Warwick seniors will get an additional break in their taxes of nearly $70, although they’ll have to wait until next year.
On Monday, the City Council gave second passage to an ordinance increasing the senior exemption from $10,000 in property value to $12,000. In order for the exemption to take effect, it must be in place by Dec. 31 prior to the year of taxation, meaning the added tax relief will be reflected in next year’s tax bills.
“I see more seniors struggling than I have in the past,” Ken Mallette, city tax collector and assessor, said yesterday. As tax collector, Mallette favors the increase, observing that while there are certainly some seniors who are well off, there are many others who are having a tough time.
Wearing his hat as the assessor, however, Mallette asks, “When is it [increasing exemptions] going to stop?”
Increasing exemptions increase the burden on other taxes and taxpayers.
Mayor Scott Avedisian said he has not signed the legislation because it affects next year’s budget, adding, “I would favor the increase in the exemption because it gives us a year to implement it.”
Mallette said about 5,500 Warwick taxpayers receive the elderly exemption, costing the city nearly $1.9 million in tax revenues. Increasing the exemption to $12,000 means an additional $380,000.
Under the city system, married individuals that both meet the 65-year-old eligibility requirement are entitled to a $10,000 exemption in value on their property tax plus $6,000 on a motor vehicle. The $6,000 on the vehicle is in addition to the $2,000 exemption on all motor vehicles approved in Mayor Scott Avedisian’s budget.
Mallette said the level of city exemptions are about in the middle of what municipalities across the state offer. For example, he said, West Greenwich provides no exemptions.
The city first started providing elderly exemptions in the 1980s with a $2,000 exemption.
“It has grown by leaps and bounds since then,” he said.
That hasn’t been the case with veterans’ exemptions, however, that started at $1,000. The veterans’ exemption, now $2,000, is under study by a committee chaired by Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson.
Currently, about 4,500 veterans receive the exemption. Elderly veterans receive this exemption in addition to the $10,000 exemption on real estate or the $6,000 on a motor vehicle.
Like the real estate exemption, Mallette said what Warwick provides is more or less than what other municipalities provide. He said Middletown offers the most generous veteran exemption at $20,000.
Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla initiated the effort to increase the elderly tax exemption. His efforts to gain General Assembly approval went nowhere when legislators looked for local action. The council then followed the initiative, with Camille Vella-Wilkinson, Joseph Solomon, Donna Travis, Merolla and Steven Colautuono co-sponsoring the ordinance.