For relief, city must reform itself

As Providence looks to the General Assembly for more financial support, it’s important to set a few ground rules.

Yes, the Capital City has an inordinate amount of its land owned by nontaxable nonprofits, while many of the most valuable properties are subject to long-term tax-shielding agreements.

It would seem that Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza is justified in looking for state-sponsored relief of the tax load on the city’s residents and for-profit businesses. But the city needs to look in the mirror, too.

A series of stories by PBN last summer detailed the long-term liabilities of the state’s cities and towns thanks to promised pensions and other post-employment benefits (mostly health care). At the time, Providence’s unfunded pension liability was roughly $900 million, and its funded ration was less than 30 percent.

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Providence’s OPEB liability was estimated to be nearly $1.2 billion, and none of it is funded.

So before state leaders agree to any legislative relief for the city, the city needs to make serious efforts to put its own house in order. •