Woonsocket negotiates tax deals with seven city social clubs

Woonsocket negotiates tax deals with seven city social clubs

WOONSOCKET - The city has reached tax agreements with all but one of the social clubs within Woonsocket borders, and is near bringing an end to an issue that has been a major source of anxiety over the past nine months for many of the organizations' members.

The groups will be charged 25 percent of the full burden for their property taxes over the next five years.

The deal ends nearly a year of uncertainty for the seven organizations, none of which had received a tax bill in previous years.

The policy of assuming that all nonprofit organizations were exempt was first questioned by members of the City Council in 2012, and in 2013, the tax assessor sent out forms to the groups, requesting proof that they were eligible for tax-exempt status.

Some organizations qualified, but at the time, Tax Assessor Christopher Celeste pointed out that many did not.

The city notified the clubs, along with several other nonprofits, of their intent to send them property tax bills just before the end of 2013. And in June, groups accustomed to paying nothing received bills for tens of thousands of dollars. Most had little in way of revenue, and had made charity and community involvement their main goal over the years.

"There was a lot of angst involved with this process," said Mike Kind, chairman of the Italian Workingmen's Club, an organization that lists raising funds for local residents in crisis among its charitable endeavors, along with operating a scholarship fund and supporting youth athletic teams.

IWC was sent a tax bill for $21,166 this year for the club's property valued at $529,300.

Under the new agreement, they'll pay just one quarter of that over the next five years, or $5,291 annually.

"The club had said from the beginning that we wanted to help solve the city's problems," Kind said.

Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt said the city has still not reached a deal with the Woonsocket Masonic Temple Corporation, but the proposal approved by the Budget Commission last week would see the group on a similar schedule, paying $3,712 a year for their property, valued at $371,300. Without an agreement, the club would be on the hook for $14,848 a year.

Between all eight clubs, the city could take in an additional $29,168 in 2014, and the contributions will continue for the next five years. Minus the deal, the clubs would pay a total of $116,674 a year.

Baldelli-Hunt said the 25 percent tax contribution is one that both the city and the clubs can feel comfortable with, and that won't put the organizations out of business.

"We were uncomfortable with taxing these entities at 100 percent," said Baldelli-Hunt. "We know they do a lot of good work within the community and we did not want anyone to have to shut their doors."

For some of the clubs, the contribution is still significant. The Woonsocket Elks Lodge will pay $6,240 every year for the next five years, or $32,200. The club volunteers for community events and runs scholarships, youth activities and veterans programs.

St. Joseph Veterans Association will take on a burden of $3,203 annually.

As part of the deal, the property owners agreed not to appeal their assessment or tax-exempt status during the length of the agreement.

The contracts were approved by the Budget Commission by a vote of 4-1 with member Albert Brien, who also serves as City Council president, casting the dissenting vote.

"I am seeing these for the first time today," said Brien. "The City Council has not had a chance to review these or act upon it. I think this body should at least afford the legislative body of this community a chance to look at this, comment on it, and if necessary have a work session."

Commission Chairwoman Dina Dutremble said she was open to the idea, but member Carolyn Dias jumped in.

"We've been talking about these PILOT agreements for months," said Dias. "Can't you just move forward with it?"

"For months this has been going on. Where was the work group from the City Council? Where was the participation? Where was the interest?"

Baldelli-Hunt said that when the issue first came up, the council had promised the organizations a work session, but never scheduled one.

"We have not withheld any information from anyone," the mayor said.

"They are looking forward to this coming to a conclusion. This has been very unsettling for them because they have a bill before them for 100 percent," the mayor said. "They want to know what they're responsible for. In fairness to them, I think it's time that we move it."

The other clubs to sign on for the 25 percent agreement were Cercle Laurier, paying $4,531 annually; Club Lafayette, at $1,656; Le Club Par X, at $2,230; and The Tyra Club, at $2,302.

Editor's note: The above article has been edited to reflect the correct tax burden for St. Joseph's Veterans Association, $3,203. The original article stated that the club would pay $12,812 annually.

Comments

I know a retired Woonsocket couple who are faced with increasing medical bills on top of their tax bill, and it just doesn't seem fair to ask them to foot someone else's bar bill on top of their own obligations.

wow the city takes away from the poor again by reducing the donations from these groups!!!
Time to start over Woonsocket ,your killing the city take a good look around,its a depressed city, businesses leaving ,no jobs ton of empty stores.
City comes alive on the 1st of the month EBT a plenty and SSI bonanza,,,,,cant blame them again no where to work,,A NICE OBAMA ECONOMY ,

Congratulation to the “7” I mean going from not paying taxes to paying only a quarter, unless I am reading the article wrong, you folks must have had one hell of a negotiator. But then again, this is what our Administration keeps doing, “right the people who have been paying their taxes in full every year, year after year those are the ones who this Administration seem to like to make suffer.
They should have sent out a letter to all the Property owners saying something like
It need so work, or maybe our very own Mayor “Lisa Baldelli-Hunt” kind of touch of class.

Dear Tax payer:
We noticed that every year you have supported our fair city by paying your taxes and we want to let you know that you are much appreciated. So much we wanted to let you know we will be making a few minor changes to our budget and taxes they are as follows:
1. For the next 3-5 year we are going to raise your taxes until you are unable to pay them
2. Homestead, we know you live here but just being a resident in this city should be fair reward enough so we are going to do away with that too.
3. New Businesses along with newly discovered un-paying tax businesses will be given 35 to 75 percent tax breaks, Well it is only fair they haven’t been here as long as you.

We understand the excitement you have with these new burdens that your Administration has to carry but we wanted you to know in less than 5 years we will be financially set and for your contributions you will be happy to learn that if by some chance you fall behind in your bills or taxes we will sell off your property to anyone with the cash in their pockets, so to help you we can tell you about some of the service this city has to offer even though we would be lifting a finger to help you.
Here is the list, and you can use Google to find time and places good luck..
1. Currently there are 11 food pantry in the city which by the way cannot handle the needs as of today, so I would plan your trip to any one of them and show up very early
2. We have a Local SNAP office
3. We also have a Family resource center, they might be able to help with your bills and such.
4. Oh and just remember Foreclosure will only benefit the city further, this way we don’t have to sell you property for back taxes, a foreclosure will ensure the bank will pay the taxes once you are on the street and homeless
5. Oh don’t feel bad we have many fine establishments paying very little taxes in the city that will be more than happy to give you a sandwich and a coat and maybe a place to stay for a night or two. Just remember where you live.
So in conclusion, you long term citizen of Woonsocket, we thank you for all you can do for us here in the Administration and in your effort to save the city

Thank you