VIDEO: Leaders sworn in; Lombardi pledges no tax increase
VIDEO: Leaders sworn in; Lombardi pledges no tax increase
NORTH PROVIDENCE – Mayor Charles Lombardi used the platform of his fourth inauguration address on Sunday to announce that the town will go another year without a tax increase in 2017.
“Our taxpayers have not had a tax increase in the last two years, and we will not have one next year,” he said.
Lombardi thanked all those who put their trust in him “to continue the progress we’ve achieved the last nine years,” and he pledged to “work hard, smart, and fiscally responsible for all our town residents.”
Watch the entire inauguration.
Lombardi’s announcement of no tax increase came during a ceremony that saw officials hail North Providence’s resurgence under the mayor who first took over in 2007. Numerous officials, including Providence Municipal Court Judge Frank Caprio, Gov. Gina Raimondo, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, and Congressman David Cicilline, commended Lombardi and town officials for the work they’ve done turning North Providence around. The inauguration ceremony was postponed to Sunday, due to Saturday’s snow.
Lombardi gave special thanks to his wife, Carol, and Chief of Staff G. Richard Fossa, his “best friend” who served as emcee for the event. He said he couldn’t do what he does without Fossa’s help.
Others sworn in Sunday included new Councilors Kenneth Amoriggi and Steven DiLorenzo, veteran council member Mansuet Giusti, and returning School Committee members Gina Picard, Roderick Da Silva, and Steven Andreozzi.
Town Council President Dino Autiello, who was re-elected Sunday as president of the council, said he feels privileged to lead “a talented and diverse” council during an “exciting time” in North Providence.
School Committee Chairman Anthony Marciano was re-elected to the post on Sunday.
Lombardi said he was confident upon taking office that his plans for North Providence would “improve quality of life for all residents.” He said he had goals of prioritizing all spending and make decisions based on the needs of all citizens, “not just the wants of a chosen few.” All decisions are being made not just for today but for the next generations, he emphasized.
Lombardi said he came to North Providence government with a “business and common sense attitude.” Success demanded “the departure of the status quo, and we knew weeding out the status quo would take courage,” he said.
North Providence was one step above junk bond status and borrowing $10.5 million a year for cash flow when he became mayor, said Lombardi.
“We were insolvent,” he said, and the financial community was advising him to consider bankruptcy.
“Not on my watch,” he said.
The “tough decisions” he made after becoming mayor included raising taxes, closing a fire station and halting parades on the Fourth of July and Memorial Day, said Lombardi.
Today, after four bond rating increases, the town has its first “A” bond rating in 24 years, six straight surpluses, and a $7 million surplus fund achieved six years earlier than required, he noted.
Flat taxes and other achievements could not happen without the help of town employees, said Lombardi. He thanked them for “their hard work and dedication.”
North Providence today has the only Class 1 fire station in Rhode Island, a police department helping to achieve a “consistently declining crime rate,” the second highest-funded police pension in the state, and a school department that achieved a 98 percent graduation rate in 2016, said Lombardi.
Camp Meehan, the town’s “crown jewel” park once destined for 48 homes, is one of his biggest achievements, said Lombardi. The town also has a signed contract for a new solar farm, he said, another sign of how far the town has come.
Other initiatives to come include continuing a repaving program, saving money by purchasing town streetlights, building a new public safety complex, constructing and upgrading local schools, and building a new animal control facility, said Lombardi.
“Make no mistake, this all could not have been accomplished without the cooperation of our Town Council and School Committee,” he said.
North Providence turned a corner in 2016, said Autiello.
“Through collaboration, transparency and a commitment to open, honest government, we have accomplished more in the past two years than we could have ever imagined.”
Autiello said the achievements he’s most proud of during his tenure are:
• Achieving two straight budgets without a tax increase.
• Paying off the town’s $10 million deficit reduction bond two years early.
• Achieving a high school graduation rate of 98 percent.
• Making great improvements to parks and recreation facilities, especially at Camp Meehan.
• And working toward a fully funded police pension plan, a new public safety complex, and new municipal animal shelter, all utilizing funds from a 2012 settlement with Google.
• Seeing an $18 million mill redevelopment project move forward on Woonasquatucket Avenue.
• And approving a new solar project, among others.
“I am ready and excited to keep the ball rolling with the many new ideas that I have, and will continue to put forth, in order to challenge myself and our administration to be the best it can be for the taxpayers,” he said.
Two years ago, he made a pledge to focus on economic development, said Autiello, and today, the town is moving forward on that front.
Noah Bond, a North Providence High School graduate and former Youth Commission member, noted how the commission created by Lombardi has helped the town flourish and commission members succeed. The commission “has been vital in making so many of their dreams come true,” he said.
Without the “endless opportunities” afforded by the commission to be involved in local government, said Bond, he doesn’t know where he would be today.
Others involved in Sunday’s ceremony included the Rev. Joseph Pescatello, of Mary, Mother of Mankind Church, giving the invocation and benediction, Board of Canvassers Executive Director Laurence Flynn presenting certificates of election, Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Francis Flaherty administering the oath of office to Lombardi, Marissa Beatini singing the national anthem, Lexi Grace Lanni singing “God Bless America,” the North Providence High School Concert Band playing the processional, Supt. Melinda Smith, Town Clerk Maryann DeAngelus, and the North Providence Police and Fire Color Guards.