October 31, 2014
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Cote says Azzinaro car tax bill a 'waste of time'
TIRED OF “UNETHICAL” TAXES: “I see no reason to insert another bill, which just muddies the water across the state in the House and Senate when we have a mirror bill that’s been widely accepted across party lines,” Cote said at a hearing before the House Municipal Government Committee at the State House Thursday evening. “Instead of bringing in an additional bill, Azzinaro should have signed on board McNamara’s bill.”

While Rep. Samuel Azzinaro (D-Westerly) recently drafted a bill he thought would create a fair system of car valuations, Rob Cote, leader of the Car Tax Revolt, says the legislation is pointless and conflicts with a bill Rep. Joseph McNamara (D-Warwick) introduced in January.

In fact, Cote said he made several suggestions for McNamara’s bill, including recommending to modify automobile assessments from full clean retail value to average trade in retail value, as well as setting up a “quantifiable” appeal process in which vehicle owners would be able to submit a certified appraisal to challenge “inflated” values.

“I see no reason to insert another bill, which just muddies the water across the state in the House and Senate when we have a mirror bill that’s been widely accepted across party lines,” Cote said at a hearing before the House Municipal Government Committee at the State House Thursday evening. “Instead of bringing in an additional bill, Azzinaro should have signed on board McNamara’s bill.”

In an interview, Cote said he feels that Azzinaro didn’t do enough research on the topic before drafting his bill, which was held for further study. Otherwise, he would have realized the suggestions he considered are already in practice.

“Azzinaro failed to complete the basic fundamental research on the subject which would be required to put forth any bill,” Cote said.

Azzinaro recommends using the Kelley Blue Book to set valuations for vehicles. However, after being reminded that Rhode Island is presently under a contract with NADA until Dec. 31, 2013, he amended his bill to remain using NADA values so as not to have a loss of revenue for cities and towns.

The fact that Azzinaro wanted to make the switch from the NADA Book to Kelley Blue Book baffles Cote.

“He was informed in great detail by both myself and David Quinn [of the Vehicle Value Commission] that you can’t do that,” Cote said in an interview. “So, why put in this bill at the eleventh hour? He is throwing in a piece of garbage legislation; that is a reflection of someone who doesn’t know his subject matter. All he did was waste time and show his constituents that he’s been asleep at the wheel and just woke up.”

Moreover, Azzinaro recommended staying with clean trade in value, the highest rate of the three set by NADA. He also suggested using a percentage formula that would tax automobiles six years and older at less than 100 percent of their value, which, in fact, is the current system. As vehicles age, their values would be reduced based on a declining percentage scale.

“I’m trying to come up with a fair value for our automobiles and the way they are taxed,” Azzinaro said at the hearing. “No one likes taxes but they are a part of life.”

Azzinaro also said he thinks it’s best to be mindful not to force municipalities to “take a hit” as far as lost revenue is concerned. He said if lower values are placed on vehicles, municipalities could lose 25 to 30 percent of expected revenue.

“I don’t know of any city or town in the state of Rhode Island that can lose that amount of money,” said Azzinaro.

Yet, Cote said Azzinaro’s information is incorrect.

“You’re looking at 12 to 14 percent reduction in the amount of revenue,” said Cote. “Even if it was 100 percent revenue loss, the revenue is being generated unethically.”

Westerly Town Manager Steve Hartford also attended the meeting. He said while he understands the frustration taxpayers have for being “overtaxed,” he, like Azzinaro, is concerned that cities and towns can’t afford to lose revenue.

“While our taxpayers do need tax relief, I don’t think we can give them that tax relief unless there’s some other source of revenue that the state can reinstate down the line,” Hartford said. “This year, municipalities can’t lose revenues that they are currently relying on to correct the valuations.”

Bristol Tax Assessor Evelyn Spagnoto feels the same. Considering budget problems, she also said it is imperative that anticipated revenues will be allowed to be billed so as not to increase property taxes.

“They’ve already cut virtually everything that they possibly can to keep the rates reasonable for property taxes,” she said. “Many [people] have homes that are set higher than the current market values.”

Peder Schaefer of the League of Cities and Towns, as well as Quinn, attended the meeting. They believe fiscal impact studies need to be completed to see how modifying values would affect budgets of cities and towns.

But, Cote said he and other taxpayers don’t want to pay inflated taxes to help build revenue.

“I represent thousands of people across the state that have been aggrieved by an excessive tax that has no fundamental merit [and] is not based on anything that’s ethical or logical – it’s based on confiscating funds,” he said at the hearing. “It’s an archaic system that needs to be changed. People are aggravated and they don’t want to stand for it anymore.”

As he has in the past, Cote said the city of Warwick has failed to make necessary budget cuts. He is tired of not only paying excessive car taxes, but also taxes to support health care plans for municipal workers and overtime pay for firefighters.

