Warren gets state OK to exceed property tax cap

Warren town councilors (from left) Scott Lial, Chris Stanley and David Frerichs go over the numbers at a recent Joint Finance Committee meeting. Warren town councilors (from left) Scott Lial, Chris Stanley and David Frerichs go over the numbers at a recent Joint Finance Committee meeting.

Downtown Warren in the Spring.

Downtown Warren in the Spring.

Calling the town’s financial state an “emergency situation,” the state auditor general on Wednesday approved the Town of Warren’s request to exceed the state’s maximum property tax levy by $685,694 this coming fiscal year. As it stands right now, the result will be a tax increase in the neighborhood of 7.6 percent, nearly double the 4 percent max allowed by state law.

Read what the state Auditor General has to say about Warren’s tax cap emergency

Warren is the only town in the state to ask permission to exceed the tax cap this year. The overage was brought on by a sharp increase in school spending — approximately $1.5 million more than last year — which was due mostly to a rise in school enrollment in Warren and a corresponding increase in the town’s financial obligation to the Bristol Warren Regional School District.

The Warren Town Council offset much of that school increase by cutting many town services, terminating several part time employees and putting off capital spending and long-planned projects. In all, councilors cut about $1 million from the municipal budget to help bring the tax levy down, but still fell $685,694 short of their goal. Had auditor general Dennis E. Hoyle had not approved the overage request, the council would have had to cut more. Town council president Chris Stanley said the additional cuts would cost additional employees their jobs, as “there’s nowhere else to cut.”

Under the state’s approved levy, Warren’s tax rate this coming year will be $20.09, up from the current $18.67. That means that the owner of a $250,000 home will pay $5,022.50 in property taxes this coming year, up $355 from the current year. The budget must still be approved by voters at Financial Town Meeting in May.

Councilors said last week that the levy increase is not a solution, just a temporary answer in an ongoing problem. Without the tax base as a means to generate additional tax revenue,  and a minority position on the Joint Finance Committee, the Town of Warren will see similar financial emergencies every year, councilors say.

“We have to look at the numbers, we have to look at the future,” councilor Joseph DePasquale said at a sparsely attended public budget hearing last week. “It would not be prudent for us to not look down the road for an answer.”

Even though the state answered the levy question, town officials are still waiting for word on one other significant request: That the state’s education funding formula be applied differently in Bristol Warren. In a suit filed two weeks ago, town officials asked a Rhode Island Superior Court judge to determine whether the state’s funding formula has been applied properly for the past three years; councilors believe they have been paying too much as a result of an improperly applied formula.

The answer to that question will account for an approximate $2 million swing in the budget, either way.

Read more:

Warren’s budget cuts: A closer look at the numbers

Councilors fear for town’s long term fiscal health

 

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19 Comments

  1. Wil DeGelt said:

    “Without the tax base as a means to generate additional tax revenue…”
    I’m confused, Warren has loads of businesses downtown & on RT 136, restaurants along the river, high priced condos on RT 114, waterfront homes on Touisett. It seems to me that they do in fact have a tax base. Has anyone looked at Warren’s property values versus those of Bristol’s? If Warren is such a great place then they should have comparable property values to Bristol and Borrington.

  2. StillBroke said:

    We do have a tax base. That statement confuses me too. Plus, the fact is, we already have pretty high taxes.
    For example: I have a home that’s just like this one http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/6-Belvedere-Dr-Bristol-RI-02809/65848516_zpid/. My “Zestimate” is $18K less and my appraised tax value is $56K less however my taxes are $1,000 higher and about to go up 7.6%.
    As you can see, a comparable property (3br, 2,000 ft cape w/ 2 car garage sitting on a 10,000 s.f. lot ), has a market value of about 6% less in Warren but, my taxes are 25% more in Warren and heading higher very soon.

    • Ted HayesTed Hayes said:

      Councilors have contended for some time that the availability of taxable buildings and property in Warren is lower than in Bristol. I do not have the numbers at the ready, but the tax base (the total value of all taxable property in town) is substantially higher in Bristol than in Warren.

    • DownTown said:

      According to Zillow the average home value in Warren is $226,000 and in Bristol it’s $271,200.

      That’s $45,200 per home.

      Bristol’s tax base though has a whole lot of sweetheart deals for insiders and of course there are the deadbeats at RWU who throw a chair into a classroom and call it payment.

  3. Wil DeGelt said:

    Stillbroke – something seems wrong. Versus Bristol, Warren has a lower population but it also has a lower number of students attending the district. Bristol & Warren have comparable business footprints. If what you state is correct, and I have no reason to doubt you, the higher property taxes in Warren should be enough to cover the students costs plus the costs to run the smaller town.
    Get the state auditors in now and let them look at the books. I don’t think Mr. Stanley and crew know what the heck they’re doing.

  4. DownTown said:

    This is interesting as it says total enrollment dropped by 12 and Warren’s numbers increased by 112 meaning Bristol’s decreased by 124 YET the JFC hit Bristol with an EXTRA $600,000 for ADDITIONAL STUDENTS.

  5. John Tats said:

    So it’s safe to say that the State Auditor put the balancing act on the backs of the taxpayers of Warren. Nothing good happening here.

    • DownTown said:

      John if you read the links in the story and the ones I’ve posted Bristol should be getting relief for 129 students that are not there. They just raised Bristols payments to account for new students – $600,000 worth.

      I agree the State has rubber stamped it.

  6. John Tats said:

    I think it would take a life time to actually figure out how the BWRS is treating this formula. This entire thing reminds me of the movie “Ground Hog Day” the same things keep happening over & over…….

    • DownTown said:

      It’ll be interesting to see how BWRS handles this years State funding cut.

      How many extra students will be ghosted in to ‘level budget’ the beast?

  7. Joel Hellmann said:

    Stillbroke. You are very right. I am on the Barrington committee on Appropriations and last week this came up. We do have great schools but we cannot be 3rd from the Bottom in per pupil expence. The average public school teacher makes $67,000 per year. In Barrington the AVERAGE teacher make$ 86,000 Per year. And the teachers pay and related Benifits are 86% of the budget Which means our teacher comp is so much more than average that we could to possibly be 30 out of 33. The math doesn’t work. I have my thoughts on how but the schools still insist the numbers are right

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