Property Tax Cap Sticking Points

Lowering the acceptable rate of annual property tax increases is a good idea. (I wonder why our Democrat dominated general assembly is tackling this now…Oh yeah, it’s an election year). Senator Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Newport) is leading the charge in the effort.

Currently, communities are prohibited from raising their tax levy by more than 5.5 percent in any given year. Paiva Weed’s bill would start lowering that rate to 5.25 percent in fiscal year 2008 and dropping another quarter percentage point each year until the cap hits 4 percent in 2013…The bill would also limit school committees from proposing budgets to their city and town councils that exceed the same caps.

The story notes that there are ways to circumvent the cap such as in the case of a population boom and the resulting need for more government infrastructure. Now for the concerns.
One of the largest is due to the fact that School Committees operate independently of most city and town governments and–under the Caruolo Act–they can go to court to get the appropriation dollars they want, even if the money isn’t in the city budget. One solution offered would be to increase state aid to education. That could make sense, but that would probably have to be part of a different piece of legislation that would deal with consolidating education administration at the state level.
Finally, the NEA’s Robert Walsh offered a good, pragmatic “what if,” saying that “theoretically, communities might raise taxes by the maximum allowed each year just to ‘maintain their flexibility in years that are aberrations.'”

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