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Pam Gencarella: Will Spring Bring Renewed Hope to RI?

Thursday, May 01, 2014

 

Who doesn’t love spring? After a dreary and cold winter, the warmth and the vibrant colors of spring give everyone hope for better days. When the frenetic activity quickly settled at the State House and the new Speaker emerged, Rhode Islanders felt that perhaps spring would be ushered in to the state’s economy given that the mantra for a month has been “jobs and the economy”. We were all wistful that new leadership might mean new hope for RI.

But that hope was quickly dashed for those residents of Coventry who wanted significant change and the opportunity to take control of their dire public safety problem - the Central Coventry Fire District. For those not following the story, the Central Coventry Fire District is bankrupt, even after taxing their residents to death. Those residents voted numerous times against the latest proposed budget and finally, the Judge ordered the district to liquidate (although much delayed in the process which began October 2012 and resulted in the liquidation order February 2014). Many residents came together, invested their personal time and energy to create a plan for a new district and legislation was introduced to allow for a new structure, a structure that aimed to significantly lower the operating budget.

Unfortunately, separate legislation was also introduced to maintain the status quo by allowing a fiscal overseer for fire districts, theoretically maintaining the current structure, but with some budget modifications. That legislation went to both Chambers for floor votes (that typically means it is meant to pass into law). Since the original premise of voter disapproval was the unreasonably high fire district tax, a seemingly reasonable amendment was proposed on the House floor to require that any taxes levied would be subject to the 4% tax cap, like the rest of the state’s municipalities. Tax Cap amendment? Squashed. Then, given that the existing collective bargaining agreements were the source of the high taxes, an amendment was proposed allowing the overseer to modify these agreements. Amendment to modify the cost drivers in the contracts? Squashed!

The result? The separate status quo bills have sailed through both the House and the Senate (although it has not become law yet). If Woonsocket is any indication of what happens with a fiscal overseer, Coventry may want to prepare for a supplemental tax, which gets built into the next year’s tax rate, which increases the maximum allowed by law, another 4%. In Woonsocket, that equated to a 23% increase for the average homeowner for 2014. And that didn’t include the 19% supplemental tax on vehicles. OUCH! But wait. Woonsocket was “fortunate”. They were bound by the tax cap.

You may be reading this thinking that because you’re not a Coventry resident, this issue doesn’t affect you. Think again. This was one of the first bills to pass under the new (spring) House leadership. Public unions 1, Taxpayers 0. What does that portend for RI taxpayers? Jobs and the economy, possibly, up to a point, but not if it interferes with the status quo.

A real sign of whether or not new leadership will be a breath of fresh air for the state will be the opportunity to give the average voter hope by way of passing the good government bill that repeals the outdated, disenfranchising, ineffectual Master Lever (aka straight party voting).

There have been numerous articles, editorials and letters to the editor written in the recent past on not just the bill, but the process. Interestingly, the House itself has written a letter to the editor defending the claims of placing this on the ‘back burner’. All of this discourse supports the abolition of this vestige of another era. It appears that virtually no one from the public testifies against this bill, only a few of the elected representatives do. While this bill seems to be a no-brainer, for years it has been sent to Never Never land where little bills stay little bills forever. This year may be different. On Tuesday, House Judiciary voted to recommend passage of the bill. It is scheduled for a vote by the full House today. While there is cause to be optimistic, this is a first step. The bill remains in committee on the Senate side. Remember, in 2010, the Ethics bill passed the House but the Senate never voted on it. The House and the Senate need to work together on this legislation if it is to become law.

The session is more than half way over.

Presumably, the General Assembly leadership’s focus will be on the budget. But before they are mired in finding ways to address the billion dollar budget deficits that are projected each year in the 5 year budget, before they tackle the bubble of Medicaid expansion and the cost to maintain the health insurance exchange, before they attempt to reign in the cost of government and overregulation to help beleaguered small businesses, before they deal with how to pay for our crumbling infrastructure and how to support education reform efforts, perhaps Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Paiva Weed could even the score for voters and bring renewed hope for the average Rhode Islander by repealing the Master Lever. We could all use a ray of sunshine, a glimmer of hope. After all, spring is in the air.

Pam Gencarella is a member of OSTPA, a taxpayer advocacy organization in Rhode Island.

 

Related Slideshow: RI Communities with the Highest Tax Rates #39 - #1

How do the taxes in your community compare to other cities and towns in Rhode Island?

GoLocalProv has ranked communities from the least to the highest taxed on the basis of their tax rates, using newly released data from the state Division of Municipal Finance. The below slides list the tax rate per $1,000 in value for homes, commercial property, personal property, and motor vehicles for the 2014 fiscal year, which began last July and ends next June.

Along with the rates are examples of what taxes might cost a typical resident in each city or town. For residential taxes, this calculation is based on the current statewide median price for a single family home, which is $240,000. For communities with them, homestead exemptions are factored in using the latest available figures. For motor vehicles, the example used is a 2008 Honda Accord, valued at the maximum retail price of $15,150. The total cost of home and car taxes is then represented as a percentage of the median income for that community, offering a rough measure of how affordable taxes are for those residents as compared with the taxes in another city or town.

