Woonsocket's supplemental tax bill won't be happening after Gov. Lincoln Chafee rejected city representatives' last minute compromises.
The bill would've authorized the city to issuse new tax bills on a 13 percent tax increase to raise $6.6 million toward the city's $10 millon deficit. The bill would have led to an extra $3.15 for every $1,000 of assessed residential property value. For the owner of a home worth $150,000, that would mean a $472.50 bill. The supplemental tax would also tack on $4.51 for commercial property, and $5.81 for motor vehicles.
“We cannot force our residents to pay a 13.8 percent supplemental tax,” said Rep. Lisa Baldelli Hunt (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket) in a release from the Legislative Press Bureau. “We originally started with a five-point plan and narrowed it down to a two-point compromise for the governor. But in the end, he said our proposal for an 8.5 percent tax, which would not have been added to the base, was not large enough.”
Rep. Robert D. Phillips (Democrat- District 51, Woonsocket) and Rep. Jon Brien (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket) also joined Baldelli-Hunt in the push for a compromise.
Senators Roger A. Picard (Democrat - District 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) and Marc A. Cote (Democrat - District 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) voted for the original bill when the Senate passed it.
Woonsocket's House delegation also asked for a measure allowing the city to push back the start of construction for the DEM-mandated wastewater treatment plant as part of their compromise.
“We made it known that we would be willing to meet in the middle, but we would not go back to the original proposal for the $6.6 million tax levy,” Brien said of their proposal. "It would have allowed the new Budget Commission to acquire the proper data to move forward, and I think that would have put our city on better footing to avoid bankruptcy.”
Director of Revenue Rosemary Booth Gallogly did not see it that way.
"While it might have been politically expedient for the Governor to cave to short-sighted pressures, the demands made by the House delegation were outside of the authority of the executive branch – a fact of which they were well aware. Additionally, the delegation’s demands would not have resulted in the required impact on Woonsocket’s fiscal situation. The Governor therefore had no choice but to reject these unrealistic requests," Gallogly said in a statement.
Gallogly said the Woonsocket City Council's attempt at the supplental tax was a brave move toward the only way to avoid further financial decline, demonstrating courage and foresight their representatives in the house failed to exhibit. "After many months of attempting to achieve consensus on a solution that would avoid fiscal collapse and additional state intervention, they failed to make the difficult yet necessary choice to protect the city and its residents in the long-term," Gallogly said.
Phillips said his thoughts were with the city’s residents. “I’ve grown even more concerned after seeing the number of homeowners on the most recent tax sale list,” he said. “This isn’t fair to them. I’m sure the governor’s decision today will not ease their minds.”
Members of the Woonsocket Budget Commission and Gallogly have both stated that without the supplemental tax, Woonsocket faces serious cuts in services. RIFuture.org reports the city may now seek receivership. During a speaking engagement for the Woonsocket Taxpayers Coalition April 26, Central Falls Reciever Robert Flanders said receivership would not save citizens from a tax increase.
The Woonsocket Budget Commission will meet today at City Hall at 3 p.m.