WARWICK, R.I. — Richard Corrente, the self-described Democrat running against Mayor Scott Avedisian this year, would have done well to remember the basics of campaigning: Attacks only work as long as they can be proven.
Corrente has been peppering the comment boards at the Warwick Beacon’s website for several months, and recently had a letter to the editor published in which he claimed inspiration for his campaign from the Sons of Liberty and alleged that an increase in the assessment on one of his properties was the work of Avedisian, who, Corrente further argued, benefited from an ill-gotten assessment reduction on his own property.
Were this the only thing that voters in Warwick could know about this issue, that would make a pretty damning case against the longtime Mayor.
But this is the Information Age, and all of the data that Corrente merely hinted at in his commentary is easily accessible.
Here’s what a closer look found.
What’s the story on Corrente’s property assessments?
Corrente’s property in Potowomut is .14 acres of undeveloped land, assessed this year at $8,700. It had been previously assessed at $3,700, which Corrente claims in his Beacon letter to the editor to be “triple.”
Math proves that false: $3,700 times 3 is $11,100, while $8,700 is 2.35 times more than $3,700, so he’s off by 65%.
Corrente also mentions another property he owns at 1115 Greenwich Ave. [not his residence] that is now listed as a five-family instead of the previous four-family designation, and again alleges shady dealings by Avedisian.
What Corrente doesn’t mention is that the assessment on that property went down — from $280,400 to $275,400, essentially washing out the increase on his other property.
The subtotal so far is no net property tax increase for Richard Corrente, as he had one property go up $5,000 and the other go down $5,000 in value.
Also, as pointed out by astute internet commenter CrickeeRaven on the Beacon’s comment board here, Corrente doesn’t actually own the property he calls home — that property, at 177 Grand View Drive, is currently owned by Red Stick Acquisitions of Baton Rouge, La.
That means that Corrente isn’t paying taxes on his home.
What about Avedisian’s assessment?
According to the city’s tax assessor database, Avedisian’s property at 200 Atlantic Avenue is currently assessed at $158,500, down from the prior value of $160,200.
That’s a drop of $1,700 in value. Based on the 2015 tax rate of $20.75, Avedisian paid $3,324.15 last year; this year, using the new lower tax rate of $20.40, Avedisian will pay $3,233.40, an overall drop of $90.75.
Take a moment to re-read something that was just mentioned: The fiscal 2017 tax rate is lower than the FY2016 rate, meaning it fell, rather than increased. [Corrente is claiming 16 straight years of tax increases under Avedisian; as reported previously, fiscal 2017’s tax rate reduction and the recent revaluation of property means that the city will generate more tax revenue, which supports Corrente’s statement.]
And what about Corrente’s claims that Avedisian somehow got a sweetheart deal to save that princely sum of $90?
A quick survey of five surrounding properties shows the following changes in assessments from 2015 to 2016:
- 194 Atlantic Ave.: $127,200 to $123,300, a drop of $3,900;
- 195 Atlantic Ave: $156,200 to $151,300, a drop of $4,900;
- 203 Atlantic Ave.: $153,800 to $157,500, an increase of $3,700
- 209 Atlantic Ave.: $217,300 to $219,400, an increase of $2,100;
- 210 Atlantic: $205,900 to $205,600, a drop of $300.
It’s quite difficult, to say the least, to accept Corrente’s argument that the mayor received some kind of unfair benefit — would Corrente make the same claim against the owner of the home that got a $4,900 reduction?
Update, Aug. 18, 12:30 p.m.: Further research shows that Avedisian also owns another lot on Atlantic Avenue, currently assessed at $19,700, an increase of $5,100 from the prior valuation of $14,600. That means that the mayor paid $302.95 last year and will be paying $401.88 this year, a $98.93 increase — and an overall tax bill that’s about $9 higher.
Conclusion: Corrente is playing political games with the facts
Richard Corrente, who has spent nearly $40,000 of his own money on his campaign [which he has been running for more than 18 months now], is claiming that he would do better than Scott Avedisian at running the city of Warwick.
Setting aside the fact that, of the Rhode Island communities in Warwick’s league [and there are arguably only three, counting Providence, Cranston, and Pawtucket], Warwick is the only one to have avoided a financial meltdown in the last 16 years, Corrente is way off on his claims of Avedisian getting special favors from the city while he, himself, suffers under the burden of higher taxes.
Corrente owns two properties — including an empty lot — whose changes in assessment essentially cancel each other out; he doesn’t own, and thus doesn’t pay taxes, on the property he calls home; and the homes nearest Avedisian have had swings in assessment, including both increases and decreases, from the most recent revaluation.
What Corrente is trying to do is create a set of political talking points instead of a verifiable platform that proves he could better manage the city.
And what he is actually doing is choosing only the barest set of information to assemble into something that sounds truthful, but in actuality depends on voter paranoia and anger.
Corrente ignores more information than he acknowledges and appears to be counting on an illusion of Avedisian’s unpopularity.
But Avedisian is popular, and he has been successful at running the city and avoiding the same financial disasters that have plagued other Rhode Island communities — and Corrente is only hurting his chances by stooping to half-truths.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated since first publication to include data on the assessments of both of Mayor Scott Avedisian’s properties. Also, the explanation of a lower tax rate for FY2017 was updated to reflect that there will be an increase in tax revenue, and that Mr. Corrente is correct about the history of tax increases in Warwick.