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NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The North Kingstown Town Council voted to lower the homestead exemption to five percent for the upcoming fiscal year at the town manager’s suggestion at their meeting Monday night.

Town manager Ralph Mollis said that last year the council addressed concerns about the adverse effects property revaluation could have for homeowners due to the rise in value of residential real estate going up faster than that of commercial real estate. The homestead exemption allows for a tax break for those who actually live in the home that they own rather than renting it out as a business.

Mollis said that there were several options but that he recommended that the exemption be set lower along with the tax rate, rather than raising the exemption and tax rates together.

“Rather than set the exemption high and increase the tax rate, I recommended to set the exemption low and lower the tax rate,” Mollis said. “The reason for that is because a number of residents, hundreds if not more, failed to meet the March 15 deadline. As a result they will have an adverse effect because their taxes will be higher than if they’d actually applied for the homestead.”

In order to help residents who failed to apply for this year’s homestead exemptions, Mollis said that the town will be accepting applications for next year’s homestead exemptions as soon as the city has finished distributing this year’s tax bills. Due to the thousands of applications for this fiscal year, Mollis said that there is no way to accept applications any earlier because new applications would get mixed up with older ones.

Also Monday, Council Member Kerry McKay responded to a lawsuit that has been brought against the zoning board of appeal by a group of citizens regarding Wickford Elementary School.

“Wickford Elementary School is now on its third iteration,” McKay said. “We’ve been [trying for] ten years to get this project off the ground. It’s the same people over and over again who are blocking all the projects. Now this one’s in a court of law. I think everybody — and this council should take it under consideration because I probably won’t be here myself when this comes back — should know that sooner or later that building is going to become a hazard if we don’t allow a project to take place here.”

Town Solicitor Matthew Callaghan said that while there is no way to expedite the legal process, there will be no more testimony or anything of that nature. Callaghan said that the only remaining work on the case is a review by the judge of the findings by the zoning board.

“I think the taxpayers need to know we’ve spent a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of energy,” McKay said. “I just think it’s important to get the people behind this, the taxpayers behind this and supporting this is a good idea or this building is going to go away.”

In other business:

* Mollis said that the parades committee will be hosting the annual Memorial Day commemoration on Monday, May 30. The festivities will begin at 9 a.m. with a wreath laying ceremony in Veteran’s Memorial Park followed by a parade at 10 a.m. starting at Wilson Park before heading over to the grounds of Elmgrove Cemetery at 11 a.m.

Mollis said that all residents are invited to a hot dog roast immediately after the ceremonies at the First Baptist Church of North Kingstown, located at 1135 Tower Hill Road.

“I’d like to get our thanks out to the parades committee for their efforts in organizing this annual commemoration,” Mollis said. “I know we’ve all attended it in the past, and it really is something to see and a great way for the community to get involved.”

* The town of Wickford has been nominated for “best small town travel award.” Mollis said that those interested can vote for Wickford at 10best.com/awards to help improve its chances of winning.

Council President Greg Mancini encouraged all residents to vote daily to increase Wickford’s ranking. “I vote once a day on my phone and once a day on my computer,” Mancini said.

The town council’s next meeting will be held on June 13 at 7 p.m. at the Beechwood Senior Center on Beach St.

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