Letter: Severe tax cut needed to protect Portsmouth residents
To the editor:
Thank you for your service to our community. We look to you for future inspired leadership.
This letter speaks to the Portsmouth FY 2020-21 residential tax increase of 4.43 percent, driven by a budget increase of 2.85 percent to be placed on the backs of its taxpayers during a period of national stress, unprecedented economic decline of 40 percent in the current quarter, and thousands of Portsmouth citizens, among the 33 million Americans, who have already lost their jobs.
As our country plunges into a recession/depression of unknown depth and duration, that will impact every Portsmouth resident, it reveals a town leadership that seemingly does not understand the dire consequences and risks ahead, that we will all face as we travel to arrive safely on the other side, as the pandemic takes it's course and toll.
But, Portsmouth’s appetite for spending and taxing is nothing new, as portsmouth taxes are already the highest of all contiguous towns. To gain a perspective, let's visit the 10-year Portsmouth history of spending and taxes:
• Budget increased by an average of 1.57 percent per year.
• Residential taxes increased by an average of 2.68 percent per year.
During that same period, inflation increases averaged only 1.7 percent. A few reasonable questions:
• Why did residential taxes exceed inflation by 60 percent?
• Who got the money, and why?
Now, let's compare those 10-year average increases in spending and taxes against the ability of the taxpayer to pay:
• Real median household income increased by an average of less than 1 percent per year.
• Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) increased on average 1.5 percent a year for the more than 1,300 Portsmouth senior households. Projections for 2021 is for a less than 1-percent increase.
• Retired military pension adjustments increased an average of 1.5 percent a year for the over 1,000 Portsmouth retired military households. Projections for 2021 is for a less than 1-percent increase.
Considering the above, it would seem difficult for anyone in past Portsmouth government to justify an over 100-percent increase in taxes beyond the taxpayers ability to pay. Yet … the FY 2020-21 Portsmouth budget and tax increase suggests an even higher level of disregard for the Portsmouth taxpayer by its present government.
So, what can be done to align the FY 2020-21 budget and tax increase to comprehend the severe decline in the economy (40 percent) and the massive unemployment (20 percent), and the taxpayers diminished ability to pay? Each of the following reductions has merit and begs your consideration (and in no particular order):
• Freeze all hiring.
• Reduce town and school employees commensurate with the unemployment rate (20 percent).
• Eliminate all budget increases in town departments.
• Anticipate reduced state funding (Rhode Island announced a projected $800 million deficit).
• Stop assistant school superintendent search process.
• Freeze all cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).
• Stop all bonding initiatives.
• Eliminate any scheduled wage and salary increases.
• Eliminate funding for capital improvement projects (town and school).
As you proceed through the budget and resultant tax reduction effort, please consider the plight of the many town residents that have already lost their jobs, the town business' closed and the many inevitable bankruptcy's to follow and the growing number of families with income growth well below the taxes already imposed upon them.
Those among you, who are fiscally responsible must take charge and mitigate the influence of those with a socialist agenda.
The health pandemic has rapidly morphed into a financial crisis. The citizens of Portsmouth are squarely in the crosshairs of both. Severe, unprecedented, cuts in spending and taxes are required to protect Portsmouth and its residents.
200 Prospect Farm Road
Mr. Lorenz is chairman of the Portsmouth Republican Town Committee. This letter was addressed to Town Administrator Richard Rainer, Jr., Superintendent Thomas Kenworthy, Town Council President Kevin Aquiar, and School Committee Chairwoman Emily Copeland.