The Tiverton Powers That Be Try Again

Well, my first financial town meeting is about to begin. As if knowingly, the woman at the rapidly moving G-L registration line stamped my admittance arrow to the right. (Or perhaps it was a sly political statement from her perspective.)
If you’re coming, wear your walking shoes:

Of course, you get to go right by the school if you drive one of these:

Here’s the audience as of the meeting’s beginning:

7:41pm
The Budget Committee proposed another budget that raises the budget by $250,000 less than the previous budget proposal. A citizen appealed, and now we’re debating whether the new proposal is appropriate given last week’s occurances.
7:47pm
The woman who appealed the decision to allow another proposal just pointed out that doing so would disenfranchise those who voted previously and would be equivalent to allowing the losing side a week to gather the troops and try again.
I gotta say, by the way, that the joining of legal actions with a public gathering makes for some confusing discussion.
7:54pm
The official count of those in attendance, by the way, is around 750 (747), I think, but I was trying to pay attention to other things when it was stated.
The updated count: 775 786
8:01pm
A vote in which the appeal failed (with the effect that the new budget would be considered) will be retaken, because of confusion about the number of people voting and in the room (more people voted than appeared to be present).
They’ll now be closing the doors during votes.
(It seemed clear to me that the “yes” votes were clearly more numerous, but I can’t see the whole room.)
8:09pm
Current count: 789.
8:13pm
Appeal denied. Proposal goes forward for consideration.
Now an appeal to recess 30 days to allow more budget restructuring.
8:18pm
The appeal debate continues: The vote count exceeds the attendance count by 3, with the “no” (to the appeal) having won by 14.
8:27pm
Some controversy because the vote to recess was done by voice, not by count. I’m not sure what determines the method of voting. The “no” to the recess certainly was louder, but a few male voices were clearly prominent.
8:38pm
I’m really confused. The budget committee chairman (Mr. Cotta) suggested a slightly reduced budget excess over the cap than last year, and a couple of women amended that, I think, to be more, perhaps restoring last week’s number (?).
Much more discussion on a proposal to reduce it than the two to increase it.
(The increase was, I believe, to the previous number.)
8:45pm
Note on voting method: the voice votes strike me as fundamentally biased, because many who can be presumed to want a larger budget (police officers, firemen, and teachers) are selected by their careers to have practice projecting their voices.
9:23pm
The first of three amendments to the budget committee’s new number (currently the lowest number has failed). Of course, that’s now four amendments that have to fail before the tax increase cap can stand.
9:37pm
Having just voted down an increase over the tax levy of $1,860,000, we just voted down $1,850,000. (Now 688 people in the room.)
10:09pm
Low battery.
The Budget Committee’s motion to exceed the cap by $1,659,505 ($250,000 less than last week) passed 376 to 319 (with a body count of 689).
A large number of people got up and walked out, despite urging to stay for further votes. A motion was made and seconded to close the doors to keep them in. I shouted that they ought to just shoot them and inquired whether they constitute a quorum if they’re dead. School Committee President DeMedeiros laughed.
Now they’re recounting to see if we’ve maintained a quorum. (Now 442 remain.)
11:14pm (from my now more-expensive home)
Odd things happened after the walkout. Budget Guy Cotta proposed another motion that I didn’t fully understand, but it apparently had something to do with resolution 7, which apparently passed last week:

RESOLVE, that the voters of the Financial Town Meeting approve setting aside a reserve sum of $474, 213.00 as a restricted expense for the purpose of accounting for annual abatements and uncollected taxes which amount to 1.5% of levied taxes on Real and Tangible Properties. Historically the Town of Tiverton allocated a reasonable percentage of abatements and uncollected taxes as a method of ensuring the town could operate as budgeted without requiring 100 percent tax collections. Because the town has received permission to levy taxes beyond the permitted tax cap, and there are presently insufficient unreserved general funds available to offset taxes, fiscal prudence requires the town to account for potential abatements and uncollected taxes.

An objection was made that the resolution passed with attendance of 437, and undoing that seemed imprudent. Meanwhile people were storming out. A request was made for another room count, and the two police officers keeping track conferred. The folks on the stage worked quickly to move to a vote in the meantime, and in short succession the police officers announced that 16 people had left (bringing the number to 426), and the motion passed. Objections followed that there was no longer a number exceeding 437, and the moderator (who didn’t seem very unbiased, given some sarcastic remarks to certain audience members) asserted that the number had been in the room when the vote was called (or something along those lines).
The net result, at the end of the day (although numbers were flying, and the town clerk had to correct the motion several times, so I might have confused things a little), is that Tiverton will raise property and vehicle excise taxes to an amount not less than $31,097,228, and not more than $31, 297,228.
I’ve got to sort some things out, but it looks like the net effect could be to raise property taxes from $10.26 to $11.78, or 14.8%.
Welcome to democracy, Rhode Island style.
(Note, see here for a summary. It may be, by the way that the tax increase no a per $1,000 basis is actually 9.6%, although it’s still an 11% increase from last year’s collections on a total basis.)

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Thomas Schmeling
Thomas Schmeling
13 years ago

The appeal debate continues: The vote count exceeds the attendance count by 3
Ain’t democracy grand?

Mike
Mike
13 years ago

They’ll keep voting and re-voting and filing Caroulo cases and appealing until the filthy unions get their cash. Better to sit home, look at the Celtics and wait for the Chapter 9’s to be filed. They are inevitable.

Monique
Editor
13 years ago

Impressive turn out. Great reporting, Justin.
Voice voting is not terrific. The standing-for-yea/sitting-for-nay as several people count is much more accurate. But to vote by the latter method itself requires a vote.

Monique
Editor
13 years ago

Cripes. Just keep trying for tax increases into the night until enough “no” voters have left to give you the result you want.
Hey, Justin, if dead people can vote, there’s no reason they cannot also maintain a quorum.

Beth
Beth
13 years ago

Is this legal? The vote taken last week did not count, but this weeks does? Also, should all the on duty fire, & policeman be able to attend a meeting that lasted over 3 hrs? Are we not paying those hours out of our town taxes? They were all present, loudly stating their votes. Fire engines parked right out front. Can the Attorney General look into the overtly corrupt voting system in Tiverton. Does he know?
Thanks for the forum to vent!

EMT
EMT
13 years ago

“Also, should all the on duty fire, & policeman be able to attend a meeting that lasted over 3 hrs? Are we not paying those hours out of our town taxes?”
Is your assertion that they would have ignored an emergency call to stay there?

Beth
Beth
13 years ago

I do not think that I implied that any emergency would have been ignored. Please don’t twist my words. What I am stating is for all those residents who worked second shift that day & did not have the option to attend the meeting which raised their taxes over the set 5% is a shame, when the town workers on duty got to atteng & vote while they were on the payroll! If you can not see how this tax raise migt be upseting to some people you must be in a very wonderful financial position, good for you.

Monique
Editor
13 years ago

“Is this legal? The vote taken last week did not count, but this weeks does?”
Good question, Beth. It was all very manipulative.

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