To the Editor,
During Warwick Tax Assessor Neal Dupuis’ presentation before the Warwick City Council last night (April 3, 2023), he continually referred to Massachusetts to justify a major …
To the Editor,
During Warwick Tax Assessor Neal Dupuis’ presentation before the Warwick City Council last night (April 3, 2023), he continually referred to Massachusetts to justify a major tax policy shift in Warwick.
His purpose was to convince the City Council to pass legislation that would allow the city to manipulate the residential and commercial tax rates to shift more of the tax burden onto commercial property owners. Keep in mind eighty-five (85) percent of commercial properties are considered small business.
All during Mr. Dupuis's presentation he failed to acknowledge the unsustainable spending approved by Mayor Picozzi and the City Council that will drive up property taxes in the city.
Mr. Dupuis did not acknowledge Massachusetts schools are high performing and roads are in better condition than Warwick's.
He also never mentioned the steps taken by Massachusetts cities and towns to control pension and healthcare costs. For example, co-pays for retiree healthcare range from thirty (30) to fifty (50) percent. In Warwick city retirees pay nothing for their family plan healthcare for life and prescription drug costs are capped at $600 annually. In Massachusetts Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for pensions are capped at three (3) percent of the first $13,000. In Warwick many pension COLAs are three (3) percent or more annually, with no cap.
For a more complete comparison of how Warwick’s fiscal condition and future tax needs compare to Massachusetts communities, there was one glaring omission to Mr. Dupuis's testimony, a comparison of Warwick’s net position to similar Mass., communities. The net position is a municipality’s total assets, minus its liabilities.
Each municipality is required to produce an audited annual financial statement. The auditors write that “net position may serve over time as a useful indicator of a government’s financial health”. They also state that over time, increases or decreases in a municipality’s net position are indicators of whether its financial health is improving or deteriorating, respectively.
The city of Framingham, MA has a population similar to Warwick’s. Its net position in 2020 was -$147,160,201. Warwick’s net position was -$575,292,405, almost four times worse.
Attleboro’s net position is -$117,003,619. North Attleboro’s is +$79,108,560.
Warwick's fiscal condition is by far the worst compared to these Massachusetts communities. If Warwick leaders decide to build two new high schools, Warwick’s net position could exceed $1 BILLION very shortly.
It’s no wonder Mr. Dupuis' cherry-picked in his comparison to Massachusetts communities. He knows what the impact of the $7.5 million structural deficit in this year’s budget, the $13 to $20 million that will be needed annually to pay for school bond debt, the $70 million in the next nine years to fund free lifetime healthcare for retired city employees, and the huge increase in sewer and water fees associated with hundreds of millions of dollars needed for infrastructure upgrades.
But Mr. Dupuis, Mayor Picozzi, Council President Steve McAllister and everyone else on the city council except for Councilman Ed N. Ladouceur, don’t want to talk about all of that because they know, once this legislation goes into effect, the commercial properties will be targeted with massive tax increases to support all this reckless spending.
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