To the editor:
Thanks to the Financial Town Referendum (FTR) on Tuesday, May 20, Tiverton voters can choose to have a tax increase of 0.0 % — further proof the FTR process is an overwhelming success.
Three years ago, when the Tiverton voters chose the FTR as a replacement for the financial town meeting by a 2 to 1 margin, one of the opposition’s main arguments was that the ability for an elector to place his own budget proposal on the FTR ballot would pave the way for feckless, fiscally naive, and dangerous budget proposals that would pose a great danger to the town and the schools.
To the contrary, the Katz budget proposal submitted under the FTR process by elector petition is remarkably the opposite. While fully funding the Budget Committee’s recommendation for the school, library and municipal budgets by using $602,000 from the town’s unreserved general fund (taxpayers’ money) to offset property taxes, the Katz proposal manages to keep the tax cap levy increase at 0.0%. And it leaves the general fund $200,000 in excess of the Town Charter mandate of 3.0% of the current operating budget. It should also be noted that an affirmative 4/5ths vote of the Town Council enables the town to dip below the 3% should there be a catastrophic emergency.
For those who may worry that a decrease in the unreserved general fund balance will place the town at credit risk, please recall that in recent years the general fund balance dropped close to 1%, all while the town successfully financed and built three new schools totaling over $30 million.
Mr. Katz’s Elector Petition proposal recognizes that the unreserved monies in the general fund are, indeed, taxpayer monies that accumulate due to overtaxing in prior years, and the 0.0% proposal gives that money back to taxpayers.
Not only has the FTR worked to keep tax levy increases at historically low percentages and thereby limit the ever increasing property taxes that Tiverton has experienced, especially in the last decade, but this year, by using taxpayer monies sitting in the general unreserved fund, Mr. Katz’ Elector Petition proposal keeps the property tax levy increase at 0.0% in a manner that furthers the accountability of the town government to the taxpayer.
Nancy L. Driggs
Ms. Driggs is former co-chairman of the Financial Town Meeting Changes Advisory Committee.