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.

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Ken
Ken
13 years ago

Justin,
Do you think gasoline, diesel fuel, electric, natural gas, heating oil, food, office supplies, school supplies, books, road salt, road sand, road plowing contracts, insurances, vehicle maintenance, and property, building and grounds maintenance and a few other operating costs not mentioned is not going to rise to operate the town of Tiverton? Don’t forget, rapid rise in prices was not accounted for in your town last FY budget
Please notice I’m not talking salaries for anyone. I’m assuming level funding for salaries. As a matter of fact, your school department was laying off close to 30 people to help stay within budget.
Tiverton also has a number of subprime foreclosures and bankruptcies which is impacting you property tax base and causing a local tax receipts deficit Right now Tiverton has 14 in foreclosure.
Your state governor indicated in writing in the newspaper he wanted everyone to feel the pain and that’s why aid to cities and towns, that they were banking on and included in the current budget was withheld, driving your town into budget deficit in the 4th QT. School aid was also with held or level funded.
With the fall of property values in your town, rise in oil prices driving up goods, services and contract prices and less state funding being allocated for your town, an 11.08% increase in tax rate to break even seems reasonable.
In order to get a feel, you should survey all 39 cities and towns on local tax increases because the governor and GA indicated state would not raise taxes but they were not talking about local cities and towns. By the way, Rhode Island is one of the 37 states that collect property taxes at both the state and local levels.

Mike
Mike
13 years ago

Now you see how things work in this state.
as a young man who is already living on the border, the best advice to give you is to get the f*** out of the state. Nothing will change until bankruptcy. Until then, buy gas, consumer goods and EVERYTHING else over the border. Pleaee Don’t Feed The Progressives!

Tom W
Tom W
13 years ago

The interesting number(s) to see would be the track of pension contributions the Town is forced to make, particularly into the State system which covers the teachers.
Across the State those numbers are growing exponentially because of the multi-billion dollar unfunded pension liability.
Billions of reasons why there should be an immediate pension “freeze” for all public sector employees and conversion to a 401k-type plan (I believe that the public sector counterpart is a 403B)).
Nobody would lose the benefit to to the extent (amount) they are vested as of the date of the freeze, but going forward would not accrue any additional “years of service” to further increase their pension.
A compromise that would be fair for all.

rhody
rhody
13 years ago

Agreed, Mike, the rising cost of gas is progressives’ fault. Damn those Saudi oil field unions. 🙂
But seriously…Justin, if running for office isn’t going to cause you professional or family-related consequences, you ought to do it. Fiscal conservatism is capable of uniting many different constituencies – if some of those people support gay marriage, don’t worry about it.
BTW: a former colleague who does some work around Tiverton (and has spent some time at the high school) found that, maybe because of its geographical isolation, Tiverton folk identify themselves more strongly with Mass. than R.I.

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