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Dozens Protest Providence Car Taxes

Friday, September 16, 2011

 

Dozens of angry Providence residents rallied at City Hall Thursday, voicing their displeasure with the city’s decision to lower its car tax exemption from $1,000 earlier this summer.

The capital city originally did not include changes to the car tax in Mayor Taveras’ proposed 2012 budget, instead choosing to raise property taxes by roughly 13 percent. At the time, Taveras said he was concerned lowering the car tax exemption didn’t guarantee the city could raise enough money. But he later voiced support for the City Council’s proposed budget, which did in fact alter the car tax, but lowered the property tax hike.

The city ultimately chose to broaden the tax base by lowering the car taxes but also reducing the exemption.

Organizer Blames Mayor

But Anthony Sionni, who has been a critic of Taveras ever since in the Mayor took office, said he organized the rally because he feels the city is attempting to balance its budget on the backs of low income Providence residents. He noted that the city estimated his 2001 Ford Taurus’ value at over $3,500. The trade in value: About $550.

“I am hoping that the Council will have a public hearing,” Sionni said. “This has caught a lot of people by surprise. We have to get the valuations changed at the state level. I don't expect the Council to amend the tax levy. I would hope they would consider raising the exemption in next year’s budget. There are a lot of people on fixed incomes like the elderly that this tax increase has made it harder for them to get by in this economy, with already hire fuel and food costs for them.”

Sionni said he doesn’t believe the city should be offering pay raises to a select few city employees and then changing the car taxes. He said there are other areas in the budget where savings could have been found.

City Residents “Disrespected”

Hamlet Miguel Lopez agrees with Sionni. The former City Council candidate said he wishes more residents in the city were given time to understand what the changes to the law meant.

“A lot of people are upset right now,” he said. “People are choosing between a plate of food or paying their rent and now they’re having to pay more in car taxes.”

Lopez said he understands leadership within the city is trying to do its best, but he believes residents have been disrespected.

“I think the people were disrespected in the city of Providence,” Lopez said. “I think they were shut out. The least they could have done was hold a couple of public meetings. I think it was a quick fix to our problems and there are no jobs in the city of Providence.”

Solomon Defends Taxes

But City Council President Michael Solomon has supported the changes to the car tax from the beginning, noting that the Council had to make a choice between the car tax and putting a severe burden on property owners in the city.

“The Council looked at the tax levy comprehensively, refusing to ask any class of tax payer to bear the entire burden of the increase,” Solomon said last month. "In doing so, we moved away from the original proposal of a 13% increase in property taxes and towards a more balanced proposal which resulted in a property tax increase under 5% and the lowering of the motor vehicle tax rate by more than 20%. We also expanded the tax to an additional 55,000 vehicles which were not being taxed by lowering the exemption to $1,500.”

In the end, Solomon said everything is about shared sacrifice.

“The theme of this year's budget was shared sacrifice and we felt to balance the budget wholly on the backs of homeowners was neither fair nor sound tax policy,” Solomon said. “We did not take raising taxes lightly and continue to review the City's revenue structure through our Revenue Commission which will have recommendations in the near future.”

 

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