Governor Chafee Holds Financial Session With City and Town Leaders

              Leaders from Rhode Island's cities and towns left the state house with a renewed sense of hope today. For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, the governor sat down with the mayors and town managers to listen to their financial struggles.

              The meeting was private, closed to the media, because Governor Chafee said he wanted city and town leaders to be able to speak freely without the pressure of the public. They really opened up, voicing major concerns primarily over pension liabilities and school funding.

              Rhode Island's city and town leaders poured into a state house room. Eager for the chance to lay their problems out on the table.

CG :NAME SUPERJoseph Polisena Mayor of Johnston ]

               In a press conference immediately following the meeting, Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena spoke highly of the Governor, “this guy gets it he realizes were in trouble,” Polisena said about Chafee.

               Chafee said they're working to reverse the damage that was done years ago. He says the state has pushed all of its financial problems onto the cities and towns. In the last three years, cities and towns have lost 192 million dollars in state funding.

               Chafee said, “It's very very simple, it's black and white, the decisions that were made in this room and in this building have resulted in the crisis on our cities and towns.

               Many local leaders walked out of the session pleased, but not holding their breath. Each holding firm to getting help for their communities biggest issues.

               Cranston Mayor Allen Fung says he needs the power to suspend COLA's. Fung says his unfunded pension liability is 256-million dollars.

              “We're going to be in very dire straits still if those big costs aren't addressed,” said Fung.

                Providence Mayor Angel Taveras agrees with Mayor Fung. He wants legislation passed that will give him the power to handle Providence's pension liability by suspending COLA's.

               “I'm not asking for the general assembly or the governor to do anything other than to give us the tools to do it ourselves,” said Taveras.

                Cumberland Mayor Daniel McKee says closing the school budget deficit gap is number one on his list. Otherwise, he says more of Rhode Island's cities will end up like Central Falls and East Providence, bankrupt or close to it. McKee says bankruptcy will result in slashed property values.

                “I don't think any taxpayer in Rhode Island wants to see a 50 percent reduction in their real estate value,” said McKee.

                 All of these problems have been heard before, but cities and towns are hoping they're put to the top of the Governors list to bring to the General Assembly. Another session like this has not yet been scheduled, but the governor has promised to continue meeting with city and town leaders.