EG Ranks Second In Municipal Debt
We may not have the biggest debt – that honor does to Providence – but we do rank number two in per-capita debt, according to GoLocalProv.
What do East Greenwich, Providence and Woonsocket have in common? More than you might think. According to a story by Stephen Beale on GoLocalProv Friday, East Greenwich ranks second in per capita municipal debt, behind financially troubled Woonsocket, and just barely ahead of Providence.
East Greenwich owes $68.5 million according GoLocalProv. While that sounds smallish compared to Providence's debt of $926 million – per capita, the two debts are only $8 apart. EG residents owe $5,209 per person; Providence residents owe $5,201. Only Woonsocket residents have it worse, at $6,112 in municipal debt per person.
According to GoLocal, the numbers come from adding general obligation bonds; notes, loans and capital leases; net pension obligations; other net retiree benefits (known as OPED); and compensated absences.
"You've got to know what the numbers mean because they are not as negative below the surface," said Town Manager Bill Sequino.
Interestingly, Sequino chairs the Woonsocket Budget Commission, a panel put in place by the state last spring to deal with that city's large budget deficit.
Comparing East Greenwich to Woonsocket, Sequino said, "One has financial and managerial resources to [be able to] budget and handle that kind of debt. The other doesn't."
He said the reason EG's debt is so high is because of an unprecedented municipal building boom in the town, including a new Cole Middle School and a new police station; capping the old landfill (now Scalloptown Park); and extensive renovations to Swift Community Center, EGHS, and Meadowbrook Farms Elementary School.
"We may have a lot of debt, but we also have an AA bond rating," he said. "You also need to look at the financial capacity of the town and our financial capacity is very good."
Even with the sizeable debt, he said, tax increases have been below the state limit of 4 percent a year.
And all that spending – or what's been gained by it – Sequino said, is part of what makes East Greenwich a place people want to live in.
In all, cities and towns have racked up a total $3,057,574,636 in debt and other long-term liabilities, with a statewide average of $2,344 per resident.