Data sources: the Rhode Island Division of Municipal Finance, the Rhode Island Association of Realtors, the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, the National Automobile Dealers Association, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Prev Next

#39 New Shoreham

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $5.21

Commercial: $5.21

Personal Property: $5.21

Motor Vehicle: $9.75

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $1,000.32

For 2008 Honda Accord: $147.71

Total Taxes as % Median Income: $1.29%

Note: Real property is assessed at 80 percent of value. This is reflected in the community's ranking.

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#38 Little Compton

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $5.38

Commercial: $5.38

Personal Property: $10.76

Motor Vehicle: $13.90

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $1,291.20

For 2008 Honda Accord: $210.59

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 1.56%

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#37 Jamestown

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $8.75

Commercial: $8.75

Personal Property: $8.75

Motor Vehicle: $14.42

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $2,100.00

For 2008 Honda Accord: $218.46

Total Taxes as % Median Income: $2.84%

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#36 Charlestown

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $9.46

Commercial: $9.46

Personal Property: $9.46

Motor Vehicle: $13.08

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $2,270.40

For 2008 Honda Accord: $198.16

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 3.56%

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#35 Narragansett

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $9.80

Commercial: $14.68

Personal Property: $14.68

Motor Vehicle: $16.46

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $2,352.00

For 2008 Honda Accord: $249.37

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 4.06%

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#34 Bristol

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $12.80

Commercial: $12.80

Personal Property: $12.80

Motor Vehicle: $17.35

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $3,072.00

For 2008 Honda Accord: $262.85

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 5.18%

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#33 Portsmouth

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $14.53

Commercial: $14.53

Personal Property: $14.53

Motor Vehicle: $22.50

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $3,487.20

For 2008 Honda Accord: $238.61

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 4.87%

Note: Motor vehicles are assessed at 70 percent of value. This is reflected in the community's ranking.

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#32 Westerly

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $10.53

Commercial: $10.53

Personal Property: $10.53

Motor Vehicle: $29.67

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $2,527.20

For 2008 Honda Accord: $449.50

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 4.93%

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#31 South Kingstown

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $15.47

Commercial: $15.47

Personal Property: $15.47

Motor Vehicle: $18.71

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $3,712.80

For 2008 Honda Accord: $283.46

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 5.39%

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#30 Newport

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $11.71

Commercial: $16.23

Personal Property: $16.23

Motor Vehicle: $23.45

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $2,810.40

For 2008 Honda Accord: $355.27

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 5.45%

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#29 Middletown

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $15.71

Commercial: $20.87

Personal Property: $15.71

Motor Vehicle: $16.05

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $3,770.40

For 2008 Honda Accord: $243.16

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 5.58%

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#28 Exeter

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $14.72

Commercial: $14.72

Personal Property: $14.72

Motor Vehicle: $32.59

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $3,532.80

For 2008 Honda Accord: $493.74

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 3.93%

Prev Next

#27 Tiverton

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $19.37

Commercial: $19.37

Personal Property: $19.37

Motor Vehicle: $19.14

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,648.80

For 2008 Honda Accord: $289.97

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 7.75%

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#26 Richmond

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $19.76

Commercial: $19.76

Personal Property: $19.76

Motor Vehicle: $22.64

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,742.40

For 2008 Honda Accord: $274.40

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 6.33%

Note: Motor vehicles are assessed at 80 percent of value. This is reflected in the community's ranking.

Prev Next

#25 North Kingstown

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $18.80

Commercial: $18.80

Personal Property: $18.80

Motor Vehicle: $22.04

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,512.00

For 2008 Honda Accord: $333.91

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 6.18%

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#24 Coventry

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $18.66

Commercial: $22.49

Personal Property: $18.66

Motor Vehicle: $18.75

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,478.40

For 2008 Honda Accord: $284.06

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 7.11%

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#23 Cumberland

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $15.78

Commercial: $15.78

Personal Property: $28.86

Motor Vehicle: $19.87

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $3,787.20

For 2008 Honda Accord: $301.03

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 5.62%

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#22 Hopkinton

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $19.77

Commercial: $19.77

Personal Property: $19.77

Motor Vehicle: $21.18

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,744.80

For 2008 Honda Accord: $320.88

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 7.80%

Prev Next

#21 Warren

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $18.67

Commercial: $18.67

Personal Property: $18.67

Motor Vehicle: $26.00

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,480.80

For 2008 Honda Accord: $393.90

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 9.15%

Prev Next

#20 East Greenwich

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $22.90

Commercial: $22.90

Personal Property: $22.90

Motor Vehicle: $22.88

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $5,496.00

For 2008 Honda Accord: $346.63

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 6.05%

Prev Next

#19 Burrillville

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $18.58

Commercial: $18.58

Personal Property: $18.58

Motor Vehicle: $40.00

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,459.20

For 2008 Honda Accord: $606.00

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 7.35%

Prev Next

#18 Barrington

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $18.20

Commercial: $18.20

Personal Property: $18.20

Motor Vehicle: $42.00

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,368.00

For 2008 Honda Accord: $636.30

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 5.07%

Prev Next

#17 West Greenwich

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $22.55

Commercial: $22.55

Personal Property: $33.85

Motor Vehicle: $19.02

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,600.20

For 2008 Honda Accord: $288.15

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 5.81%

Note: Does not include rate for vacant land which is $16.07. Has homestead exemption.

