Woonsocket residents seek legal challenge for supplemental tax

Woonsocket residents seek legal challenge for supplemental tax

WOONSOCKET – A legal defense fund has been set up with the intent of challenging the Budget Commission’s recent decision to send out tax bills that exceed the state-mandated four percent levy increase.

Supplemental bills for $2.5 million in new motor vehicle and residential taxes were authorized via legislation passed during the final hours of session for the General Assembly this year. The enabling bill specified that residents could only be taxed if the commission first realized $3.75 million in saving from changes to retiree and active union contracts.

Critics, including Sen. Marc Cote, who helped to pass the bill, are charging that the Commission has not secured the needed funds.

“On behalf of the people of District 24 I’m here to stand in opposition to the path you have chosen to set in motion,“ Cote told the Commission this week. “You are claiming $2.7 million in savings that’s in question.”

Resident James Cournoyer repeated an argument explained in The Breeze last week by Cote: the state law called specifically for “realization” of savings.

“The legislation did not make the tax contingent on ‘potential’ savings, or ‘anticipated’ savings, or ‘hoped for’ savings or savings ‘to be realized in the future,’ said Cournoyer. “Unfortunately, we have elected officials that seem to consistently struggle with the English language and consistently thumb their noses at the rule of law.”

Another vocal detractor, resident Roland Michaud, is advocating for residents to wait until the last possible moment to pay their bills.

“By that point in time we will have some kind of direction from our attorneys,” he said.

Michaud and others have launched the Woonsocket Legal Defense Fund and are working to hire a lawyer to act on behalf of taxpayers.

Funds are being collected at WNRI 1380 radio and total around $2,000 so far. The intent, they say, is to review documents and advise the citizens of the city when a legal question should arise.

Cote said money in the fund will only be spent if it is determined that a suit has a good probability of success. Donations are accepted by check only, and are being held until an attorney is retained.

Checks can be made out to: Woonsocket Legal Defense Fund and mailed to: WNRI 786 Diamond Hill Road Woonsocket, RI 02895.