Talks continue over Central Coventry financial dispute
COVENTRY, R.I. —
The cash-strapped Central Coventry Fire District is headed toward another budget showdown next week.
The district is in court receivership. In March, voters rejected a budget that included a significant tax increase. Three fire stations closed.
Now there's a new fire district board and another budget vote ahead. But the issues are far from resolved.
Board Chairman Fred Gralinksi says the firefighters union needs to give back more in concessions, telling NBC 10, "We have a load of debt. We have a very fat contract and very little management rights, and it's going to change if they want to keep their jobs. It's as simple as that."
The firefighters union president was surprised by those words, arguing his firefighters have given back. David Gorman responded by telling NBC 10, "There's been significant savings that's been reached. The district has closed the books off this year with almost a million dollar surplus that was realized by the concessions firefighters have given."
Gorman says he actually thought the two sides had a deal on concessions Tuesday after days of negotiations.
But board members told NBC 10, no, they just agreed to look at the numbers ahead of the vote on the new budget next week.
To back his claim, Gorman sent NBC 10 an email he says is from the board's attorney to the judge in the receivership case in which the lawyer wrote, "the Board will be prepared to present a budget proposal to you which incorporates concessions reached with the Union."
Tuesday night the board announced a key detail of its budget plan, the tax rate. The proposed tax rate would be $2.50 per $1000 of assessed value for residential property, $3.75 per $1000 for businesses. Voters rejected a $2.99 residential rate back in March, upset over spending levels.
Gralinski concedes the $2.50 rate only works with more concessions from the firefighters or layoffs. "It's going to be extremely difficult given the union contract," he told NBC10. "We'll fund it. But the union's going to have to contribute or perhaps they'll be a few of them looking for another job somewhere."
The two sides have another court date with the judge in the receivership case today.
There will be another board meeting Thursday for the public to weigh in before the vote on the budget Monday night.