Budget Commission Considers Taxing Non-Profit Properties

Decision on sending letters to non-profit groups tabled for discussion Nov. 27.


Twenty-five non-profit organizations owning 60 parcels in the city might have to start paying property tax.  

Woonsocket Tax Assessor Chris Celeste asked The Woonsocket Budget Commission Thursday if he should send letters to the organizations telling them they're not exempt from the tax rolls.

Though three members and Rosemary Booth Gallogly, director of the department of revenue, voiced support for the idea, the Commission tabled discussion until their Nov. 27 meeting. The delay, an increasingly common refrain for the panel, was the latest example of the body's frustratingly slow progress for member Mayor Leo Fontaine.

"Every decision is being extended out," Fontaine said, "Every day that goes by is one less to solve the problem." 

That problem, the city's looming $15 million deficit, has remained unsolved since the Budget Commission's appointment in May. If levied, the new taxes Celeste suggested would help the city raise revenues to help rub out some of that red ink. Celeste said he is still figuring how much revenue taxes on the properties would raise for the city.

Commission member City Council President John Ward, who said he supported taxing the non-profits' property, noted the city's most recent assessments of the properties are probably out of date.

Celeste said the letters could be worded to let the non-profits know the city is considering taxing them. He said the letters could also invite the non-profits to discuss tax agreements with the city in lieu of impending tax levies, and avoid a costly ($10,000 to $15,000) appraisal of the parcels.

"I have no problem sending out the letters," said Commission member Peder Schaefer. But, he said, they should have the Commission's counsel Edward Alves have a look at the letters first.

Fontaine suggested that the City Council get a look at the letter beforehand as well. He said they may want to exempt certain groups from any new taxes levied.

"Nobody is saying that these organizations are not doing great things for the city or the state, I want to get that out there. They may be doing great things, but the reality is that they don't meet the statute (for exemption from property tax)." 

RI General Law 43-3-3, Property Exempt, doesn't appear to list non-profit organizations among the list of eligible tax exempt entities. Churches and schools, along with other educational organizations make the cut, but the rest are up to the discretion of municipal government.

501C3 status, which many of the city's non-profits enjoy, applies to federal taxes.

The YWCA and YMCA have a specific state charter that makes them exempt from property taxes, Ward said.

The IRS states, "In addition to exemption from the payment of federal income tax, organizations recognized as exempt under IRC 501(c)(3), may enjoy collateral benefits under the Internal Revenue Code, as well as under state or local income, property, sales, use, or other tax provisions," but it doesn't grant that status.

"If you would like to draw up legislation that makes it clear that they're taxable, I'm sure a lot of communities would approve that," said Gallogly.

"There is a lot of case law on this," Schaefer warned.

"Only for the people who want to put up a fight," Ward said, "And they usually lose."

On Chairman Bill Sequino's suggestion, the Commission tabled the discussion until Nov. 27 for further study.






