Increasing property fees to tax-exempt organizations tops list of Elorza’s legislative priorities

PROVIDENCE – Increasing fees charged to tax-exempt properties, redirecting money paid by the Omni Providence Hotel to the state hotel tax and the creation of a $500 non-refundable deposit for properties purchased through tax sales are among the items on the city of Providence’s 2020 legislative agenda.

The six-page outline released from Mayor Jorge O. Elorza’s office on Friday includes a host of proposals the city hopes state lawmakers will consider in finalizing the state’s fiscal 2021 budget.

Many of the priorities center around state aid to the city, including upping the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program, which charges tax-exempt properties like nonprofits, hospitals and universities a percentage of what would otherwise be paid in property taxes based on their assessed property value. The governor’s budget proposes keeping the PILOT rate at 26.2% – the same as last year – while the city has asked for increasing it to the maximum 27%. The increase in the forgone tax revenue would generate an additional $969,000, according to the mayor’s office.

The city has also asked the state to share revenue from the hotel tax on the Omni Providence Hotel with the city, which would boost its tax revenue by $300,000.

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The city administration also wants to “explore legislation” that would add a $500 deposit to properties sold through tax sales, which it said would help mitigate situations where buyers don’t follow through.

Other priorities include:

  • Increasing the state budget allocation for distressed communities – which includes Providence – from the $6 million in the governor’s budget proposal to $13 million;
  • Criminal justice reform, including a bill to expunge criminal records for marijuana-related crimes and making it easier for convicted felons to obtain business licenses.
  • Affordable housing initiatives, including an annual appropriation in the budget along with legislation to ban landlords from rejecting low-income renters who have housing-subsidy vouchers.
  • Education proposals including support for the state’s already-proposed increase in funding for multilingual learners and upping the state’s share of costs for teacher pension payments.
  • Adding a seat to the board of the R.I. Public Transportation Authority to create a space for a Providence official.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Follower her on Twitter at @NancyKLavin.