Mayor Smiley’s FY24 Budget: A Focused Agenda for Providence

 Mayor Smiley’s FY24 Budget: A Focused Agenda for Providence
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Proposed FY24 budget improves city services and tackles biggest challenges ahead

PROVIDENCE, RI— 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 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.”

The Budget Speech as it was prepared below:


A Focused Agenda for Providence
39th Mayor of Providence Brett P. Smiley 2023 Budget Speech


Madam Council President, honorable members of the City Council, State Senators and Representatives, Department Directors, community partners and fellow residents of our great City of Providence – I am pleased to be here with you this evening to present my proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

When I took office, I promised our residents a City Hall focused on providing excellent city services, investments that will improve their quality of life, and a focused agenda that will ensure a stable economy for our future.

I also called on every member of our community—many of you in this room and tuning in tonight—to be a part of the process, to stay engaged and, as often as possible, to share the great stories that happen daily within our city.

I believe that the work we have ahead to make Providence the best-run city in America is guided by meaningful community engagement, and I have been delighted by the amount of people who have taken us up on that call.

Before our first week was over, we announced our Education Workshop that gathered Providence students, parents, educators, and community members to discuss how we can improve learning opportunities outside the classroom, invest in our school facilities and better prepare for Providence Public Schools to return to local control. My administration will now be using that information—your voices and your lived experiences—to guide our decisions in these three key areas.

At the next opportunity, we asked you to provide input on who will be our next Chief of Police. Through this process, you told us which issues are the most important to our community, you showed up in droves to hear from the top candidates, and together, we welcomed our 39th Chief of Police Oscar Perez. Colonel Perez, please stand.

And when that process was complete, we asked you again, to weigh in on the quality of our city services so that we can take a critical look at how to best serve you. Over the course of a month, thousands of you responded, weighing in on which services you used the most and which you felt needed the most improvement. This work has helped us reinvigorate our City Services office, and through this budget we will build a new 3-1-1 system that is efficient for staff and user-friendly for you.

In the last 113 days, you have helped guide us in how to make City Hall an asset to every resident and business owner within our 20 square miles. I want to thank you for getting involved and for trusting in our Administration to get the job done.

Quality City Services
Now, we are going to get Providence back on track and build a focused agenda.

In this Administration, remaining focused will look like simple services being prioritized and done efficiently, on-time, every time. Shortly after she started, our Department of Public Works Director Patricia Coyne-Fague heard from a constituent that no one had ever followed up on her concerns. So she took a walk with that constituent to see what they needed in their neighborhood. Our Public Property Director, Jon Martin, has met with constituents to hear about how we can better address their concerns related to graffiti in our neighborhoods. Our Director of City Services Norelys Consuegra, has visited almost every neighborhood association and helps constituents get connected to the right city services, or the right level of government, every day. Our Parks Director Wendy Nilsson is driving a team of dedicated staff members that clean our parks daily and are always finding innovative ways to connect neighborhoods through our greenspaces. I would like to ask all of our Directors to please stand. Can we give them a round of applause for their work?

That is the kind of hands-on, on-the-ground work we’re committed to and exactly the kind of high quality customer service you can expect to see out of City Hall.

And while we work to improve city 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 in our great city. In the next few years, we will build new units across all price points, improve the quality of housing in existing units available and help people break cycles of homelessness by providing wraparound services in new, accessible, low-income and affordable housing. The budget I am presenting tonight seeks to provide relief to renters who we know have carried the impact of our high commercial taxes. We know too many of our neighbors are burdened by high rent. These properties will see a $1,900 decrease in their taxes annually which should be passed on to their renters.

This budget also proposes a new housing support coordinator who will work with our partners to provide the appropriate level of response to people who may not have a home—many of whom are also living with mental health or substance use disorders. This position will work across departments to ensure that as a city, we are coordinated in our response to this housing crisis. And we are also budgeting for an increase to Amos House, for their Hand Up program that provides employment opportunities to residents across our community who may be experiencing homelessness.

In addition to this program, Amos House has been working every day since last December to support our neighbors in need at the Cranston Street Armory. Eileen and her team have been there for our community, responding to changing needs throughout every step of this crisis. Her team has stepped up, serving in whatever roles are necessary, and we are so grateful for their work in our city. Eileen, please stand, and let us thank you and your hardworking staff.

In this budget, we are still investing in the right things to improve the local quality of life in every neighborhood. I am also taking this same approach to investing in recreation and making our out-of school time resources more accessible for our families.

We need to continue investing in education and recreation while we plan for a responsible and successful transition back to local control of our schools. We have heard loud and clear from community members that we need to better communicate and market our afterschool and summer programs for our students. So that every child and family understands their options for robust learn and play opportunities right in their own neighborhood.