In fact, Cote said he’s not pleased that health care plans for municipal workers cost taxpayers $20 million on an annual basis, while municipal workers contribute $1 million, or 5 percent.

“That’s not fair,” Cote said. “We want to see 25 percent. Their 25 percent [would raise] $4 million.”

He also isn’t thrilled with firefighter overtime costs.

“Last year, the Fire Department had $800,000 overtime budgeted and they used $2.86 million,” said Cote. “As of the end of February, the Warwick Fire Department exceeded $3 million worth of overtime simply because of minimum manning, what we affectionately call, ‘Dozing for dollars.’ By the budget hearings, there will be in excess of $4 million overtime.”

If the McNamara bill does not pass, Cote implied that he plans to take legal action against the state. He feels confident he’d be successful.

For now, he hopes the problem is corrected without so much concern to revenue loss.

“Let the chips fall where they fall and repair these residual losses to revenue at a later date,” he said. In an interview, he continued, “you can’t say, ‘We’re going to lose this money,’ because it’s revenue you shouldn’t have had to feed this out of control machine.”

Steven Brown of the ACLU signed up to speak and listed that he favored the bill. He left before getting an opportunity to speak but was contacted via phone Monday and said, “We just want to express our general support for the bill’s efforts to modify and clarify the Vehicle Value Commission’s current, completely inappropriate practice that relies solely on the NADA book value to make these determinations.”

The bill was held for further study.


Comments
23 comments on this item

What a joke, this guy is content with suing everyone that doesn't follow him. I wonder who his lawyer is? I'm going to guess himself, isn't 0-2 or 0-3 already? I understand the other bill that was brought up is no good but to say "Hey I'm suing everyone because I can" is a joke.....He must of been a clown at his old job.

You know, Cote is pretty spot on in regards to a couple points here. This tax is unethical and Azzinaro seems to be ignorant of the subject matter. What's stunning is that not more than a couple paragraphs later he displays his own staggering ignorance. He can come up with all the insulting catchphrases that he like but the bottom line is minimum manner

Above post cont:

Minimum manning is simply the way the city ensures that there are atleast enough firefighters on each truck to actually put it into use at emergencies. Warwick only has 2 guys on a ladder and three guys in a Pumper. Both are made to operate with favorably 5 but atleast 4 firefighters. It's plain to see that the WFD is already trying to do more with less in an effort to control costs. As for the budget numbers: it's well known that the FD overspends the overtime budget EVERY YEAR. That's not because the firefighters pull a ploy (everyone who works for a company takes vacation and gets sick) but its because the city intentionally under budgets the item ever year as a political stunt and then refuses to actually staff the positions that are in the contract which would actually prevent overtime by filling it with guys who float at straight pay to fill vacancies caused by said vacations and the well within normal usage of sick time. So Cote, place blame where it belongs. It belongs on the city and not on the firefighters or it's union. Police, Fire and garbage are really the only valid reason for local taxes in the first place and unless you want one guy on a fire truck standing outside of a burning house or staring at a crumpled car with injured taxpayers inside, just watching and waiting for more firefighters to show up before they can do anything, you might want to pick another target aside from minimum manning.

Cote is absolutley right on with his attack on the taxes being unjust. Warwick may not be able to afford to keep all of the services that the city has come to enjoy. Privatize trash and recycling.( Does the city really need to send out special trucks to pick up xmas trees, and yard debris) Close some fire stations, libraries, the ice rink. Raising property taxes 4% every year isn't sustainable, but thats what we've had over the past six years. People are being taxed out of their homes.

Cose what fire stations, surely not the one closest to patientman's home. They aleady privatized garbage - how did that work out. It ended up being more exepensive. Patientman what do you do with yard debris and x-mas tree. there are many people that need these services. The WFD responds to 40-50 calls a day on average. Do you want your loved one having a heart attack, or trapped in a fire to wait another 3-4 minutes. People die in 3-4 minutes. Becareful what you wish for. Police are understaffed and WFD is already well below national standard. How many people do yu think it takes to provide successful CPR?

SteveD,

If people can get the xmas tree to their house they can get it to the compost, the same is true for yard debris. When I lived in a town that had private trash I knew that every quarter I was going to pay $65. I never had to worry about paying the employees pension and health care when he retires at 55. I'll take that over what we have now.

As far as cutting down the number of fire stations, if we can't afford them, we can't afford them. It would be great to have a fire house on every street. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done. BTW the Warwick fd does a wonderful job, and people will have to understand that maintaining that high level of service may be cut. Don't pull the what if its your family, house blah blah. The fire department got to the house on buttonwoods in 3 minutes. It didn't matter, sometimes horrible things happen.

