EAST PROVIDENCE — While not overturning a moratorium instituted last week by the City Council, the East Providence Budget Commission did make substantive changes to some language in the Homestead Audit letter being sent out to residents.
At its bi-weekly meeting Thursday afternoon, Nov. 29, in Room 306 of City, the Commission opted not to rescind the Council’s decision on Nov. 20. Instead, it chose to correct and clarify the wording of the document each homeowner will receive in the future.
The bone of contention for Councilors William Conley and Bruce Rogers last week was the inclusion of individual’s Federal Income Tax returns as a means of proving their place of residence. Thursday, Commission member Michael O’Keefe agreed with their objections.
It was decided, the income tax provision would be clarified in future letters, telling residents all they needed to show from the document was the top and bottom parts, which include their name, address and signature.
The ability of residents to use a utility bill was also clarified a bit Thursday. Electric or gas bills can be used in concert with another form of verifiable proof of address.
The other means of proving residences include Rhode Island vehicle registration, Rhode Island voter registration, a Rhode Island drivers license or Rhode Island State ID or a Social Security Statement/Bank Statement.
City Manager and Budget Commission member Peter Graczykowski, City Finance Director Malcolm Moore and Tax Assessor Steve Hazard each took turns Thursday stressing no personal financial information was being collected by the city. Mr. Hazard said any such info already presented to city workers has been redacted, though that didn’t much persuade Mr. O’Keefe or Mr. Rogers, a Commission member attended his last meeting after losing his re-election bid for the Council, nor did it move them off their positions.
In essence, however, the Audit continues unabated. The immediate deadline for returning letters with proof of residence is Dec. 15. The changes implemented Thursday are actually for future recipients of correspondence.
Mr. Graczykowski told the rest of the state-appointed panel that some 85 percent of letters sent out, roughly 9,400 of 11,000, had been returned, providing the city with the recipient’s place of residence. Mr. Hazard acknowledged the process has been far from perfect, but said complaints have been minimal, a point on which both Mr. Graczykowski and Mr. Moore agreed.
Mr. Graczykowski added, any of the outstanding 1,600 homeowners as well as those who will be called in for an audit will receive a second, updated letter, which, depending on the cost, will take the form of registered mail. The city, not an outside vendor, will handle any future mailings so as to avoid the problems with the initial process last month.
Mr. O’Keefe said it was important for the city to oversee the next mailing and to assure contact is made with residents in the next round of letters sent, following a similar point he made in regard to the issue last week in a story here at www.eastbayri.com. Mr. O’Keefe remains concerned some residents have yet to receive the first letter and emphasized it was incumbent upon the city, not the individual, to seek proof of residency.