City faces dire financial outlook
Mayor Angel Taveras is holding a press conference today to discuss the city’s budget woes. In the past year, Taveras has faced the task of closing a $110 million structural budget deficit, according to WPRI.com. Recent developments have set back efforts to rein in the deficit. State pension legislation that passed last year did not include a provision to allow for the suspension of rising cost-of-living adjustments for employees enrolled in the city’s pension plan. The University refused to make additional payments of $4 million to the city last year, and Superior Court Associate Justice Sarah Taft-Carter ruled that the city could not force retired firefighters and police officers to sign up for Medicare, a move that would have saved the city $6 million. Considering Providence’s looming $22.5 million budget shortfall, some have predicted that it will soon file for bankruptcy and put itself under state receivership. According to GoLocalProv, former mayors have suggested that the city should look into borrowing money or cutting spending before it resorts to bankruptcy, but the press conference today may suggest that such options are not available. The city is slated to run out of money in June, according to a memo obtained by GoLocalProv, though city officials have not commented on this allegation.
Bills address chronic homelessness
Sen. John Tassoni Jr., D-Smithfield and North Smithfield, and Rep. Scott Slater, D- Providence, have introduced legislation to increase funding to the Neighborhood Opportunities Program to combat the city’s chronic homelessness problem, according to a press release. NOP was created in 2001 and is now prominent in combating homelessness. It focuses its funding in three areas — providing low-rent housing for families earning wages near the state minimum, offering support services and housing to disabled individuals and revitalizing local communities through grants encouraging home ownership. The funding level for the program has declined from $7.5 million to $1.5 million over the past decade, but legislators note that this has not corresponded with a drop in homelessness, which has in fact become more prevalent in the past few years. The proposed legislation — which is currently under consideration in the House and Senate Committees on Finance — would increase funding for NOP to $12.5 million for the next fiscal year, according to the press release.
Bank to abandon downtown office
Bank of America has announced that it will end operations in its iconic building located at 111 Westminster Street by April 2013, according to the Providence Journal. Leaving a vital building in the downtown area unoccupied could have negative implications for an already suffering real estate market. The issue is compounded by the building’s deterioration — it is estimated that it would require $25 million to $35 million worth of renovations before it could be leased to another business, according to the Journal. The bank’s desertion of the building also represents lost revenue in the form of property taxes for a city facing a severe budget crisis.