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Solomon’s $322M Budget Dips Home Tax Rate Nearly 10%

Warwick City Hall
Warwick City Hall. Surplus
Warwick City Hall.

WARWICK, R.I. — Mayor Joseph J. Solomon says his drafted $322,881,043 FY20 budget decreases property tax rates while increasing education spending, but it only grants $508,499 of the Schools’ $8.5 million requested increase.

In a press release sent overnight, Solomon reported the City’s recent property tax revaluation increased the net tax base about 14.8 percent over FY19.  So, he said, the budget can be supported with a tax rate that’s nearly 10 percent lower than the current fiscal year, generating about 3.46 percent more than the FY19 net tax levy amount.

The release noted the revaluation showed strong home sales of City properties with values between $200,000 and $350,000. There was less demand for homes at the higher end of the residential market during the timeframe studied for the revaluation. Likewise, assessments of commercial and industrial property did not see the same percentage growth as experienced in the residential real estate market. The results were similar to other Rhode Island municipalities, the statement said.

The proposed budget would set the rates, per $1,000 of assessed value, as follows:

  • Residential at $18.73 (a decrease of 9.95 percent, from $20.80)
  • Commercial at $28.10 (a decrease of 9.92 percent, from $31.19)
  • Personal property at $37.46 (a decrease of 9.93 percent, from $41.59
  • The motor vehicle rate is frozen, per state law, at $34.60.
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Solomon’s budget proposal is 2.07 percent higher than the adopted FY2019 budget. His  proposed school budget is $165,900,428, far short of the Warwick School Committee’s $174.3 million proposed budget, which includes a $4.5 million deficit incorporated from last year. Warwick Schools sued the city for that amount last year, but that suit has been settled with an agreement to use $4 million from the the Schools pension fund to increase the School budget, reported by the Warwick Beacon.

In 2018,  Solomon said the City had worked to increase the school department’s funding, with the City Council allocating an additional $1.5 million for the School Department in June, above what had been in the proposed budget. Solomon said he also proposed increasing school funding by about $1.7 million by assuming the department’s debt service to address the loss of state aid and staffing issues and to restore the mentoring program. All together, he said, the efforts would have been a $3.2 million increase over the previous year’s school budget.

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This year, Solomon proposes the City will pay $1.7 million in school-related debt principal and interest, which he said would be $1.7 million in savings for the School Department.

The budget also proposes $4.5 million for road paving, funding for sewer and water infrastructure upgrades and renewal/replacement.

Solomon has also allocated $250,000 to study the Warwick Fire Department in search of operational and other cost savings. The proposal was part of Solomon’s reaction to the Warwick Firefighter Union IAFF Local 2748 rejection of a tentative contract deal struck between union executives and the City, which Solomon said would have saved the city more than $2 million.

The budget now goes to the city council for review.