When Ward 1 City Councilman Bill Foley was on the Warwick City Council 22 years ago for the first time, he drafted a resolution calling on the General Assembly to give a portion of state gambling …
When Ward 1 City Councilman Bill Foley was on the Warwick City Council 22 years ago for the first time, he drafted a resolution calling on the General Assembly to give a portion of state gambling revenues to public education.
As he recalls shortly after 9/11 happened, things came to a halt, and the world changed.
It meant that the resolution didn’t go to the council for a vote.
Now in his second year as the Ward 1 Councilman, Foley brought it to the council floor where it was not only approved last week, but also co-sponsored by the entire council.
“This is the time to do it,” said Foley.
The resolution calls for the General Assembly to appropriate a portion of additional state gambling revenues in excess of FY 2019 levels in the form of supplemental education aid to provide municipal property tax relief. It calls for the legislation to require that at least 10 percent of additional state gambling revenues in excess of 2019 levels go to municipalities as supplemental education aid.
Foley said state education aid in FY 2022 to the City of Warwick contributed less than 25 percent of the funding required for the $174 million school budget.
A 40-year educator primarily at Davies Tech, Foley said equitable funding for public education has always been an issue across the state and feels that the legislation he is hopeful will pass would help alleviate some of it.
The other issue Foley pointed to is property taxes. He said when he was campaigning through his Ward constantly people brought up the high costs for property taxes. He said in some cases people have to move due to the costs.
While he said that the council had a zero percent tax increase budget last year, Foley recognized it's hard to know if that will happen from year to year.
He said having the legislation in place it will allow municipalities to have to potentially raise less money from property taxes, which could mean either no tax increases or minimal ones.
Foley said after talking to Council Solicitor William Walsh, it looks like the current year is going to be back at pre-pandemic levels for revenue from gambling.
According to the resolution, the State Lottery transferred $398 million in revenue to the State’s General Fund. In FY 2020 the transfer was $284 million, and in FY 2021 the transfer was $302 million.
The reason Foley picked a benchmark and went with increases is because it could otherwise mean the state could experience a reduction in funds.
“It's a good benchmark,” Foley said.
In 2022 the state Revenue Estimate Conference increased the FY 2022 lottery transfer projections by $17 million to $393 million according to the resolution.
Foley said he was waiting to get the rest of the council behind him before he had any conversations with the members of the General Assembly regarding the legislation. As of last week, he hadn’t spoken to any. He said with the whole council supporting it he thinks that it will give it more merit.
“I was surprised and proud that every other council member wanted to sign on as co-sponsors, it really meant a lot to me,” Foley said.
But Foley said that since the issue doesn’t just affect Warwick, he wants to talk to other cities and towns to see if they want to sign on with them as well, by passing their own resolutions. He is also hopeful that candidates for Governor will also take a serious look at it.
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