N.S. council passes increase to veterans’ exemption, tax rate changes

Tax Assessor Jennifer St. George

NORTH SMITHFIELD – The North Smithfield Town Council completed the town’s annual budget process on Thursday, July 7, passing new exemptions for veterans of war, and lowering rates to account for recent increases to property valuations.

Tax Assessor Jennifer St. George said that with the changes, the average single-family home in town is now valued at $370,000, and would see a tax bill increase of $115 for the year.

The exemptions, meanwhile, passed unanimously this week following a lengthy process that included approval by the General Assembly, provide a $350 tax credit, which veterans of a war must apply for by December 31 each year. Widows of war veterans can receive a $200 credit, and the exemption is also $350 for totally disabled war veterans and Gold Star parents.

Veterans who qualify but are not homeowners are still entitled to the tax break if they live in specialized housing.

“If you don’t have something to credit it against it, you use it or lose it on an annual basis,” explained Town Solicitor David Igliozzi.

Resident Michael Clifford, who recently declared candidacy for the council in the upcoming election, took issue with initiative, started last November by Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski.

“It needs to start being needs-based,” Clifford said Thursday during a second reading of the proposal. “Everybody is suffering. Nobody in this town is going to be in an easy position to turn up the heat this winter. It should go to the veterans who truly truly need it.”

“I think it’s insulting to the elderly people in this town who are living on fixed incomes,” Clifford added.

But Farrell McMillan, commander of Leclair Kozlik Logan Bassett Post 6342, applauded both Zwolenski and the council for their efforts.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” McMillan said.

Also speaking on behalf of the exemption was veteran Edward Viveiros, who said it would be an, “insult to parse by income,” noting that no other town in the state bases such tax breaks on need.

“Some men and women who served have the added burden of deep emotional and physical scars that they carry with them to this day,” Viveiros said. “For some of us, it’s going to allow us to keep the heat on.”

Town Council President John Beauregard said that the exemption was never meant to be needs-based.

“I think it’s a great idea, and I’m proud to support it,” Beauregard said. “It’s a small token of our appreciation.”

Councilor Paul Vadenais agreed that the exemption should not be dependent on income.

“This shouldn’t be need-based. It was’t need-based when they were drafted or they signed up,” Vadenais said. “They defended the country.”

“Some did not come back,” added Councilor Clarie O’Hara. “I won’t change my mind on this. I think it’s a deserved thing. I know many that were activated from this town. I think the way that it’s written is just.”

Zwolenski, who has been recovering from COVID-19 and was not at the Thursday meeting, later gave credit to St. George for her work in drafting the proposal.

Councilors also gave a stamp of approval to new tax rates for the year, decreasing the residential burden by 14.88 percent; commercial by 2.56 percent; and tangible by 2.44 percent. The board approved a budget last month that increased spending by roughly $1 million over the previous cycle, but revaluations finalized in December saw homes values increase 22 percent on average.

Clifford questioned the process used to advertises the changes, noting that an ad published in June stated that all three categories of taxpayers would see roughly the same decrease of 9.6 percent. The rates, published prior to the budget vote, were said to be a, “placeholder;” draft numbers to meet the state advertising requirement before a fiscal plan was finalized.

“How can I speak on the rates at a public hearing when I don’t know what they are?” Clifford asked. “That legal advertisement was supposed to notify me, and it didn’t.”

Beauregard said any questions on process would fall to the solicitor.

“If he’s satisfied, then I’m satisfied,” Beauregard said.

“The process that was followed has been certified correct by the Department of Revenue,” Igliozzi responded.

Finance Director Cynthia DeJesus noted that the new proposed rates, of 13.91 for residential property; 18.94 for commercial; and 42.62 for tangible, maintain ratios between the three categories of taxpayers, as also governed by state law.

“We’ve done so much research to come up with these percentages,” DeJesus said, noting that commercial property owners also saw a seven percent increase on average in their property values last year.

“I just didn’t think it would be fair not to give them some kind of a break too,” DeJesus said. “We need businesses here.”

