WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — West Warwick residents voted Thursday to approve a proposed budget that would raise property taxes.
More than 800 residents voted in favor of the budget, with more than 200 voting in opposition.
Town officials warned that if the proposal was rejected, the town would have likely had to hand control over to the state.
West Warwick is one of several Rhode Island communities whose pension systems are in critical status, as determined by the Department of Revenue. Town officials said any municipality under 60% funded for their pension plans is considered critical, while West Warwick currently stands at 17.1%.
“We’re very low and we don’t do anything, if we don’t change the way we’ve run business, our pension plan will run out of money in ten years time,” said West Warwick Town Manager Fred Presley.
Presley took office last July and said to avoid handing over the responsibility of managing of the town to the state, which could end in filing for bankruptcy, he and the town council created a plan that included a property tax increase for the next five years. This year’s increase started at 2.9%.
“What we’ve negotiated with the current employees and retirees is real pension reform that would save the town a great deal of money,” said Presley.
Husband and wife Daniel and Nancy Burns support the plan.
“I was concerned about what might happen to the town, if it didn’t pass,” Nancy said.
Mark Lawrence, who is the father or two teenage sons, voted against the plan because of the tax increase.