The numbers just don't add up
The numbers just don't add up
With the approval of the deficit reduction bond in 2010, Mayor Lombardi was able to start fresh. Any deficit that existed, regardless of who may have been responsible for it in the first place, was now gone. The bond payment money was included in the budget and the slate was clean. The starting point was zero.
Since that time (and even before) we read constantly how Mayor Lombardi saved North Providence tens of thousands of dollars as a result of his self-proclaimed financial wizardry. In big splashes spread over the pages of the North Providence Breeze over the past several years we learned that the town achieved several budget surpluses. The mayor issued press releases explaining how he saved the town tens of thousands of dollars by reducing the number of town employees, consolidating positions, purchasing a fire truck on e-Bay, purchasing dump trucks from state surplus, decreasing the reliance on private snow plow drivers by relying on Department of Public Works workers to perform the service, closing the Geneva Fire Station, using state grant money to acquire Camp Meehan so as preserve it as open space, install a new natural heating system at town hall, withdrawing from REAP Energy Program in favor of another (no-bid) electric supplier, consolidating street sweeping services and animal control services with the town of Johnston (without required council approval), etc., etc. Many of these initiatives violated state law or the town charter and some were done despite protests from the Town Council, but they were done anyway, all under the guise of saving money. In addition, the town experienced the $60 million Google windfall and successfully petitioned the federal government to use some of that money to pay the deficit in the police pension program that resulted from four consecutive years of woeful underfunding by the Lombardi administration. This money will even ensure that the town will not have to fund any new police equipment, supplies and building renovations for years to come.
Now, despite having increased taxes more than 25 percent since taking office, reducing the exemption on the car tax to $500 (the lowest allowed by state law), and increasing many license and permit fees, the mayor is asking for another tax increase and proposing the deferment of much needed street paving. The question that must be asked is, "Where is all the money going?"
According to statistics and surveys published by golocalprov.com, North Providence instituted tax increases in Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011 that exceeded the state imposed cap. As compared to Rhode Island's 31 towns (cities excluded) North Providence has the #1 highest taxes, the 7th highest total debt, the 11th highest unemployment rate, the most foreclosures, and the 2nd highest car taxes. There are lists on which North Providence was not prominently featured, however. They include the list of best towns in which to live and the list of best towns for doing business. Is it any wonder based on the track record that North Providence would be absent from those lists?
The taxpayers deserve to know how it is possible to start with a zero balance in Fiscal Year 2011, institute all the aforementioned cost saving initiatives, receive the Google windfall, be among the most heavily taxed towns, and still need a tax increase in Fiscal Year 2014? The Town Council needs to demand answers. The numbers just don't add up.
Frank A. Manfredi Paul F. Caranci
The writers are former council members who served on the Council Finance Committee when the deficit reduction bond was negotiated and implemented. Manfredi served as chairman and was a prime architect of the deficit reduction bond that was ultimately employed.