An October, 2011 report from the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC) looks at "How Rhode Island Compares" with other states as to total taxes paid on a per capita basis. This report finds that, “In general, property taxes represent the largest share of tax collections, accounting for 33.4 percent of all FY 2009 taxes across the country. In Rhode Island, the property tax accounted for 44.6 percent of total collections in FY 2009, accounting for an 11.3 percent greater share of taxes than the national average”.
At $2,020, Rhode Island had the 7th highest property tax per capita in the country during FY 2009. The national average was $1,393. Only New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Wyoming, New York and Vermont ranked higher than RI.
Two months after this RIPEC report, GoLocal issued an analysis of per capita property tax burdens at the Rhode Island municipal level. This GoLocal report cited Barrington's per capita property tax burden at $3,382 - the third highest in the state. Only New Shoreham and Jamestown were higher.
New Shoreham and Jamestown's rankings are skewed because many "out-of-state-summer-residents" are not counted in the full census data for these towns. So is Barrington the "worst of the worst" when it comes to a per capita property tax burden in Rhode Island? And just how much worse will this burden get? The answer may lie in how the next town council handles the affordable housing issue.
It has been suggested that certain existing Barrington property owners be allowed to change their property deeds to "affordable" deeds as one solution to meet the 10% affordable housing mandate. This would result in a reduction of their property tax payments since affordable property is assessed differently. But the resulting tax shortfall would then have to be made up by those who aren't allowed to convert to “affordable” deed status.
There is also the issue of the growth of new housing that will result from the town's current development ordinance requiring that 10% of all Barrington's housing be eligible to be classified as "deed restricted". Mathematically, to meet that mandated 10% crossover point could require the build-out of up to 4000 additional homes in Barrington since all new development must now follow a minimum "2 affordable homes for every 10 new homes" ordinance rule.
Worse still is that under current town ordinances, all new housing must be architecturally similar in size and style to any “affordable” homes in any new development. This, again, passes additional burdens to existing residents because all new housing is required by town ordinance to be at lesser "affordable” standards – meaning that those properties will necessarily carry a lesser share of the tax burden.
The end result? Property tax hikes for most existing Barrington property owners.
In March 2011, The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation hosted a community outreach forum. Governor Lincoln Chafee told the audience, "The greatest inhibitor to economic growth is high property taxes. . .our goal here is to do what we can to help out the property tax”.
Considering that Barrington may already be "the worst of the worst" on a per capita property tax basis, it seems time for Barrington property owners to mandate change. The first, and most important step in this process will be on November 6th when each of us enters the voting booth.