June 27, 2012

Residential Property Tax Burdens in Rhode Island Municipalities

Carroll Andrew Morse

For reference from an upcoming post, but also interesting in its own right...

This table shows the residential property tax levy in each Rhode Island municipality, as a percentage of aggregate income in that municipality, as reported by the census bureau.

The details of residential property tax levy, involving the separation of residential from commercial property taxes (and treating apartment and mixed property tax classifications as residential, since much of that tax will be passed along to residential tenants), fire-district taxes and car-taxes, is explained here.

Community income in this chart is a single figure available from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. This is a slightly different from the method I used last time where I presented this chart, where I multiplied per-capita income by total population figures taken from the ACS. Both methods give similar results.

The biggest gap in this chart is that the percentage of income paid in property tax in communities with many second vacation homes is inflated, since the income from non-residents is not included in the denominator.

As always, I'm open to further adjustments that can be made to these figures.

CommunityEstimated Residential
Tax Levy (2011)
2010 ACS Aggregate
Household Income (2010)
New Shoreham$7,548,403$44,124,50017.1%
North Providence$55,663,407$877,310,0006.3%
East Greenwich$40,943,187$651,042,0006.3%
South Kingstown$59,666,885$960,168,6006.2%
Little Compton$9,690,006$156,354,2006.2%
North Smithfield$22,118,882$380,866,9005.8%
North Kingstown$57,562,579$1,034,986,4005.6%
West Greenwich$11,254,689$202,598,5005.6%
East Providence$64,344,891$1,280,295,6005.0%
West Warwick$33,739,187$763,230,6004.4%
Central Falls$9,700,424$269,642,6003.6%
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Carroll Andrew Morse, In Hawaii there is a county based government system (mayor, city council, etc.) meaning 4 counties governing over 120 islands and atolls stretching over 1,500 miles. The bulk of taxes are paid to the state via individual income tax, 4% sales tax, gasoline tax and special taxes and fees for special state services.

Hawaii decided to let the state operate and run one educational school district for the whole state with 1 school superintendent, 1 school committee, 1 education department etc.; which public schools run year round minimum 180 days except for vacation periods. Another interesting concept in Hawaii is there is no blanket free school bussing. Parents pay for their children to ride the school bus. It is up to the parents to get their children to school and on time plus pick them up at end of day.

Ironically the State of Hawaii exempts the following retirement incomes from state income tax; Social Security, first tier Railroad Retirement benefits, military, federal, state, municipal, and some private pensions are exempt. All out-of-state government pensions are exempt. Also, employer-funded pension plans are exempt. Distributions from private employer pension plans received upon retirement are partially taxed by the state if the employee contributed to the pension plan.

That leaves the 4 counties collected property taxes and service fees to fund local municipal government operations. One of the things people look at very seriously in HI is the municipal property tax exemptions for seniors, homestead and historic property exemptions; then they look at the rate per $1,000 and finally they look at assessed value. All vehicles and boats in HI are not property taxed.

When you look at the ACS numbers they don’t tell you what the real taxes are but a median value. HI has the highest median value in the nation for homes ($685,000) and condominiums ($400,000) but you can find 2-bedroom properties under $80,000.

In Hawaii depending on which county you live in you can own a $100,000,000 property and under Hawaii law and exemptions you must pay only $25 a year in property taxes. Due to exemptions and homestead I pay $300 a year in property tax (used to be $100 before recession). One county has set their baseline by giving every property owner a blanket exemption meaning you can own a $260,000 property and pay $150 per year property tax.

By the way, under Hawaii constitution no government entity can turn a profit. All excess fiscal budget funds cannot be carried over into the next budget year and must be returned to the taxpayers.

I think you need to dig into each city and town to find out what property exemptions and homestead exemptions are offered because that impacts the budget income.

If I remember correctly the honorable State of RI will give seniors a $300 income tax break if they can document their income bracket is below a certain level but RI still taxes their Social Security

In Woonsocket I had a 45% homestead exemption plus a veteran’s $1,000 exemption.

RI is one of the top 10 most financially brutal states to retire in.

Posted by: KenW at June 27, 2012 11:52 PM

I plan to direct people including the media to this via Anchor Rising web site.
One important component is state aid concerning education since most property taxes goes to education. In ours well over 70 percent. In addition we are in the only three town school district in Rhode Island. All these towns have fire districts which in some cases overlap municipal boundaries.
The Ashaway Fire District annual meeting is July 19 starting at 6:30 P.M., at the Fire Station on Main Street in Ashaway. Unlike our municipal budget, voters consist of registered voters or property taxpayers even if you do not live in the district. This meeting officers will be elected and the budget voted on. I am in the only contested election for Moderator. Candidates for officers must prefile their candidacies in June. My opponent is a volunteer fireman. I am not a fireman.
I know in Connecticut if you are a non resident you can vote on budget issues in municipal budgets. The minimum amount is $1,000 of tax or assessed value of property?
BTW, I am 59 today. This past week I filed in Hopkinton Town Hall for Town Council, Town Committee, Senatorial District Committee, District#34, Representative District Committee#38,.
In closing, Monique Charier gave nice remarks in nominating Martha Stamp for National Committee at the GOP meeting Thurday night.
Scott Bill Hirst
Member, Hopkinton Town Council
Former Member, Hopkinton Finance Board
Vice Chairman, Hopkinton Republican Town Committee
One of Three Delegates from Hopkinton, R.I., Republican State Central Committee
Moderator, Ashaway Fire District
Former Member, Board of Fire Commissioners, Ashaway Fire District

P.S. You will note a number of fire district annual meetings will be held during the Summer. You should check out the ones you can vote in. Larger communities they have municipal fire departments part of the municipal budget. Some volunteer fire companies still get money out of their town budgets and not in fire districts.

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at June 30, 2012 10:40 AM
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