Mayor Taveras Threatens To Freeze COLAs At State of City

Providence is in peril. That's how Mayor Taveras opened up his State of the City speech Monday. The mayor dropped a bombshell that he'll suspend all COLAs for all retirees, whether he has approval from the state or not.

The mayor couldn't have been more clear that he's ready to take drastic measures to save the capital city from bankruptcy. This is the first time the mayor is saying it publicly that he'll freeze COLAs for all retires without the okay from lawmakers. Mayor Taveras said Monday he just doesn't have time to wait for them.

It was buried in the mayor's speech, the bombshell. “We must address our unsustainable pensions and retiree healthcare costs once and for all,” said Mayor Angel Taveras, “It is time to suspend COLA's for all retirees.”

Mayor Taveras announced he will not wait for lawmakers to approve the COLA freeze, claiming there's not enough time. Providence is in the hole 22 million dollars and will run out of cash by the end of June.

“We stare into that black hole because some have failed to sacrifice,” said the mayor, “Our tax exempt institutions and city retirees have yet to join the rest of out community in helping to save our city.”

Suspending COLAs would put 16 million dollars back in the budget. He's also calling on universities and hospitals, which are tax exempt, to do their part. That would add another seven million dollars. Together that would make up the shortfall.     

Mayor Taveras threatened drastic actions if these moves aren't made, like community centers and libraries closing down, overgrown parks, and deeper cuts to police and fire departments.

“We're down to bare minimums in terms of staffing,” said Providence Fire Fighters Union President Paul Doughty, “The runs continue to increase and there's no room left to cut in terms of staffing and personnel.”

Tax increases are also  on the table. Unlikely though to get any support from the city council. “We feel like the taxpayers right now are taxed to the max, and we can't afford anymore taxes,” said Council President Michael Solomon, “People are feeling it right now.”

As for that seven million dollars from tax exempt colleges and hospitals, Mayor Taveras said he expects to announce an agreement with Johnson and Wales by the end of the week. He also has meetings scheduled with Brown and several hospitals.