- Greg Mancini
Budget time - Town council April 25 update
Updated: Jun 18, 2022
After going through extensive department-by-department budget presentations, having a joint meeting with our school committee, and hearing from the public, our town council deliberated and unanimously voted to adopt the town manager’s proposed budget this past Monday, April 25, 2022.
Town expenditures will increase by approximately 2.36% for fiscal year 2022. Our estimated residential tax rate will be $14.15 and our commercial rate will be $15.95 per thousand. Homeowners that made application before March15th qualify for a 5% reduction in taxes through the Council’s newly enacted homestead exemption. This was an exceptionally difficult budget for numerous reasons. First, this is our first post-pandemic budget. A pandemic that has yet to be determined costs on our community, on our seniors, on our students, on all of us. Second, it is just after a state mandated property revaluation that is causing a significant redistribution of who pays local property taxes. Third, despite the inflation and economic uncertainty of the past year, the state plans no increase at all in its contribution to the North Kingstown Schools. And lastly, we are in the midst of a sizable inflation spike and considerable political and economic uncertainty.
At the outset of the process, we knew that the state mandated property revaluations would disproportionately hit taxpayers with modest and lower home values because their property values have increased in value the most. So, we took measures to lessen this impact by adopting separate commercial and residential tax rates and a homestead exemption.
Even so, the property tax redistribution is hitting some residents hard. For example, a young man we know that purchased his home 2 years ago will have his property taxes go from $3,834 to $4,793. Even with a 5% reduction for a homestead exemption his taxes will increase 20%. A long-time town elderly resident we know on a fixed income had her taxes go from $4,048 to $4,549, and 11% tax increase.
Imagine if the federal government tried to increase income or capital gains taxes on some citizens by 11% or even worse-- 20%. Imagine if the state tried to do likewise, in either case there would be a taxpayer revolt. We think we can all agree that in these uncertain economic times the possibility is not even a conversation. If anything, services would be cut, taxes would not be raised.
Now it is true this tax increase is tied in part to a homeowner’s property value, some those homeowners will realize when they sell their property. However, we fear that too many homeowners may not be able to afford the revenue needed to pay these tax increases, particularly those on a fixed income.
Understanding the impact this budget will have on certain members of our community caused the council to keep property tax increases to a minimum. Despite inflation and rising cost challenges, our municipal budget increase is 2.3%, and our school department increase slightly more at 2.5%.
We realize some may look at our rate of inflation and question our commitment to our schools. Please know that we would not ask the school department to do anything we are not doing. In fact, for the third year in a row our schools are getting a larger budget percentage increase than the town is. We are certainly doing more than the state is—they gave us a 0% increase.
We also know that resources are needed for not only children’s education but their mental health also, challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. Our current mental health crisis is system-wide, and a state solution is what is needed. To that end, we applaud the efforts of NK’s state delegation advocating for reevaluation of existing reimbursement rates, removing barriers to licensure, and more support our behavioral health workforce. The solution is a multifaceted approach that starts at the state level: North Kingstown taxpayers cannot shoulder that burden alone.
The Democrats on the Town Council are ardent supporters of our schools. As a social worker, Katie Anderson understands from working with economically insecure families that to achieve true equity, we must consider the pressing financial realities of those hardest hit by this pandemic. As an attorney, educator, and former chair of the school committee, Dr. Kim Page also understands and has been a consistent supporter of education. I have voted for the full school budget each year I have been on the council. As an attorney I previously devoted a portion of my practice to special education law and am now a part time administrative special education judge. Accordingly, Democrats are very committed to our schools.
However, we have a responsibility to balance our commitment to our schools with the impact to property owners. Asking some property owners to pay more than 10% in new taxes at this time of economic uncertainty is too much to ask in our view. Accordingly, we believe that this budget represents the appropriate balance. It increases funding for schools, albeit not as much as some would like, while minimizing the adverse overall impact to property owners with some paying significantly more of the overall tax burden. I hope you agree.
Gregory A. Mancini, Town Council President