A Short History of Property Taxes in East Greenwich

One subject sure to generate a lot of discussion is that of property taxes. Did you know that the East Greenwich Free Library has property tax records for East Greenwich from 1880 to 1970?


These are in the form of an annual publication called the “East Greenwich Tax Book”. For the years through 1970, these were published in the form of a small pamphlet that lists the valuation and real estate property tax paid for every parcel on the tax roll for that year.

Beginning in 1971, the official tax records were produced by computer, and are available at the Town Clerk’s office in the form of large bound volumes of computer printouts.

Screenshot from 2018-03-08 23-11-00.png
The plot is to scale, so the graph gives some perspective on the size of last year’s tax cut, which appears in the last data point.  You can also see the effect of incorporating the fire district, which is five points back from the end. Prior to the last five data points, the value is the town rate and does not include the fire district.  The last five points include the fire district.

The graph above is a plot of the property tax rate by year from 1940 through 2018.

A couple of features are worth pointing out. First, the tax rate (what we pay in taxes for each $100 or, more recently, $1,000 in assessed property value) is just about where it was in 1940, when the Tax Book shows a rate of $2.40 per $100. This is not much different from the 2018 rate of $23.66 per $1,000.

In between, though, there have been large swings in the tax rate. Property values are adjusted to reflect market values on a three-year revaluation cycle, and the cyclical behavior of the real estate market has a very strong influence on the tax rate, as does new construction.

Surprisingly, our current tax rate is low by historical standards, at least over this period.


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