February 26, 2008

My American Dream May Be Dying in Tiverton

Justin Katz

A bout of cynicism kept me from last night's town council meeting. Here's one of the revelations that I missed (emphasis added):

Also last night, the council received a warning from its auditor that the town’s rainy day fund is too low.

Standing at about $1.2 million for the fiscal year that ended last June, the fund represents a reserve of only 4 to 5 percent of budgeted expenses, far less than the 10 to 15 percent fund balance that bonding agencies look for when they rate municipal bonds, according to Paul Dansereau.

Dansereau indicated that the town fund is likely to shrink even further before it gets and bigger, since the current budget relies on $900,000 from the surplus to offset taxes.

The town is planning to discontinue the practice of using the surplus to keep down the tax rate in the budget year beginning July 1.

Dansereau, of the accounting firm of Parmelee, Poirier, and Associates, of Warwick, also said the School Department had a $14,000 deficit in its unrestricted fund last June 30, a shortfall that must be made up.

I don't know whether the new high-tax practice was included in the former town administrator's expectation of a 12% property tax hike, but either way, it looks like the council is set to push my monthly mortgage payment past the limit that we can afford. So much for moving to Tiverton as one of the last towns in the area able to sustain a budding family's dream of homeownership.

See, when families find themselves facing tightening budgets, they cut back. They dip into reserves. When a municipal government finds itself unable to sustain its multimillion-dollar "rainy day fund" during an economic storm, it opts to discontinue the heroic practice of limiting tax inflation (which apparently happens as a matter of nature, not by explicit action by a limited group of elected officials). Thanks for holding the line, guys. I know those wealthy enough to keep their homes will appreciate the healthy bond rating.

Anybody got a house that they'd like to rent at a discount to a nice young family headed by carpenter? Willing to move out of state...

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You should get out cause it's only getting worse in this sewer. We always had the corrupt hacks; then about 20 years ago the unions starting really running wild; now with the welfare/illegal/babysitting industrial complex's rise we have a triple slam. The last 2 Republican "savior" governors have turned into 16 years of sinking deeper in the sludge.
"Turn out the lights the party's over"
Dandy Don Meredith

Posted by: Mike at February 26, 2008 7:04 PM

12%! And undoubtedly, this won't be the first year they raise taxes. I'll go out on a limb and guess that most years, they've raised taxes. So the current increase is multiplied by a much larger base amount than it was say 10-15 years ago. Making the actual tax increase much higher as well.

The problem is not the rainy day fund. It's elected officials who are "forced" to raid the rainy day fund (and then the taxpayer wallet) because they didn't hold the line on spending.

Posted by: Monique at February 26, 2008 8:29 PM

Come to Woonsocket. Housing is cheap, can't promise work, but there's lots to criticize in local government!

Posted by: John at February 26, 2008 9:18 PM

First you're expecting government (Town of Tiverton)to sustain you or in your words "to sustain a budding family's dream of homeownership" Then you ask for a discount in rent for you and your family. Get a grip. Remember that those of your ilk usually go on and on about your concept of personal responsibility. Does it include you or only welfare mothers. Remember too that you right republicans usually preach that people should not start families until they can afford them.

Posted by: phil at February 27, 2008 8:13 AM

Woonsocket gov't is a scream ...

Posted by: Monique at February 27, 2008 8:17 AM


I hope you're being deliberately obtuse for political reasons, because I'd like to believe that you are capable of making simple distinctions.

1. I'm not asking the government of Tiverton to sustain my family. I'm asking the government of Tiverton to maintain the town's status as one of the few remaining areas in which a young family can sustain itself and own a home at the same time.

2. When one asks for government handouts or other benefits, one is asking a small group of officials to take money from other citizens and redistribute it. All I did (mostly tongue-in-cheek) was to ask if anybody would be willing to discount rent for a nice family (i.e., not much trouble) headed by a carpenter (i.e., able to make repairs and improvements to the property).

3. I am able to afford my family. What I may be unable to do is afford to own a home in Tiverton --- something, incidentally, that I've been able to do for some years, now, and will only fail to do if the town council keeps raising the tax rate in lieu of stepping up as leaders, rather than mere managers.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 27, 2008 10:11 AM


You are right! Woonsocket government is a scream and its run by a female mayor who keeps the city budget balanced! Mayor Menard has done a lot of good.

