Barrington residents concerned about their soon-to-expand tax bills may be happy to hear that the town council is taking a closer look at tax exemptions.
At its meeting earlier this month, the council decided to create an ad hoc tax exemption committee, which will review the town's existing tax exemptions and offer recommendations about what could be changed in the future.
"We're trying to balance that tax burden," said Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha.
The manager said he and other officials heard the recent plea from older residents, many of whom have lived in town for decades. Mr. Cunha said the older residents are worried about their future tax bills, following the town's decision to exceed the 4 percent tax cap in an effort to afford payments on the $68.4 million middle school bond. Both the municipal government and school department are also requesting increases to their operating budgets.
"The seniors have a point," said Mr. Cunha. "They are stepping up to support the schools, but how do you support them…"
In addition to increased tax bills, many older residents are also hampered with fixed incomes, or slight income decreases. Currently, the town offers a senior exemption which equals a reduction of about $340 off a tax bill. Barrington Tax Assessor Michael Minardi said he offered the town council the option of increasing that tax credit to $400, but the council opted to pursue something different.
"They want it to be means-based," said Mr. Minardi. "Based on income …"
Mr. Minardi said the council's request would mean different exemptions for older residents, depending on how much income they declare each year. Mr. Minardi said that approach would require him obtaining residents' income information.
"There's nothing wrong with reviewing things," he said.
Barrington resident Arthur Richter is hoping to sit on the new ad hoc tax exemption committee. The longtime resident owns a home near Barrington Beach that his grandfather built back in 1924. He has seen his taxes increase steadily over the years, and is anticipating a larger jump this year.
"I am grateful the town is taking a look at this," he said.
Mr. Richter said some people have suggested that Barrington consider some of the tax programs used in other states. He referenced one state where peoples' taxes are based on the price they initially paid for their homes, not on the ever-changing assessments.
Mr. Richter said the existing system in Barrington seems to punish people who decide to remain in town for a longer period of time and reward those who come to town only while their children attend the public schools.
"The majority of people, they come into Barrington for 12 years and then they leave," he said.
Town officials said the ad hoc committee will examine all tax exemptions, not just those pertaining to seniors.
Do you want to serve on the board?
The town is currently accepting applications to the exemption ad hoc committee. Anyone who is interested in serving on the committee should submit a résumé form to the town clerk's office by Friday, April 21. Forms can be found at www.barrington.ri.gov or at the town clerk's officer or the public library. The committee is looking for three full-time members.
• Other openings: The town is also seeking three people to serve on the housing board of trustees and two people to serve on the senior services advisory board.