Providence City Council passes tax levy, sets fiscal 2021 tax rates ahead of full spending plan

THE PROVIDENCE CITY COUNCIL on Tuesday passed a $358 million tax levy and set tax rates for the upcoming fiscal year.

PROVIDENCE – The City Council gave final passage to a $358 million tax levy on Tuesday, paving the way for the city to begin sending out property tax bills.

The 12-0 vote, with an abstention by Councilman David Salvatore, also sets residential, commercial, vehicle and tangible taxes rates for fiscal 2021, all of which are unchanged from the prior year. Exactly how the revenue from taxes will be spent remains unclear; the city has yet to enact a fiscal 2021 budget, which typically accompanies the tax levy but has been delayed this year amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

Until a spending plan is passed, the city will work off the appropriation authority from the prior fiscal year budget, with additional monitoring of any spending, according to Patricia Socarras, a spokesperson for Mayor Jorge O. Elorza’s office. No new expenses will be approved until there is a budget in place, Socarras wrote in an email.

Tax revenue comprises roughly 70% of the city’s annual budget. By starting tax collections now – first-quarter taxes are due July 24 – the city can stabilize cash flow and keep up with ongoing expenses awaiting additional funding via the state’s annual budget, Socarras said.

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After approving a supplemental budget as a stop-gap measure earlier this month, the General Assembly plans to reconvene in mid-July to consider a full fiscal 2021 spending plan.

A $507 million fiscal 2021 budget proposal introduced by Elorza earlier this year relies on roughly $60 million in state aid based on the spending plan Gov. Gina M. Raimondo proposed at the start of the year, prior to the pandemic. That does not include the state’s contribution to Providence Public Schools, which have been under state control since November.

Council members Mary Kay Harris and Michael Correia did not attend the virtual meeting.

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