I lived in Woonsocket for 35 years. Rented and then bought my first house there. Woonsocket is a family orientated old style mill city. Most stores and restaurants keep prices low to support local families. Parts of East Woonsocket are almost like living in Tiverton. Nice neighborhood for little kids growing up.

Restored Stadium Theater is northern RI’s performing arts center and is where a number of movie world premieres have been held. Down the street is Chan’s which hosts one of RI’s best live jazz venues.

Woonsocket is 20 min. from downtown Providence, and is on the boarder with Massachusetts. Downtown Boston is 50 min. away. There is a Mass “T” station 12 min from Woonsocket. You’ll flip-flop between RI and MA for all your needs.

Justin maybe you should look at Woonsocket (but you’ll have to get use to snow)!

Posted by: Ken at February 27, 2008 5:48 PM

if the town council keeps raising the tax rate in lieu of stepping up as leaders, rather than mere managers.

Posted by Justin Katz at February 27, 2008 10:11 AM
Well you can COUNT on that happening. Get out. If you are young enough and game enough get out. Go to Carolina or Alabama or Kentucky (where Jerzyk's multi-millionaire father shelters his money) or Arkansas or any of a score of states that are not governed by absolute lunactics like the whole Northeast (sans NH) is. Hell, Florida just LOWERED their property tax, with no "broadening" of any other tax. Many states have the bright idea of keeping spending in line with revenues --the unions and leftists be damned.
Get out. I wish I had done it when I was younger.

Posted by: Mike at February 27, 2008 7:50 PM

PS Justin,

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight ranked Rhode Island with the top 5 losers in single-family housing price changes for the 4th quarter of 2007. Rhode Island is ranked #46 out of 50 states with a
-2.56 price change.

I don’t care what people say, we are in a recession (been there; done that 3 times) and the snowball has started to roll downhill. Oil is now over $100 a barrel; gasoline will be $4/gal. or more, the housing market is trashed along with credit by subprime loan scandal, layoffs, national unemployment rate up over 5% (RI is higher), companies and people are moving out of RI, inflation on the rise causing a spike in basic living necessities and the elected leadership on Smith hill has no clue what to do. The RI structural budget will grow to about $1 billion and as it grows the short term attempts to stop the runaway train will only continue to cause increased pain and financial burden on each city/town budget due to level funding or reduced state aide, education services will faultier due to funding and the state population will continue its RI exodus driving continued reduced state revenues. Lottery and video slot dependence will only enhance the financial shortfall situation.

RI is ranked as having the 4th highest taxes in the nation with a ranking of 50 (last in nation) for being business friendly. RI is ranked the 3rd most expensive state for a family of 4 to vacation in and the capitol City of Providence is ranked the 3rd most tax unfriendly city in the nation.

The nation is suffering toxic "stagflation" as called by the economists and it has not been seen in over 30 years nationally. "Stagflation" is defined as when the nation-wide economy stalls and inflation speeds up outpacing the economy causing almost total collapse of consumer confidence and spending. Right now nation-wide prices are up 4.1% over last year but workers' weekly earnings are down 1.4 percent from a year ago when adjusted for that inflation so average working person is not going to make ends meet unless they are getting pay raises equal or above the inflation rate.

I moved out of RI to Hawaii and I am going to amend my earlier suggestion of moving into Woonsocket to get out of RI if you can because it’s only going to get worst as a host of others have suggested

Posted by: Ken at February 27, 2008 10:44 PM

Ken, we can agree on the Stadium Theatre.

As for the Mayor, however, it's easy to keep a municipal budget balanced when over 80% of the school budget is not funded locally. And if her record is so exemplary, why did she feel the need to illegally use city equipment and the city's Chief of Police during her prior re-election bid?

And then, of course, there's John Dionne. Less funny. I do hope Leo Fontaine has followed through and done the right thing in that matter. Hopefully, the wheels of justice are grinding slowly but exceedingly fine ...

Posted by: Monique at February 27, 2008 11:31 PM


I didn't say the mayor or Woonsocket was perfect! As a matter of fact, there is still some of the good old boy politics still going on however, she did turn the city around (plus added a lot of new clothes to her wardrobe!).

My taxes did not rise that much but I still left RI for warmer weather, ckean beaches and greener grass.

Posted by: Ken at February 27, 2008 11:58 PM
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