Johnston mayor proposes $134M ‘no tax increase budget’


Johnston taxpayers will likely see little change in their tax levy if Mayor Joseph M. Polisena Jr.’s proposed $134,342,201 budget passes the scrutiny of Town Council on June 26.

The proposed budget is more than $5 million fatter than last year’s but calls for essentially no tax increase.

Although no public budget hearings have been held, and the budget is several months late (according to the current Town Charter), Polisena released a “report to taxpayers on (the) current and proposed budget” for the 2024-25 fiscal year last week.

“There is no tax increase,” Polisena said earlier this week. “All seniors with the senior tax exemption living in residential property, a total of 2,718 — are going to see their tax bill decreased by $188.”

Town Council will discuss and likely vote on the budget in a meeting that starts at 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 26.

District 5 Town Councilman Robert J. Civetti, an accountant by trade, has yet to receive the budget details.

“I have not had a chance to review it yet and have requested and am waiting for info from the School Department,” Civetti said on Monday. “Hoping to get the school info by the end of the week so I can review and be prepared for the meeting on June 26.”

The meeting will be held at the Town of Johnston Municipal Court, 1600 Atwood Ave., Johnston.

According to the town-purchased legal advertisement for the proposed budget, the mayor’s office proposes “to increase its total property tax levy to $76,445,521 in the 2024-2025 budget year, the total property tax levy this year is $75,679,737.” The result is technically “a proposed net tax levy increase of 1.01%.”

The notice of proposed property tax rate change continues: “The proposed tax levy will result in a property tax rate of $15.30 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for residential real estate, $27.43 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for commercial real estate and $64.65 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for tangible personal property, as compared to the current property tax rates of $15.30 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for residential real estate, $27.43 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for commercial real estate and $64.65 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for tangible personal property.”

Last year’s budget totaled $129,081,852. The town’s expecting to generate only around $400,000 more from local property taxes in 2024-25 (vs. 2023-24). General state aid has increased $1,569,431 (from $11,784,926 to $13,354,357).

“A property tax rate of $15.91 for residential real estate, $28.04 for commercial real estate and $64.65 for tangible personal property would be needed in the coming budget year to raise the maximum levy authorized by Section 44-5-2 of the general laws.:

Both the police and fire departments will see relatively small budget increases — $519,768 more for the Johnston Police Department, and $1,084,637 more for the Johnston Fire Department. Polisena’s budget calls for $20,640,847 for police, and $24,620,595 for fire.

“We fully funded the police and fire department,” Polisena said. “We were down 12 police officers when I took over in January (2023) and we are only down three now.”

The mayor and the school committee have been haggling over more money for education over the past year. Polisena hired lawyers and analysts to review the schools’ finances. The results have started to emerge, but school officials have yet to comment on Polisena’s proposed budget.

“We are giving the school department another $1 million increase in operations this year, to go along with an increase in $1.9 million from the state, totaling an almost $3 million dollar increase year-over-year,” Polisena explained. “The school department’s budget has now increased by over 10% in the last three years, which is unheard of compared to other districts in Rhode Island. This year the school department’s budget went up more than the town’s budget, 4.60% on the school side compared to 3.57% on the town side. “

Although he’s beefing up the school allocation this year, Polisena warned of forced austerity in the near future.

“I can get away with it this year, but I cannot keep pumping money into the school department for buildings and operations while still keeping taxes stable,” Polisena said. “They need to follow the recommendations made in that report to find some cost savings, like other districts in the state are doing.”


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