Woonsocket Supplemental Tax Bill May Be Heard Tuesday

Ward told members of joint Council, School Committee working session that bill could get second shot.


City Council President John Ward told members of the Council and School Committee Wednesday that the act authorizing the city to issue new tax bills could get another chance May 22.

Ward spoke during a Council working session at Town Hall last night, with School Committee Chair Anita Forcier-Mcguire, School Committee Vice Chair Vimala Phongsavanh and Superintendent Giovanna Donoyan present. He said he'd spoken with Rep. Jon Brien (Dist. 50, Woonsocket) earlier Wednesday and had learned the Finance Committee might be considering the act again as early as next Tuesday. The Finance Committee tabled the authorizing legislation Tuesday, May 15.

"It usually means that the bill is killed," when a committee tables a bill for further study, said Mayor Leo Fontaine, so a possible new hearing is good news. But time is still short, he said. The school department is out of money, and is largely operating due to the good will of its creditors. Durham Bus Services, for instance, is continuing to provide transport for the schools despite an outstanding $600,000 bill.

The Finance Committee's tabling of the supplemental tax bill threatens that good will. "I think there is a big question in vendor's minds," Fontaine said. Also, he said, the city has since heard from Fitch Ratings Agency and Moody's about their concerns about the Finance Committee's decision to give the legislation more study.

Councilman Albert Brien suggested a second option to bring in funds for the city - borrowing from the city's pension fund. Finance Director Thomas Bruce said there's approximately $54 million in that fund, about $20 million of it in cash.

Brien said the cash is earning one quarter of one percent in interest. The city could borrow about $5 million from that, he said, esssentially borrowing from itself at 6.75 percent interest, benefiting the fund and raising money to pay vendors.

Bruce said he would double check with the city's bond attorney, Normand Benoit, but he has already told them the city can't do that. Also, Bruce said, he didn't think the idea was a good one. The pension funds are a trust between the city and employees. "You can't breach that trust," he said. Bruce added that he doubted State Auditor General Dennis E. Hoyle would approve borrowing from the fund.

Also during the meeting Superintendent Giovanna Donoyan told Council members that the schools draft budget had risen by $2,596,000 from the $64,500,000 budget B&E Consulting had given them to work with on Saturday, to $67.1 million.

The hike was largely due to $1.4 million expense for retirement funding and a $550,000 expense for a capital budget that B&E hadn't accounted for, Donoyan said.

Bruce commended the School Committee for its work to flesh out the budget, and noted it was unusual for an accounting firm's work to leave out the line items the School Committee had discovered and added in. "I've never seen that," Bruce said.

Ward said that while the omissions were shocking, the rushed nature of the task set out for B&E probably contributed to the ommissions. In early May, with the schools budget already weeks overdue, the Council demanded a budget from the school department.

"Thank God these people went through this line by line," said Councilman Robert Moreau, praising the School Committee's dilligence.

Donoyan said the School Committee would likely vote on their budget Friday.

Jan Allard May 20, 2012 at 02:42 PM
So, when we do get a hefty tax increase because of the school department, yes, Robert, school department, what about all city workers/teachers who don't live in the city, they can just look forward to their next paycheck, while the taxpayers have to pay the price? I think homeowners shouldn't have to pay for car the car tax increase since they are paying dearly on their homes. Let all the city workers, namely, teachers (500 of them) pay a fee for their share also. Share it equally since we are all victims of the WED administration and school committee's careless, brainless, stupidity.
Steve May 20, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Does anyone here know how the WED figures out how they come up with their budget? Typically, don't you figure out how much you have on the revenue side and then plan the budget accordingly? Example: City = 12.5 million State = 42 million Federal = 10 million Therefore our budget going forward is 67.5 million dollars and we plan our spending to coincide with our allocated revenue streams. Is this what is being done at the WED, so when they come up with the 70+ million dollar budget, they know exactly where that funding is coming from the city, the state and federal funds? Do they even take these factors into account, or are they just listing a bunch of line items, with no regard of the revenue stream that are supporting this budget, knowing full well that the city and it's tax payers are on the hook for any deficits they run in 2012 and 2013 going forward. Mr. Ward, Dr. Donoyan, Mrs. Forcier, seeing how you're a PHD, CPA, and such, how about shedding some light on this question? Thank you folks........
Jan Allard May 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Out of the mouth of babes, Dr. Annoyan stated that her job is to educate the children, and it's the city's job to fund them. Well, well, well, Dr. Annoyan, have you been a good doobie today? Since the cat has been out of the bag for over 4 months now, what has the school superintendent done to curb spending? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.... and nothing ever will because I think she lives in Willie Wonka's world!!
Novan for Life May 22, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Hey Jan what has our glorious mayor and city council done to curb spending?
Jan Allard May 23, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Hey Robert, the city side of finances is and was fine. In case you haven't heard, it's the WED that is short 10 million. Remember, the lying of the figures??? It's obvious you "need" the services of the school department or are an employee. Maybe you would like Central falls better..


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