Letter To The Editor: Middletown’s Proposed Property Tax Changes

open letter newport ri

During the Middletown Town Council meeting of 19 August 2019, a proposed property tax change championed by Councilman Dennis Turano was presented by John Simmons, of the RI Public Expenditure Council. Mr. Simmons’ organization conducted an economic analysis that included three modeled scenarios. The outcome of the first two scenarios resulted in a net loss of tax revenue and the third scenario, with the most risk of elevated costs to the taxpayers, resulted in one year of net loss of tax revenues.

 The property tax change championed by Councilman Turano is based upon Proposition-13 in California. Proposition-13 continues to be a complete disaster and has wreaked havoc on the public education system in California.  If this is such a great deal, why is Middletown the only town in the State looking to impose a non-fair market value based property tax system on its residents? This manner of taxing also greatly reduces transparency in the tax system. If this proposed property tax is imposed, the wealthy neighborhoods will see decreases in their property taxes and the less wealthy neighborhoods will see increases. 

Why the hard push by Councilman Turano to move us to a system based upon the failed California tax code with less transparency and a shifting of the tax burden from the wealthier to the less wealthy? Councilman Turano indicated that his proposed system would bring more predictability to the tax system. The only predictability in Middletown is that our taxes will continue to rise and, under the Councilman Turano’s championed property tax system, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.

If you review the property/tax records, people with multiple properties in some of the wealthy neighborhoods stand to be rewarded rather handsomely under Councilman Turano’s championed tax reform cause. If I were a Councilman who owned multiple properties in some of the wealthier neighborhoods and would benefit financially from any proposed changes in the property tax system, I certainly would not be championing such a cause and I would find it to be morally irresponsible, even offensive, to do so as an elected representative.  If this were the case for any of our Middletown Council members, they have moral obligation to recuse themselves from voting on any such issue based on a conflict of interest.

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Rather than working on pet projects that benefit a few, try using some vision and work on affordable family housing, west side development and our schools. Two of these three important issues were either ignored or rejected recently by the Council. Elected officials should be representing all of the people in the community and championing issues that make our town more vibrant and livable.

Greg Huet CAPT, USN (Ret.)

Middletown

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