Providence City Council Committee on Finance Sends
Fiscal Year 2020 Budget to the Council for Vote
The Providence City Council Committee on Finance today voted to send a reduced FY2020 city budget of $770M for vote and passage to the full Council.
The budget calls for certain austerity measures, but the Committee made sure to fully fund the School Department, and also added an additional $1.5M to their budget so that they have the necessary tools to immediately address ongoing issues. This Council and Committee are committed to working with the school department and the Rhode Island Department of Education to help address the many issues that were recently outlined in the Johns Hopkins report.
The budget also calls for a flat property tax rate of $24.56/per thousand of assessed value and brings back a homestead exemption of 40%, and keeps all other exemptions in place (veterans, senior, widow, etc.). The 2020 budget will provide the actuarially required contribution to the City’s pension fund; will include funding for quality of life services, calls for flat funding for most departments and programming, and includes austerity reductions in few departments -including $125K worth of reductions to the City Council’s budget. All to mitigate the tax increase that the Mayor had requested on the backs of economically challenged homeowners.
“Many of our neighbors saw huge increases in their property values, some as much as 20, 30 and even 50%,” stated City Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15). “As our team evaluated the Mayor’s budget, we did so with the goal of reducing the burden on our most disadvantaged communities, many of which got hit hardest by the revaluation process. I believe that this budget does that, and also continues to provide for the essential services and investments necessary to address ongoing quality of life issues. I want to extend my gratitude to the Committee on Finance, guided by Chairman Igliozzi, for their hard work and long hours.”
“One of the greatest obligations that this body has is to vet and pass a budget which is fair to residents, ensures that the city is meeting its fiscal obligations, and helping to move our city forward,” stated Chairman of the Committee on Finance Councilman John J. Igliozzi (Ward 7). “Every year, the Committee on Finance is tasked with reviewing and vetting the budget to make sure that it serves the constituents of our city and not of special interests. We worked very hard to help mitigate the skyrocketing tax burden that many of our residents were faced with after their revaluations, and I believe that the Council’s finance team was able to achieve that end. We will continue to meet with all departments year-round in Committee to hold them accountable, and to address any fiscal challenges this austerity budget may cause.”
Council-led budget initiatives include:
Per the Mayor’s request, fully funded the school department, and added an additional $1.5M to their budget to address immediate needs.
Created a flat tax rate and provides homeowner tax relief by bringing back the homestead exemption.
Per the Mayor’s request, increased funding for Providence Talks by $175K.
Removed all proposed non-obligated pay increases.
Removed all proposed non-obligated new jobs.
Level funded almost all programs and departments.
Added four new laborers and two additional rodent control positions in the Department of Public Works to improve quality of life for city residents.
Per the Mayor’s request, increased funding for summer job programming, which puts our city’s youth to work to gain experience and provides pathways for future employment.
Converted ten temporary assistant recreation director positions to full-time, to help provide the wrap-around services that our students need to succeed.
Per the Mayor’s request, froze the commercial and tangible tax rates, providing business owners with the certainty they need to prosper.
Chairwoman of the Committee on Finance and Council Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) stated, “The budgeting process is never easy, and each member of the Committee is to be commended for their dedication to that process. My goal has always been to have a fiscally responsible budget that ensures that the city is meeting its financial obligations, provides relief for taxpayers, and includes support for the many programs that enhance the quality of life for the residents of Providence. I am most pleased that we can fund our after-school programming, especially in our recreation department, which is paramount to setting up the students in our care for success. Converting these temporary positions to full-time assistant directors will help provide much needed wrap-around care that our students so desperately need.”
The City Council will tentatively hold special meetings on Wednesday, July 3, 2019, where the budget will receive its first passage from the Council. Once passed, the second and final vote will take place on Friday, July 5, 2019.
The Council’s Committee on Finance is comprised of:
The City Council leadership team would like to thank our sponsors in both the House and Senate for their support of the Council’s progressive tax plan. Tonight, the Rhode Island Senate voted in favor of the Council’s proposed tax plan, while the House of Representatives requested more time and review. The Council is committed to this tax plan and will provide any additional information as requested.
