cities and towns

Ian Donnis / RIPR

In a sharp defeat for fire unions, two bills that would strengthen their hand in dealing with cities and towns on overtime spending are dead in the current legislative session, lawmakers and a top fire union official say.

Legislative committee votes on the two high-profile firefighter overtime bills were canceled Thursday, and neither of the bills is expected to get a vote before lawmakers conclude the session.

Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee joins Bonus Q+A this week to discuss his efforts as lieutenant governor, legislation restricting charter schools, the PawSox and other issues.

John Bender / RIPR

Municipal officials from around the state are opposing legislation that would make fire department staffing subject to collective bargaining. They say the bill effectively eliminates their power to control the budget.

Mayors and town managers say they should have control over schedules for firefighters, to cut down the cost of overtime. Legislation now pending at the statehouse would require collective bargaining for schedule changes.

Ian Donnis/File Photo / RIPR

Want to get a sense of why Rhode Island is unlikely to see anytime soon the consolidation of fire services in communities -- like Coventry, Lincoln, and Burrillville -- that each have a handful of local fire districts?

Consider these two points:

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien has proposed a budget that excludes any tax hike for residents or businesses. The proposed 112-million dollar budget includes buying a rescue vehicle to cut overtime costs, giving schools 600-thousand extra dollars, and setting aside money in the rainy day fund. Grebien said the arrival of new businesses, cuts in city staff, and grant revenue helped craft the budget.

Speculation continues about whether a settlement will emerge from closed-door pension mediation as soon as next week.

The head of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, Daniel Beardsley, is worried that a settlement could hike pension costs for communities by more than $100 million. The league outlines its concerns in a new white paper. But as Beardsley says, it remains unclear if the General Assembly will be receptive to approving a settlement.

Welcome back to my weekly column. As always, your tips and thoughts are welcome at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org. Let's get to the list.

Municipal retirees in Woonsocket are being asked Monday to accept pension and healthcare concessions as part of a five-year plan to improve the city's finances.

City Council President John Ward, a member of a state budget commission, says a freeze in 3 percent annual cost of living adjustments in Woonsocket's local pension plan is part of the proposal.

State Revenue director Rosemary Booth Gallogly hope to finalize the November 6 presidential election as the date for choosing a successor to Charles Moreau.

Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena tends to get somewhat less attention than some of his counterparts from other cities. But Polisena was candid and quotable during a visit to Rhode Island Public Radio’s Political Roundtable last week. Here are some of the highlights:

 It might not be Raimondo-like, but Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena buttressed one of the state’s 10-largest campaign accounts ($135,242) by adding clos

Moody’s Investors Service says the $8.1 billion budget signed into law by Governor Lincoln Chafee on June 15 “is credit positive for Central Falls and schools, but leaves Woonsocket and pensions unaddressed.”

Moody’s points to “a material increase in funding for schools” — $34 million, or almost 4 percent, “marking the third consecutive annual increase in school funding. State funding for education now stands at over $900 million, well above pre-recession peak.”

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist once famously talked about shrinking the federal government “to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Providence native Joe Nocera uses his New York Times’ op-ed column today to argue that state Representative Jon Brien is wielding a similar cudgel to cut spending in Woonsocket:

Woonsocket City Council President John Ward invokes the example set by Providence in describing how the city might wipe out its deficit if negotiations with unions don’t get the job done.

State Revenue Director Rosemary Booth Gallogly has strong words for state Representatives Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, Jon Brien, and Robert Phillips after they failed to back a supplemental tax for cash-strapped Woonsocket in last-minute negotiations in the waning hours of the legislative session: