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:

pbn-2008proptaxri.jpg

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.

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John
John
13 years ago

Is there something to the following fact?
None of the “distressed” communities that receive extra state aid raised their levy to the cap.
Burrillville, 4.49%
Central Falls, 3.88%
North Providence, 2.28%
Pawtucket, 2.91%
Providence, 3.75%
West Warwick, 4.96%
Woonsocket, 3.41%
I thought that these cmmuities were so distressed that they were in need of extra funds despite taxing to the max! But they don’t tax to the max! Should they be commended or is the state giving extra where it isn’t really needed?
Someone please explain this to me.

Tom W
Tom W
13 years ago

Part of the explanation may be that for years “state aid to education” has been used as a de facto wealth redistribution mechanism to suck money out of the suburbs and transfer it to the “urban” areas; in effect a welfare program operating under the guise of education.
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.

david
david
13 years ago

I know Richmond went over the cap based on assuming that state education aid would be cut and making lots of really pessimistic revenue assumptions.
The amount of town spending went up just about 3%.

Frank
Frank
13 years ago

Regarding Tom W’s comment. If I understand this, and I am not disagreeing, mind you, the suburbs are paying paying for their education, the education of the urbans and, if they have opted out of the public schools, a third education – that of their own children. Let’s give a well deserved pat on the back to our friends at the National Extortion Association for helping to orchestrate this little piece of injustice. All in the name of the chiiiidren(!) of course.

George Elbow
George Elbow
13 years ago

Frank’s got it right.
Our spineless and ignorant School Committees continue to let the morons at the NEA push them around.
When you’ve got typically more than 50% of employees receiving salary increases that range between 8% and 20%, as is the case for Steps 1 – 9 Teachers accross the State, in addition to paying a pittance for their healthcare, then of course you are going to have massive and unsustainable tax increases.
Until taxpayers and School Committees say NFW to the NEA, the madness will continue.
It is time to say NFW to the NEA. Do it for the children!

chuckR
chuckR
13 years ago

As I’ve discussed before, the fair tax arguments also work to the detriment of many suburban/rural homeowners. Many of them (me included) supply their own water and sewerage (via ISDS – septic systems) and garbage haulage. Normalizing services provided to include urban property taxes and water and sewerage fees on one hand, and then suburban/rural taxes and fees and a portion of the mortgage payments made to pay off the wells and septic system on the other hand, would show a very different tax effort and tax burden than the fair tax proponents would like to admit. As a bonus, its very regressive – the DEM will require equally expensive ISDS’es for low and high valued houses. The fees associated with urban water/sewerage services are only a fraction of the costs associated with wells and ISDS’s, plus well pumps/filtration systems and ISDS’es are depreciating assets that must be replaced – not a permanent asset subject to occasional maintenance costs.
I doubt we’ve heard the last of the fair tax/tax effort arguments. I expect more right after the first Tuesday in November.

Jim Quinlan
13 years ago

It is far too easy for cities and towns to blame the state for the 09 tax increases. Taxpayers should not be fooled by the blame game. It is time that elected leaders take a hard look at the way we do business here in RI and be not afraid to make drastic changes. In Cranston, our Mayor and Council continue to spend millions despite the money not being there. Citizens need to demand that cuts are made and budgets are not passes when not really balanced.
It is not this hard to run a city if it is run like any other private entity. Let’s bring some common sense to government in November!

Jim Quinlan
13 years ago

By the way, I hope everyone keeps a keen lookout at what happens post election. How long do you all think it will take before the supplemental tax increases start rolling out in communities who did “hold the line?!”
Jim Quinlan
Candidate for Cranston City Council
City Wide

Monique
Editor
13 years ago

“It is far too easy for cities and towns to blame the state for the 09 tax increases.”
That’s right. Those contracts were negotiated and exectuted not by the state but by the cities and towns, often not very responsibly or with much foresight.

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