Mayor, council president would welcome budget commission

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Financial woes are nothing new to the city of Woonsocket, and the state is stepping in to try to do something about it. But each proposed resolution comes with major resistance.

“I would hope the House would revisit that decision yesterday,” Gov. Lincoln Chafee said Friday.

The House rejected a bill Thursday authorizing a 13 percent tax increase for residents of Woonsocket that would translate to about $6.6 million for the city budget.

“If the building right behind me here with the House and Senate would take some positive action, we can avoid these bad decisions for cities and towns,” Chafee said.

This statement comes on the heels of state Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt reneging on her endorsement of the hike just two days after supporting it.

“We really do need this supplemental tax bill to be approved so we have enough cash to finish the fiscal year,” City Council President John Ward said.

Ward said he would like to see the state work with his city to come up with a solution. He said so many cuts have already been made that bringing in a receiver will start to effect salary levels, benefits and staffing, especially at the school department.

Mayor Leo Fontaine is in strong favor of at least bringing in a budget commission to help decide the next steps.

“Once that budget commission comes in, we work within that realm to try to affect the change that we need to, to salvage the situation,” Fontaine, a Republican, said.

The city has already cut costs by shutting off street lights, eliminating summer hiring for youth activities, and combining many city jobs under one position.

“Tragically, I would have to welcome a budget commission to get those state-appointed outside eyes to come in and really evaluate the city and its spending patterns,” Ward said.

The full City Council will meet Sunday to submit a resolution to request a special budget commission.

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