Growing more concerned by the day! November 12, 2012 at 11:50 AM
The people should also see a list of all Non Profits registered in Woonsocket which receive Property Tax exemptions.Schools, public and private, and religous institution of all faiths and denominations should be excluded. Agencies which contributes to some defined communicty service, YMCA, Veterans organizations, etc... should be taxed at a lower rate but taxed none the same. Any type of politically funded organization, state or federal should be taxed at the current rates of the citizenship. Also, a monthly advertisement should be made to local newspaper of all individual and busines entities which are "in the rears" of the current and previous tax obligations. Responsible taxpaying property owners and small business owners need to decide to continue to support these entities.
Yvette M Ayotte November 12, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Rosemary Booth Galoogly would agree to taxing ANYONE as long as she doesn't have to help Woonsocket. The governor and her should be ashamed of themselves for sitting there and hearing all the hardships the taxpayers are going through and offering no help for Woonsocket. Remember, we are the city they are ignoring when it comes to our schools, parks, etc. There's surpluses coming into the state and they'd rather take care of every other city than ours. It's disgusting!!! Enjoy your huge salaries and homes, enjoy your vacations while the people in Woonsocket suffer.
Sly November 12, 2012 at 01:27 PM
The city's looming 15 Million Dollar Deficit,oh.How about if you change the verbage to it's Fontaine and Wards 15 MDF.It happen on there watch 2 people you do not want to give a credit card to.Women are smarter with money than those 2 tax happy indivduals.It's to bad the BC have there eyes and mouths close.There followers not leaders.Elections are coming not soon enouigh the damage will be done to everyone that's in this city that's left because those 2 bafoons don't fight for us.Themselves only.
Rob Borkowski (Editor) November 12, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Correction: An earlier version of this article mis-identified Woonsocket Tax Assessor Chris Celeste, who spoke to the Budget Council about the city's non-profit landowners. The article has been edited with the correct information.
Memere November 12, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I fully agree!!!! It is time for our state reps to step up to the plate and fight more for our city. They make wonderful promises when they are running for election. It is time for them to live up to their promises. In other words"put up or shut up"!
Memere November 12, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Agree. The dirty little secret that they do not want the taxpayers to know is that city hall workers qualify for life time medical benefits ( this is according the the city hall workers themselves) How much is this costing the taxpayers of Woonsocket??????
Misty Harbor November 12, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Why doesn't the budget commission go after the state, and why isn't Rosemary from the state initiating this stance that the state needs to give us more money. The state is at fault also for this deficit, so what gives? The state has money and is hoarding it for their discrimination against Woonsocket, and the State is supposedly trying to help Woonsocket out of this mess? IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
Misty Harbor November 12, 2012 at 03:18 PM
The State should also start taxing people who receive welfare benefits. I'm sick and tired of seeing people (some) abusing the program and getting away with it. Why are they exempt?? They need to start paying back, the way the system was supposed to be used. Where are our Reps on this issue? They ALWAYS AVOID IT !!! Everyone and I mean everyone needs to pay their fair share !!!
David T November 12, 2012 at 04:36 PM
To "Growing more concerned", all institutions should be considered taxable based on ability to pay. Why would you exclude a private school like Mount Saint Charles which could well afford paying some property tax? Non-profits like that charging $11,500 a year are flourishing while our public schools can't afford ink for printers. To Yvette, I agree that the state has done nothing to help us except forward money to us charging us interest. But its also the people of the state who don't care and many who live in this city. Look at the recent ballot questions involving spending hundreds of millions of dollars for places like RIC and affordable housing. All of them where approved in the city and statewide. That less money for our city.
Sly November 12, 2012 at 07:01 PM
People,Do you really think Rosemary G or the BC.really cares if we get taxed out.NO.There job is to keep Chaffee which got what 33% of the vote happy,like most state appointed people do, they play the game.It is the sate's fault a little,but most of it is Fontaine and WARD THEY OK'D THE SPENDING KNOWING WE WERE GETTING LESS.LIKE MY EARLIER COMMENT THEM 2 WOULD PAY $300 FOR PENNY CANDY.THAT'S THERE MENTALITY.THERE SCARY.It will be great to see them pack and go soon enough.BC will never worry about where there pay's are coming from there fine.Brainless but fine!!!
Russell Archambault November 12, 2012 at 07:34 PM
GROWING; Im behind in my taxes water and sewer.Being behind, does not make tax paying citizens iresponsible. Keep in mind 18% interest is also paid. No need to advertise.What would advertising serve.Trying to embarrass people?
Russell Archambault November 12, 2012 at 07:38 PM
David you cannot compare private with public education. Everyone wants to raise raise raise,take take take, hurt hurt hurt, no one addresses the real problem !
Linda S November 12, 2012 at 08:56 PM
I agree. Tax the churches too. Why not? They don't perform any service more important than ewhat the non-profits do!