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  1. As you can see by his remarks, Mr Beauregard can always find a way to capitalize on any idea that does not originate with him. And before he joined the State Police he was an officer in Woonsocket. Easier to bully there, but tries his best since moving up. I guess two pensions on the taxpayers dime allows him the luxury of generosity. I was completely against this and would have expected the Czar of Seniors, Linda Thibeault to at least suggest that there are any number of women living in abject poverty in NS. The women of North Smithfield need to smarten up and get rid of every member except Kim Alves, yes Claire O must go too!

    • Well this comment is strictly political and nothing more. Was this the game plan with your group? Every good deed you would all make negative comments. Election season always brings out the worst in people.

    • Mary, thank you for your kind words. I am not in the habit of responding on Facebook but I feel a correction needs to me made. Although a fine police department I was never on the Woonsocket Police. I was fortunate to get on the State Police a year after college. And as far as receiving two pensions if there is a second one out there with my name on it that I don’t know about please let me know. If you do the math I think you will find it is not possible. Again thank you and please do not feel obligated to apologize for being wrong on every point. I’m sure it was an honest mistake.

      • Now that you’ve set the record straight on your pension would you please explain how the tax assessor calculated the $115 increase on a $370,000 home. You must know how she arrived at that number because you didn’t question it at the meeting before voting on the tax rates. I don’t understand how she came up with those numbers. Her statement makes no sense to me.

      • Lol….your wit made my day. Never lose that sense of humor… Btw….seeing you were too busy correcting a few on your past life and pension, to answer my question of YESTERDAY, a tax employee answered and yes, if someone is already collecting veteran tax deduction, or widow of a veteran tax deduction, the NEW deduction amount is automatically updated by the NS tax office. No need to reapply. May have seemed like a stupid question, but some places need to be reminded or you need to reapply. NS secures your entitlement automatically. My parent and I thank all who participated in this. We are grateful and appreciative for all the work you do. Have a Blessed day!

      • John, unlike many, I do apologize for the mistake. Even Greg Galano can vouch for that. I had been informed by another WPD officer that your career started there. I do so appreciate your correction of my mistake. That was so much easier for you to respond to, than my outreach to you re: 9/11, where you repeatedly ignored my effort regarding your availability to give prepared remarks and to be listed on the program. It took you one election cycle to realize that people in North Smithfield do not necessarily agree that you represent their best interests. It may be time for the voters to give you another vacation.

  2. I came to the comments and I must say you didn’t disappoint. Same people on here trying to turn something good into something bad. What would you say if the TC rejected it? Would you then go after John for doing nothing to help the people that fought for our country?

  3. John Beauregard would you please explain Tax Assessor Jennifer St. George’s claim that “the average single-family home in town is now valued at $370,000, and would see a tax bill increase of $115 for the year.”

  4. Very happy to see our veterans given the help they deserve for proudly serving our country, money well spent, thanks Town Administrator Zwolenski . As far as Beauregard goes he’s just looking for a pat on the back for someone else’s idea. An ex-state trooper and now the town bully. Vote him out and add some new fiscally responsible people to the town council before you all are digesting millions in additional taxes from his mismanagement.

  5. Tom Shaw I had a elderly WWII veteran for a neighbor and friend some years ago who ran a successful business in Woonsocket for many, many years after the war. He sold his business when he retired and had a nice little nest egg as a result. He and his wife both lived into their 80s. His wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her 70s and after many years of caring for her at home (with paid help), he was forced to place her in a nursing home which wiped out another big chunk of his nest egg. He had not hidden his assets by placing them in his children’s name, like many people do. A good number of people from his generation didn’t believe in doing such things and many elderly still don’t. When his wife did eventually die, he was left with very little to his name and was forced to sell his home. I still remember the day he told me he was selling. He was very emotional and began by reminding me of his many successes in the business world and how he had put significant savings aside for his old age. He went on to say, almost apologetically, that he had never dreamed that he would ever find himself in this position. The reality is, sadly, sometimes bad times befall good hardworking people who actually did make good choices.

  6. I am proud to have supported our war veterans, widows of war veterans and Gold Star parents with this vote. I have spoken to many residents in the past few days while gathering signatures, and I have not met one who opposed this tax credit as a small gesture of appreciation from a grateful community.

