In the 1970s and into the 80s, neighboring Massachusetts earned the ignominious, though deserved, nickname of “Tax-achusetts” for what was its relatively high income tax rates as well as the numerous other surcharges it placed on its residents and businesses alike. The Bay State has long-since lost that moniker, realizing a balanced approach to revenue is not only needed, but also the more prudent way to go.
If one were to listen to some in East Providence, you might believe we in the city have taken the mantle of the tax oppressed from our next-door neighbors. But, in fact, in terms of municipalities in the Ocean State, our levies are rather benign, especially in comparison to other like communities in Rhode Island.
Believe it or not, the current fiscal year effective tax rate (combining property and motor vehicle rates) for residents in East Providence ($57.84) ranks the city 10th of 39 municipalities in the state. For most here, home and vehicle ownership accounts for the vast majority of their tax bills. The state-appointed Budget Commission inserted incremental reductions in exemptions that will make property taxes rise, though not exponentially.
The other city that compares best to East Providence in terms of size, income and services provided is Woonsocket, which not so coincidentally also needed state intervention to deal with its fiscal woes. In Woonsocket, residents pay $32.26 per $1,000 in property tax and $46.58 in vehicle tax for a total of $78.84.
Significantly smaller municipalities (Johnston, North Providence, Central Falls and Scituate) each have higher effective rates than East Providence, as do three of the four cities larger (Providence, Cranston and Pawtucket). Only Warwick (pop. 82,361) has a lower effective rate ($52.84). Considering the services (police, fire, trash, etc.) we receive, East Providence compares very favorably and is in some ways a relative bargain.
Does anyone anywhere really want to pay more taxes? Of course not. However, the trend in East Providence in recent times, at least, has all too often been to beg, borrow or, yes, even steal, in a sense, rather than raise rates. It’s one of the reasons why the state had to intercede and it’s one of the reasons why our infrastructure is crumbling. In the end, though, we either pay now or pay later with our reputation and our wallets.