Russell Archambault November 12, 2012 at 09:05 PM
If i became mayor, i would not spend my time trying to find ways to tax us out of our city. I would not try to sell our city. I have a plan to bring in new business in new buildings, employ a couple thousand people and reduce the tax rate to about 25% to all commercial.
Mew November 12, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Oh Yes!!! this city is in an awful mess, I agree with most of you, but I just know that most of you will elect those two bufoons all over again. Every two years it's the same old, same old. You all complain and march to your polling district and vote them all back in office. Look at the referrendums, they were all passed!!! it's appaling to me!
la_mouffette November 12, 2012 at 11:12 PM
I do enjoy this article. Fontaine uses this as another chance to deflect blame, and complain about the dragging pace of the Budget Commission... and yet, just a few short paragraphs later, we have Fontaine, on the Budget Commission, agreeing they should hold back on sending out the letters until the City Council can get a look at them. I think tabling until the 27th so legal counsel and the city council can look over the letter before it is sent out, is prudent and considerate. He was right to suggest it. I just find it hysterically amusing that his hypocrisy is so visible here. "They're dragging their feet! They should have voted to send out these letters at that meeting! And there were good reasons to wait a few weeks that I proposed myself!" ha!
Rob Borkowski (Editor) November 12, 2012 at 11:29 PM
In all fairness to the Mayor, the Commission could have decided to draft the letter and send it to legal counsel and the City Council, which would have moved the issue along, and still discussed it more at the next meeting.
Growing more concerned by the day! November 13, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Maybe if you knew you were going to be embaressed, you'd pay the right bill before you paid something like a cellphone bill, cable television, digital Internet, video rentals or other types of unnecessary culture "toys".
Growing more concerned by the day! November 13, 2012 at 12:52 AM
If we decide to Tax Non Profits, I'll conceed as long as we consider taxing renters for apartment contents and full value of their automobiles ...no exemptions.
Still Hope November 13, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Is this for real? Aren't a large portion of the non-profits in this city veteran related? So, during the observation of Veterans Day, the battle-worn men and women of Woonsocket learn that the city wants to reward their service by taxing the only place they have left to share with their fellows-in-arms. All the while, in South County, the state builds a $100M home for their wary soldiers. Anyway, it won't happen. Have you seen the list of property owning non-profits? Cercle, IWC, Landmark. A cop hangout, a charitable club, and a failing hospital. Good luck with that. I'm voting Russell Archambault. Get these other clowns out of decision making.
la_mouffette November 13, 2012 at 04:07 AM
heh, sorry, Rob...being new to Woonsocket, you probably don't have the same long-term picture that I do of some local politicians ;) it's hard not to draw certain conclusions! So, did they postpone even *drafting* the letter until the 27th? Is that what happened? btw, thanks for your continued following on the budget commission meetings. They're so horribly timed! It's so difficult to get to them! Most people would have to take a few hours out of work to do so. Personally, I can never get to them. So, thanks!
Sly November 13, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Fairness to the mayor,where's our fairness Rob.On the same people being re-elected it's amazing what a few chicken dinners will do at the senior high rises.Fontaine and Ward are very smart.they target the older group in the city that live on section 8.Passing the referendums did you expect anything different,We have to be the dumbest State in the Country,with the dumbest voters.Like I've said before there time is coming and the city will be much better of without those 2 bafoons.
lorrie scullin November 13, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Ladies and gentlemen - I am still waiting on the investigation into the Woonsocket School Department and last year' $230,000 surplus to its $10 million dollar deficit!!!!! WHY ARE WE NOT GETTING ANSWERS AND WHO IS COVERING UP THE IGNORANCE???? THROW ALL THE BUMS OUT COME NOVEMBER 2013!!!!!
Boingo Boingo November 13, 2012 at 06:08 PM
IMO,i think every employee and Pol in Woonsocket should have a local tax levied against them.
Sly November 13, 2012 at 06:21 PM
I have 2 words for everyone.FONTAINE,WARD.Our well suited Mayor and City Council Boss know all,but say nothing.They will alway's be remembered here in Woonsocket.
Russell Archambault November 14, 2012 at 06:34 AM
GROWING; again,looking at paying a 50.00 cell phone per month or TV. cost, is really not looking at the real problem. There are people out there that are about to loose their total investment.There are over two hundred vacant buildings right now. with no one addressing this problem. The city does not have a problem with this because they are still collecting taxes from whomever. This situation can be rectified. The city leaders overlook this because they cannot come up with a plan. I have a plan to change this problem.This entire way of our leaders looking at trying to solve the city's money situation will never work. WE now need business owners who understand, who are used to figuring out on how to get out of unforeseen problems. Investments in the cities future is the only solution. WE need to get started now before its to late for the tax paying citizens of woonsocket.


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