No response on closing some libraries. I guess you think thats an okay area to cut.

Here's the problem with closing fire stations. We have this big thing right in the middle of Warwick that the FAA really doesn't like the FD driving through. It's called the Airport. All of the WFD stations form a ring around it and unfortunately there is no way to create a weave. It's just geography. There are already some sections of Warwick with rather long response times. One is down Miantonomo, Namqid and Squantum. The "Lanes" down the end take forever to get to as it is. Another is Warwick Neck. The closets stations are on West Shore, thats a long drive down to the Country Club area. Listen, my taxes go up too. No one likes it but the economy is what it is. For my taxes, the very last thing I want cut is Police and Fire/EMS.

I never mentioned cutting police. It is a nasty problem, but when people are literally being taxed out of their homes it time to cut government spending. Perhaps retirees will pay more for their health care and give up their colas to save the town from bankruptcy. Yes, for the town workers that do live in Warwick their taxes go up, and I don't think they receive 4% raises every year, so they to should realize this tax and spend system is not sustainable.

it seems 80% of the car tax goes to the schools and if thats the reason they brought it back then

they should they should be charging the people who have kids in the school system extra

why should people who send there kids to private school or who do not have kids have to pay for

other peoples children

the city should be making cuts in the school system parents should be driving there kids to school

cut back on busing a parent can stand with there kid for a half hour waiting for a bus just drive them

make cuts in sports and shop classes if the students want them then they should pay extra

shorten the school year by doing away with some of the vacations

I don't have kids but not every person has the ability to drive their kids to school. Maybe they work at 7 am or they have no car. Cutting buses is a stupid idea. How about cutting the school admin. We don't need multiple principals, assnt principals, etc... Sports abd other after school programs keep kids out of trouble. What do kids do if they get out of school at 2 and parents work till 5? Perky your out of touch with reality.

The school department budget is below 2008 levels. Over the past 4 out of 5 years the school budget was level funded, except for one year when federal stimulas money resulted in an increase.

What that means is that 100% of the property tax and YES, the new car tax went to the city side of the budget.

Bottom Line: It's city spending that is resulting in the annual maxiumum tax increases.

Could we stay on topic please? The subject is a tax that is assessed based upon a ficticious value, PERIOD! The cities do not want to see a revenus stream disappear. Why would anyone want to continue to generate revenue which is based on confiscation of funds? The answer is simply, to continue to feed the political give aways, (ie healthcare, pensions, overtime, vacations etc..) to continue to get re-elected. Look at the real numbers of healthcare in Warwick. 20 million dollars to cover municiple workers, 1 million in contributions from the workers combined. Those are the budget numbers. That means, averaged out the workers contribute 5% and the residents contribute 95%. Not a good deal for the residents, but Avedesian negotiated the healthcare plan and Avedesian gets the benifit of the vote from the recipients. That is just one example where the city has not tightend its belt. How many business owners could operate in that way? ZERO. This year fire dept. overtime will be close to 4 million, why? I am not aware of any study that has shown that Minmum Manning has resulted in a safer community. There are however, numerous budgetary reports indicating that Minimum Manning has, and continues to stress communities. Bottom line is these costs keep escalating, the solution is put off every year as no one wants to be targeted by the unions, and taxes continue to rise.

Do you really need a study to tell you that having at least enough guys on a piece of fire apparatus to actually operate it will result in a safer community? We not talking about FDNY staffing here. These trucks are supposed to run with 4-5 guys on each, WFD is already doing it with 3 on Engines and 2 on Ladders! This is as bare bones are you can get without being downright negligent and reckless. It's not like we have 4 guys working and the big bad firemen insist on giving overtime to a 5th... We're talking about trucks already being run way below nationally recognized staffing levels in the first place. At what point do you not even bother and just let people fend for themselves?

n

No the point is this guy likes to say Ill sue you, HE"S A BIG JOKE......but he never says who his lawyer is

Im sure he has a lawyer because he likes to dump gas down the drain and get arrested for it. He complained about a grant for a new fire truck. The city only pays 20%. Is he that stupid to complain. DOes he want the city to pay 100% of it. The truck that its replacing is over 20 years old and constatntly breaking down. He isn't really a smart guy. I heard him argue that taxpayers still pay for the 80% part of it. Yes that is mostly correct. But if Warwick doesn't apply some other city gets it anyway. .

The city also know its cheaper to pay overtime than it is to fill the 20 (every shift is down 5 plus/per shift) plus vacancies the dept has. The city does knows this and for political reasons places the blams on the FD when if they wanted to solve overtime HIRE MORE PEOPLE.

