Council members of Hopkinton are speaking out against proposed state legislation that, if approved, would cost the town an estimated $450,000 in tax rebates to solar developers, as well as millions in tax revenue over the next several decades. On Monday evening, the Hopkinton Town Council voted unanimously to send a letter to state representatives opposing House Bill 6676, which was sponsored by three Providence-area representatives in January. The bill would require Rhode Island cities and towns to assess renewable energy resources including solar at set rates, and would prevent communities from reassessing, revaluing or reclassifying any property, except farmland, on which there are renewable energy sources. Retroactively to 2018, this would leave towns liable to provide tax rebates to projects including solar.
Senior Tax Assessor Tiana Zartman reported that over the next five years, Hopkinton would need to refund around $450,000 retroactively. This does not include any future investments Hopkitnon was expecting to get via solar development. Under the bill, the town would be forced to assess all existing property at $3,000 per acre. In some scenarios, if solar developers were able to build on forestry-designated property, that could fall to as low as $115 per acre without the community having any means of reassessing.
Council Vice President Sharon Davis and Councilor Scott Bill Hirst urged local residents to put their political differences aside on the issue and to be vocal against the proposed state legislation. Both indicated in separate, impassioned speeches before the council on Monday that such legislation had been previously rejected in 2021 and has returned despite consistent objection from local communities. The legislation would benefit solar and other renewable energy companies at the cost of Hopkinton’s taxpayers, they said. Davis said the fact that the legislation has come back up should be a wake up call to local communities that the industry is seeking benefits and relief at the cost of the taxpayers and local communities.
The town’s revenues have already fallen “well short of the promised goals”, and based on an updated projections list the community will have collected “only a small percentage of projected revenues provided as justification for the original projects”. This would result in millions of dollars in lost revenues over the course of the next 20 years. Davis and Hirst also encouraged residents to reach out to their elected officials to voice their concerns, as well as asking other communities to do the same.