COMMENTARY - Senior Citizen Property Tax Relief
Dear East Providence voters,
East Providence has one of the higher numbers of senior citizens as homeowners in Rhode Island. As the city councilman-at-large, I will propose an ordinance which will hopefully give senior homeowners some property tax relief. I will seek a property tax freeze on rates and home valuation for eligible senior citizen homeowners in East Providence. Currently, according to Rhode Island General Law, 44-3-16, communities can pass an ordinance to freeze the tax rate and property valuation for elderly 65 or older. A task force of city tax officials, a Mayoral representative, council representation and residents could help draft an ordinance which would set the guidelines for this policy. I have heard from many senior citizens in this regard and it’s time to offer a solution.
Elderly homeowners in question must meet certain income guidelines to become eligible. This exemption shall be in addition to any other tax break provided by law and provides further, that the real estate is not taken from the tax rolls and is subject to the bonded indebtedness of the city or town. State law allows us, as a city council, to establish terms and conditions for the tax break. Qualifications for this tax relief, would be according to an adjusted gross income, as defined for federal income tax purposes, for the preceding calendar year. The homeowner must provide evidence, verified by the city tax assessor office, of owner occupation for at least three consecutive years. A property assessment freeze prevents a home from being reassessed at a higher value in the future.
My suggestion is that the senior tax rate and valuation freeze will apply only to single family dwellings in which the person resides; and after the qualified person has filed a request with the tax assessor on or before a date to be determined by ordinance. Eligible homeowners would have to request the exemptions every year and show continued owner occupation. A three-year residency requirement and income guideline will prevent real estate entrepreneurs from taking advantage of lower taxes and then flipping a house sale. Owner occupation will also prevent real estate landlords from taking advantage of such a tax break. We should make it easier for the elderly to stay in their homes and have more income available for food, utilities and other goods which have risen in price lately.
City officials will have to find a way to make up for the revenue loss that will occur if the tax break is enacted. With the state flush with coronavirus relief funding and a FY 2022 budget surplus of $618.4 million, I am hoping that an opportunity exists to use some of this funding to help area taxpayers and businesses who have recently suffered so much. I know that our senior homeowners want to pay a fair share of taxes, but they certainly need some relief while on strict fixed incomes. Seniors, or anyone with related ideas, are welcomed to contact me with comments and ideas during this campaign, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-640-5802.
East Providence, RI 02915
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