To the editor:
Thanks to the democratic opportunity offered by Tiverton’s still-new financial town referendum (FTR), some friends and I are able to offer taxpayers in town an alternative to the over-taxation that the town government wants. There are basically three things you need to know about my “elector petition” budget, which will be on the ballot:
1. It increases the total tax levy by 0.0%, meaning that the amount that the town will collect in motor vehicle and property taxes will not increase from last year. Your property tax rate will actually go down a little from where it is right now, and it will be down quite a bit from what the Budget Committee is proposing — about 32-cents per $1,000 of your house’s value.
2. It does not cut a single thing from the town government’s budget. Everything that the Budget Committee was going to give to the schools, the schools will get. Everything that the Budget Committee was going to give to the municipal government, the municipal government will get.
3. You will have to vote for this alternative budget when the FTR comes around on May 20 (so mark your calendars).
The way this alternative budget manages to pay for everything while not increasing taxes is by returning to homeowners about $600,000 of the money that they were over-taxed last year. The Budget Committee’s numbers concerning the “General Fund Reserve” are misleading, even dishonest, but the bottom line is that the town government wants to keep its hands on $800,866 of our money above and beyond what the town’s charter requires.
Although this is supposed to be an “unreserved” fund kept for emergencies, it’s clear that town officials actually have a number of ideas about what they can use it for. (You can bet that people who work for the town have their ideas, too, as their unions begin contract negotiations. That includes the union formerly led by the town foreman whom the Town Council ushered into a cozy retirement after Channel 10 caught him allegedly spending 60% of his time on the clock working on his own properties.)
One of the excuses they give for needing all of this extra money is that it might help the town get a better credit rating if it decides to borrow even more money in the near future. I’ve looked at credit ratings and unreserved funds across Rhode Island, and every indication is that other things are more important than the fact that a town has taxed its residents too much.
As we’ve gotten signatures to put the 0.0% petition on the May 20 ballot, many people have told us how much they and their neighbors are struggling. People can’t afford their bills, and if they can, they can’t afford to keep their homes up as well as they’d like to.
The better way to increase the money that the town collects and to improve its credit rating is to get taxes back under control. Make it easier for the people of Tiverton to afford and improve their homes; don’t do the opposite just for some number on a balance sheet.
Tiverton isn’t a town full of numbers. It’s a town full of people, and we need a break. We’ve had enough, and they have enough.