It’s Time to Hold the Line, Down the Line
As some of Justin’s “adventures in town government” have revealed, the town of Tiverton has decided they simply “have to” break the 5% cap on annual property-tax increases because they can’t cut anything. They are not alone, according to Susan Baird at the Providence Business News:
Nine cities and towns so far have requested permission for property-tax increases exceeding this year’s state cap of 5.0 percent, according to data released today by Gary S. Sasse, director of the new R.I. Department of Revenue. But 28 are seeking tax increases “at or below” this year’s statutory cap of 5.0 percent, he said.
The largest planned increases were in rural West Greenwich (14.05 percent), North Smithfield (13.19 percent), Foster (12.48 percent) and Tiverton (12.20 percent). Also seeking tax-levy increases that would exceed the state cap were Glocester (8.59 percent), Exeter (8.33 percent), Richmond (8.06 percent), Bristol (5.40 percent) and Westerly (5.15 percent).
PBN also has this handy chart:
In addition to the 9 towns who “went over,” there are 8 more who went right to the 5% cap and 11 more who upped their rates at least 4%. So that’s 28 towns jacking up rates over 4%, which I suppose we we could consider to be (a bit generously) the cost-of-living increase. To try to be optimistic, I figured that more towns would spend to the 5% cap. Regardless, I’m sure the towns are feeling the pinch this year. And so are the taxpayers, yet again.
To be fair, some of the cuts made by the General Assembly are being manifested at the city and town level, so property tax increases aren’t a surprise. That doesn’t mean that local governments can’t spend more wisely and make cuts in city “services.” If taxpayers are upset by these increases, then it’s up to them to send the right message to local town and city politicians at the ballot box in November. If they don’t, they can expect more of the same. And they’ll only have themselves to blame.
ADDENDUM: Good points made by “John” and “Tom W” in the comments. Basically, as John noticed, some of the communities that didn’t go to the 5% cap are also those who are labeled as “distressed” and receive lots of state aid. And he asks the question, “Should they be commended or is the state giving extra where it isn’t really needed?:
Tom explained how “state aid to education” is a vehicle of redistribution from rural and suburban communities to the “urban core.”
The suburban people pay income taxes (while many if not most urban dwellers do not), and those taxes go into the general fund. From there the “education aid” money is disproportionately directed toward the urban systems.
So those in the suburbs are then hit with disproportionate property taxes to make up the difference. In effect, they’re paying for two school systems at once – their local one through property taxes, and urban ones through their “progressive” income taxes.