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Portsmouth Economic Development Committee Holds Revenue Workshop with Town Council

The PEDC held an economic workshop with members of the Town Council on Wednesday.

The Portsmouth Economic Development Committee (PEDC) conducted a workshop with the Town Council on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at Town Hall.

Council members present included Council President Joe Robicheau, Jim Seveney and Keith Hamilton. 

The workshop focused on the PEDC's assessment of Portsmouth's economic conditions. The PEDC is in the process of developing ideas for revenue generation to help offset expected future town budget shortfalls.

Attached at right is a copy of the PowerPoint presentation given at Wednesday's workshop.

Gene Love February 12, 2011 at 05:42 AM
Portsmouth needs to become serious about creating a small business friendly climate in the Town and actively encourage as well as solicit small business. Small Business is and has been the economic backbone of our Country. They create jobs,provide goods and services and help improve the overall wellbeing of a community,including lowering the tax burden on the homeowners. Portsmouth also needs to better manage and control spending,there are limits to how much you can continue to increase taxes and fees.
nun February 12, 2011 at 11:02 AM
Portsmouth was so nice back when it was a little navy and potato farming town. Development has resulted in an influx of people that want nothing but the best in town services even if that means driving up property taxes and running the life long residents out of town. Everything changes I know but it is sad to see the way Portsmouth has gone.
Jeff Lewis February 12, 2011 at 01:09 PM
Hi Nun - I totally understand your point. However, it seems to me that many of the troubles in town are being caused by a separation in perspectives. There are a significant number of people that want to go back to yesteryear - when life was simpler and services were minimized. There are also a large number of people, of which many are imports, that would like to evolve the town. They would like to grow services, create new revenue streams, and align Portsmouth to a newer age. I can't say that either path is right or wrong really. Both have their merits. What I can say is that the town will continue to struggle in its efforts to become a community and move to a better place until people collectively decide to go down 'one' path. It's impossible to have success when people all have different goals. Many people in their late stages of life didn’t economically plan for growth and change, which I hope are something younger generations will learn from. There are solutions, but the town needs to try and come together. If I’d ask anything from our current elected leadership, it would be to try and collaboratively establish a course for Portsmouth. If the town has a strategy to become something, whether minimalist or evolution, people can then understand the decision making and how to better support it. Do we make the town more competitive (education, operational services, etc.), or do we scale back? I'd say the town needs to align to something before we go forward.
Jeff Lewis February 12, 2011 at 01:20 PM
Agreed Gene. The struggle here seems to be that creating the pro-business environment in Portsmouth would take a little investment, both financially and culturally. There are models that would allow this, without placing a heavier burden on the fixed-income portion of our population that may not have financially planned for such an investment. I’m not one for adding cost to the tax base. I do believe that building a stronger economic base here will reduce taxes long-term. The real question is "is this what the majority of Portsmouth really wants?". After seeing recent actions and talking to many people, it seems that there are many people that would rather not have more business - and minimize the cost model in town instead. The majority of the current sitting council ran on a platform that cost was the issue, not extra revenue requirements. They won handily, so I'm not sure what the possibility is of growing small business here. The majority just don't seem to want it. Perhaps I am wrong, but that is the sense I'm getting.
Bill Carson February 12, 2011 at 02:26 PM
The two year anniversary of the high school wind turbine is coming up very shortly. As a matter of fact next month is the second anniversary of Portsmouth High School wind turbine. The Portsmouth Economic Development Committee (PEDC) and the Town Planning Board should soon come out with revenue results. After the bond payments, maintenance contract and the rough patch with the outages with the turbine we'll see how much the town net in comparison to last years profit. Last year the project had exceeded all expectations both in reliability and power output.
Bill Carson February 12, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Should the Town of Portsmouth build a second commercial wind turbine to boost revenues ?Several years ago sixty percent of the town thought this was a great way to increase revenue . The second publicly owned turbine will help offset expected future town budget shortfalls. If the first turbine worked why not another one ?
Ray Berberick February 12, 2011 at 04:56 PM
Gene, Jeff, Bill and future readers: I am a member of the PEDC and we have very recently started some new initiatives in this area. One of the initiatives is we have just created the Revenue Generation Subcommittee (RGSC). The mission of the RGSC is to bring new revenue into the town within a relatively short time frame - about five years. It is not about raising taxes or creating new fees. What the RGSC will do is interview scores if not hundreds of people, do research, enlist the support of local and state agencies and do a lot more to create a series of action steps that are designed to bring in new revenue. The actions steps created by the RGSC will undergo review by the whole PEDC and then conduct a town workshop on these before going to the Town Council with the final list. I am the chair of the RGSC and would welcome your participation as well as the participation of anyone who wishes to join the RGSC. In fact, this is the next step - to get members. Then the RGSC will meet regularly going forward. Anyone who would like to join the RGSC, contact me at 682-2007 or email me at rberberick@cs.com.
