Woonsocket's financial future in lawmakers' hands

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A bill allowing Woonsocket to collect a supplemental tax is among more than 100 measures that lawmakers have to consider before they adjourn for the summer Tuesday.

Woonsocket has a $10 million deficit, and the City Council voted to raise taxes by 13 percent to cover it.

But the state House of Representatives needs to act to allow the tax to go through. State revenue director Rosemary Booth Gallogly said that would be the best thing.

“Today is expected to be the last day of the session, so if that can get through I think the budget commission would have a much better chance of bringing stability back to Woonsocket,” Gallogly said.

Woonsocket’s two state representatives, Lisa Baldelli-Hunt and Jon Brien, said the tax is not acceptable and that they want the budget commission replaced with a receiver. That officer, they said, would have more authority to make the changes to keep Woonsocket afloat.

But state Sen. Elizabeth Crowley, D-Central Falls, warns that a receiver is not a desirable result.

“When you’re talking about a receiver, what happens in the total end of it, they’ll say you’re going to be better off. Well, I don’t think people who have lost 55 percent of their incomes and people who are facing the next five years of tax increases are better off than without having had at least some say it what was going on,” Crowley said.

Gallogly echoed those assessments and said that at least a budget commission makes its decisions in public.

“The budget commission to me is a much more transparent process. There are three public members — the mayor and the City Council president that sit on it. And all those meetings are open. They’re posted. The materials are provided ahead of time before the meetings, and there’s opportunity for public comment,” Gallogly said.

Woonsocket’s tax bill did not make it out of committee, but under the rules the speaker can put it on the floor for a vote.

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