R.I. Senate approves bill authorizing municipal property tax breaks for senior volunteers

RHODE ISLAND residents ages 60 and older could get a break on their property taxes in exchange for volunteering for their city or town under legislation approved by the R.I. Senate on March 16. / PBN FILE PHOTO/NICOLE DOTZENROD

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island residents ages 60 and older could get a break on their property taxes in exchange for volunteering for their city or town under legislation approved by the R.I. Senate on March 16.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Coyne, D-Bristol, authorizes cities and towns to establish their own programs giving senior residents up to $1,500 per year in property tax credits in exchange for volunteer services. Exactly how much this could end up costing cities and towns in property tax revenue is unclear; there is no fiscal analysis of the bill.

Coyne told Providence Business News that the bill, which she has introduced in years past without success, was inspired by requests from local residents, based on similar legislation in Massachusetts. The city of Newport also has a program that gives residents up to $500 off property taxes for volunteering.

After passing the Senate with unanimous approval, Coyne hoped her proposal would finally win approval this year, citing support for seniors expressed by fellow lawmakers as reason for her optimism.

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At an earlier hearing for the Senate Committee on Finance, the only public comment came from Hannah Stern, policy associate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island Inc., who suggested an amendment allowing towns to establish criteria for eligibility and an appeal process for those who believe they have been unfairly denied.

The bill has been referred to the R.I House Government and Housing Committee.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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