Meanwhile, About that 13% Supplemental Tax Bill …
Without losing sight of the 38 Studios situation, other matters around the state continue to move inexorably forward and, therefore, command our attention. Not the least of these is developments regarding the city for which, ominously, a budget commission has already been assembled, though not sent in.
So, in order to stave off that budget commission and the route of receivership which it represents, Woonsocket solons had requested from the General Assembly approval for a 13% supplemental tax (which would then form the basis for the tax rate going forward). The Senate approved it in early May. Next stop, the House. Finance heard it Tuesday but
After hearing testimony from both residents and city officials Tuesday, the state House Finance Committee postponed action on legislation that would have authorized the unpopular 13 percent assessment.
Thank you for interpreting the legislative tea leaves, Mr. Bruce.
The city’s finance director, Thomas Bruce, said later he assumes the bill will not come out of committee.
With the end of the fiscal year approaching and unpaid (to the tune of $5.9 million) vendors understandably stirring around, time is fast running out. Unfortunately, the passage of time doesn’t change the strong likelihood of a supplemental tax, only the party asking for it.
Insiders suspect that [State Director of Dept of Revenue, Rosemary Booth Gallogly] may act quickly to put a city Budget Commission in place, stepping up the state’s intervention in Woonsocket’s fiscal problems.
City residents shouldn’t make any extravagant purchases if they have extra money set aside for the tax just yet, however. The Budget Commission could make another attempt to get the supplemental tax bill passed by the state. If new legislation is submitted, the process will start over, and the bill will head back to the Senate.
In comments, City Council President John Ward advises
So, the day has come. Our House delegation has delayed our supplemental tax legislation long enough to bring us to where the school department accounts were overdrawn yesterday by almost $300,000. RIDE is withholding state aid because payments can’t be made to special education vendors. We can’t rely on our Reps to get the bill through, and we can’t borrow money without passage of the bill. The same General Assembly created an education funding formula that punishes poor cities just because they are poor. So on Monday’s Woonsocket City Council agenda is a resolution requesting that the state appoint a budget commission for Woonsocket. Not because we don’t know how to solve the problem, but only because our local rep’s delayed a good plan until the cash crunch caused a collapse. And now they’ll try to blame us.
We will manage this problem to a successful conclusion despite this unnecessary setback.
And today, the Woonsocket Call reports on a highly related development.
The bill to allow Woonsocket to assess a 13 percent extra tax on property and vehicles in the city appears to be headed for passage.
The House Finance Committee has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday afternoon at the Statehouse and a vote on the Woonsocket bill is the only item on its agenda. …
How about when it comes to the House floor? “It all depends on the amendments that are proposed,” [House Spokesman Larry Berman] said. “Put it this way, in the normal course of events, when a community asks to raise taxes and they have the support of the local representatives and the local officials, we normally do pass them.”
It’s not at a clear whether this will be soon enough to forestall the Council’s resolution to precipitate a budget commission or, even more critically, address the dire situation of unpaid school vendors.