ago when it stopped being a mill town. Halfway through finishing my thoughts on this I read a post on facebook that made me erase the ideas i wanted to propose for discussion. Here's what I read: "Longston Johnson if you're a friend, family, Little Bastard supporter, please take a minute to read thank you.. So the time has come that The city of Woonsocket has a problem with our name and logo..." and it reads on, but that is the gist. You want some ideas for economic development??? Here's one: quit stifling the businesses that have already pledged themselve to the city. Read about the business that some city politians are trying to crush: http://valleybreeze.com/2012/06/06/nsbw/whs-grad-expands-edgy-apparel-store
Still Hope June 09, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Frankie, you don't know what you are talking about. Tax rates are always in flux. http://www.ci.woonsocket.ri.us/woonsocket.historic.tax.rates.pdf In some places, home values are almost half of what they were 5-8 years ago. You would need to raise the taxes on the now cheaper properties in order to ensure the same revenue. How much tax is 12.5% rate on $200,000, now how much is 25% rate on $100,000...welcome to the fourth grade.
give me a break June 10, 2012 at 09:30 AM
who are you kidding, Roger is the only one looking out for the taxpayer,Mickey and Goofy only know how to raise taxes, maybe they should double your taxes or add more to make up for the ederly who can't afford it, not that mickey and goofy really care about the ederly
Memere June 10, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Although I really do not want an increase in my taxes, I do agree that the supplemental tax will probably be the lesser of two evils. The problem that I have with all this is that the same people that got us into this mess _ and you can blame Mrs Menard all you want but Mr. Fontaine was president of the city council - are still in charge. Mr. Ward has been in Woonsocket politics for a long time also. I really question their ability to use the money wisely. Also, the city council needs to demand increased funding from the state. Woonsocket has taken in many poor people who pay no taxes but use our services. We need more funding from the state to meet those needs.
Tommy Tutone June 10, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I respectfully disagree,supplemental=a very short term fix for deep structural problems.Throw more money at them and they'll want more in the future.This crisis needs to be looked at as an opportunity,an opportunity to reset for a more sustainable future. RI's got the second highest unemployment rate in the country and is the only state in the country that hasn't shown any improvement since 2008.Facts,not wishful thinking should rule the day.

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