Stanley: Give Bristol Warren schools power to tax
The president of the Warren Town Council wants to give the public school district the ability to tax people directly.
Council president Christopher Stanley proposes a new system where the Bristol Warren Regional School Department taxes property owners in the two towns directly — rather than through each town’s municipal government – to raise the money for operating the schools each year. This system would replace the current Joint Finance Committee that approves school spending.
The Bristol Warren school district would be its own taxing authority, and the Warren and Bristol town councils would no longer collect taxes to pay for schools.
Under this system, outlined in a memo sent to the JFC recently, a local property owner would see a much lower tax bill from the town, accompanied by a new bill from the school district.
Mr. Stanley’s proposal is contained in a recent memo to the Joint Finance Committee's subcommittee on budget planning. To become reality, it would require Rhode Island General Assembly approval.
The current Joint Finance Committee system uses a formula based on populations to determine how much each town pays for the public schools. It's a formula that has come under heavy criticism from Warren councilors, who believe the town has less of a say in the budget process than Bristol, its wealthier neighbor to the south, which has a higher tax base and has six representatives on the finance committee to Warren's three.
Creating a school tax district would change that, Mr. Stanley wrote, as the plan "is based upon the legal principles of equity and uniformity. Tax bills (would be) based on a single assessment of all real-estate within the borders of both Bristol and Warren. In this way, each municipality is treated fairly and equally."
Not explained in Mr. Stanley's memo — he was unavailable to talk prior to deadline — was any indication of what checks and balances would be used to approve or dismiss the school district's planned tax each year. Currently, public say over the completed school budget falls to the Financial Town Meeting in Warren, and a town-wide budget hearing and vote held yearly in Bristol.