State of the Town: Commercial business interest booms in Lincoln

State of the Town: Commercial business interest booms in Lincoln

LINCOLN - Business is booming in Lincoln as interest in the town's commercial properties is on the rise, Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond said last week in his State of the Town address.

Speaking to members of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce in a room at MacColl YMCA - one of the town's success stories, he noted - Almond talked about development on Route 116 and the reclaiming of existing buildings.

One new business coming to town in April is Hope Valley Industries, he said, to add jobs at a facility on Powder Hill Road as it expands to meet the floor mat and accessories manufacturing demands of major automobile companies.

The town may also transfer ownership of the old H&H Screw building next month should a deal work out with the interested party and earn approval from the Town Council.

"There has been tremendous interest in just about every commercial property we have," he said, reporting an uptick in commercial and tangible real estate values. "It's been positive news."

Except when he tried to get a seat for dinner, he joked, saying that he and his family bounced between three different Lincoln restaurants the other night before finding one without a wait for tables.

"These places were all completely full," he said.

Almond explained that the town would probably break $1 million this year in food and beverage taxes, of which the town earns 1 percent. While Twin River Casino adds to that, with reports of a 30 percent hike in food and beverage sales since the opening of table games, Almond said major growth is being noticed on George Washington Highway with the development of Albion Commons and a CW Lanes and Games planned for Lincoln Mall. Across the street, at the site of the former Wendy's, TD Bank is no longer moving forward, Almond said, leaving room for another business.

"The growth we're really seeing is in the 116 area," he said. "We're really happy with that. We've based our current year budget on that growth."

The key, he said, is to keep the commercial and residential tax rates from getting out of balance and not following the temptation to think that because business owners do not vote, the town can get more money from them.

"You create the gap and then they leave," Almond said. "I think that's why people are coming here. People ask for tax breaks, and I say, 'No, what I'll give you is stability.'"

The town has also seen some residential growth, he said, with one project being the Residences at Stone Creek on Breakneck Hill Road for residents 55 and older. Neighborhoods in town have kept the growth balanced, he said, with homes in the same area keeping consistent values so as to not hurt one another.

Officials are still waiting to price motor vehicle and tangible revenues, he said. If they break even, he said the town should have no tax increase again, noting that there has been a 1 percent tax increase over the past four years.

But as officials look forward to the next five years, Almond said they will have to consider the potential decline in revenue from Twin River, as well as state funds.

Almond said he believes the state estimates that project Twin River revenue dropping 30 percent as Massachusetts casinos open may be the best case scenario. With a racino opening in Plainville, he said revenue could drop 50 percent before it returns to the 30-percent mark.

As there is a domino rejection of casinos in initially desired locations, they could move closer to the Rhode Island border, he said.

"I would consider that 30 percent a minimum, not a maximum," he said. "There's a real danger there coming for the state, and, of course, cities and towns are the state."

On the local level, Almond has talked about lowering the local gaming revenue cap from $5.2 million to $5 million to redirect all future excess funds into capital reinvestment restricted by local ordinance. The town currently earns $7 million annually in gaming revenue, he said.

Thanks to that plan, the town has been able to fund capital investments for seven years without borrowing, like putting an addition on the library and providing funds for one on the police station. The town has also spent $4 million on town roads, $2.2 million on school technology, funded the building of school security foyers, and repaired almost every elementary school building, he said. When another significant debt is retired in 2017, the town will look into potential changes or updates to the high school campus.

If gaming revenue does decline to a point that these capital projects cannot be funded through reserves, the town would be ready to bond again with "the highest bond rating of any community our size," Almond said.

That will be important in the future, he said, warning about the state's need to fund capital investments.

"This kind of investment has been pushed to the bottom of the list for the past eight years and put off," Almond said.

For example, housing aid for school departments is expected, but Pawtucket just submitted a plan for $900 million, and Providence exceeds $1 billion, Almond said.

"It's going to be, I think, a crisis fiscally because it's got to be resolved," he said, before it trickles down to cities and towns.

Fixing capital problems could end up increasing the local share of education funding. While nationally, states, on average, fund 60 percent of education, Rhode Island funds 38 percent, Almond said.

"Education funding in Rhode Island is high, but it's mostly local dollars," he said.

If the state takes back its aid, the burden would shift to property taxes, Almond explained, as the local funding aid is "an instant pot of money."

Almond offered thanks to the town's businesses, and urged them to keep an eye on key issues. Even though owners cannot necessarily vote in town, he said it is in everyone's best interest if they stay involved.

