Your credit score gives you a pretty good idea about your money habits. Cities and towns get scored by Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, or Fitch. All three completely missed the real-estate crash. So tell me again, how are we supposed to believe their ratings? The agencies’ lack of credibility makes it even more important that Rhode Islanders, and all Americans, understand their own town’s finances. That’s why a customized map of Rhode Island Pensions–the RIP Map—was in order.
In the Finance section of the profiles of the 39 cities in Rhode Island on the RIP Map, you’ll find a ratio of liabilities calculated by adding debt to pension liabilities and dividing by receipts. The higher the ratio, the less capable a town is of paying its obligations. While the colors on the map reflect the troubling pension situation for the towns of Rhode Island, the (Pension+Debt)/Receipts ratio gives you a broader perspective. For example, you can see that Newport is orange on the map, but so is Scituate. But Newport’s (Pension+Debt)/Receipts ratio is a whopping 324%, while Scituate’s is a still substantial—but not nearly as terrifying—136%. The RIP Map gives you a clear view of how troubled the state’s municipalities really are.
If you live in Rhode Island, take a look at your city/town on the map. If your real estate and/or local taxes are already high and your town is facing a mountain of pension debt, isn’t it time to ask why? One key metric for assessing a town’s deterioration is its population growth over the last 10 years. Fewer people means lower real-estate assessments means higher taxes. It’s a simple business equation.
You can go to the RIP Map and look up your mayor or your town’s equivalent. The contact info is there. Ask them why your town’s finances aren’t what they ought to be. Ask for reasons why. If they don’t know, they should. But since you’re armed with the information on the RIP Map, you can’t simply be pushed off to the side. Intimidation won’t work. It’s time politicians in Rhode Island listen to how bad the numbers really are. And it’s time they do something about it.