$322M budget would raise tax levy, lower rate

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Mayor Joseph Solomon is scheduled to release today his budget overview for the fiscal year starting July 1 which, if approved as is by the city council, would result in a 3.46 percent overall tax levy increase and, depending on how your property was revalued during the recent revaluation, higher property taxes for most and lower property taxes for others.

The $322,881,043 budget represents a 2.07 percent increase in expenditures balanced by a 2.07 percent in revenue, although a significant portion of that revenue is non-recurring, with $3.5 million to come from the city’s cash reserves and another $2.88 million that is proposed to come via transfers from enterprise funds that are accrued through the city’s water and sewer departments. Increased taxes would bring in an additional $7.5 million.

As explained in a release provided by the mayor’s office, the revaluation raised the net tax base within the city by approximately 14.8 percent over FY19 levels. “To address this, the budget reflects tax rate reductions of almost 10 percent from the current fiscal year.”

What this means is that the revaluation increased the overall taxable value of all property in Warwick by nearly 15 percent, which prompted actual property tax rates to decrease. The residential rate dropped from $20.80 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $18.73 in the proposal. Commercial and industrial rates dropped from $31.19 per $1,000 to $28.10, and tangible property decreased from $41.59 per $1,000 of value to $37.46.

To further clarify the new rates, if the assessed value of your home went down, so will your property taxes. However, if your home went up in value, the amount you pay in taxes may increase, depending on the amount it increased in value. The proposed amount of aggregate tax increase that residents will collectively face falls below the 4 percent maximum allowable as mandated by state law.

In the release Solomon states that, “the revaluation project confirmed that Warwick continues to be an affordable and desirable place to live.” The release indicates that houses valued in the $200,000 to $350,000 saw higher revaluations due to high demand, while there was less demand for higher-valued homes and commercial and industrial property.

“According to the revaluation firm that performed the analysis, these results are similar to their findings in other Rhode Island Municipalities,” the release states.

Schools getting $500,000 additional

Despite reportedly facing cost increases feared to be as high as $12 million in the coming fiscal year, and with no solutions proposed to cover the structural deficit that would be created by the recent arbitration award that instructed the schools to close their current $4 million deficit for this year with WISE pension funds, the mayor’s budget includes a proposed increase of just $508,499 to the school department. Schools asked for a $174 million budget; the mayor is proposing $165.9 million.

The budget proposal also includes a provision to commit to paying the $1.7 million in principal and interest costs related to a 2006 school construction bond, but school administrators and school committee members will likely disagree with the mayor’s assessment put forth in the press release that this will result in $1.7 million-worth of “savings” for the department.

This is because, as school personnel have explained in the past, the schools have already zeroed that principal and interest line from their budget, meaning the $12 million in projected cost increases does not include that $1.7 million as an expense. They argue, therefore, that the shouldering of that burden by the city does not actually translate to money saved by the department, it merely satisfies a known encumbrance.

In flat numbers, the school allocation of $165,900,428 represents a 0.31 percent increase in funding over last year’s budget, which allocated $165,391,929.

Some other noteworthy items in the budget proposal include:

  • An allocation of $4.5 million for road paving, as well as funding for “sewer and water infrastructure upgrades and renewal/replacement.”
  • An 8.71 percent increase in the fire department’s budget from $22,715,040 to $24,694,562
  • A $250,000 allocation to fund a study of the fire department “to determine if there are operational and other cost savings that can be realized.”
  • An increase of federal aid of 26.78 percent from $2.36 million to $3 million
  • An increase in state aid of 6.28 percent from $46.4 million to $49.3 million
  • An increase in the Parks and Recreation budget of 32.7 percent from $2.27 million to $3 million
  • A nearly 40 percent cut to the Board of Canvassers from $360,910 to $217,388
  • A nearly 30 percent cut to the City Assessor’s office from $1.14 million to $801,357
  • An increase in the city’s budget for legal matters from $453,350 to $975,000 – representing a 115-percent increase over last year

The release states that:

“This budget followed a directive that began shortly after the Mayor took office, when he established a budget reduction line item in every department. This practice, along with hiring only crucial personnel positions, resulted in significant savings to the taxpayer. This austerity position continued in the proposed FY20 budget. Department heads were requested to submit their budget based on the concept of zero-based budgeting along with an ‘austerity budget’ with even greater cuts. The result is a budget reduction of $10,209,534 to arrive at the proposed FY2020 budget.”

