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12:01 pm
Thu March 3, 2011

Providence mayor calls city finances a "Category 5 hurricane"

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Providence Mayor Angel Taveras unveiled a fiscal emergency plan that calls for pay cuts, layoffs, and across the board belt tightening.

The plan includes an immediate 10% pay cut for the mayor, and effective immediately 13 layoffs of non-union workers, including several school administration positions. It also includes an immediate freeze on non-essential spending and hiring. And for the fiscal year 2012, all departments must make at least a 10 - 15% cut to their budgets. The plan also calls for closing four to six schools bringing a number of teacher layoffs.

Revenue & Expenses
Just days after taking office, Taveras ordered a review of the city's finances. Ernest Almonte chaired the finance review panel. He says Providence's financial woes stem from reliance on one-time fixes and over estimates of revenues.

In particular, Almonte is concerned about the $2.4 billion in pension and healthcare liability facing Providence in FY2012.

Taveras would not get specific on how he would re-fill the city's coffers, but he said he would approach the hospitals and universities that as non-profits are exempted from paying taxes. He also says hiking property taxes is on the table.

Refusal to Point Fingers
When asked repeatedly whether former Providence Mayor David Cicilline was to blame for the financial mess, Taveras said blame wasn't going to balance the city's budget. Providence City Council President Michael Solomon says city council did not know the extent of the financial crises.

"We can only make assessments on the numbers that are provided to us, that's the only way we can make a true assessment. And we have to rely on the numbers that are given to us," says Solomon. "So if the numbers are off, the only way we're going to know is if we start duplicating the work to make sure it's done in an honest and efficient way."

Solomon echoed Mayor Taveras that this is not a time to point fingers at Cicilline who was mayor for eight years before Taveras took over back in January.

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