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The Backwards Way to a Tax Rate

Question: How does Tiverton’s tax rate compare with the towns around it?

An early surprise for people as they begin to keep track of government budgeting is that the tax rate is almost an afterthought.

Families have to figure out what they expect to earn and then set their budgets on that basis. Governments can tell people how much they’re going to pay if they want to keep their homes and stay out of jail, so officials have learned to think differently.

First, they figure out how much money they will need or want.  Then, they divide that up across the total property value of the town.  And last, they tell the people what their tax rate will be.

It ought to be the other way around.  After all, if people were focused on their tax rate, then the town government would have incentive to make property values higher.  It’s one thing if your taxes go up because your house is worth more; it’s another thing when government automatically raises the rates when everybody’s property is suddenly worth less.

The following map shows Tiverton’s current tax rate compared with those of the surrounding cities and towns for fiscal year 2015.  With the exception of Warren, every nearby tax rate is lower… and by a lot.

taxratemap-fy15-800px

At Tiverton’s rate, the annual tax bill on a $250,000 house would be $4,825.   The owner of a house with the same value in Westport would only pay $1,983.  That’s an extra $2,842 per year to spend, invest, save, or do something else productive with your money.

Don’t forget, by the way, that that’s before paying a fire district tax and (coming our way) a wastewater district tax.

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Justin Katz

Justin Katz, Vice President of the Tiverton Town Council, is a writer and researcher focusing on Rhode Island policy and politics. For more about Justin, see our About page. justin@justinkatz.com (401) 835-7156.

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