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NBC 10 I-Team: Volunteer told to resign after car tax post

Tony Soly took to Facebook when he questioned his car tax bill.

The NBC 10 I-Team learned a North Smithfield man who questioned his car tax bill on his Facebook page was told to resign from the town's Parks and Recreation Committee as a result.

Tony Soly received a letter requesting his resignation from Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton a few days after he posted, "Can someone explain to me how my motor vehicle tax for the Town of North Smithfield increased this yearMy wife's 2008 VW Jetta increased in value per the town. They say for the 13/14 tax roll it was worth $8,135 but for the 14/15 tax roll it is worth $10,059, almost a $3,000 increase in value"

The post hit a nerve, with dozens of comments from other North Smithfield taxpayers.

"I asked a simple question," Soly said. "Could someone please tell me how the town of North Smithfield is assessing me $3,000 higher than the previous year?"

The NBC 10 I-Team has reported extensively on the problem of older cars with taxable values that somehow increase as the cars age. Taxpayers across Rhode Island have turned to NBC 10 after receiving car tax bills they believe are unfair and illogical.

Rhode Island's policy of using the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) clean retail value is the culprit. Clean retail value is the price a dealer might ask for a car, not the price a car owner could actually get for selling the vehicle.

The letter Soly received from the town administrator reads in part, "It has come to my attention that your posts on Facebook are not very complimentary to the Tax Assessor and the Town regarding your motor vehicle tax."

The letter continues, "As a result of the post, I am requesting your resignation from the Parks and Recreation Committee. We are looking for residents to support the Town and move it forward. Comments that negatively impact have no place on the team."

"I was shocked that she felt my post was negative," Soly said. "I would hope that the administrator's office would encourage dialogue and free thought."

After we talked to Soly, the NBC 10 I-Team went to North Smithfield Town Hall.

"If you're going to volunteer for the town, you should really be promoting it in a positive way. Call me crazy," said Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton.

Hamilton said she agrees Soly is entitled to his opinion. But she said a Facebook post was the wrong forum to address the car tax concerns.

"I was offended by the tone of the [post]," she said.

Soly runs the town's youth basketball league as a volunteer and recently volunteered for the Parks and Recreation Committee.

He said he was fed up with the town's response and originally resigned as the letter requested. But he later rescinded his resignation and still hopes to serve North Smithfield.

"I feel I have a value to that committee," he said.

Hamilton said if Soly still wants to volunteer, she won't stand in his way.

"We'll be embracing him and hope that we can all work together," she said.

She also said she and other local leaders are working with the governor's office to solve the car tax crisis once and for all.

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