Tuesday, April 25, 2023
Mayor Brett P. Smiley today delivered his budget address for fiscal year 2024 to the Providence City Council, local leaders and community members. The proposed budget reflects the Mayor’s top priorities: investing in city services, providing robust education opportunities, improving neighborhood safety and ensuring Providence has a sustainable economic future.
“This is a focused agenda for Providence that invests in the right things and sets us on solid financial ground,” said Mayor Brett Smiley. “I am incredibly proud of the progress my Administration has made across these key priorities in the last four months. This budget makes the city less reliant on one-time federal funding, prepares us for the growing possibility of a recession and allows us to continue making the critical quality-of-life investments we need while tackling some of our biggest challenges, like housing. I look forward to working with the City Council to get this fair and balanced budget passed.”
In previous years, property taxes have been cut to historic lows, where Providence had the 8th lowest property rate in the state although nearly half the land in the city is tax-exempt, and Providence commercial rates are the highest in the state. Additionally, one-time federal funding was used to cover budget gaps and federal funds are required to be allocated by the end of 2024. Mayor Smiley’s proposed budget would decrease commercial rates by 3.7 percent in an effort to provide rent relief to the many families that reside in commercially taxed buildings. Residential tax rates will see a modest increase of 90 cents, still making Providence the 11th lowest residential property tax in Rhode Island and offering homeowners a 40 percent homestead exemption.
“When I took office, I took a serious look at every facet of the City’s spending and what I found was clear: our current system was not sustainable,” said Mayor Brett Smiley. “The proposed changes would rebalance the City’s tax rates, refocus the use of federal dollars and prepare us for a possible recession.”
The city began negotiating its payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements earlier this year. While continuing negotiations, the Administration is pursuing two pieces of legislation—a commercial property tax and a payroll tax— to sustainably expand its tax base. The commercial property tax seeks to compensate the City for instances where these large institutions buy buildings and lease them to for-profit entities while being granted tax exemptions. The payroll tax seeks to provide Providence directly with a portion of new payroll taxes whenever these institutions grow.
“The City needs these funds, in order to keep paying our bills on time and to provide the high-quality services we all deserve,” said Mayor Brett Smiley. “But equally, the meds & eds also need Providence to be a city where students, doctors, researchers and their employees want to be. We will continue negotiating in the months ahead and I look forward to reaching a new agreement that meets both of our needs.”
Mayor Smiley’s proposed FY24 budget prioritizes efficiently delivering critical city services. Funding is proposed to improve litter removal ($300,000), graffiti removal ($222,000), sidewalk improvements ($193,000) and an increase in Downtown and park space ($25,000), so that the city is clean and welcoming for all residents, students, businesses and visitors. It also includes a $100,000 investment for a new, modern 3-1-1 system to better track, report and resolve constituent requests. These are key investments in making Providence the best-run city in America.
The proposed budget strengthens Providence’s public health and safety strategy by recruiting more Providence Police officers and updating the licensing enforcement team’s technology so staff will be better equipped to address concerns like noise violations. The budget includes investments for two training academies that will bring up to 80 new officers to the Department over the next year. Additionally, the proposed budget includes $3.1 million in new investments for two fire academies, so the Providence Fire Department has adequate staffing levels.
Aligned with Mayor Smiley’s belief that we need to continue to invest in education, the Administration has made targeted funding increases in departments and community partners that will enhance out-of-school learning time. The proposed budget increases investment in the Providence After School Alliance by 10 percent ($385,000 total); increases its investment in the Recreation Department by 5 percent ($150,000) to focus on community engagement and infrastructure repair; and supports summer learning ($580,000) and EAT, PLAY, LEARN PVD that offers hundreds of youth employment and low-cost summer recreation opportunities.
“All throughout my campaign and since getting in office, our community members have been clear that they need better city services, they want to feel safe and need better access to out-of-school time opportunities,” said Mayor Brett Smiley. “Their feedback has greatly shaped these investments and together we are taking a step forward in building a better, safer city.”
Due to the ongoing housing crisis affecting communities across the country, Mayor Smiley is also proposing a new housing support coordinator who will work with community partners to provide the appropriate level of response to people who may not have a home—many of whom live with mental health challenges or substance use disorders. This position will work across City departments to ensure a coordinated response to this housing crisis. Additionally, this budget contains a 25 percent increase to the City’s funding of the Amos House’s “A Hand Up” program that provides workforce opportunities to individuals experiencing homelessness.
“While we work to improve services, we will also commit to tackling some of the biggest challenges our city faces—like ensuring that all people who want to live in Providence can find a home here,” said Mayor Brett Smiley. “We are incredibly grateful for the work Eileen Hayes and her team at Amos House continue to do as we work to improve access to affordable housing and supporting individuals in breaking cycles of homelessness.”
Mayor Smiley’s full proposed FY24 budget will be posted online at openbudget.providenceri.gov and is subject to approval by the Providence City Council.
“In the years to come, Providence will grow sustainably and business will flourish,” said Mayor Smiley. “With this budget, I am proud to say that Providence is focusing on the right issues.”
Mayor's Budget Address (English) Mayor's Budget Address (Spanish)