That’s why this budget continues investments and increases resources to these programs, like PASA and our city recreation centers where so many of our youth connect with adults who care deeply about their success. Under the leadership of our new Recreation Director Stephen Grace, we are better connecting those opportunities and through this budget we will be able to better promote them to our community. I hope that you will join our team, hundreds of providers and partners and thousands of youth and families this Saturday at PCTA for our Summer Opportunities Fair.

This is how we move forward, together, as a community—by offering our residents high-quality city services and taking consistent steps forward in improving our education system. Let’s take the next step forward by also strengthening public safety and supports in our public spaces.

Safer City
I am incredibly proud of the progress we’ve been able to make in Kennedy Plaza in just four months. Data tells us we were experiencing an increase of illegal drugs and overdoses. But by working across agencies- the Department of Health, RIPTA and the Governor’s Office- we were able to increase our public safety presence during peak hours so that everyone in our Downtown neighborhood feels safer. We’ve made Naloxone more accessible to those who need it most, and through the work of partners like WeberRenew, we are providing direct support to folks struggling with substance use disorder. This is just one example of how my Administration is committed to working across agencies to address our biggest challenges—increasing public safety and providing better services and supports.

The trust our police department is consistently working to build within our community is also what will make our ATV strategy successful. Our new Community Response Team will be using investigative resources and information from the community to proactively stop riders from reaching our streets, endangering themselves and endangering others. And when ATVs and illegal dirt bikes are out in the street, Providence Police will respond, stop them and hold them accountable for all the danger they present to our city. In just three weeks, our Community Response Team has seized 34 unregistered, illegal vehicles from our streets and we are just getting started.

I look forward to working closely with Colonel Perez and our leadership team to continue to make progress on this and the other public safety challenges we are facing. But to do so, we need to recruit and hire into the Providence Police Department. In this budget, we are requesting funding for a new Police Academy that would bring 30 officers onto the force by October, and bring another 40 into the pipeline for the following spring. And we need to provide these officers better technology to do their jobs well, like enforcing our noise ordinances.

Throughout my campaign, I have heard what a problem sound is in our city. Whether it is loud night clubs, modified mufflers, or ATVs—we need to do a better job of respecting and enforcing our own sound rules. This budget increases enforcement, technology and the training that our staff needs, and will hopefully finally provide relief to our neighborhoods.

We are building a Providence that our residents will be proud to call home by prioritizing the issues that make their lives better.

Recession Readiness
In addition to setting a focused agenda, when I took office, I took a serious look at every facet of the City’s spending.

What I found was clear: our current system is not sustainable.

In the last three years, one-time federal funding was used to cover budget gaps that now exist without a permanent solution. And just last year, taxes were cut to historic lows, making Providence the 8th lowest property tax rate in the state, even though we service the most people and nearly half of the land is tax exempt.

We are likely on the brink of a recession, and relying on irresponsibly low tax rates will not prepare us for what’s ahead.

That’s why in addition to a commercial tax decrease, we are also proposing a modest increase to our residential property tax rate, which will still make Providence the 11th lowest in the state. These changes keep us competitive with other communities and ensure that our city has a solid foundation for whatever may come.

This budget shifts us away from reliance on one-time federal dollars being used to fund annual expenses, accounts for a large tax appeal settlement that we inherited, and it fully funds our pension payment which continue to increase by 5 percent every year.

Together, these decisions will set the city up for success over the long-term. But we are also doing our part to sustainably grow the city’s tax base.

A critical part of the city’s ability to balance its budget lie in the payments in lieu of taxes that we receive from major anchor institutions. For the first time in twenty years, the city has the opportunity to redefine its relationship with these important stakeholders.

This is a top priority of my Administration.

Negotiating PILOT payments that address the demand these big nonprofits have on our city services is an issue of basic fairness and they will have an impact on our city finances for generations to come. That’s why in addition to negotiating PILOT payments, we are also pursuing legislation to compensate the city for instances where meds and eds buy buildings and lease them to for-profit entities while being granted tax exemptions. We have also asked the State to provide us a portion of new payroll taxes whenever these institutions grow—so that instead of fighting their growth, we can benefit from it.

The City needs these funds, in order to keep paying our bills on time, and to provide the high-quality city services we all deserve. The meds & eds also need Providence to be a city where students, doctors, researchers and their employees want to be.

I am more confident than ever that we are putting Providence on the right track.

A Look Ahead
We continue to see bond rating increases, most recently Moody’s Investor Services upgrading Providence to an A3 status.

We have built an incredibly talented team of city officials that are dedicated to making Providence the best run city in America,

And we are prepared to take on the difficult challenges that impact Providence and so many cities across the nation: like housing and growing in the new economy.

Because so many of you took me up on it the last time, I want to renew my ask: please stay engaged. We want to hear from you on how we can make Providence a world-class city. I am incredibly proud of the budget we are putting forward today because our community members helped shape it. And there will certainly be more opportunities for you to weigh in and use your voice.

In the years to come, Providence will grow sustainably, and businesses will flourish.

With this budget, I am proud to say that Providence is focused on the right issues.

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