    John A. Beauregard
    North Smithfield Town Council

    • Do those already receiving a tax deduction on property taxes due to being a spouse of a war veteran get the NEW veteran deduction automatically factored in by the city tax office? Thank you for all you do …..

  7. I really understand Mr. Clifford point but this is what I do not understand. If most of these people are elderly and in need I first would like to ask why they are needy. If the answer is they did not properly save or plan for retirement then I do not support bad behavior. For example if 2 individuals made the same amount over their lifetime and one person saved and does not need assistance and one person enjoyed themselves and did not save then I have no reason to want to assist that person. Also I believe in all people are created equally and everyone should be able to get assistance based on needs. Also the military draft was stop in 1973 which makes all drafted military individuals over 65. So anyone else who willfully went into the military after 1973 who was paid for there service needs to pay taxes like every other American. Remember Ab Lincoln said “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

  8. There already exist many many need based programs already in effect…..with electric companies, with oil companies, with the state oF RI, and other various agencies, all one need do is call and ask for what the required papers are. There are deadlines. But not all elderly or needy have computers, or are knowledgeable on who or what, so rely on others to navigate and assist with paperwork.
    Many veterans and their widows, like myself, are up in age, some younger yes, but in many states there is a dollar amount of reduction against the property tax. For example a reduction against $45000 property amount in one state. Other states you pay zero. It is truly a Godsend to see veterans finally honored in NS.
    But what would help needy, elderly, most, also, is a bus or van assist program like my city has. Since COVID even taxis do not operate there. NS is severely lacking compared to other places. An elderly person homebound, a disabled or poor person, cannot even get a hairdresser or barber, to their home, or get a taxi or bus to take them out in NS…sounds simple, but dignity and self preservation is key to maintaining quality of life. Only through trying to help my own elderly parent long distance have I seen the deficiencies there. So I understand Mr. Clifford’s concerns. I truly do. Needs exist on these avenues of care, as specific individuals try to care for themselves independently. Yes it takes money and ppl but it needs to be offered. NS is a beautiful town, but living there offers limited, very limited services compared to other places.
    Perhaps more hires allocated for the government offices in NS might help too…because…no one ever answers the telephone! Ever, never answer the telephone there.
    Thank you for listening.

    • If you haven’t already done so, check out the RIPTA Flex plan. Maybe your mother could take advantage of that program.

      • Lol…..sure have tried…..and the loop after loop of trying to get through to scheduling is enough to put you on medication. I cannot say enough for personalized taxi service or van services to your door and back on a country road. Not waiting and waiting after your appt as a very senior citizen for a ride back home via Ripta. Nice for some, but need more personalized safer option. Easier. Thanks but already tried that avenue of calling for info, etc. I don’t mean to sound complaining and unappreciative either. There used to be hairdressers that traveled to senior homes, but now just mainly go to nursing homes and homes for wedding prep. COVID changed a lot of services once offered.

  9. When Town Administrator Zwolenski first proposed his plan to increase the veterans’ exemption he stated he wanted to provide “extra financial support” which “could help a veteran stay in their home” and allow them to be able to turn up the heat in the winter. While I support the existing Veteran’s exemption, I believe a new supplemental exemption based on need would have had a far greater impact on needy veterans who truly can’t afford to turn up the heat and are at risk of not being able to stay in their homes. Veterans could have continued to receive the existing exemption and veterans in need could have received extra assistance. Every time existing exemptions are increased, it increases the tax rate which elderly residents and young families (who may be struggling financially themselves) are required to pay. In my opinion any increases, for any category of exemption, should be based on need.

  10. Are you aware of the war in Irag that started in 2001? Most of those deployed are still far under the age of 65, so this program would benefit all veterans that have served our country. I fully support.

  11. Maybe I am missing something here but shouldn’t war veterans already qualify for the senior tax stabilization as most war veterans are over 65. Also I getting tired of Mr. Beauregard’s cavalier attitude towards process, procedures and taxpayers issues. But that’s what you get from a union trained former police officer.

      • Even worse. The state police that promotes everyone one year before retirement to get a larger pension. Also at a retirement age that makes zero sense and will someday bankrupt the pension system.

    • Yes…senior tax deduction and veteran deduction apply separately, and together, against a deduction on your residential taxes in NS.

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