Voters encouraged to attend upcoming community meetings in advance of special election
Tuesday, April 12, 2022
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, City Council President John Igliozzi (Ward 7), Councilwoman and Pension Working Group member Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Providence Representative Scott Slater, Providence Representative Grace Diaz, Pawtucket Representative Carlos Tobon, Providence Senator Sam Bell, Providence Senator Joshua Miller, pension obligation bond bill co-sponsors and community members today joined together to kick-off of the Save Providence: Vote Yes on 1 pension obligation bond referendum voter education campaign.
Due to the limited City-controlled options available to address the City’s underfunded pension system, the City, the Providence Foundation, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and Rhode Island Pension Expenditure Council convened a Pension Working Group comprised of leaders from the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors to review the pension system and recommend a path forward. After much review, discussion, and deliberation, including reviews of differently sized transactions, the City’s Pension Working Group submitted a report that supported the City seeking authorization to issue a pension obligation bond that deposits $500 million into the City’s pension system.
“Providence’s pension payments are growing faster than the City’s revenues – leaving less and less funding for the critical investments that make our neighborhoods better,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “Providence residents should not be denied the services they deserve because of the poor decisions of the past. The pension obligation bond is our best path forward to meaningfully address this financial crisis and protect City services in the future, and I look forward to educating residents about this important topic in advance of the special referendum election.”
The City will hold a special referendum election on June 7, 2022 to ask Providence voters the non-binding question: Shall the City should finance a contribution towards the unfunded pension liability of the Employee Retirement System of the City of Providence by the issuance of general obligation bonds in a principal amount not to exceed $515,000,000. To provide residents with the opportunity to learn about the pension obligation bond and have their questions answered, Mayor Elorza and the City Council today announced a series of joint community meetings:
- Thursday, April 21, 2022 at 6:00PM at Nathan Bishop Middle School
- Monday, May 2, 2022 at 5:30PM at Mt. Pleasant High School
- Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 5:00PM, held virtually via zoom
- Tuesday, May 31, 2022 at 5:30PM at Washington Park Community Center
“It is imperative Providence residents have a voice and the opportunity to decide on this critical financial decision,” said City Council President John Igliozzi. “I believe a pension obligation bond is a viable path forward that will help stabilize the city’s pension plan and allow future city leaders to predictably budget for pension payments while not crowding out other critical investments in the essential services that residents expect. The city council will ensure several financial guardrails are placed on any potential borrowing. I respectfully ask residents and members of the General Assembly to keep an open mind as they learn more about this legislation and how a pension obligation bond can help Providence move forward in a financially sustainable way.”
In addition to upcoming community meetings, residents are reminded that there are three ways to vote in the upcoming special referendum election. To vote by mail, registered voters must complete and submit a mail ballot application to the Providence board of canvassers before May 17, 2022 at 4:00PM. Individuals voting by mail must mail or return their mail ballot by June 7. To vote via emergency voting, individuals may vote early between May 18-June 6, Monday-Friday between the hours of 8:30AM-4:30PM, at Providence City Hall, Office 102. Lastly, to vote on election day, voters may cast their ballot in-person at their assigned polling location between 7:00AM-8:00PM.
The special referendum election is non-binding, as the City is seeking authorization from the state’s General Assembly. On February 16, the City and General Assembly members announced the introduction of Senate Bill 2321 and House Bill 7499 to the Rhode Island General Assembly authorizing the City of Providence to issue a 25-year, fixed-rate, Pension Obligation Bond (POB) for an amount not to exceed $515 million.
“Providence’s financial challenges have the potential to impact the entire state of Rhode Island,” said Representative Scott Slater. “I thank my co-sponsors in the House, as well as Senator Maryellen Goodwin who sponsored this legislation in the Senate, for recognizing the importance of allowing the City of Providence to address this crisis.”
To learn more about the proposed pension obligation, read the Pension Working Group’s full report, or get more information on the upcoming special election, visit https://www.providenceri.gov/yeson1/.