Building the Cleansing Fire in Tiverton
Life kept me away from Tiverton’s Financial Town Meeting, Wednesday night, although to be honest, I suspected that I would have been one of the few not falling into line in response to town official arguments such as the following:
… since Mr. Cotta and other officials said that legally the school budget cannot be cut below what it was for this year, that shifts much of the burden to the municipal side. …
In addition to the town’s obligation to pay the bond debt, Mr. Cotta said the town has employee contracts that must be honored. Other legal requirements were mentioned, such as public safety minimum staffing requirements in the police and fire departments, which will have to be dealt with.
As it turns out, however, the voice of the majority is such as would warm the hearts of most Anchor Rising readers:
“Let’s make a stand and tell the state we can’t take it anymore,” said Joe Sousa.
“How about cutting some services,” added Tom Morse. “I don’t care, I would suggest you start talking about cutting.” …
And Roger Bennis, who supported the cuts, said, he cares less about where the cuts are made than that it happen. “I don’t have any specific recommendations. I am looking to send a message.”
Shouting “no,” the voters signaled that they would not approve the final $2 million of the Budget Committee’s proposed $30 million tax levy. …
Joe Sousa asked fellow voters to “send a message upstate” that the town’s taxpayers reject unfunded state mandates, particularly those related to the schools, like the education of special-needs students.
“We can’t afford it any more,” Sousa said.
“The prices we’re paying to send these children to school are outrageous,” he said.
And from this week’s Sakonnet Times Web Words:
Who should be surprised with the pay and benefits they give out. Who else in this world gets to retire at 45, like cops and fire, or 55 like teachers and get almost full pay for life — and we pay and pay. The benefits we throw around are crazy.
And a letter from Tiverton resident Chris Hart:
In regards to Tiverton’s exhorbitant proposed tax hike, all I can say is NO,NO,NO!
Perhaps it is time that we take a good accounting of all our town services, with no exceptions. The police, fire, and water departments are all equiped with new vehicles, which I frequently see being used for personal uses (unless the Moose Cafe, Barcellos, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc. are having water trouble, high crime rates, or fires on a daily basis? )
With the ever increasing fuel prices, a crackdown on all this running around to pick up lunches, coffee, and the like is in order. Hopefully, with all the taxes we are already paying there is someone under contract to keep track of all these expenditures.
Returning to the first link, above, one finds the spreading of a necessary crack in Rhode Island’s corrupt veneer:
That prospect [that the money will reductions largely come from the municipal side of the budget] upset Bob Martin, a town maintenance worker and head of the town employees union.
“What we’re talking about is the gross waste in the schools,” he said.
It looks, however, as if sympathetic townies may not have the luxury of continuing to remain in the shadows, because the local government will probably try again:
When the town meeting does reconvene, Mr. Cotta said Thursday, the budget committee could recommend more than one budget, for example the original one recommended at last night’s meeting and another reflecting $2 million in cuts. Parliamentary requirements would have to be met, he said.
“We can present more than one budget as long as we have the same or more than the number in attendance when we do as were present when the original vote was taken,” he said. The quorum present at the time (approximately 9 p.m.) the vote was taken last night is thought to be close to what it was (437 voters) when the meeting was called to order at 7:20 p.m. The total vote on the motion was 406 voting, with 151 yeas and 255 nays. Mr. Cotta said people he knows of who voted on the prevailing side could move to reconsider, and thus bring the recommended measure back again that was rejected last night.
One can only hope that the peremptory and condescending tone of officials won’t go unnoticed:
“What we saw were people angry at the oil companies; people who were angry at oil heating costs,” [Town Council President Louise] Durfee said.
With the price of gasoline approaching $4 a gallon, they were saying, “this is not something that we can control. Let’s take it out on the powers that be,” Durfee said.
But voters did not think through the consequences, Durfee said. ..
[School Committee Chairwoman Denise] DeMedeiros said yesterday, “I do take offense” at the notion “that this was some kind of underhanded thing that we got that bond,” deMedeiros said.
“It’s disturbing to me that they’re telling us we didn’t do due diligence,” she said. …
“People just don’t like the tax,” she said. “Maybe some people weren’t paying attention.” …
… when extra money trickled in, it went to the general fund, helping to replenish monies used to offset taxes, [Budget Committee chairman Christopher Cotta] said.
But there has been no such cushion in the last two years, when the town exceeded the state limit on tax increases, Cotta said, and the general fund has dwindled to about $1,266,000.
That amount is barely enough to meet a requirement of the Town Charter that the town maintain reserves equivalent to 3 percent of its operating budget.
Cotta said, “you got the benefit of the $900,000 (from the general fund) in your taxes this year. Now you want to cry about it.”
- Odd that our elected officials are responding to the night’s democratically expressed voice as a personal rebuke rather than a direct instruction from the people who are ultimately in charge.
- Curious — as much as the lower economic waters may have brought the rapids’ rocks into sharper relief — that our elected officials remark upon the tide, but not the stones. Surely Cotta ought to include, in his “supercollision of everything wrong happening at the same time,” work-to-ruling teachers, a contentious departure of the town administrator, repeated blocking of development efforts, and higher property tax assessments, even as property values decline.
Good morning Rhode Island politicians. Grab a cup of coffee and join us around the fire or we’ll drag your sleeping bag into the river.