Baldelli-Hunt schedules car tax refunds for May; council orders them for April

Baldelli-Hunt schedules car tax refunds for May; council orders them for April

WOONSOCKET – Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt says she’s scheduled car tax refunds to go out in May.

The City Council voted 6-1 Monday night on a resolution instructing the mayor to have them sent out by April 13.

Baldelli-Hunt said that she won’t send out the checks until the last of three $450,000 reimbursement payments from the state is in hand.

Councilor Jim Cournoyer said the city shouldn’t be holding onto money that belongs to the taxpayers.

Councilor Chris Beauchamp voted against the resolution on Monday.

During last year’s General Asseambly session, the state passed legislation for the implementation of the motor vehicle phase-out. As a result, vehicles model year 2002 and older are no longer taxable and vehicles model year 2003 and newer have a 5 percent reduction in addition to a $1,000 exemption.

“I am thankful to our state representatives and senators for beginning the process of eliminating the motor vehicle tax and look forward to the continuation during the next legislative session,” Baldelli-Hunt in a release this week. The motor vehicle phase-out refunds will result in more than $1.33 million back into the pockets of Woonsocket taxpayers, she said.

The newly enacted law will benefit more than 20,000 vehicle owners. Upon receiving the final reimbursement payment from the state, the Woonsocket Tax Assessor’s Office will process and mail refund checks.

To date, the state has made two of the three reimbursement payments to the city of Woonsocket as a result of the phase-out and officials expect the final reimbursement payment on or about May 1, said Tax Assessor Elyse Paré.

“Once the total reimbursement of $1.33 million is received, outstanding refunds will be mailed; my expectation is that all refunds will be received by May 31, 2018, if not sooner,” she said. Taxpayers can refer back to their October credit or refund notice for clarification on specific refund amounts applied.

Responding to council members’ assertion that she should return the money sooner, Baldelli-Hunt responded Monday that she has a “responsibility to administer my departments as I see fit,” and said it would be irresponsible and “not prudent” to release the money before it’s all in.

“They will not be going out before that,” she said.

The only people receiving refunds to date are those with cars from 2002 or earlier, and those who paid their car tax in full at the beginning of the year. The rest of the money is set to be reimbursed in the form of credits and checks, said the mayor.

Cournoyer emphasized that the $1.33 million isn’t the actual number that will be reimbursed to taxpayers, and that it’s actually much less. The city can afford to send the money out earlier than May, he said, and shouldn’t be sitting on a “pot of cash.”

Baldelli-Hunt retorted that Cournoyer would probably be the first person criticizing her administration “for refunding the money before we received it.”


You are the franchise owner of a membership club. The dues each year if $100 per member. Members pay their dues $25 per quarter. One year, the company owner says he will reduce the membership by $20 and reimburse the franchisee the $5 each quarter to make him even.
Some members paid the entire year of dues in advance, so they have overpaid by $20 for the year.
Should the franchisee make the member wait until the owner of the company pays him for all four quarters before refunding the member the $20 he overpaid?
If you were a member of that club, would you accept that plan; or would you demand your $20 back based on the promise made by the company owner? What kind of lousy businessperson would hold the extra money, waiting for the full payment by the company owner?
So why is the Mayor holding onto taxpayer motor vehicle tax money that they overpaid under the new law? When the state agreed to pay the money back, the Mayor should have ordered the checks prepared and mailed.

John your reasoning is fundamentally off. In a perfect world, governmental balance sheets should be a zero-sum. You tax the people only on what is going to be used. You should NOT have a profit or a loss. When you do, it means you over/under-charged the tax payer. When you stick to this fundamental, you should only be able to pay out when you have been paid in. You can't pay from an account that has no balance. In government, you basically spend the money in expectation that you will receive that money in the future. When you have 1000 salaried teachers, you are expecting the State and all other revenue sources to make good on their promise, or else you can't pay those salaries. On paper, the money is already spent.

The refunds from the car tax, likewise, is already spent. The revenue source, instead of being from the people is now coming from the State. We didn't decrease the spending by $1.3 million, we just moved the source of the revenue to pay for those expenses.

This is very different from your example above. You are using a model that usually relies on profit and you don't show any expenditures. In private business, you can adjust expenditures on the fly much more easily. You can even go in arrears on some accounts. You can't do that in government. You can't NOT pay the police or stiff the school bus company...they'll just stop service.

Now, here's your argument. Woonsocket has a surplus of cash. This is true if we neglect the bond debt and failing pension/OPEB liability. It's like having $1000 in your savings, while $20,000 of credit card debt is outstanding. You COULD say you have $1000 to spend. When you live by fundamentals, you should stay consistent within them, regardless of the current situation. If Woonsocket was negative cash at the moment, it would be impossible to suggest issuing all the refunds before full State reimbursement. Don't change the process just because it suits your current agenda.

Let me flip the scenario. Woonsocket has been overtaxing the people fore the last few years. This is obvious given the cumulative surplus we have. Do we issue refunds to ALL tax payers? It's their $. Where's my check?

The instructions to issue checks should not have been worded the way it was. It should have been a question first. "How many people are entitled to refunds and what amount?". Once you have all the info, then you can apply the instructions. Did everyone in Lincoln get a check? Are there still people due a check that haven't received one?

Tom: You are over analyzing this. Lincoln sent out the refunds last November for those people who paid their bill and subsequently became exempt or who otherwise had a refund due to them. It has nothing to do with cash flow or profit. It has to do with returning money to those who paid a bill that they didn't owe based on the new law. It's called being fair to taxpayers.

All who were owed a refund received it in November. All credits due were applied to accounts in November and the taxpayers notified of their new quarterly payment amount by the end of November.

But you are still issuing checks in Lincoln. It's not a one and done. Because of the poor timing of the State legislation, it created a paperwork and tracking nightmare. You'll continue to field questions and continue to adjust balances and continue to issue overpayment checks throughout the rest of the year.

If I'm sitting on my original bill and all of a sudden find the money to pay it off in full today. I will have overpaid and am entitled to a refund. Are you going to another round of refunds or would you handle that on a case-by-case?

This issue is at least doubled in Woonsocket. The method that people pay their bills and each individual's bookkeeping make it a challenge. What irks me is they way Woonsocket handled it procedurally. If you walked into City Hall with your bill in hand, your bill would have been adjusted on the spot. This is essentially the same as being handed a refund check. However, if you mailed in your full payment, you would need to wait for that same adjustment/refund.

The question I would have is, have refunds been sent out on a case-by-case basis or is Woonsocket holding off on 100% of the refunds? My lease company pays my bill as soon as it's issued, and as far as I know, I haven't seen an adjustment. Meanwhile, I paid the wife's car and received the adjustment already. There is a lack of consistency.

This article doesn't clearly state where we stand: "The only people receiving refunds to date are those with cars from 2002 or earlier, and those who paid their car tax in full at the beginning of the year." Does that mean people have already RECEIVED refunds or will be RECEIVING refunds? "to date" tells me they were sent out already. This is awesome information that should have been asked at a council meeting.

Sorry Tom, you are wrong in your analysis. All checks to be issued and remainder balance adjustments were done in November. There will be no further transactions related to the MV phase-out legislation for this year.