Prev Next

#16 Foster

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $20.40

Commercial: $20.40

Personal Property: $28.03

Motor Vehicle: $36.95

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,896.00

For 2008 Honda Accord: $559.79

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 7.00%

Prev Next

#15 Scituate

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $33.37

Commercial: $43.20

Personal Property: $39.75

Motor Vehicle: $30.20

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,484.40

For 2008 Honda Accord: $434.65

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 6.01%

Note: Real property is assessed at only 50 percent of value and motor vehicles are assessed at 95 percent of value. This is reflected in the community's ranking.

Prev Next

#14 Glocester

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $21.24

Commercial: $24.14

Personal Property: $42.29

Motor Vehicle: $24.37

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $5,097.60

For 2008 Honda Accord: $369.21

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 7.10%

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#13 North Smithfield

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $15.86

Commercial: $17.57

Personal Property: $42.75

Motor Vehicle: $37.62

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $3,806.40

For 2008 Honda Accord: $569.94

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 5.54%

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#12 Lincoln

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $23.49

Commercial: $26.85

Personal Property: $36.89

Motor Vehicle: $30.66

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $3,664.44

For 2008 Honda Accord: $464.50

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 5.57%

Note: Has homestead exemption.

Prev Next

#11 Warwick

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $19.79

Commercial: $29.68

Personal Property: $39.58

Motor Vehicle: $34.60

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,749.60

For 2008 Honda Accord: $524.19

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 8.79%

Prev Next

#10 West Warwick

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential Rates:

  • For apartments with 6+ units: $35.26
  • For two to five family buildings: $35.26
  • For single family homes: $24.67

 

Commercial: $29.98

Personal Property: $39.00

Motor Vehicle: $28.47

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $5,920.80

For 2008 Honda Accord: $431.32

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 12.70%

Note: For ranking purposes, the average of  the three residential rates was used.

Prev Next

#9 Cranston

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $22.84

Commercial: $34.26

Personal Property: $34.26

Motor Vehicle: $42.44

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $5,481.60

For 2008 Honda Accord: $642.97

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 10.48%

Prev Next

#8 Smithfield

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $17.52

Commercial: $17.52

Personal Property: $61.06

Motor Vehicle: $39.00

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,204.80

For 2008 Honda Accord: $590.85

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 6.54%

Prev Next

#7 East Providence

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $22.78

Commercial: $25.21

Personal Property: $56.25

Motor Vehicle: $37.10

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,647.12

For 2008 Honda Accord: $562.07

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 10.54%

Note:  Rates are for FY 2013. Has homestead exemption.

Prev Next

#6 Johnston

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $28.75

Commercial: $28.75

Personal Property: $59.22

Motor Vehicle: $41.46

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $5,520.00

For 2008 Honda Accord: $628.12

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 11.20%

Note: Has homestead exemption.

Prev Next

#5 Pawtucket

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $23.06

Commercial: $30.88

Personal Property: $52.09

Motor Vehicle: $53.30

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $5,534.40

For 2008 Honda Accord: $807.50

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 16.00%

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#4 North Providence

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $24.29

Commercial: $31.03

Personal Property: $69.41

Motor Vehicle: $41.95

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,663.68

For 2008 Honda Accord: $635.54

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 10.55%

Note: Has homestead exemption.

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#3 Woonsocket

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $34.56

Commercial: $39.81

Personal Property: $46.58

Motor Vehicle: $46.58

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,976.64

For 2008 Honda Accord: $705.69

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 14.45%

Note: Has homestead exemption.

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#2 Providence

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential Rates:

  • For owner-occupied residential property: $19.25
  • For non-owner-occupied residential property: $33.75

 

Commercial: $36.75

Personal Property: $55.80

Motor Vehicle: $60.00

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,620.00

For 2008 Honda Accord: $909.00

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 14.21%

Note: For ranking purposes, the average of the two residential rates was used. 

Prev Next

#1 Central Falls

FY 2014 Tax Rates Per $1,000 in Value

Residential: $25.72

Commercial: $37.06

Personal Property: $73.11

Motor Vehicle: $48.65

Tax Cost for Residents

For a single family home valued at $240,000: $4,728.36

For 2008 Honda Accord: $737.05

Total Taxes as % Median Income: 14.43%

Note: Has homestead exemption.

 
 

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