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ProJo: R.I. Senate panel OKs Providence homestead exemption bill


The Providence City Council simultaneously voted in favor of a resolution urging the General Assembly to pass the same bill.


PROVIDENCE — The Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government on Thursday night unanimously approved a bill that would enable the city to implement a graduated homestead exemption into its tax structure.

The City Council simultaneously voted in favor of a resolution urging the General Assembly to pass the same bill.

The bill heads to the full Senate for a vote on Tuesday.

During an hours-long hearing before the Senate committee, City Council members and city residents testified on the bill and the homestead exemption proposal, which has sparked controversy since it was publicly announced last week.

The City Council met at the same time as the Senate committee Thursday night, though five council members were absent because they were at the State House to testify before the Senate committee.

Nine City Council members voted in favor of the resolution encouraging the General Assembly to pass the enabling legislation, and Ward 2 City Councilwoman Helen Anthony was the only dissenting vote.

The homestead exemption, which would create a flat tax rate of $24.56 per $1,000 of value and give homeowners who live in their homes a 40% exemption on the first $350,000 of a home’s value and a 28% exemption on assessed value above $350,000, has been proposed by City Council leadership as a way to mitigate the potential tax impact of the mayor’s budget on low-income neighborhoods. The mayor’s budget proposes a tax rate of $15.35 per $1,000 for owner-occupied homes and $24.56 per $1,000 for non-owner occupied homes.

The city’s law department issued an opinion last week stating that the city would need enabling legislation from the state in order to enact such an exemption.

Ward 1 City Councilman Seth Yurdin and Ward 3 City Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune, two council members who represent parts of the East Side, testified against the bill. Both have been outspoken opponents of the homestead exemption proposal.

“Unfortunately, we did not go through a public process,” LaFortune said. “The announcement that was made last week was the first time many of our residents, including many of our council members, actually heard of this proposal.”

Yurdin said there has not been a thorough analysis of the effect the exemption would have on homeowners, and he feared how it would affect owner-occupied landlords in particular.

“These are people that are going to be hit with the real increases,” he said.

Multiple East Side residents, including John Goncalves, also spoke out against the proposal.

“The narrative that the East Side is a monolithic, purely wealthy affluent community is simply not true,” said Goncalves. ”...Neighborhoods have been pitted against one another, and we ought to unify communities not divide them.”

But Finance Committee Chairman John Igliozzi, who testified in favor of the proposal along with Providence City Council President Sabina Matos, said the homestead exemption would benefit the majority of city residents, particularly those in economically-disadvantaged neighborhoods, and that they are the ones who are less likely to engage in the public process.

“I look to the people that don’t necessarily have the time, the money, the ability to step out of work and come (testify),” he said. “My job is to give a voice to the voiceless, and these folks are struggling.”


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Courtesy of Providence Journal