Outgoing Polisena balances his last Johnston town budget

MAYOR: No tax increase after ‘very good year’


Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena, in his final year as the town’s chief executive, has successfully balanced the town budget without a tax increase.

“We passed the budget,” Polisena said. “No tax increase, and we still maintained all of the services the town provides. We had a very good year.”

In fact, taxes will decrease slightly, according to the unanimously adopted $120,547,767 town budget.

Johnston Town Council and the School Committee, with the help of a big boost in state aid, have agreed to adopt the proposed 2022-23 town budget.

The budget hearing was held on Wednesday, July 13, at the Town of Johnston Municipal Court. Polisena said no town residents, besides elected officials and department heads, attended the meeting.

“I think that’s because people have faith and trust in their government and in their council members,” Polisena said. “It went well. The School Committee seemed to be happy. They got the necessary funds they needed. The state aid increase helped them out. And they were able to shave the budget down.”

The House Finance Committee approved a big boost to local state aid for education in mid-June. Johnston’s slice of the state aid pie grew by at least $756,306 (bringing the state aid total for Johnston Schools to at least $20,507,201).

The boost in state aid was announced the evening of the June 14 School Committee meeting, where Johnston Schools Superintendent Bernard DiLullo Jr. and the elected board were attempting to reconcile a sizeable deficit (around $1.3 million).

“Yes I saw this update last night,” DiLullo said on June 15. “We will verify that number … and this helps a great deal.”

Polisena is serving his final term as mayor of Johnston. Last year, he reluctantly endorsed a small tax increase to cover a deficit in school spending. This year, however, he pledged to reject any recommendations for a tax increase to cover the education deficit.

“I gave them a balanced budget,” Polisena said. “It was my last budget believe it or not.”

Town Council members voted 4-0 (President Robert Russo did not attend the meeting).

“Fast forward, 16 years later, and the town has a strong surplus, our bond rating remains high — it has actually gone up four or five notches. We didn’t use any COVID money or ARPA money.”

Larger cities nearby, like Cranston and Warwick, used sizeable contributions from their allotted ARPA funds. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) provided $350 billion in additional funding to state and local governments.

Johnston received nearly $9 million in federal ARPA funding following the pandemic. Polisena has received Town Council’s blessing to spend the money on three large garages (for the Department of Public Works, Police and Fire departments) and athletics field improvements throughout the town.

“We’re using the ARPA money for infrastructure, and to renovate some fields for all of our sports teams,” Polisena said. “We’ll make a strong investment. We didn’t have to use any ARPA money to fill holes. We have strong numbers. We’ve made cuts. We’ve made sacrifices. The town is in very strong financial shape. With Amazon starting to kick in — Amazon’s going to pay for the bond for the schools — we’re still going to do infrastructure improvements.”

It’s a point of pride for Polisena that Town Hall remained open throughout the pandemic.

“I’m very happy too, that we never closed our doors for five minutes,” Polisena recalled. “Other cities and towns closed for a year. That’s because of the strong workforce and department heads we have here in Johnston. This year we had a very good solid year. And we have been very aggressive with collecting taxes.”

Johnston taxpayers should see a small decrease in their tax bills.

“It’s a 0.05 percent reduction — that’s small, but still a reduction,” Polisena said. “And of course, this year there’s no car tax. This was a good strong financial year for the town; with the responsible growth and development.”

Johnston will decrease its total property tax levy to $72,362,216 in the 2022-23 budget year. The total property tax levy will be $72,400,437 (a 0.05% decrease).

The following tax rates will take affect : Property tax rate of $23.24 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for residential real estate, $28.34 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for commercial real estate and $64.34 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for tangible personal property as compared to the current property tax rates of $23.34 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for residential real estate, $28.34 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for commercial real estate and $64.34 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for tangible personal property, according to legal advertisements purchased by the town.

The town expected to collect $77,852,651 in 2021-22, and expects to only collect $75,754,070 in 2022-23.


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