A guy who complains when the taxpayers of Warwick get 800k to buy a million dollar truck (yup, they are that expensive even without all the flashy swag WFD forgoes putting on them) is just living on an ideological cloud. Who would Cote like to pay for it? I don't see any big companies offering to donate one nor should they. It's exactly what taxes are for.

Cote get a job and pay your taxes. Always sticking your nose in places that it doesn't belong. WFD should send you a bill for dumping gas down drains.

Looks like we took a turn away from Car Tax and valuations and towards WFD. OK, here goes.

Check this out:

http://www.ehow.com/info_8332923_effects-reduced-fire-department-staffing.html

First of all, if you are a knucklehead like Cote and believe that minimum manning is a ploy to ratchet up fire department overtime, then look at the link listed above. Warwick's fire department is known state-wide for its leadership and training. I work at EB and have personally witnessed how they responded to a "smoke in building" call. We had fire departments respond from several towns & cities. The fire was kicking butt. Warwick came, took control of the scene and took control of the fire. Done.

It's an easy choice. Recruit the needed number of fire fighters or pay overtime to meet minimum manning requirements. You're going to pay either way. Instead of asking if minum manning makes a city safer, the real question is, does an understaffed fired department result in greater injuries and disability pensions? In other words, exactly how do you want the city to spend our tax money? Personally, I have no problem with fire fighters retiring after 20 years since I don't want an old fart like me humping up & down ladders carrying equipment and people. I do want enough fire fighters in the station house to put out the flames or treat the injured before they wind up dead in Kent County Hospital.

Close down fires stations? Sure, let's close them all down, go to an all volunteer fire department and really save some money!!!!! Do you really think closing down stations and moving the fire fighters around to other houses is the way to keep the city safe? Then you must also think that when you push the clocks ahead, the days are actually longer. News flash---move the clocks forward or back, a day is still 24 hrs long. Close the fire stations and move personnel around and we're still undermanned.

Looks like we took a turn away from Car Tax and valuations and towards WFD. OK, here goes.

Check this out:

http://www.ehow.com/info_8332923_effects-reduced-fire-department-staffing.html

First of all, if you are a knucklehead like Cote and believe that minimum manning is a ploy to ratchet up fire department overtime, then look at the link listed above. Warwick's fire department is known state-wide for its leadership and training. I work at EB and have personally witnessed how they responded to a "smoke in building" call. We had fire departments respond from several towns & cities. The fire was kicking butt. Warwick came, took control of the scene and took control of the fire. Done.

It's an easy choice. Recruit the needed number of fire fighters or pay overtime to meet minimum manning requirements. You're going to pay either way. Instead of asking if minum manning makes a city safer, the real question is, does an understaffed fired department result in greater injuries and disability pensions? In other words, exactly how do you want the city to spend our tax money? Personally, I have no problem with fire fighters retiring after 20 years since I don't want an old fart like me humping up & down ladders carrying equipment and people. I do want enough fire fighters in the station house to put out the flames or treat the injured before they wind up dead in Kent County Hospital.

Close down fires stations? Sure, let's close them all down, go to an all volunteer fire department and really save some money!!!!! Do you really think closing down stations and moving the fire fighters around to other houses is the way to keep the city safe? Then you must also think that when you push the clocks ahead, the days are actually longer. News flash---move the clocks forward or back, a day is still 24 hrs long. Close the fire stations and move personnel around and we're still undermanned.

Looks like we took a turn away from Car Tax and valuations and towards WFD. OK, here goes.

Check this out:

http://www.ehow.com/info_8332923_effects-reduced-fire-department-staffing.html

First of all, if you are a knucklehead like Cote and believe that minimum manning is a ploy to ratchet up fire department overtime, then look at the link listed above. Warwick's fire department is known state-wide for its leadership and training. I work at EB and have personally witnessed how they responded to a "smoke in building" call. We had fire departments respond from several towns & cities. The fire was kicking butt. Warwick came, took control of the scene and took control of the fire. Done.

It's an easy choice. Recruit the needed number of fire fighters or pay overtime to meet minimum manning requirements. You're going to pay either way. Instead of asking if minum manning makes a city safer, the real question is, does an understaffed fired department result in greater injuries and disability pensions? In other words, exactly how do you want the city to spend our tax money? Personally, I have no problem with fire fighters retiring after 20 years since I don't want an old fart like me humping up & down ladders carrying equipment and people. I do want enough fire fighters in the station house to put out the flames or treat the injured before they wind up dead in Kent County Hospital.

Close down fires stations? Sure, let's close them all down, go to an all volunteer fire department and really save some money!!!!! Do you really think closing down stations and moving the fire fighters around to other houses is the way to keep the city safe? Then you must also think that when you push the clocks ahead, the days are actually longer. News flash---move the clocks forward or back, a day is still 24 hrs long. Close the fire stations and move personnel around and we're still undermanned.

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