Manlove: Senior tax freeze ordinance a mess

Manlove: Senior tax freeze ordinance a mess

“There really should be a compelling justification for every additional tax dollar you ask a taxpayer to cover for someone else.” - Drew Manlove

SMITHFIELD – Town Assessor Drew Manlove says he’s ringing the alarm on the loopholes and conflicts he sees within the town’s senior tax freeze ordinance, which he says is in dire need of updates.

During a presentation to the Town Council on Tuesday, Manlove gave an overview of the details and statistics of the property tax benefit program, encouraging the council to take action. He said the council needs to focus on the intent of the program and make amendments to the ordinance.

Manlove said the complicated ordinance does not contemplate conflicts within it, and is complicated to implement, leaving tax officials to sort through those conflicts.

“Our office is administerial. We do not create policy for anything. It’s a hard place to be in,” he said.

Manlove said he does not recommend abolishing the policy, but adjusting it.

“Tax freezes are complicated. They’re bad tax policy, to be quite frank with you,” he said.

During his presentation, Manlove explained that any property tax benefit program does not cost the town any money, but does shift the tax burden to others.

“If you are a taxpayer, and you do not qualify for a tax benefit, then you pay for that benefit,” he said.

According to Manlove, about a quarter of single-family home and condo owners are enrolled in the senior tax freeze program, or 1,707 residents. Each senior receives tax savings starting at $134 and reaching as high as $4,088. The average annual tax savings for seniors is $1,005.

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The senior tax freeze program in turn costs the average taxpayer owning a single-family home assessed at $316,600 around $267 in taxes annually, he noted.

Additionally, Manlove said the cost-to-benefit ratio for the senior tax freeze program is on the low end. For each $1 a taxpayer puts into the program, the senior tax freeze program receives $4 in benefits. He said the ratio is low due to the number of enrollees in the program.

Programs for veterans, blind and disabled are mandated by the state, unlike the senior tax freeze created by the Town Council in the 1980s, said Manlove.

In Smithfield, 857 veterans, 134 disabled, and 14 blind residents enrolled in a tax benefit program. They cost the average taxpayer $28, $7, and $1

The cost-benefit ratio for the veterans program is $6 in benefits for every $1 from taxpayers, $38 in benefits for every $1 for the program to the disabled, and $359 for every $1 from taxpayers for the tax benefit program to blind residents.

Also unique to Smithfield is the stone wall tax benefit program, where residents with property containing stone walls 50 feet in length and three feet in height, built before 1900 and structurally maintained and free of noxious weeds and vegetation, receive an $84 tax credit. A total of 131 residents are enrolled in the program, costing the average single-family homeowner an average of $2. Its cost-to-benefit ratio is $4 for every $1 from taxpayers.

“There really should be a compelling justification for every additional tax dollar you ask a taxpayer to cover for someone else. I believe the justification for the taxpayer is not evident,” Manlove said.

Town Manager Randy Rossi said issues with the ordinance will be perfect ones to tackle for the newly formed Financial Review Commission, which has its first meeting next week.

“We’re going to need a game plan to really fix the problem,” Rossi said.

Council President Suzy Alba noted that no current council members helped create the senior tax freeze, and she would like a workshop with Manlove to better understand the ordinance’s faults. She said there is a lot of information to digest and understand.


Not mentioned in the article is the current tangible tax freeze that is in effect for businesses. I can see giving the smaller businesses a break but what about the larger businesses in town? All types of tax freezes should be reviewed and not just the singling out of the seniors. Most of the seniors have lived in town for years and have helped finance many other initiatives in town through their taxes over the years. This is a sort of "promise" the town has given them for retirement. They are at a time in their lives where they wish to age out in the town that they have supported. They are not burdening the town with the cost of school age children. I feel that at least the current seniors receiving this benefit should be grandfathered in. If not, many may not be able to stay in their houses if their taxes are raised. They will be forced to sell. The majority of those houses will most likely be sold to families with school age children. More students equals more cost to the town. I view this as creating a vicious cycle where neither the seniors nor the town wins. I hope the newly elected Town Council members remember their election promises.

I agree with Beachcomber123. I have lived in this town for 34 years and have paid high taxes on my property and we now receive the tax freeze for our taxes. Without that freeze we could never afford to live here. What about the last 30 years when we paid our full taxes and now you want to take that all away. Please take a good look at what your doing before you chase all of us out of this town!

Are you people serious after 43 years of living in Smithfield you now want to eliminate a tax freeze that I received 9 years ago when I retired you people most likely think this is unfair and it should be taken away so that everyone is equal, this sounds like the spirit of the times let’s change the rules and justify it with mediocre logic that’s makes it feel good. Do the dam math and leave it alone. I paid my share in the past.

in Rhode Island keep their promise!!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Mr. Manlove feels its bad policy to give seniors a tax freeze and the council is going to look into it because their not really familiar with it. This is visited every few years in a new attempt to do away with it .As far as these beaurocrats are concerned only higher taxes will do.I'm not a senior and I don't benefit from the freeze but I and everyone else benefits from having seniors in town. They carried their share of the load in their working years and cost very little in town services in their retired years.Many don't have the government pension Mr. Manlove will have and live only on savings and social security. The elimination of the freeze would force many to sell only to be replaced by families with children adding to the biggest expense, schools.Maybe they could look into cost savings and budget cuts instead.Or maybe a school tax for everyone with kids in the school system since thats where a majority of the money goes.

First let me say that our town leaders need to step back and consider what they are dealing with here!
In case they aren't aware they are dealing with a class of townspeople who are on a very limited income, in which barely gets the thru the month!
So now these townspeople have come to this point in their lives, the town board has determined that they aren't worthy of getting a break on their taxes. These are the people who have lived here the longest!
I know this because my parents are in their late eighties and both have multiple sicknesses, and handicaps! They moved to Smithfield in 1960. In the 60 years they have lived in this town, they purchased their home at fair market value. They raised 3 children, improved their home accordingly, paid their taxes on time every year, paid off their mortgage, and as of today they haven't had a child in the school system since 1982. But during that 60 years they've endured numorous tax increases, multiple new school buildings, an ice rink, a Police Station, sewer system, multiple paving projects, numerous Town purchases that included some really stupid decisions on the Towns part!! And god only knows what other unreasonable town purchases there were??
And now that they are living on probably less than $5000 a month, which pays for their medical, prescriptions, food utilities, heat, water bill, reduced tax bill, over estimated car tax bill,