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Council passes significant changes to East Providence’s Tax Stabilization ordinance

By   /   December 5, 2013  /   Be the first to comment

EAST PROVIDENCE – In a move believed to bolster its tax rolls and to lure new businesses to East Providence, the City Council unanimously supported a resolution overhauling the Tax Stabilization ordinance for tangible property during its meeting Tuesday night, Dec. 3, at City Hall.

Introduced by Ward 3 Councilman Tommy Rose, the Council voted 5-0 to make significant changes to the provision, which has been on the books in the same form since its original implementation back in 1998. The amended ordinance will take full effect upon second passage, which is expected to happen at the Council’s Dec. 17 meeting.

“I commend Assistant Mayor Rose for his initiative, hard work and vision in revising our tax stabilization ordinance,” said Council President and Ward 1 rep Jim Briden. “2013 has been a good year for economic development in East Providence. The City Council has remained focused on important issues and has worked well together.”

City Planning Director Jeanne Boyle, citing the work done by Tax Assessor Steve Hazard and the advice of state-appointed Municipal Finance Advisor Paul Luba, led a read-through of the proposed changes.

Among the key addendums to the ordinance are:

  • Adding the words “business tangible property.”
  • Establishing an incremental tax exempt schedule over six years (100 percent exempt in Year 1 to 0 percent in Year 6) for qualified participants.
  • Once denied participation in the process, apartments, condominium complexes and hotels ,which meet the qualifications established, are now eligible to participate.
  • The minimum threshold of existing eligible tangible property to participate in the program is being raised from $50,000 to $150,000. Also, the minimum threshold for new businesses rises from $1 million to $5 million. And the terms of the program have been reduced from 20 years to 10 years.
  • For those businesses which are currently using Tax Incremental Financing or may be endeavoring to do so, they will not be able to procure relief through Tax Stabilization concurrently. According to Ms. Boyle, it’s an either or proposition.
  • In addition, prior to authorizing any property tax stabilization for the property, the property owner must obtain a Municipal Lien Certificate from the tax collector’s office, indicating that the applicant business and/or property owner is current on all payments owed to the city. Any payments that are in arrears on the property shall render the applicant ineligible for the incentives offered.

Ms. Boyle said the city’s current tangible tax rate of $56.25, which ranks as the fifth-highest in the state, is a “severe impediment to our competitiveness.” The Tax Stabilization changes should, therefore, put East Providence on par with the likes of Cranston and Warwick, two other main suitors for new and/or relocation businesses.

She continued, upping the thresholds would show those businesses which participate in the Tax Stabilization program are committed to the city for the long haul.

Mr. Rose, during his introduction of the amendments, said the changes to the ordinance would make it “more advantageous” for new businesses to come to the city and for existing ones to expand their operations.

In an interview following the meeting, Mr. Rose said he has been working on the matter for the last six months since he became aware two businesses currently operating in East Providence were being courted by Massachusetts state officials to relocate just across the border to Seekonk.

“This is important for the future of business in our city. We needed to do this to keep businesses here and to draw in new businesses,” Mr. Rose added.

Later in her remarks, Ms. Boyle said, “We expect hotels to be knocking down our door and at least two businesses have said they’d be interested in coming to the city if we did something about tangibles.”

Questioned specifically about two businesses by Councilors Helder Cunha (Ward 2) and Tracy Capobianco (At-Large), Ms. Boyle said she has had discussions with the Christmas Tree Shoppe and Dave’s Marketplace among others. Christmas Tree, long rumored to fill the old Shaw’s location across from East Providence High School, told Ms. Boyle the area’s demographics did not meet the company’s profile. Ms. Boyle said talks with Dave’s, a locally-owned supermarket chain, about opening up a storefront at a different spot in the city have been productive, though no formal agreement is imminent.

Ms. Boyle added the entire Taunton Avenue/Route 44 corridor should benefit from the changes, noting its central location and easy highway access should serve as enticements to business owners and property developers.

Ms. Boyle also said the Tax Stabilization amendments are expected to help the continued development of the city’s waterfront district as well as make other areas East Providence more amenable for use in the future.

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