To the editor:
I write this letter to inform Tiverton taxpayers that on Tuesday, May 20, they can vote to not have a tax increase next year. Yes, you read that right – a 0.0% tax levy increase will be Option 2 on the Financial Town Referendum (FTR) ballot. Even better, if voters approve this Option 2 elector petition then the tax rate on our homes will actually drop a bit!
How is this possible? Simple — the Budget Committee recommendation (also on the FTR ballot) proposes that the tax levy increase by the amount $602,837, all while there is $800,866 in the unreserved general fund (UGF) (this amount is in excess of the 3% minimum required by charter). The 0% elector petition simply uses part of this amount to fund the exact budget recommended by the Budget Committee, rather than taxing taxpayers (again) for the amount.
It should be noted that the unrestricted fund balance of $800,866 is money accumulated because townspeople were overtaxed in previous years. The town has been generating surpluses for several years and this elector petition aims to give some of this surplus back to taxpayers via no tax increase next year.
While naysayers will cite the town’s bond rating, I remind voters that several years ago the general fund balance dropped to about 1% all while we successfully bonded and built three new schools totaling over $30 million. The sky did not fall and in fact we have three beautiful schools.
At the Financial Town Hearing (FTH) on May 1, we heard repeatedly that this money should be kept in the general fund so it can be spent next year. To this I posed the fundamental question for voters: ‘Do you want your overtaxed dollars in the town’s bank account or your own bank account?’ For me the answer is easy – I can spend my money next year better than the town can.
There is nothing new or inventive to using the UGF to reduce the upcoming year’s property taxes. For years the Budget Committee recommended using some of the UGF to offset the upcoming year’s taxes. And on page I-1 of this year’s docket, the Budget Committee even created a line item entitled “General Fund Surplus Withdrawal (to offset taxes)” – but the Budget Committee amount is curiously $0.
I urge all taxpayers to find 15 minutes to vote in the FTR on Tuesday May 20, and to support the 0.0% budget proposal submitted by elector petition (Option 2). The polling places are the VFW, Country View Estates, and Amicable Church and early voting will be at Town Hall (625-6703) on Thursday, May 15 – Saturday, May 17.
Thank you for your FTR vote to control Tiverton’s property taxes.