Can Woonsocket be Spared from Bankruptcy?
Thursday, June 14, 2012
The finger pointing and claims of political grandstanding between the Governor’s office and the Woonsocket delegation of the House of Representatives continued Wednesday, a day after any chance of a supplemental tax hike in Woonsocket died in the General Assembly.
Woonsocket’s City Council originally intended to impose a 13.8 percent supplemental tax to help the cash-strapped city generate an extra $6.6 million, but the plan didn’t get the okay from the state legislature.
“I am deeply disappointed that politics got involved in the process of trying to avoid fiscal collapse in Woonsocket,” Chafee said Wednesday. “The City Council demonstrated tremendous courage in their April vote; unfortunately their representatives in the Rhode Island House made a different, more short-sighted choice.”
Chafee said he is concerned that the failure to reach a compromise could lead Woonsocket to become the second Rhode Island city in less than a year to file for bankruptcy. The city has already appointed a budget commission and is considering all of its options.
“I have consistently stated that receivership is the least desirable course of action and should be activated only when all alternatives have been attempted,” Chafee said. “Regrettably, last night’s failure now makes that scenario far more likely.”
But members of the Woonsocket delegation say their proposal was entire reasonable and would have given the city a chance to avoid bankruptcy.
“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,” Rep. Jon D. Brien said. “We’re all very disappointed. All five Woonsocket legislators were behind those two points, and we stand by the notion that it was a reasonable compromise. 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.”
According to the Governor’s office, the proposal would not have generated the necessary savings Woonsocket needed. Department of Revenue director Rosemary Booth Gallogly said the Governor was given no choice but to reject the offer.
Now the city’s future is in flux. Woonsocket Teachers’ Guild president Jeffrey Partington said he is concerned about what will happen to the school system in September if some sort of agreement cannot be reached.
“What I do know in this situation is that Woonsocket schools will open in September,” he said. “What I don’t know is if the students will get bussed, if teachers will be rehired to be in front of the children, or if the lights will be on.”
Partington said politics have gotten in the way of the best interests of the city.
“We need solutions, not finger pointing to lay the blame on who is responsible,” he said. “We are in the same position we were 6 months ago: $10 Million deficit this year, a $10 Million deficit next year, and no elected officials that have the vision and leadership to solve the problem.”
Dan McGowan can be reached at email@example.com
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