Simmons, Taveras meet to discuss payments

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mayor Angel Taveras met with President Ruth Simmons yesterday afternoon to discuss the possibility of the University increasing its annual contributions to the city. Taveras’ administration wants Brown to double its annual $4 million contribution. At a press conference yesterday, he said he feels optimistic about his goal of raising an additional $7 million from the city’s tax-exempts. Taveras has been pressuring the city’s non-profit institutions to increase their annual payments since announcing two weeks ago that the city may face bankruptcy in June if it does not take immediate action to address its roughly $22 million budget deficit.

Following his meeting with Simmons, Taveras held a press conference with John Bowen, chancellor of Johnson and Wales University, to announce that the university will increase its voluntary contributions to $6.4 million over the next decade, with the possibility of an additional $5 million dollars contingent upon plans for expansion.

“I am pleased to announce this new agreement with Johnson and Wales and am grateful to the university for being a strong partner to the city of Providence,” Taveras said at the press conference. The agreement has not yet been legally drafted and still needs to be passed by the City Council. 

Johnson and Wales pledged to contribute an additional $5 million over ten years if the university can purchase lands from the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, which oversees the sale of land made available by the relocation of the interstate, Bowen said at the press conference. Bowen suggested the land would be used for expansion by the university, which is interested in developing the state’s first physician assistance program. 

But Taveras is still asking the city’s other large tax-exempt institutions — including Brown and Providence hospitals — to come to the table with additional contributions. 

“I am confident that we are going to be able to resolve the issues with Brown,” Taveras said during yesterday’s press conference. Details about his meeting with Simmons are not being released to the public. 

“The conversation that the mayor had with President Simmons was productive, and the mayor feels hopeful that we are headed in the right direction,” said David Ortiz, Taveras’ press secretary. 

Simmons’ meeting with Taveras comes in the week following the University’s meeting of the Corporation. As the University’s highest governing body, the Corporation will ultimately have to ratify any changes to the amount the University contributes to the city.

“The strength and success of Brown and Providence are intertwined, and the scenarios we are discussing with the mayor seek to position Brown as a long-term partner with the city,” Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, wrote in an email to The Herald. 

While Taveras declined to disclose details of yesterday’s meeting with Simmons at the press conference, he verified that additional meetings with Simmons are planned.