February 22, 2012

Commercial Property Levies by Rhode Island Municipality

Carroll Andrew Morse

The next local tax table is a little more concrete than the previous two and their somewhat amorphous bases of "valuation" per resident. The table presented here is a list of Rhode Island communities, ranked by the amount of commercial and industrial property tax levy per resident. Again, the amount of "commercial" revenue attributed to "apartments" and "combined" use properties, as reported to the state's Municipal Affairs Office, where most of the cost is passed on to residential renters, has been removed from the figures.

And again, there is scant evidence that the City of Providence is being forced to work with an unreasonably low amount of property tax revenue from commercial and industrial sources due to tax exempt property within city limits...

Community 2011 Com & Ind
Prop. Tax Levy
Population Com & Ind
Rev / Resident
West Greenwich $4,980,923 6,135 $812
Warwick $58,802,556 82,672 $711
New Shoreham $620,655 1,051 $591
Lincoln $12,364,301 21,105 $586
Providence $99,836,045 178,042 $561
Scituate $5,704,885 10,329 $552
Middletown $8,731,200 16,150 $541
Newport $12,853,970 24,672 $521
Smithfield $10,196,186 21,430 $476
East Greenwich $5,650,568 13,146 $430
West Warwick $12,504,505 29,191 $428
Johnston $12,231,284 28,769 $425
East Providence $18,994,556 47,037 $404
Cranston $32,293,301 80,387 $402
North Kingstown $7,909,636 26,486 $299
Woonsocket $10,678,058 41,186 $259
North Smithfield $2,956,222 11,967 $247
Westerly $5,584,407 22,787 $245
Warren $2,512,512 10,611 $237
Pawtucket $16,468,956 71,148 $231
North Providence $7,160,107 32,078 $223
Coventry $7,525,842 35,014 $215
Portsmouth $3,607,447 17,389 $207
Narragansett $3,030,702 15,868 $191
Richmond $1,446,315 7,708 $188
Burrillville $2,934,771 15,955 $184
Foster $843,037 4,606 $183
Cumberland $5,936,890 33,506 $177
South Kingstown $5,368,927 30,639 $175
Central Falls $2,428,000 19,376 $125
Barrington $2,007,183 16,310 $123
Exeter $752,776 6,425 $117
Tiverton $1,787,720 15,780 $113
Hopkinton $924,978 8,188 $113
Bristol $2,583,927 22,954 $113
Glocester $943,014 9,746 $97
Little Compton $211,991 3,492 $61
Jamestown $326,121 5,405 $60
Charlestown $420,655 7,827 $54

Combining the levy table with the valuation table raises a basic tax sanity question: Providence obviously achieves its high commercial levy ranking through the use of a high-tax rate, e.g. East Providence has more commercial and industrial property tax value within its city limits, but generates less tax revenue, because of a lower tax rate.

The forward-looking question is what the ultimate purpose of getting more money from the tax-exempts is. Ultimately, should Providence be looking to lower its extremely high commercial tax burden with new revenue from the tax-exempts, or is there really a long term advantage is being a community that has high commercial property-tax rates and that taxes non-profits like no one else does? Or are these two separate policy questions (and is money not fungible)?

Newport, interestingly, is one community on the other side of this dynamic. They are an outlier at the top of the list in terms of commercial property available for taxation, but they keep their commercial tax rates relatively low, but still generating a relatively large commercial levy. Is this a factor that should be counted for or against Newport, when they wants more state aid, or to be subsidized by Portsmouth and Middletown in some sort of "consolidation" scheme?

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

What stands out to me is Warwick coming in, in second place, isn't it? The city doesn't have a higher percentage of rentals and commercial property than other cities, and so much of what there was, commercially isn't rented because of the economy and there are the commercial rentals that never reopened after the flood. I'd appreciate some focus on Warwick, as the taxation policy is through the roof and the mayor is contemptuous of taxpayer's concerns on the subject.

Posted by: Jenny at February 22, 2012 12:21 PM

The "tax exempt" property game is one of the oldest tricks cities have. It has wonderful emotional appeal "I pay my taxes,why shouldn't Brown". In truth, there is nothing new about it, such property has always been exempt. It is also low in city services demand, how much police and fire time is expended on Brown and RI Hospital?

The trick with taxing commercial property is that the average person won't feel it. There are only a few local owners,so the vote loss isn't much. It only hurts when they start to leave. Every time I hear of a "tax deal" for a new busines, I wonder. Isn't there an implicit admission that taxes are too high?

Posted by: Warington Faust at February 22, 2012 4:46 PM

"It is also low in city services demand, how much police and fire time is expended on Brown and RI Hospital?"

I've never called the police or fire department, nor will I likely ever. I'd certainly be willing to waive such services in exchange for a refund. Maybe my property should be tax exempt.

Posted by: Dan at February 23, 2012 6:16 AM
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