Presently the city of Warwick has $900 million in unfunded liabilities between pensions, healthcare, and bonds. For example, every employee leaves with free lifetime healthcare. A healthcare account functions much like a pension fund. The participants pay into it, the monies are invested at a return, and the fund is self perpetuating. Can anyone guess how much money is in the Warwick healthcare fund? $0. That's right, zero dollars, not a penny, yet there is a $310 million dollar liability for the current retirees. That debt will only continue to grow. Fire 1 has a $314 million dollar unfunded liability. The list goes on.
Schools and roads are in deplorable conditions. The city assets are declining and our liabilities are increasing. These are facts which are easily substantiated. The unions will now say that they had a great year and 3 of the 4 pensions are funded at or above 75%, however, the historical rate of return is about 5.8%, yet we are calculating our debt ratio based upon a return of 7.5%.
The city Lease purchase program is maxed out, yet the fire department wants to buy 3 pieces of apparatus and somehow write it off to next year's budget while the expenditure is actually on this year's balance sheets.
The previous finance director Ernie Zymslinski put forth a fiscal note on PCR-74-15 which indicated that the 3 year increase to fire fighter unused sick pay bonus under the new contract was $182,800. The actual 1 year impact was $649,421 - a slight miscalculation.
But there's more:
The Warwick Fire Dept. was recently caught destroying financial related documents that by state law, are required to be retained for 3 years. This resulted in 2 state agency investigations by the SOS and the AG's offices. It culminated in a team of people coming to the WFD and bringing in the chief, his executive staff, and the mayor's staff to "TEACH" them how they are supposed to retain documents. As of last week, criminal proceedings have not been ruled out.
The fact is that just because your garbage is picked up on time and water comes out of your faucet, it does not mean that the city is running as lean and efficient as possible. Several cases of theft have been brought to litigation, waste and abuse is evident, no GPS in any vehicle, and taxes continue to rise.
Virtually every line item in the budget pertaining to senior services has been cut. Senior center has been closed, the side street winter sanding program eliminated, lifeguard staff reduced, summer work jobs program, all positions given to current employees kids, no postings in the paper. Pension spiking has been evident in a number of cases.
These are issues that you must pay attention to. Unfortunately, the city council chambers is empty at meetings. The general public needs to fill the chambers. But we hear every excuse in the book as to why people don't come to meetings and as to why they don't care.
The bottom line is that you get the government that you deserve. We should all vigorously challenge our elected officials and ask questions. Union members will try to belittle you if you ask questions and bring up valid points. Too bad, my money pays their benefits.
Here's one question for everyone. Guess how many holidays the city pays for and can you name them?
~Warwick taxpayer, Rob Cote