Pulling on the Hands Reaching Out

We just received a call from Tiverton Schools Superintendent William Rearick (or, more likely, a recording) encouraging us, as parents in the town, to attend tomorrow night’s financial town meeting in order to vote for the 11% increase in taxes so that the district won’t have to tighten its belt anymore. A related Projo article today makes me wonder how many similar phone calls our town officials are making this evening:

The resumption of the annual Financial Town Meeting tomorrow night was to be largely a procedural affair, leading to yet another recess.
But town officials aren’t so sure about that anymore.
They say they have concerns that a relatively small number of voters could move forward with budget cuts deep enough to fundamentally alter the character of the town — without a word from those who want to maintain the current level of municipal services. …
Town Council president Louise Durfee and council member Brian Medeiros urged those who want to maintain existing services to turn out for the resumption of the Financial Town Meeting tomorrow night at 7 in the high school gymnasium.
Medeiros predicted that those who want to limit the tax increase will take action to finalize budget cuts tomorrow.
“I hope enough people show up so that the Town Council gets a sense of whether [last week’s] vote reflects the majority will of the town,” Medeiros said.
“Does a majority want services to continue at a reasonable level, or do they want to take a meat cleaver” to the budget, he asked.
Durfee said she was concerned last Wednesday that she hadn’t heard the voices of people “who enjoy summer recreation, a good education, the need for a rescue service and a police department.”

Me, I’m in a meat cleaver state of mind. For one thing, in part to protect them from work-to-ruling teachers, and the related constriction of services and opportunities on offer in the public schools, I’ll be pulling my children from the school system, so the tax money therein invested will merely be tacked on fruitlessly to the expense of the education that they’ll actually be receiving. Beyond that, I’m not sure what services I’m supposed to credit the town with providing. The roads en route to my neighborhood are poor. The storefronts are increasingly empty. I don’t have sewer service. My water pressure is horrid (even though my section of town pays more for water than does the wealthier side of town). The “free” garbage pickup has cost me an annual garbage can, and I receive a suspicious chastisement every time I try to bring home-renovation refuse directly to the landfill.
Mind you, I’m not complaining so much as explaining my reason for hope that drawing the line on tax increases will force some much-needed reflection among those in government and otherwise who — for whatever reason — have a different understanding of the cost-benefit balance of town services.

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Tom W
Tom W
13 years ago

Here in Middletown the police have some sort of call system with which they can call every house to relay emergency information.
I hope the if Tiverton has the same thing it isn’t being utilized (misused) to phone bank for the Superintendent.
Check caller ID too. When Amy Rice was first running our house received a phone call; when I didn’t pick up (I always use the answering machine to screen calls to avoid telemarketers) it left a recorded message flacking for her. I did look at the caller ID before the message kicked on: “NEARI.”
Wouldn’t be surprised if it is also providing the calls that you got.

mikeinRI
mikeinRI
13 years ago

School and union officials in Lincoln recently made the same claims, suggesting significant cuts would be proposed at the FTM. Instead, an additional half million more than what the school committee agreed to was proposed, debated, and approved. There weren’t even conditions on how the money should be spent. But I bet the union will be thinking about that money when it negotiates a contract this summer.

Not as lucky as you.
Not as lucky as you.
13 years ago

Please stop referring to water department issues in the same breath as issues that are controlled by the town financial meeting. The two fire districts operate independent of the “town”, and have their own state enabling legislation. If you want to do some real investigative journalism, try to find out how your water bill money is being spent, and who oversees the till.
As for the future education of your children, I am glad that you can afford private school. I cannot. I suspect that the loss of trash pickup will cost you more than the cost of one garbage can, and you haven’t seen poor roads yet! As for sewer service, you will likely never get it, as it is obvious that bonding is dead in this town. What you should be thinking about it the value of your home, and how it will be affected by a loss of services. This is the true cost/benefit balance. How sellable is a home in a town with no services, no recreation, a gutted library system and an underperforming school department? Not very, unless your buyer has no children, no sense of community and a cozy winter home in Florida.

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Apologies, “Not as”: I was merely listing all of the services that I could think of that the town provides. If some of them are not included in proposed 11% tax increase, that hardly harms my broader argument. (I’ve never claimed to be an investigative journalist, by the way… I don’t even claim to be a journalist!) I do think about the value of my home (although I don’t intend to sell it or borrow on it anymore than I already have), and it seems to me that a surplus of houses being sold by people who cannot afford to live here anymore will hardly count in my favor. More generally, though, you’re operating with a missed premise: that services and housing value will be better in the long run if citizens stand up now. These financial difficulties are not going to go away until the way the town and state do business changes. Ending public-sector unionization for one. A case in point: I can’t really afford private school. I’ve spent years shaving pleasures and conveniences from my budget, and working my tail off to advance in my career, because I feel that I’d be doing my children a disservice were I not to give them the opportunity for something better than the government is providing. What effect does it have on property values when parents (and potential parents) think that private school might prove to be a necessity as the ever expanding hunger of the NEA bleeds services from the district? Again, perhaps you’ll suggest that I focus on things that fall under the scope of the financial town meeting, but I’ll reply that you’ve touched on an essential point: It is no longer acceptable for the local and state governments to continue putting the larger and larger portions… Read more »

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