Mayors look to Assembly for relief

When Central Falls declared bankruptcy last year, Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien knew those expecting the fiscal illness to spread to other communities in Rhode Island would be watching his then-ailing city for symptoms. More

To continue reading this article, please do one of the following.



GOVERNMENT

Mayors look to Assembly for relief

PBN FILE PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
GATHERING FEEDBACK: Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee has started holding meetings with local leaders, the business community and public-employee unions on a municipal-pension bill.
Posted 1/16/12

When Central Falls declared bankruptcy last year, Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien knew those expecting the fiscal illness to spread to other communities in Rhode Island would be watching his then-ailing city for symptoms.

So far, Pawtucket has avoided any new setbacks or complications, but Grebien and other Rhode Island mayors say the financial health of the state’s cities remains precarious and they need the kind of dramatic legislative help in 2012 that lawmakers delivered to the state pension system last year.

“Pawtucket was fortunate enough to slip by: we went from negative to stable,” Grebien said, referring to his city’s bond rating and outlook. “But we are far from out of the hole.”

With a sweeping and controversial overhaul of the state retirement system now out of the way, the plight of Rhode Island’s cash-strapped cities and towns has taken an unobstructed place in the 2012 political spotlight.

In the past few months, East Providence has been placed under the oversight of a state budget commission, and Woonsocket has been put under a bond-rating watch that could end with a downgrade.

Having failed to attach relief for struggling municipal retirement plans to the 2011 state pension overhaul, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee has vowed to file a new bill in the early days of the new legislative season to solve what he called a “crisis.”

A former Warwick mayor, Chafee has promised not to stop at pensions, but to work to find other measures to help communities, such as expediting state school aid and reining in some of the unfunded state mandates that frustrate local leaders.

Yet as long and difficult a process as scaling back the benefits for public workers in the state plan appeared last January, fixing the structural problems that threaten local governments, especially their poorly funded local pension plans, may be more difficult.

The legal, practical and political challenges that prompted leaders in the General Assembly and General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo to pass on municipal pension-plan reform in the state overhaul bill remain.

House Speaker Gordon D. Fox and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed have both voiced reservations about attempting to change independent municipal pensions in the same manner as the state system.

One of the most difficult aspects of changing municipal pension systems is that, unlike the state retirement system, the problems facing each community are different, with some being significant and others hardly affected at all.

Next Page
Calendar
PBN Hosted
Events

Applications are now being accepted for the 14th Annual Business Excellence Awards Program. Deadline to apply is October 1st. And save the date for the Awards Dinner - November 12th at the Providence Marriott.
Advertisement
Purchase Data
Book of Lists
Lists
Book of Lists cover
PBN's annual Book of Lists has been an essential resource for the local business community for almost 30 years. The Book of Lists features a wealth of company rankings from a variety of fields and industries, including banking, health care, real estate, law, hospitality, education, not-for-profits, technology and many more.
Data icons
Data can be purchased as single lists, in either Excel or PDF format; the entire database of the published book, in Excel format; or a printed copy of the Book of Lists.
  • Purchase an e-File of a single list
  •  
  • Purchase an e-File of the entire Book of Lists database
  •  
  • Purchase a printed copy of the Book of Lists
  •  
    National
    Local
    Latest News
    Advertisement