Budget hearings will commence at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28 at Warwick City Hall and will continue on Wednesday, May 29. The School Department budget will be considered on May 28.

Comments

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had enough

So let me get this straight.

The Mayors total proposed budget is $322,881,000, $165,900,000 going to the schools and the $156,981,000 to the City. The Mayor is proposing an increase in spending of $6,545,000 of which he is keeping $6,045,000 and the schools get $500,000. That means city spending is budgeted to increase 3.65% for the coming fiscal year while the schools are expected to get by on a 0.03% increase. The Mayor plans to increase his spending 3.65% but tells the schools, spend the same as last year. Inflation has been less than 2.50% for each of the last three years, but city expenses have fare exceeded the rate of inflation in each of those years. Remember, every additional dollar taken in over the last several years has gone to the city budget, schools have been level funded for several years. City spending has nearly doubled (that’s right, doubled) since they started level funding the schools.

The Mayor contends he was unaware any of the City’s financial problems. I find it incomprehensible that you can serve as Council President for several years and be unaware. However, if this is indeed true, then he may well be the most incompetent person to ever serve office and I call for his resignation immediately. Warwick cannot afford any more of his incompetence.

Thursday, May 16
Cat

had enough, I totally agree. Only those that still believe in the tooth fairy think Solomon didn't know what was going on with the city finances. Hiding behind that excuse is worse than taking responsibility for his inaction and inability to lead the council. No one believes a word of that lie.

I thought there were going to be deep cuts? Did that include the Solomon administration as well? Or maybe not spending $250,000 on figuring out how to pare down the WFD budget would be a great start. You don't need to research that - just do it!

Thursday, May 16
Ben Dover

Bernie Madoff , the 3 Stooges and Charles Keating would all be proud of this charade and obfuscation. Please pass the antacid.

Thursday, May 16
just do it

The budget does nothing to address the structural issues in the city i.e. out of control pensions and healthcare costs.

I would ask Solomon to go back to the unions and ask for concessions. The only thing that could be said positively about this budget is that it makes Avedisian look good.

Has Joe lost all his courage? In the past he wasn't afraid to take on the unions but now he just caves. Why did Joe say no bankruptcy on his watch, no cut in wages and sign the Avedisian giveways to the city workers and police dept? Is Joe only concerned about his elections and let the taxpayers be damned? It certainly appears that way.

It is now time for the City Council to step up and does what needs to be done to saves the taxpayers because Joe refuses to do it.

Thursday, May 16
Bill

The valuation on my house went from $200,400 to $259,500.

My taxes are going from $4,168 to $4,860

That's an increase of 17%

Time to get out the tar and feathers

5 days ago
wwkvoter

bill your taxes went up $13 a week. mostly because the values in your neighborhood, wherever that is, have risen more than the average of all properties. but still only its $13 a week. how much is your car payment?

5 days ago
Hillsgrove Hal

Mayor Solomon is capitalizing (pun intended) on the increased valuations of property to play more shell games with the city budget.

He's proposing $2 million more for the fire department, while calling for cost reductions.

("Here's more money, now I want you to cut your budget."

He's offering $500,000 more for schools while increasing the legal budget by more than $500,000.

(I'm not giving the schools the money they've requested and I'm ready to pay lawyers to defend that decision in court."

He's increasing taxes, while taking another $3.5 million from the surplus.

("I'm so worried about the surplus that I'm withdrawing more from it.")

Is it even worth hoping that the city council stands up to Solomon and his attempts to fool people?

5 days ago
Fed up

By the way, Solomon's taxes on his waterfront home went down $1800. Just saying.

5 days ago
Get Real

Hey Joe ....you know this budget is just smoke and mirrors. You have done nothing to cut expenses. Fire Dept to get 2 million more. You can't be serious.

Is you were sitting on the council, you would be blasting Avedisian if he presented this budget.

When are you going to re-open the union contracts to ask for concessions ?

5 days ago
Tom Hobson

Question for our leaders.how can you look at the taxpayers with a straight face when some residents get a tax increase and others dont?just saying.

3 days ago
Fast Fred WARD 4

I,ll just keep my comments to my self. I better put on the sunglass on . Grow my hair back. . Tired of people comeing up to me saying step up. sell out somebody will pick it up with this rate

3 days ago