Town Financial Meeting, In Summary (How Things Apparently Work)
First off: if I am incorrect in any of the particulars that follow, please correct me. I’ve been playing catch-up, and I’m tired.
- Last week, a body of 437 Tiverton residents rejected a tax levy of $30,200,000, which exceeded the budget cap by about $2,000,000. Specifically, “by a vote of 255 in favor and 151 against, [voters] directed the town to live within that [5%] cap.”
- During the following week, the budget committee devised a scheme to propose exceeding the cap by a little bit less: $1,659,505. Meanwhile, the superintendent (and other town officials, I believe) used public resources to encourage voters to come out and pass the budget.
- An appeal to the decision to stop the Budget Committee’s proposal (on the grounds that it was not “substantially different” than the one that was rejected the week before) failed by a narrow vote, with questions of overcounting. Then, a motion to recess and give the Budget Committee another month to pull the numbers down some more failed on (for some reason) a voice vote that pitted an opposition consisting of many older citizens versus interested parties consisting of police, firemen, and teachers, all of whom have career tendencies toward voice projection.
- The Budget Committee’s motion to exceed the tax levy cap by $1.659,505 passes, and almost half of the crowd storms out. That dollar amount should bring taxes to around $29,860,000, or $11.24 (an increase of 9.55%).
- After some discussion of the fact that the crowd is teetering around the 437 mark needed to make changes to the previous week’s voter instructions, the government officials push a vote to permit the Budget Committee to (I think) reduce or increase the amount set aside for abatements and uncollected taxes in such a way as to compensate for the $250,000 reduction with which the meeting started.
- Somehow, the upshot is that the budget is $41,797,101, of which between 31,097,228 and 31,297,228 will be generated through taxes, for a homeowner tax rate of $11.78, or 14.8%. (To be as clear as possible, the $31 million number may include motor vehicle taxes, which aren’t included in the property tax cap. If that’s the case, then the total property tax revenue would come in at $29,892,228, or $11.25 per $1,000 of property, which is a 9.6% increase — of course, with the difference from the last budget apparently coming out of the money set aside for likely tax shortfalls, thus requiring some action midyear. On a total basis, that’s an 11.08% increase over last year’s $26,909,360, as opposed to the plan last week, which would have been an increase of 12.5%.)
This, ladies and gentlemen, is how your kindly government officials handle a taxpayer revolt.
The only question now is whether it’s better to jump into local politics and wreak havoc from within or to focus efforts at the state level.