Tivertonians: They Just Want Your Money
On the last page of the main section of the recent Sakonnet Times comes news of a petition that has succeeded in putting a ladder truck for the fire department on the docket for the financial town meeting. The meat of the petition is as follows:
This petition seek [sic] to appropriate and expend the annual sum of $110,290.00 for twelve (12) years for the purpose of acquiring a ladder tower for the Tiverton Fire Department. The amount paid annually will represent a financed amount of $950,000.00 over a twelve (12) year period at 5.51% interest. This proposal is being sought because the item was not considered by the Tiverton Budget Committee in the docket for this year and because numerous members of the Tiverton Budget Committee have advocated a maximum increase in the annual tax levy not to exceed one percent (1%) or zero. Because the Tiverton Budget Committee is recommending a slashed school operational budget in order to achieve their desired goal of a maximum levy increase of one percent (1%) to a zero percent [sic], and because these same Budget Committee members are squandering the limited ability to utilize tax revenues under the State mandated cap of 4.75% to improve the community as a whole, we the Tiverton Taxpayers listed below believe it is in the best interest for the Town of Tiverton to acquire a Fire Apparatus Ladder Tower vehicle that will be used to save lives, provide fire protection to the community as a whole, assist in lowering our already too high insurance premiums by generating a more favorable national Fire Standard Rating than currently exists and to provide appropriate equipment for the health and welfare of the Tiverton Fire Department professional staff.
Before touching on its dishonesty, think of the small-mindedness behind this proposal. During the worst financial downturn in decades, perhaps since the Great Depression, a minority of the town Budget Committee supports a leveled budget. Therefore — because the committee is recommending a restrained school budget — a handful of revenge-seeking agitators and a few dozen folks who likely don’t follow town finances very closely wish to spend over a million dollars on a fire truck, adding more than $100,000 to the town’s annual debt requirements for so many years that students now entering first grade will be graduating high school at around the time we’re done paying off the truck. (That number obviously doesn’t include any extra expenses in maintaining, fueling, operating, and manning it.)
The dishonesty of the petition points to the more basic goal of its backers. As one discovers elsewhere in the Sakonnet Times, the Budget Committee’s docket currently calls for a tax levy increase of 3.36%, not 1% and certainly not 0%, and that doesn’t account for the additional $300,000 that the town council wishes to set aside for abatements. In this context, look again at this line:
… these same Budget Committee members are squandering the limited ability to utilize tax revenues under the State mandated cap of 4.75% to improve the community as a whole …
In other words, the goal for this cadre is to achieve or exceed the state’s cap on tax increases. It’s to take money from every taxpayer in Tiverton and allocate it to the priorities of a few people with the time and motivation to manipulate procedure. That is why the rest of us can no longer afford not to participate.
It’s worth highlighting a few notables among the petition’s signers:
- Former Budget Committee Chairman and thwarted Town Council candidate Chris Cotta
- Former School Committee Chairwoman Denise deMedieros
- Current Budget Committee member Alex Cote.
I’d be interested if anybody has information on this “national Fire Standard Rating.” I’m not even sure that there’s a rating with that name, and moreover, some light research on the matter has left me with the impression that insurance rates aren’t easily calculable based on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. Insurance savings are being thrown about as a vague promise of cost-offsets, but such statements don’t seem to be based on much more than a general sense that spending money might, in the words of the petition, “assist in lowering” costs.