Too Big to Fail Towns?

Along with a table with the statewide results, Providence Business News has an article describing the results of “fiscal stress tests” that a state panel ran for cities and towns:

Pawtucket, North Providence, East Providence, Central Falls, Warwick and West Warwick are in the most serious trouble, the Municipal Fiscal Stress Task Force reported Friday after examining municipal reserves, property tax rates, pension liabilities and public employee health care benefits, among other factors. …
Task force members — made up of financial experts, CPA and several municipal finance directors — have asked that a permanent commission be formed to monitor local spending and develop recommendations.
Peder Schaefer, chief of the Department of Revenue’s municipal finance division and a member of the task force, told reporters Thursday that the report would lead to legislation that would “beef up oversight by the state.”
For instance, one bill that being worked on would require local school departments to file quarterly financial reports with the R.I. Department of Education, he said. Another would give municipal councils or chief executives the authority to approve school department spending plans, administration officials said.

I remain skeptical about the urge to consolidate and control from above. The state is hardly in a condition of fiscal health, and residents have more access to change their local government than they do their municipal leadership. Indeed, the policies of the state are a contributing factor to the difficulties of the towns. It would be a mistake to assume that the people leveraging this greater influence, at the state level, would be the same people who took the initiative to study the numbers in the first place.
I say this as an active taxpayer in the most fiscally stressed “rural” town, by far. Tiverton’s Fiscal Stress Test score is in company with the state’s “urban” communities and fares only slightly better than the “urban ring” municipalities about which the state is so concerned.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
14 years ago

Check out what is going on in Harrisburg, PA, another city held hostage by unions:
“Now is not the time to raises taxes or fees. That will only add pressure on businesses and private citizens. Islands can only be sold once, and selling property now would likely do nothing but cause the unions to delay negotiating labor contracts. Moreover, Management Partners Inc. misses making a recommendation to privatize city services.
Declaring bankruptcy is easily the best option. I commend Dan Miller for making it. But all will be wasted if Harrisburg misses the opportunity to renegotiate labor contracts (preferably void them outright), in bankruptcy court.
As soon as a couple major cities declare bankruptcy to end burdensome union contracts and ridiculous pension promises, the stigma will be off and more cities will do it. Indeed, there will be a mad rush to do so, if the first few instances work out as well as I suspect.
Cities and municipalities that get out from the grip of unions will have a huge competitive advantage over everyone else.”
It’s only a matter of time.
The truth is slowly coming out – we are being screwed by the unions.

14 years ago

Sometimes I think the state as a whole suffers from over-division. I’ve asked this before, but how many competent administrators willing to take a pay cut in order to govern-as-public-service do you think Rhode Island has? I know when I go to vote, the -vast- majority of slots only have one option. No wonder 70% of pawtucket pulls the ‘straight ticket’ lever, it’s more convenient to connect that line than it is to vote for twenty uncontested races.
I think part of regionalization will be losing some local control, but it also widens the pool of competent people to draw from. Considering how many seats (even in the GA) go uncontested, it’s not hard to imagine that we’re lacking for enough qualified and willing participants to have a real democracy.
Instead of worrying about Tiverton losing control of Tiverton, imagine that Tiverton’s schools were managed by an entity that included all of East Bay. Voters could choose the ‘best ten’ candidates from the entire East Bay, likely fifty or so people. Right now you only get the choice of ‘best five’ out of six or seven, making it very easy for municipal unions to stack the decks in their own favor.

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.