A $1.494 million tax abatement error (another error) was discovered for a property owned by the RIDOT at 55 Colorado Ave in Warwick RI. The building (marked in the Google Earth photo below) sits in front of the RIDOT Building located at 360 Lincoln Ave, Warwick. Apparently this building on 55 Colorado Ave was purchased by the RIDOT back in 2013 and was somehow incorrectly coded in the city's new MUNIS system during that tax re-val year. The property was coded as a commercial/school property instead of a tax exempt industrial property. The city tax assessor, after having met with the city's finance director, both concluded that this error would be "a wash" and that the error would have no net affect on the city's budget when it comes down to how the city budgets around an almost 1.5 million tax abatement error. This conclusion was challenged by councilmen Merolla, Ladouceur & Corley.
Councilman Ladouceur argued that when preparing a city budget, a certain amount of revenue and expenses are anticipated. There is cash in and cash out and $1.5 million shows up in the books as being an accounts receivable item which is an asset. When factoring a budget that assumes a 98% collection rate on %1.5 million, in reality, none of that was collected since the property was purchased by the RIDOT back in 2013.
The city tax assessor claimed it really didn't make a difference as the collection loss was taken away every budgeted year since 2013 because the city still made up for the loss with tax collection gain. So in other words, the rest of the Warwick taxpayers, properly coded in the city's MUNIS system, made up for the loss with increases to their taxes to balance the budget. The city tax assessor then continued to shrug it off by stating, "it's a book keeping exercise, that's all it is."
Councilman Corley asked why it wasn't discovered earlier that a "residential property" with such a significant value -the city was not receiving the taxes on- could be overlooked? The tax assessor's response was to shift the blame to the previous city tax assessor and didn't believe it was intentional human error but blamed it on a tax-reval year, a new city MUNIS system (coding system) upgrade, and possible "conversion errors."
The city tax assessor had stated that a $1.5 million tax abatement error that was overlooked for 4 years would have amounted to a half percent error on the city's tax collection estimate. Councilman Merolla argued that the city looks at collection rates when setting budgets, and because the percentage on tax collection rates have been artificially low over the past four fiscal years, the collection rates have always been off, due to not collecting taxes on this $75.5 million dollar property. So for the past four fiscal years, the city was posting "surpluses" when in reality, the city was underestimating the amount of revenue coming in, based on collections that excluded this $75.5 million dollar tax exempt property owned by the RIDOT. Another tax abatement "write-off' totaling $1.5 million. GREAT JOB CITY OF WARWICK! This is why the city desperately needs a thorough, forensic fiscal audit, something it has never had.
55 Colorado Ave (bottom/ctr). RIDOT building just north of it at 360 Lincoln Ave.
Councilman Howe expressed that he was quite appalled regarding RIAC/TF Green Airport doing thison Cedar Swamp Rd in Warwick. Listen to his feedback here.
Mr. Anthony Ferrucci, Executive director of Finance & Operations for the Warwick Public Schools went before the City Council to request $4,060,400 in bond financing for various school building rehab/construction projects. The school project description list included the following estimates:
$1,200,000, Warwick Vets Jr High, new HVAC System, elevator and kitchen. Estimated total cost of project: $6 million. ($500,000 for new elevator and $100,000 for the kitchen).
$175,000, new kitchen at PILGRIM.
$86,424, new kitchen at WINMAN.
$250,000, "building prep for next use Special Ed programming" at GREENE.
$375,000, "change of use building code" at GORTON. Majority of financing requested to be appropriated to bring the gymnasium up to fire code so the gym can be use as a "community access" room.
$500,000 to construct a new sports field complex at TOLLGATE.
$560,400, "districtwide", new "access controls/locks and hardware
$313,576 for "contingencies".
After four plus hours of back and forth questioning, deliberation, scrutinizing and questioning, Councilman Merolla invoked Rule 21 at 11:30 PM to table the discussion to the next city council meeting. It appeared that the council was focused on only allocating the necessary funding to address top priority projects such as a new HVAC system for Warwick VETS Jr. High. TBC...
Representative Joseph Shekarchi's friend, attorney Joseph Brennan was appointed to the Warwick Sewer Authority Board of Review. Brennan has no sewer experience whatsoever.
The City Council approved $37,000 on a one year BID for a "Police & Fire Disability Administrator", $11,192 for two new "Open-Top Roll-Off Containers" for the DPW ($5k reimbursed from a grant), $6,600 for "Command Series-1st Line Supervisor Training", $39,220.61 for "Communications Equipment & Accessories, WFD (1 yr BID), $8,000 for "Cement Concrete Mixes & Controlled Low Strength Materials (CLSM) Flowable Fill" (DPW).
The City Council unanimously rejected two WFD BIDS: $10,000 for various new appliances and $860,000 for two new Triple Combo Pumper trucks.