Council President Sabina Matos stated: “I am grateful for the support that we received in the General Assembly. Although we didn’t get the result we had hoped, we have laid the groundwork to continue the discussion on the best path forward in creating a progressive tax plan here in our capital city.”
“I want to thank the Senate leadership for their broad support of our plan that would provide tax relief to the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in our City,” stated Chairman of the Council’s Committee on Finance and Councilman John J. Igliozzi. “I would also like to thank the Speaker of the House, and the Representatives for their consideration of our bold plan. This is the first step in creating a truly progressive tax plan that benefits all residents and not just some.”
Less than seven weeks ago, Mayor Elorza introduced his budget which called for a significant increase in spending and also raised the property taxes of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Providence. While giving 1% of the City’s wealthiest property owners a tax break. It was the goal of the Council’s leadership team to mitigate that by utilizing a progressive tax plan.
City Council leadership is still committed to providing tax relief to the citizens of Providence, and will present a budget that will include a flat tax rate, and will incorporate a single homestead exemption for every resident of Providence. The majority of the Committee on Finance and the Council believe that bringing back the homestead exemption will help the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Providence. Many of those neighborhoods saw 30, 40, and even 50% increases in their property revaluations, and this plan will work to protect those individuals.
“We have a fiscal obligation to ensure that we are being good stewards of our City’s finances,” stated Vice-Chairwoman of the Committee on Finance and City Council Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan. “The Committee will work to ensure that we pass a budget that is sound and begins to address our long term pension obligation. I thank Council President Matos and Chairman Igliozzi for their leadership, Senate and House sponsors and representatives for their consideration, and my colleagues for their tireless work to lessen the tax burden of our residents.”
It is the Committee’s goal to have the budget passed out of Committee as early as the end of this week, and then passed by the full Council the first week of July.
The report released today by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) on the months-long deep dive completed by a research team from Johns Hopkins University is heartbreaking – not just for our students, but for our staff, faculty, and City. I am committed to working with Governor Raimondo, Commissioner Infante-Greene, Mayor Elorza, the Providence School Board, and our students, faculty, and staff to make a difference.
It won’t be easy, and we won’t see changes overnight, but this is a wake-up call. Our school system is failing our students and we need to act – not tomorrow – but today.
Sabina Matos, President, Providence City Council, Councilwoman – Ward 15
Rhode Island Senate Housing and Municipal Government Committee
Passes City Council’s Enabling Legislation to Enact a Homestead Exemption
Last night after more than three hours of testimony, the Rhode Island Senate Housing and Municipal Government Committee, Chaired by Senator Frank Lombardo, III, unanimously passed enabling legislation that would allow for the City Council to move forward with a homestead tax exemption.
In addition to the Senate’s Housing and Municipal Government Committee’s passage, the City Council voted 9-1 in support of the enabling legislation. Council President Sabina Matos, Councilman John Igliozzi, Councilman David Salvatore, Councilman Seth Yurdin, and Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune were at the State House for the Committee’s hearing and were absent from the Council meeting.
“Tonight was a victory for the residents of Providence,” stated City Council President Sabina Matos. “The Council received the Mayor’s proposed budget, calling for an additional $15M in spending, which included a tax proposal that my team felt was inequitable. We are willing and continue to work with the Mayor, but we needed to put into place a mechanism that gave us options, and that is what this enabling legislation does. We appreciate and thank the Committee for their support.”
The City Council leadership team last week introduced a tax proposal that would create an even playing field for all homeowners. The proposal calls for a flat tax rate of $24.56 per $1K of assessed value and would provide a homestead exemption of 40% up to $350K of assessed value, and then a 28% homestead on every $1K of assessed value after that.
The Chairman of the Council’s Committee on Finance and Councilman John J. Igliozzi, Esq. said, “As a body, we must work to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. The plan that we have put forward will provide a break to roughly 86% of owner-occupied properties in Providence. These homeowners are working two jobs to make ends meet; they are the retirees on a fixed income who are making decisions about paying their electric bill or filling a prescription; and they are the single parents trying to give their families a better life. A tax increase of even $200 can be devastating to those on tight budgets. While 7% of owner-occupied properties will see a slight increase in their tax rate over the Mayor’s plan, but will still pay less in property taxes than they did last year, and finally only 7% will likely see a raise in their tax bill over last year.”
