TIVERTON — The Town of Tiverton adopted a $47.2 million budget for Fiscal Year 2014 on Tuesday with just 0.02 percent of the electorate voting.
The budget presented to voters on Tuesday’s ballot called for a total net tax levy increase of 2.2%, and an increase in the real property tax rate of 1.99%, from $18.99 per thousand dollars of value to $19.37.
For a property owner of a $300,000 home, the increase would result in a tax increase of $114.
The approval came at this year’s Financial Town Referendum (FTR) on election day with 269 voters out of 12,314 residents eligible to vote casting ballots. A total of 12,045 citizens in town did not vote this year for the budget or participate in the FTR.
The total of those voting included 171 residents who showed up at polling places in town on Tuesday, and 98 who voted early in Town Hall over three days last week (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) set aside for the purpose.
Amelia Camara, who turned 101 years old early last fall, was one of Tiverton’s citizens who did vote Tuesday.
Housebound, and unable physically to get to the polls, Ms. Camara voted at home under a law that allows Town Clerk Nancy Mello, who supervised the election process, to send a bi-partisan delegation from the Board of Canvassers to her home so that she could cast a ballot.
About noon on Tuesday, Bobby J. Harris, the board’s chairman, and James Rego, its vice-chairman, went to Ms. Camara’s home and witnessed her (secret) vote.
“I say we have a FTR every year just for her,” said Ms. Mello. “Is that an example, or what?”
Ballots were counted Tuesday night after the polls closed. Just three absentee ballots were invalidated, two for having one signature (two are required) and one for having no signature.
This year’s turnout of 269 voters contrasts sharply with last year’s, the first year of the newly adopted referendum (FTR) process, when 2,973 voters participated, of which 300 were early voters. Last year voters had a choice between two budgets to vote for, which may have accounted for the larger turnout then.
Because of the way the town charter was amended in 2011, and because this year no alternative budget was presented on the ballot to the voters, no voters could vote against the budget as recommended by the town Budget Committee.
In the days leading up to the referendum, Town Solicitor Andrew Teitz spelled out what that meant.
“If there’s one vote in favor of the budget itself, then that is the budget that’s adopted,” he said at an informational hearing about the budget in the Tiverton High School auditorium on May 2.
Polls were open on election day at three polling places from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The VFW polling location on Shove Street over the 12 hour period had 79 voters. At Countryview Estates in the north end, a second polling location, 34 voters showed up. At Amicable Church on Main Road, 58 voters appeared during the day to vote.
Ms. Mello said the budget for the FTR was $12,000, of which approximately $5,800 was spent to pay for 18 poll workers.
In 2011, the FTR or referendum process, which involves a direct vote of the people on a budget recommended to them by the town Budget Committee, replaced the much-criticized Financial Town Meeting (FTM).
The FTM was a four-hour (or longer) meeting of citizens, held in the high school gymnasium on a Saturday each May in years past, at which the budget would be debated and voted upon.
Also on the ballot were six resolutions, which unlike the budget, voters could vote to approve or reject. They dealt with such matters as capital account restrictions, restrictions on an account to pay revaluation expenses, restrictions dealing with an account for election expenses, another that would allocate unencumbered funds to road paving, and a council resolution that authorizes the transfer of certain town properties at no less than fair market value.
All resolutions were approved by wide (82%-88%) margins.