To calculate each city or town’s total debt, WPRI combined data from the R.I. General Treasurer’s “2012 Report on Rhode Island’s Local Government Debt” with figures on unfunded pension-plan and retirement liabilities from the Municipal Employee Retirement System.
Dividing total debt and liabilities by the number of residents in each municipality, according to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau population data, WPRI came up with that city or town’s per capita debt.
Among the state’s municipalities, Exeter had the lowest per capita debt at $322, while Foster had the second-lowest at $444.
Providence claimed the highest per capita debt at $7,366 per person, followed by Newport ($6,279), Woonsocket ($6,125) and East Greenwich ($5,593).
While the per capita figure does not represent an actual bill each resident will receive, WPRI said, it provides a means for residents to track their community’s potential solvency. The WPRI per capita numbers did not include a municipality’s liability for “other post-employment benefits” such as a retiree’s health care costs.
To see an interactive town-by-town map of public debt created by the TV news team, click HERE.