Comments

Between the lines is where the truth lies!
What Administrator Almond wants the people of Lincoln to believe?
(1)(The key, he said, is to keep the commercial and residential tax rates from getting out of balance and not following the temptation to think that because business owners do not vote, the town can get more money from them).
Truth:
The two tier tax paying system is leveraged against local business at a higher rate to offset the local property tax rate. Artificially keeping local property taxes to low will offer nothing more than a false impression of financial security on the people of Lincoln. (This is why the Town of Lincoln has paid out millions of dollars over the years in loss tax litigation against the town.) But you will never see or hear about it because it’s off the budget books and hidden in the towns audits over the years and or left in sealed town council minutes, making it all but difficult for the average voter to know! H&H Screw owes well over a million dollars in back taxes. Nor sure voters are going to like it if the town council wrights that loss off?
What Administrator Almond wants the people of Lincoln to believe?
(2)The town has also seen some residential growth, he said, with one project being the Residences at Stone Creek on Breakneck Hill Road for residents 55 and older. Neighborhoods in town have kept the growth balanced, he said, with homes in the same area keeping consistent values so as to not hurt one another
Truth:
Truth of the matter is many of the local elementary schools are at capacity or nearing capacity and with the increase of age limit housing in Lincoln will do nothing more than reduce tax revenue when the 55 year old crowds hit 65, then they will qualify for the generous senior tax exemption, thus bringing revenue down.
What Administrator Almond wants the people of Lincoln to believe?
(3)Officials are still waiting to price motor vehicle and tangible revenues, he said. If they break even, he said the town should have no tax increase again, noting that there has been a 1 percent tax increase over the past four years
Truth:
By not moving town revenue to its proper place or by not paying the towns debts in a timely manner does not result in a 1% tax increase in 4 years as a good thing. It only passes the financial burden onto future generations.
With all this twin river gaming and restaurant monies coming into Lincoln, then why worry about the vehicle tax revenues. We are the only town in the state that has a casino and the Lincoln residents still do not receive the full tax exception on their autos. Many other cities and towns maintained the full car exemptions even after the state reduced the amount. I ask, how do they do it without a casino and Lincoln can`t? But we are told we are doing well!
What Administrator Almond wants the people of Lincoln to believe?
(4)But as officials look forward to the next five years, Almond said they will have to consider the potential decline in revenue from Twin River, as well as state funds.
Truth:
Not potential, FACT!!!Not five years but three! The state is only going to carry Lincoln for a short period of time as not to affect the sudden loss of gaming revenue for Lincoln. What Lincoln residents are seeing now is a sugar rush! People of Lincoln must understand that the people of Lincoln only receive, ready for it! Nothing, 0% of any and all table game revenue, the casino revenue that Lincoln voters are seeing or being told about is nothing more than an illusion. With less VLT`S and the town competing with the state for the same dollar in table game revenue, we could only ask ourselves why Administrator Almond would recommend to the voters of Lincoln that this was a good deal for its residents? Or was the deal made for his former employer Twin River/ Lincoln Park where his sister works.
What Administrator Almond wants the people of Lincoln to believe?
(5)On the local level, Almond has talked about lowering the local gaming revenue cap from $5.2 million to $5 million to redirect all future excess funds into capital reinvestment restricted by local ordinance. The town currently earns $7 million annually in gaming revenue, he said
Truth:
Town charter already divides extra monies into a capital and open space account.(Why would Almond have to create another)? Almond falsely created this account to maneuver casino monies into his pet project account to do nothing more than raise the standing of Twin River before the major vote of allowing a casino in town. Those tax monies are supposed to go directly into the town’s general fund, like Administrators Stallwood, Sheppard, Oster and Almonds uncle former town Administrator and governor used to do. It’s time for voters to ask themselves why the change and why has there been no monies put into the open space fund? Charter says all extra revenues have to be divided equally. Almond took those monies instead to further an agenda. Nothing more, nothing less!
What Administrator Almond wants the people of Lincoln to believe?
(6)Thanks to that plan, the town has been able to fund capital investments for seven years without borrowing, like putting an addition on the library and providing funds for one on the police station. The town has also spent $4 million on town roads, $2.2 million on school technology, funded the building of school security foyers, and repaired almost every elementary school building, he said. When another significant debt is retired in 2017, the town will look into potential changes or updates to the high school campus
If gaming revenue does decline to a point that these capital projects cannot be funded through reserves, the town would be ready to bond again with "the highest bond rating of any community our size," Almond said.
Truth
This is a huge Lie!
Almond and the town council illegally borrowed 3 million dollars from a government program to fix the sewer problems, without ever receiving voter approval to do it. In keeping this practice hidden from the voters, they removed the whole sewer department from the public budget. So voters are out of luck, they can`t question it or ask why and how their tax dollars are being spent.
Town of Lincoln debt as of today is not scheduled to be paid off until the vast majority of Lincoln voters have become deceased. (See town budget debt service). But don`t forget to also read about the other towns debts that Almond has kept from the public budget. Pensions are not fully funded; Other Post Employments Funds are underfunded by at least 24 million, in addition to the town carrying a huge infrastructure deficit.
But don`t worry! There is a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow! Not for the voters, but for Administrator Almond himself.
As he serves as Town Administrator, he receives his annual salary that has increased steadily throughout the years. Along with the benefit of also receiving his Lincoln Police pension at the same time, and if that is not enough, he gave himself another pension where he gives himself an 8% match that is currently being paid out every month on time ensuring its full funding. While his fellow police officers suffer from an underfunded pension.
Say it isn’t so, Joe!!!