A Packed House for Town Council
The town hall is pretty well packed, tonight, probably for some combination of the “pay as you throw” trash pickup and the solicitor’s intention to suggest an anti-tax-payer interpretation of the requirements for exceeding the 3050 tax cap on municipal budgets. Representatives of RISC are here for the latter. Representative Jay Edwards (D, Tiverton) is probably here for the same reason. Here’s the agenda: PDF).
Pay as you throw is up. Some repeated suggestions… controls for those who lack resources, an-opt out, elimination of no-bin-no-barrel recycling policies, some adjustments for developments that don’t use bags at all, and (my suggestion) that the estimated revenue and expenditures should be included as a line-item in all budget documents. A new suggestion was to put the new policy on the November ballot.
Council Member Louise Durfee is suggesting that the adjustment be made by way of eliminating roughly $300,000 from the budget for the landfill closure. At best, I’m guessing that would serve to keep the council nominally under the cap. I think the estimated revenue should entirely be applied to the cap. Otherwise, what is the cap for? Only regular expenses, with all one-time expenditures and such paid with new fees that are, but don’t count as, taxes?
Council President Don Bollin is suggesting that each household get to put out one bag for free.
Budget Committee Chairman Jeff Carron suggested that all revenue should be subject to the cap. Louise Durfee tried to argue that it’s a good thing to “free up money” and that it has no relation to the cap. I’m not sure if she just doesn’t get it or is trying to obfuscate the obvious point that this brings more money into the town government.
It looks like the program could go in the direction that gives every household a free bag. If that were to be the case, my own experience, and that of people with whom I’ve spoken, suggests that the life of the town’s landfill would be greatly extended, and nobody would experience an unavoidable tax, because they’d have an option.
Put the program within the regular budget, and you’ve got a great solution on which just about everybody in town should be able to agree.
The council unanimously passed language that allows it to actually create a program. In short, Tiverton will have some kind of program, but now begins the process of putting it together for real. They’re putting together some guidance for the solicitor, including a review period, a possibility of a free bag, etc.
Now we’re in the midst of a “presentation on annual financial report by auditing firm.” Makes one wonder if the solicitor put his item on the agenda (which he did on Wednesday evening, I believe) in the hopes that people would lose patience and leave before his turn at the tail end of the meeting.
Much thinning of the crowd. Not, though, of the principals, if you get my meaning.
Solicitor Teitz handed over a suggested change in legislation on the cap. Louise Durfee suggested that the council isn’t interested in that, because the General Assembly could respond unpredictably, but the council could adopt a policy, namely that the town council is explicitly the “governing body” and would send a request for approval to exceed the cap, requiring a super-majority of the town council. Upon receiving that approval, a simple vote of the financial town meeting would suffice to follow through.
The language for the GA is tabled (unanimously). Solicitor Teitz will bring some language back for consideration in early March.
Durfee has taken explicit exception to the press release put out by TCC President Dave Nelson.
The interesting exchange of the evening came toward the end, when Durfee accused Dave Nelson of misrepresenting facts and moved to unseal the relevant executive session minutes. (The movement failed 3 to 3, with one abstention.) Subsequently, Rob Coulter, whose wife is the claimant in the lawsuit that kicked this all off, read from a letter the couple had received regarding a lawsuit that they filed, kicking the whole thing off, which proved that there was no misrepresentation.
One sort of wishes, after these meetings, that there were a way to know how things would have gone without taxpayer attendance. Had TCC not sent out a press release and packed the town hall with people willing to sit through a 3+ hour meeting, would the result have been so reasonable-seeming? Maybe. Probably not. Best not to find out for real.