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Bill restricts receivers, other overseers to fiscal matters

January 25, 2013

PROVIDENCE – Central Falls Rep. Gus Silva has once again introduced legislation that would restrict the authority of receivers, budget commissions and overseers appointed to cities and towns by the state to fiscal matters only and not to any other aspect of municipal government.
Under the legislation, receivers or other state interveners would not be allowed to relegate any elected body to an advisory capacity, as the receiver did to the City Council in Central Falls, or to abolish any board or commission of a city or town.
Silva also wants the state to pick up the cost of receiverships, rather than charge them to the respective city or town. So far, three receivers in Central Falls have racked up cost of about $3.8 million.
The Democratic lawmaker told The Times Wednesday that Central Falls’ budget seems stabilized with the five-year post-bankruptcy plan that is in place, which anticipates the maximum 4 percent increase in property taxes each year over that time, but adds, “It doesn’t make sense to throw a $3.8 million bill on top of that, you throw it off balance again.
“You try to help the city financially, then you throw a $3 million or $4 million bill on top of it? Silva asked. “Even if you give the city time to pay it, that’s not the way to go,”
Sen. Elizabeth Crowley, who has also submitted similar bills in previous sessions, said she plans to do so once again this year.
Crowley said she is open to compromise, however. She said that if the state doesn’t foot the bill for Central Falls’ receiver, she would want to require that the state couldn’t start collecting from the city until it has a fund balance of at least $1 million.
After the already expected five years of maximum tax increases, “don’t whack the people of Central Falls with another five years” of increases to pay off the bills run up by the three receivers that have run the city since 2010.
Last year, former Receiver Robert Flanders created a row when he tried to enact an ordinance banning parking on city streets during the winter. After a raucous council meeting where people were protesting in the street outside about the ban, it was withdrawn.
Silva’s bill would restrict receivers from enacting any non-fiscal ordinance and would prevent the council or other public bodies from acting on money and budget related matters.
A majority of the current City Council, led by President William Benson, is balking at signing off on the post-bankruptcy plan or attending state-sponsored workshops on the city’s finances. Until they do, State Revenue Director Rosemary Booth Gallogly said, she will not allow the receivership to end. Benson and Councilors Patrick Szlastha and Eunice DeLaHoz have filed a court action saying that, by law, the receivership should have ended last summer, two years after it began. Gallogly claims that the state can determine when the receivership is concluded.
A Superior Court judge has ordered the two sides to enter mediation to resolve the court fight.

 

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