2007-07-03 / Front Page

House leadership blocks Jamestown artists' tax free district

By Tom Shevlin

State Representative Bruce Long (R-Jamestown, Middletown) reported at the June 25 Town Council meeting that House leadership had rejected legislation that would have enabled Jamestown to sanction its own tax-free arts district.

Long, who had submitted the legislation to the House on behalf of the town, said that Finance Chairman Steven M. Costantino (D-Providence) had opposed the legislation because he believed arts districts should be reserved as a development incentive for struggling urban communities.

Long had cautioned during a May council hearing that Costantino had expressed concern that too many tax-free districts were causing a loss of tax revenue for the state.

The legislation, which was held over for further consideration in the House Finance Committee, would have allowed for the formation of a tax free sales district on the island with local authority granted to the town council to determine the project's exact nature and scope.

Similar legislation, which was submitted to the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Teresa Paiva-Weed (D-Jamestown, Newport), had the support of the Senate but was referred to House Finance where it remained.

In addition to Jamestown, several other communities including Block Island, Pawtucket, and South Kingstown had their arts district legislation denied. Currently nine communities throughout the state have such districts including Newport, Little Compton, Westerly, Providence, and Tiverton.

Long also said that both of the town's highway barn bills passed the General Assembly, enabling the town to move forward with construction on the proposed barn site. In addition, he reported that his bill to allow smaller vehicles such as minivans to be used for school transportation passed both houses and is expected to be affirmed by the governor. His bill to reduce the amount spent on out-of-district transportation will be taken up again next year.

In other business, the Town Council:

+ Approved the purchase of a used VAC Truck to maintain the island's catch basins for $37,000. According to DPW Deputy Director Michael Gray, the town currently spends approximately $25,000-$30,000 for about three months each year on outside contractors to clean the town's catch basins. At that rate, the truck is expected to pay for itself within approximately a year and a half, or about four months of actual service.

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