The enabling legislation was sponsored in the Rhode Island Senate by Senators Frank Ciccone, Ana Quezada and Samuel Bell all of Providence. The legislation allows for the City Council to grant a homestead exemption to the owner-occupied residencies that may be a flat amount, a uniform rate, or a variable rate based on the value of a property. The Committee is chaired by Senator Frank Lombardo III, the Vice-Chairwoman is Senator Elizabeth A. Crowley, and the Committee’s Secretary is Senator Donna M. Nesselbush, and is comprised of the following members Senators Samuel W. Bell, Hanna M. Gallo, Roger A. Picard, and Gordon E. Rogers.
“Since a freshman Councilor I have worked alongside Chairman Igliozzi on the Council’s Committee on Finance, and we have always put the needs of Providence’s residents first,” stated Majority Leader and Vice-Chairwoman of the Committee on Finance Jo-Ann Ryan. “Providence is facing serious financial burdens, and we have many fiscal obligations that we must meet, but meeting them on the backs of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods is not good governance. We must address inefficiencies in our dealings as a City, and we also need to address the inequities in the Mayor’s tax proposal. I believe that our plan achieves that goal.”
The Council’s Committee on Finance will continue to meet to pass a budget that is fair and equitable for all residents of Providence. Chairman Igliozzi has asked his colleagues and members of the community to make suggestions on ways to amend the budget, and other ideas on how to bring the tax rate lower. The Council has no plans to dismantle any department but is looking at keeping some programs or departments level-funded.
Enabling legislation has also been introduced in the Rhode Island House of Representatives by Representatives Daniel McKiernan, Anastasia Williams, Joseph Almeida, Charlene Lima, and Mario Mendez. They are slated to hear this matter in the coming days.
Tonight the Council’s Committee on Ordinance voted to recommend for approval an ordinance which would authorize the appropriation of funds to the Providence Housing Trust. The ordinance will be sent to the full Council for vote and passage.
“This is an important and meaningful milestone for this Council,” stated Council President Sabina Matos. “As I assembled my leadership team, I did so with the knowledge that one of the first things we would tackle is creating a dedicated funding source for affordable housing and this is a step in that direction. I thank Majority Leader and Chairwoman Ryan, Mayor Elorza, and Sam Budway from the Providence Redevelopment Agency for helping bring this to fruition so quickly.”
Mayor Jorge O. Elorza stated, “Expanding access to safe and affordable housing has been a top priority for my Administration because it is a key element for creating stronger, more vibrant neighborhoods in Providence. We are in support of this appropriation of funds for a housing trust as it aligns with a comprehensive housing strategy we are developing to support those most vulnerable in our capital city. We remain committed to continuously exploring collaborative and creative approaches that can help us tackle the housing challenges that our residents feel in our communities.”
Majority Leader and Chairwoman of the Committee on Ordinance Jo-Ann Ryan added, “I am grateful to the members of our Committee who helped shepherd this important piece of legislation through. Housing is the cornerstone of our economy, and the housing shortage here in Providence is real. I believe that this Trust is a big step forward in our goal for more affordable housing in our city.”
The ordinance directs the City Tax Collector to transfer and deposit 10% of all funds collected annually by tax stabilization agreements from the current tax year going forward into the Affordable Housing Trust. The Trust will be managed by the Providence Redevelopment Agency, who will develop rules and regulations around the Trust’s implementation.
“This is the first step in creating a mechanism in which to help fund affordable housing in our city,” stated Councilman Luis A. Aponte. “The Trust creates a direct connection between large developments downtown and the ability to develop much-needed affordable housing in other parts of our city. It is an economic tax policy that will not only create new affordable housing units but will also work to preserve units we already have.”
Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris echoed Councilman Aponte’s remarks and added, “I have been working for years to help provide for families in need in our city, and the greatest need among them is a safe place to live. Every person deserves to live in dignity, and finding an affordable property for lower-income families is becoming increasingly difficult, and I believe this fund will help create and preserve the much-needed units to serve all those that need them.”
The Council will take its vote on this ordinance at the first meeting in July, scheduled for Monday, July 8.
All ordinances require two passes by the full Council before it is passed into law.