URI professor to set national property tax agenda

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 874-7892

Grant funds effort to identify research, education priorities

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 5, 2003 — “Property taxes are the major source of public revenues for many communities, but sometimes when those communities try to encourage development to reduce the tax burden on their residents, it backfires and the residents end up paying more in taxes and other costs,” said Marshall Feldman, a professor of community planning at the University of Rhode Island.

He uses the example of the fierce competition among communities to attract commercial development. “Communities seek that development in an effort to reduce taxes, but those developments sometimes create sprawl or compete with existing companies or have other negative effects that don’t necessarily bring in the net amount of taxes that were originally expected.”

Situations like these suggest that better education of community planners and additional research are needed.

So the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy — the leading organization concerned with taxation and land policy in the U.S. — asked Feldman to set the national agenda for research and education initiatives related to property taxes, planning and development. The project will last up to three years with a budget of up to $115,000.

“Many planners have only the foggiest notion of economics and taxation,” Feldman said. “But they have to be very sensitive to property taxes in everything they do because every project they pursue could affect the structure of local property taxes.”

Feldman’s project will begin with a survey and analysis of the current state of planning education as it relates to property taxes. He will also develop new course materials and create model curricula so knowledge about property taxes can be better integrated into lesson plans.

“Planning schools are very diverse, so we can’t create a one-size-fits-all curriculum,” said the Wakefield resident.

Feldman also plans to create a new textbook and conduct a series of workshops to teach educators how to use the materials he will be creating.
He will also survey the existing property tax research to identify the gaps and determine where to focus future research dollars. The URI professor expects that there will be a need for additional research into the relationship between property taxes and demographics, and between property taxes and other taxes, as well as on the impact property taxes have on economic development. He also believes further research is needed on payments in lieu of taxes, fairness, and cross-jurisdictional issues.

“I also hope to be able to spin off other research projects out of this grant to address local issues,” Feldman said. “Property taxes are a big issue in Rhode Island, and I’d like to be able to do a more sophisticated analysis of taxes in Providence and in other communities in the state. As a small state, Rhode Island’s capacity for analysis of public policy issues is woefully limited. Ultimately, we want to increase the level of sophistication of Rhode Island’s planners and other policy makers regarding property taxes.”

For Further Information: Marshall Feldman 874-5953