Tiverton taxes set to rise just over 3 percent

School board to discuss next step Tuesday, June 25, including potential layoffs or Fort Barton School decision


Tiverton property taxes are expected to rise just over three percent under a $58.6 million budget tentatively approved Saturday.

Though it must be approved by the state before being formally adopted, the 2024-25 combined school and municipal budget represents an increase of $889,236 (1.5 percent) over the current fiscal year.

Of that amount, $28.3 million will go to the school department, 3.3 percent more than the current year. This is a concession on the part of town council members who insisted, in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s vote, that an increase to this year’s local school appropriation by anything more than 2 percent was highly unlikely.

Tiverton’s recent revaluation saw a jump of roughly $1 billion in the value of properties across town. Because of that, the FY2024 tax rate, adjusted proportionately, is $10.76. The new projected tax rate of $11.10, which is subject to change, represents a 3.16 percent increase over that number.

Assuming the budget earns final approval with no further adjustments, a taxpayer with a home valued at $500,000 will see a 3.16 percent increase in annual property taxes – from $5,380 to $5,550 annually, or slightly over $14 per month.


What of Fort Barton?

Three months ago, school officials warned they might be forced to close Fort Barton School, or eliminate teachers and staff at every grade level, to resolve a projected budget shortfall of roughly $3.9 million.

Since that time, at least 32 layoff notices have been issued to teachers and other certificated staff. The cuts include guidance counselor positions as well as specialists who offer students support in math, reading and special education. School officials say they hope some of these employees can be called back, once the budget numbers are formally adopted.

In addition to layoffs, the closure of Fort Barton remains a controversial option. At the June 11 school committee meeting, superintendent Peter Sanchioni suggested that the building could remain open, though not operated as a school, if it was designated an “educational institution.” With this approach, state housing aid reimbursements currently connected to the school would continue to flow to the town without interruption.

“It would be highly unfair to the town to lose that housing aid at such a late date,” he said.

The school district’s fiscal dilemma is due in part to a $1.2 million drop in annual state education aid to Tiverton for the coming year, from $6.9 million to $5.7 million – the largest hit incurred by any town in the state. That cut was recently slightly offset by $147,000, following approval of a bill introduced in the current legislative session by Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist.70) that transferred funds from public charter schools to towns like Tiverton that have been especially hard hit by cuts in education aid. 

Three days prior to Saturday’s vote, the council held a public hearing on the proposed budget. Teachers, parents, school committee members and others turned out to urge councilors to find ways to ease the burden on the schools. 

Andrea Palumbo, a fifth grade math teacher at Tiverton Middle School, said because of layoffs, she will have responsibility for more than 125 students each day — more than double her current amount, with each of her five daily classes in the next school year expected to average roughly 25 students per class.

“How can we make meaningful connections with 125 kids every day? Our children deserve better. It’s time to stop failing those who rely on us the most.”

Shannon McDonough, a Ranger School parent, described the stress on families and school employees because of the continued uncertainty regarding the Fort Barton closure and how the schools will be structured next year.

“The energy of not knowing what’s happening is unbearable for our teachers, for parents, and for our students, these last few weeks in particular.”

Several town council members addressed the challenge of balancing the needs of the school district with municipal priorities.

Referencing the problem of recruiting police officers and firefighters, council member Jay Edwards said, “In this state, every community is poaching every other community … the only way to fight that is to start paying them more, which we have not done. Do we no longer want the senior center? The three fire stations? Trash pickup? I don’t think anybody in this room will say ‘No, we don’t want those things.’”

A school committee meeting is set for Tuesday, June 25, but depending on their availability, members may schedule another meeting prior to that date.

The town council has until June 30 to formally adopt the final unified budget ordinance.

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