By Eugene Quinn
Next week East Greenwich residents have a chance to approve a much-needed investment in our school and town infrastructure, with a $150 million school construction bond referendum on the ballot. As a retiree living on a fixed income, I have to be concerned about the impact on my property taxes.
I voted to approve the bond because I feel it is prudent for our community to make these improvements at this time. While you can debate the exact amounts, I’m convinced we will pay more and get less if we postpone these actions, because we will lose part of the state reimbursement, and construction costs are rising rapidly.
Prior to voting, I conducted a careful analysis of the impact on my taxes using the town’s projections. As a senior, it was important to factor in my age exemption. Since the town examples assumed no exemptions, I replicated my analysis for all residential properties as a public service.
It’s important to realize that the town examples are projecting the entire tax bill, of which debt service on the school bond is only a small part (5 to 11 percent depending on the year). Most of the projected increase is a result of growth in operating expenses that occur whether the bond is approved or not.
The town manager has stated that the estimates are conservative, so the actual increases are likely to be lower.
If you only look at the increases in the projected tax bills, it’s easy to get the impression that the tax impact of the bond is much greater than it is.
A good example of this is a website created by an EG resident where you enter your home’s assessed value and it tells you that if the bond passes, your 2030 and 2040 tax bills will be 27.68 percent and 53.83 percent higher, respectively, than your 2023 tax bill.
While consistent with the town projections, there is no allowance for exemptions and no mention of the fact that most of these increases occur whether the bond passes or not.
And while a 54 percent increase in your tax bill sounds very scary, it’s over 17 years so it’s equivalent to 2.6 percent growth per year, which is in line with historical trends.
Finally, if you look at the history of school bonds in East Greenwich, the one under consideration is about the same percentage of the tax base as the 1928 Eldredge and 1956 Cole bonds, and much less than the 1964 EGHS and Frenchtown bonds, which would be equivalent to more than $360 million with today’s tax base. Now that is truly a frightening number, but we made it work. Let’s continue that tradition on Nov. 7.
Eugene Quinn, a retired math professor, is a member of the East Greenwich School Committee.