Governor Lincoln D. Chafee announced today that he will host a Municipal Executives Strategy Session with the mayors and town managers of Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns. The focus of discussion will be evaluating municipal finance issues including proposed solutions for the current independent municipal pension crisis.
"The fiscal health of the state of Rhode Island is directly linked to the fiscal health of our cities and towns. Thriving municipalities are key to Rhode Island's future economic success. We all worked hard for the passage of the Rhode Island Retirement Security Act but it was just a first step towards getting Rhode Island's fiscal house in order. As I said at the time, that legislation doesn't address the whole problem. I remain fully committed to developing solutions that address the whole problem for the people of Rhode Island," said Governor Chafee.
The Governor will lead a collaborative discussion centered around much needed policies, programs, and tools that would allow local governments flexibility in dealing with fiscal problems and provide relief to local property taxpayers.
Governor Chafee has always been vocal about the need for the state to work collaboratively with cities and towns to right their financial problems and during his first year in office he brought much needed attention to municipal fiscal health through several actions. Fully funding the new education funding formula in his budget and the passage of the Fiscal Stability Act, which provided additional state resources and support to troubled municipalities, are only two examples that demonstrate the Governor's strong commitment to the health of Rhode Island cities and towns and the taxpayers of Rhode Island.
"As a former Mayor, I fully understand the issues facing our cities and towns and know that a collaborative effort on the part of all the interested parties is necessary to develop real solutions. These issues have been studied over and over again. We all know what the problems are; we must continue to work with our sleeves rolled up and get to solving them," said Governor Chafee.
In 2011, the Governor appointed Judge Robert Flanders as Receiver to the troubled city of Central Falls and has been actively involved in shepherding that city through bankruptcy. Recently, agreements were reached with Central Falls Municipal Employees, Police and Fire Unions, and retirees which enabled the Receiver's office to put forth a five year budget plan that allows Central Falls to move forward on a stable and achievable fiscal path. Just this month, in the wake of two triple down grades by rating agencies and the looming threat of a $7 million dollar operating deficit, the Governor instructed his Director of Revenue to appoint a Budget Commission to provide support to the city of East Providence.
"In the past three years, Rhode Island cities and towns have lost over $193 million dollars in state aid. The results of those cuts can be seen today in struggling communities throughout Rhode Island. The State must provide support to cities and towns, if not through state aid then through policies, programs, and legislation that will ensure flexibility and provide relief for the property taxpayers," said Governor Chafee.
The Municipal Executives Strategy Session will be held Thursday, January 5th, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., in the State Room and will be followed by a press conference where Governor Chafee will take questions.
The Governor, recognizing that municipal government impacts all Rhode Islanders in diverse ways, whether it be through public safety, sanitation, or education will convene additional strategy sessions throughout the coming weeks gathering input from all interested parties.
"Truly solving our fiscal problems requires input from the many interested parties, including the taxpayers," said Governor Chafee.