NORTH SMITHFIELD – Veteran residents eligible for tax breaks could see a significant drop in annual payments as an initiative by City Secretary Paul Zwolenski gains momentum this week.
Zwolensky discussed with city councilors a review of the city’s exemptions for veterans this week, noting that tax breaks are significantly higher in surrounding communities.
“It’s horrible,” said Zwolenski. “It’s a travesty. If you look at what the City of North Smithfield is doing to recognize our veterans, that is very inappropriate. ”
A graph compiled by tax advisor Jennifer St. George showed where the city compares to the surrounding communities and found that veterans living in northern Rhode Island received an average of $ 196 a year in tax exemptions.
At North Smithfield, the relief is $ 45.50.
Veterans who are 100 percent disabled can get around $ 350 off tax breaks in cities like Burrillville, Lincoln, and Cumberland, while those in North Smithfield get $ 91 off.
And Burrillville prisoners of war are getting around $ 900 in tax breaks, according to St. George.
“We’re giving $ 15,000 off the assessment, and the tax rate adds about $ 200 on your taxes,” said St. George.
Zwolensky said he noticed the problem earlier this year when he was working on his first budget as an administrator.
“Sometimes a little financial help can help a veteran stay at home,” said Zwolenski.
“We don’t just need to be on par with the rest of the communities,” he added. “Maybe we will lead the way one day. Why are we not the benchmark for other communities? “
Former commandant of VFW 6342 Farrell McMillan thanked the administrator for the initial efforts.
“Of course, I fully support any help for veterans,” said McMillan. “It’s nice to be recognized, except ‘there’s a free cup of coffee on Veteran’s Day.'”
“We’ve been here as a post for 75 years,” said McMillan. “We’re dwindling.”
St. George said there are currently 480 veterans in North Smithfield receiving the waiver.
“We don’t have that many veterans,” said the appraiser.
Alderman Paul Vadenais pointed out that more veterans could come forward if changes are ultimately approved.
“They need to know about these programs because they have to apply for them,” said Vadenais.
St. George said all applicants to qualify for the exception are their license and discharge papers.
“We are going from the state law,” she said.
Zwolensky said he wanted to make sure the council is enthusiastic before bringing the issue to the Committee on Budgets.
“I want to give them a flat fee,” he later told NRI NOW, adding that he and St. George are also working on a settlement for seniors and that the exemption can also be increased slightly.
“We are already pretty well positioned with the seniors,” said Zwolenski. “We will see.”
The issue is now being put to the town budgets for recommendation before it is formally put to the council for vote, but a much larger exception could be approved if the idea is accepted on Monday. Zwolensky tentatively proposed a flat rate of $ 200 per year for all veterans, with the disabled, prisoners of war, and the parents of Gold Star service members receiving $ 350.
“That’s a great catch,” said City Council President John Beauregard. “I just want to praise you for figuring this out and driving this forward, because there aren’t many things that are more important.”
“I think it’s great that he’s doing this,” said Beauregard. “He has more support, 100 percent.”
“They have been thanked too little for too long,” said Councilor Claire O’Hara. “Let’s give you an over-thank you.”