Let’s Not Forget the Larger Problem
Tiverton resident Jay Lambert makes a good point in a letter in the latest edition of the Sakonnet Times:
According to Mr. Medeiros, the lack of a contract with the teachers “is actually the result of the union refusing to accept the (financial) challenges we all face.” This seems to be the view of several members on the Town Council.
Stated bluntly, the teachers shouldn’t get a raise because of the town’s financial mess. I think we can all fairly assume that the town’s financial mess certainly will not affect the salary of Mr. Medeiros, or anyone else on the Town Council. So much for challenges we all face.
By coincidence, at the Dec. 17 meeting, the town administrator presented a town-side proposal budget that represents a 13.5 percent increase from last year. And we haven’t even heard about the school-side budget. Doesn’t Mr. Medeiros’ argument really beg some questions? How did we get into this financial mess? Why are town officials talking to themselves about skyrocketing tax increases for the indefinite future? Why don’t we have a broadened tax base? Why don’t we have more commercial and industrial properties instead of the boarded-up buildings, empty storefronts and “for sale” signs on Main Road? At present, we can’t even get a grocery store to move into our town. Most importantly, what are our elected officials doing to get us out of this mess?
I’d suggest that it is not, actually, fair of Mr. Lambert to assume that the council members are not affected by the town’s problems. It’s a part-time council, don’t forget, and I don’t believe (although I could be wrong) that it comes with a pay check.
But that slight adjustment has no effect on the larger point: Restraining the teachers’ union has to be one component of the solution to budget problems. Municipal leaders can’t expect standing symbolically firm against it to suffice.
Admittedly, I multitask at the Town Council meetings, so I periodically miss a word or two, but I’ve yet to hear the word “relief” spoken with respect to local taxpayers, although I have heard it stated as simple fact that lower property values, and the subsequently lower property tax revenue, require tax rates to be raised.
Townspeople contribute to the local atmosphere, too, of course, and we’ve all got an obligation to figure out ways to make our town as safe a haven as it will be possible to find during Rhode Island’s coming Dark Era. I’ve faith in at least some of the councilors to listen.