Chris C February 12, 2011 at 07:35 PM
How much revenue are we trying to gain and how will this affect our taxes or services? The town has added the wind turbine, a luxury high-rise building, and many new properties but our taxes continue to increase and we still don't even have curbside trash pickup. The increase in tax revenue from those items I've listed probably is greater than what 20 new small businesses would provide. What is the goal and what would be the cost and benefits?
Ray Berberick February 12, 2011 at 07:45 PM
Those are great questions and the purpose of the work the committee will do is to define what are goals are, answer those questions and a lot more. I invite you to join the committee. Regards, Ray
Ray Berberick February 12, 2011 at 07:54 PM
Chris: one quick answer is that one of the draft goals I have is to raise revenue to take some of the pressure off of raising taxes and maintaining services. Once we have the committee up and running, we will establish and define goals using SMART metrics, we will discuss these in detail, and create, define and discuss all other goals and ideas. After a period of time, we will select a manageable number of goals we can reasonably expect to accomplish. We will likely have a public workshop on these. Then, with the full PEDC, submit these to the Town Council for support/approval and action. Lots of details to work out. But the time has come to bring in revenue in a smart, realistic manner that will help us all. Ray
Bill Carson February 12, 2011 at 09:39 PM
Ray , How many draft goals do you have and would a second commercial wind turbine larger than the high school turbine bring in more revenue? Chris brought up the point that taxes continue to rise and there are no extensions of current town services.
Joe Sousa. February 12, 2011 at 11:36 PM
I believe a lot of the problems in the budgets across the state are a direct result of the legislature. Unfunded mandates and excessive regulation have raised our property- state taxes and hurt local business. Only as a collective can RI recover from this situation. Cities and Towns can reduce red tape by reduced annual licensing and going to multiple year licenses . The State has added regulation after regulation raising the cost of business . I don't need to tell the Business people this. For those who do not own or operate a business it is costly and time consuming. To make Portsmouth business friendly we need to make the state friendly. Ask your Rep's to end the state unfunded mandates. Ask them to only vote on budgets that fund education.
Ray Berberick February 13, 2011 at 04:26 AM
Bill: We are literally in the embryonic stages of this effort. I have already collected several ideas from some folks in town to use as a starting point to begin the "ideation" phase of our work. There are no formal draft goals at this point. That is what we will do in committee. There are no hidden agendas here. All ideas will be discussed and culled down to a realistic list. The work the PEDC did in 2009 from the two workshops indicated preferences to "maintain the town character." We are aware of the lessons learned from the Target. The RGSC will work hard to take all of these factors and more into consideration as we proceed. The concept of a second turbine could be one of those ideas. Don't know yet. The work that we plan to do over the next six to twelve months can explore this option in detail. It may or may not make the final list. Love to have you on the committee. Call me at 682-2007. Ray
Ray Berberick February 13, 2011 at 04:32 AM
Joe: Good thoughts. In our regular PEDC meetings, these issues come up. Although a little beyond the mandate of the RGSC, I envision making separate lists of issues like these to pass them on to other groups for action. For example, if there are any ideas that have merit, but the time frame is longer than five years, then we can pass those ideas along to the Strategic Planning Subcommitee. Similarly, when our committee work identifies issues like these, and having enough supporting information, we can pass the results to our State Senator and Representative for consideration and action. I like your thinking. Consider joining us. Call me at 682-2007.
Joe Sousa. February 13, 2011 at 11:36 AM
Ray, I am a resident of Tiverton. My parents live in the park where I grew up. My interest is there financial security. Like many they live on a fixed income retirement. I do hope a dialog between all the towns can continue. There are things we can save money on. A regional approach to town services is obtainable. I would like to see councils talking about a Newport County Police Fire and Public works department. There is no reason to have multiple directors and chiefs. We could save millions with a consolidation. People have to loose the parochial position of local control. We are one state and one country. The school systems need a similar approach. The administrative costs rob dollars that should go to class room instruction. We just waste way to much money.
albert February 14, 2011 at 08:40 PM
Respectfully, I can appreciate the research that shows businesses are less of a "burden" on the town than residential development. However, if you look at Middletown there is every type of business from big box to small business, and their taxes go up every year. They have never gone down. I know residential property owners that tell me this is the case. I am skeptical that I would actually see my property taxes go down if we saw an influx of business development. I know that Portsmouth is much more developed in the last 20 years and the taxes to my knowledge, have not decreased.
Ray Berberick February 14, 2011 at 09:28 PM
Response to Albert: Those are very good points. So, the starting point for one discussion in committee would be that both residential and business development have not necessarily reduced the tax burden. Then, using that as a basis for discussion, what ideas can we generate that will bring in new revenue without raising taxes and implementing new fees (not including new residential and commercial development)? Very, very tough question. The committee will work to create new ideas and use resources to find out what other towns have done to answer this question. I welcome your thoughts. Consider joining the newly formed Revenue Generation Subcommittee. Feel free to call me at 682-2007. Thanks. Ray

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