I, Mindless Taxpayer
There’s that learning curve again. Amidst all of the things that I’ve had to learn as a homeowner (not including carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and so on), it took me until today to realize an important part of my town’s tax structure: In addition to my annual property tax bill for the Town of Tiverton, I pay property taxes to the North Tiverton Fire District. Part of what confused me about the bills is that the NTFD also charges me for my water usage (leading me recently to question why my water bill was so much higher than it ought to have been, because I confused the taxes for the water charge). What’s worse is that the fire district taxes have nothing to do with, you know, the fire department.
According to a 2006 report on Rhode Island Fire Districts (PDF), Tiverton and Portsmouth are the only towns in the state with fire districts that provide “water supply only.” Yet until this year, the North Tiverton rate was just at the average for the state, even as its per-usage water rate (PDF) is well above the average — third highest in the state.
It’s also interesting to note the intramunicipality comparison. North Tiverton is the working-class side of town, but for some reason, its rates are higher all around than those of the Stone Bridge Fire District. Our taxes are $0.62 per $1,000 of property value to their $0.30, and our water costs $5.32 per 1,000 gallons to their $3.90. It may be the case that it is just extremely difficult to get water to residents of North Tiverton, in which case it might be unfair to jack up the prices for the rest of the town, but one would have to break down all town expenditures by fire district in order to see whether it’s fair to break out this particular cost.
Whatever the case, both the additional tax and the cross-town differences bear further research. They also don’t cool my ire about the truly terrible water pressure in my neighborhood.