Thursday, July 01, 2021
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The state of Rhode Island claims the city council’s financial meeting held this week to review Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s draft budget for fiscal year 2022 was illegal.
The Treasury Department said it never reviewed and approved the property tax estimates required by law. However, the city council considers their actions to be legal.
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Position of the state
In a June 29 letter, Stephen Coleman Jr, director of local finance at the Rhode Island Treasury Department, sent a letter to Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza – and included senior officials and the entire city council.
“On June 11, the city notified the Department of Treasury that it was not necessary to obtain approval from the department before holding a public hearing on Providence’s budget,” Coleman wrote. “Immediately after this communication from the city, the ministry sent the following reply:”
“Please note that under RI Gen. Law 44-35-6, property tax estimates must be reviewed and approved by the Rhode Island Department of Revenue before the city can issue a proposed property tax notice. In addition, no public hearing on property tax rates can be held without the prior approval of the Ministry of Finance. See also RI Gen Laws 44-35-7 and the Division of Municipal Finance Regulation 280-RICR-40-00-1 (Standards and Procedures for Property Tax and Fiscal Disclosure for Rhode Island Cities and Towns). “
“Following the above notice, the Tate made more than one phone call to city officials reiterating that no public hearing on property tax rates can legally be conducted without prior approval from the Treasury Department. Following these announcements, the city published an advertisement in the Providence Journal on June 18 informing taxpayers of their plans to hold a public meeting to review the administration’s proposed budget, ”he continued. “In addition, taxpayers were notified:” The property tax estimates above were calculated in a manner approved by the Rhode Island Department of Revenue. “RI Gen Law 44-35-6 requires that language be included in the advertisement.”
“I’m re-telling the city that the department did not issue approval prior to the release of the notice,” said Coleman. “For this and other reasons, which have been the subject of numerous and ongoing discussions between the Mayor’s Office, others within the Providence Administration, RIDE, the Department of Local Finances, and the Governor’s Office, it is the position of the state that die for The hearing scheduled for tonight (June 29, 2021) cannot legally be held and any action taken at the meeting in relation to the budget will be invalid. “
The city council goes ahead – and the state answers
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At the start of the city council’s finance committee meeting on Tuesday night, Chair Jo-Ann Ryan asked city attorney Jeff Dana if the meeting could be legally held.
However, Ryan now confirms the state’s letter to the meeting participants.
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“Are you aware that we are holding this meeting in accordance with the city charter and all applicable state law, and have you certified this public hearing on the subsequent taxation of filing and issuing tax bills – did you certify this public hearing?” Ryan asks Dana.
“My office has verified this – the progress of this public hearing meets all the requirements of the Charter and general Rhode Island law,” replied Dana.
When reached after the meeting, the Treasury Department continued to claim the meeting was illegal.
“It is the position of the state that took the hearing” [Tuesday] Night (29. “At the moment the Ministry has not yet made a final decision on the next steps.”
Neither the Elorza office nor the city council responded to the request for comment at the time of publication.