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Study Urges Rhode Island To Relax Tax Mandates

A GOVERNMENT watchdog group says the state should relax state mandates on communities and school districts to relieve the mounting property-tax burden. The Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC) also says that the communities and districts should think seriously about consolidating services to save money.

RIPEC made the recommendations in a report released yesterday on the property tax burden in Rhode Island. It said the burden grew an average of 10.4 percent statewide last year.

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``When state aid reductions are being discussed, equal consideration should also be given to relaxing state mandates on communities and school districts in order to reduce the pressures on the local property tax,'' the report said.

The report found that property tax levies grew from $828 million in 1989 to $916 million in 1990. Since the state passed a 5.5 percent cap in 1985 on property tax increases, the taxes have gone up 8.8 percent a year.

The law contained provisions for cities and towns to exceed the cap and there is no penalty for those that do. Only three communities have adhered to the cap each year: Warwick, Scituate and Cumberland. Property tax rates ranged from a low of $10.80 per $1,000 assessed value in Middletown to $54.75 in Central Falls, the poorest community in the state.

Part of the reason communities have failed to adhere to the tax cap is that the state has failed achieve a 50-50 balance in state-local funding for education. Also, the state has been reducing its general revenue sharing program.

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