Mayor Baldelli-Hunt will veto amended Woonsocket budget

Mayor Baldelli-Hunt will veto amended Woonsocket budget

WOONSOCKET – Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt said Tuesday she plans to veto an amended budget passed by a 4-3 vote of city councilors at Monday’s meeting, returning the ball to the court of the council, which has the option to override the veto at a July 2 meeting.

Furthermore, City Councilor Richard Fagnant said he would not support an override of the mayor’s veto as he did last year, when he voted with Councilors Jon Brien, James Cournoyer, Denise Sierra and Council President Daniel Gendron to provide the 5-2 vote required for an override, but instead would support the mayor’s veto. Without the support of Councilors Christopher Beauchamp and Melissa Murray, who have consistently supported the mayor throughout the budget process, the council majority is unlikely to secure the votes required to override the veto and the budget will likely return to Baldelli-Hunt’s originally proposed $144 million.

“I can tell you now, on July 2, I will not be their fifth vote to override her veto,” said Fagnant.

The comments, made during a press conference related to city parks on Tuesday, followed a lengthy and contentious budget discussion Monday night. For the second general meeting this month, discussion revolved around an omnibus amendment proposed by Councilor Cournoyer on June 4 that cut funding to virtually all departments and significantly altered the tax structure as compared with the mayor’s original budget.

While adjustments made to the amended budget during the past two weeks addressed some of the concerns expressed by department heads on June 4 – including restoring clerical temp funds to the library budget, adding $5,000 to support a temporary grantwriter until the Planning Department can hire a full-time individual, returning a collections analyst to the Treasury Department, restoring a 5.6 percent salary increase for a city engineer and increasing the contingency budget – the budget as passed still largely resembles the amendment submitted by Cournoyer with the support of Gendron, Brien and Sierra two weeks ago.

That amendment removed an economic development director and chief of staff, both positions sought by the mayor, and reduced the overall tax levy from the mayor’s originally proposed budget with the intention of spurring economic development. Under Cournoyer’s proposed amendments, the total commercial tax levy would increase by 5.6 percent, compared with 15.1 percent under Baldelli-Hunt’s proposal, while the total residential tax levy would decrease by 5.5 percent, as opposed to 8.4 percent under Baldelli-Hunt’s proposal.

“Even with these changes, we’re still going up, we’re still going in the wrong direction, we’re just not going in as much of the wrong direction,” Cournoyer said on Monday.

While the adjustments made at Monday’s meeting increased the proposed tax levy slightly from the amendment approved two weeks ago, the budget as passed continues to offer a significantly smaller increase in the commercial tax levy than the one proposed in the mayor’s original budget.

“What this seeks to do is to provide some balance. The city of Woonsocket has the second highest commercial burden on a relative basis in the state,” Cournoyer said.

On Tuesday, Baldelli-Hunt continued to express concerns with the budget as passed, repeating comments made by Tax Assessor Elyse Pare earlier in the budget process that the city’s commercial properties have been historically undervalued and a majority of the commercial tax increases proposed in her original budget would have affected large apartment complexes rather than small businesses.

“This budget was vetted significantly through directors and chiefs. It was many meetings with the departments repeatedly to get to where we were,” she said.

On Monday, Councilor Murray expressed concerns with the budget process, saying that, if the changes had been proposed individually rather than as an omnibus amendment, she would have supported the restoration of funds to the firefighters’ retirement benefit contributions but continued to advocate for an economic development director. As it stood, she said, she was only able to vote along the parameters set by Cournoyer’s proposal.

“At the end of the day, the only person who is truly able to weigh in is Councilman Cournoyer,” she said.

Baldelli-Hunt said that, due to the omnibus (package) nature of the amendment, she is unable to veto the amended budget on a line-item basis and instead will veto the entire budget. By city charter, she has 10 days to formally submit her veto following passage of the budget.

Comments

Lots of time and energy wasted. Twist it how you want but, yes, lotttts of time and energy wasted. Rightfully so too.

JIMMY C" is trying to save the city money" not spend money" and he is also looking at possible future financial issues" which could result in a tax increase" the mayor has done a good job overall" but the budget just like at the state and federal levels needed to be altered to prepare for the rainy day" that may happen once again to Woonsocket"