May 19, 2008

Stamping an Increase

Justin Katz

So this Wednesday, at the annual Tiverton Financial Town Meeting (potentially among the last), voters will be asked to approve an 11% property tax increase:

Town electors who attend next Wednesday night's Financial Town Meeting will be asked to vote on a total recommended budget of $41.7 million.

To raise that amount, a tax levy is projected that will require an increase in the tax rate by 11 percent over this year's rate — up to $11.39 from $10.26 per $1,000 of value.

"Our committee is not happy about putting forward an 11 percent increase, but to retain current levels of public safety and services, this is what's required," said Chris Cotta, chairman of the town budget committee. "There's no fat in this budget that we're aware of."

Although the spending plan proposed by the budget committee falls within the state's 5 percent tax cap, debt costs, which are not counted toward that calculation, contribute to tax hike pressure for Tiverton property taxpayers. The tax cap legislation limits the actual dollar amount that can be raised in successive years by declining quarter percentage points. Last year the cap was 5.25 percent, this year it is 5, and next year it will be 4.75 percent.

However, the legislation allows for state waivers from the cap requirement when the payment of bonded indebtedness is involved. Tiverton committed to paying off $30.7 million in school bonds in 2004, before the tax cap legislation was passed.

The true abomination is how little of the budget voters are actually empowered to change. The debt service is beyond the tax cap; the school budget comes with the threat of a Caruolo Act lawsuit if the town returns a "no way"; many services and employment deals are contracted; unfunded mandates filter down from higher levels of government. In characteristic Rhode Island fashion, democracy is constructed to give the semblance of voice, but the reality of dictation.

And worse, for me, the meeting falls during one of the busiest, most stressful weeks that I can recall, between work and family obligations. Civic participation can't always have been like this.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Wow, and this is happening when the teachers didn't get a raise for the year and may even be without a contract next year....

Maybe now Justin you'll realize your rhetoric doesn't match reality when you "observe" what goes on in your town.

Posted by: Pat Crowley at May 19, 2008 6:51 AM

Sorry, Pat, but your NEAniks are hardly bystanders in this: My understanding is that there's a prospective pay increase worked into this budget, and yet the teachers continue to work to rule in search of more.

Posted by: Justin Katz at May 19, 2008 7:16 AM

"There's no fat in this budget that we're aware of."

Actually, there is. It was put in ahead of time in the labor contracts, as follows.

What was the cost per student of education in Tiverton 10 years ago? What is it today, factoring out inflation? And have student achievement standards followed the same trend?

Posted by: Monique at May 19, 2008 7:46 AM

Wow. Now I know you just make things up as you go along. Think its time to go back to ignoring this site ....

Posted by: Pat Crowley at May 19, 2008 11:52 AM

Duck Boy ignoring us? Where's my crying towel?

I would love, JUST ONCE, for someone from the NEA to make a run at an explanation why some of the highest paid teachers in the country continue to pump out kids that can't read and why we should continue to pay top dollar for Dollar Tree value instead of just coming on here and confirming that they're lightweights only capable of parroting the party line and throwing the occasional snowball before running inside and hiding under their desks.

Posted by: Greg at May 19, 2008 12:13 PM

Sheesh, Pat. Guess I've got to offer my now-stock response to your ploy: If I'm wrong, I'm not just interested in, but desirous of,your correcting me. That you merely declare falsehood and walk away is strongly suggestive of a desire on your part to create what doubt you can and then avoid conversation because, in reality, you have no response that anybody outside of your office would accept.

Posted by: Justin Katz at May 19, 2008 12:24 PM

We just had this similar situation in Cumberland, where the tax rate was raised 7.4%, however we also just had our revaluation this year and the majority of properties decreased in value, so the average tax bill isn't changing by 7.4%, but quite less actually. Is this a similar situation in Tiverton or will the average Tiverton taxpayer see an 11% increase to their tax bill this year (if the increase is approved)?

Posted by: Patrick Laverty at May 19, 2008 2:46 PM

Rhode Island cities and towns will raise taxes and it should not be a surprise to anybody if they have been reading the newspapers and listing to TV reports.

The State of RI withheld 4QT funds to cities and towns causing local budget deficits. The school departments were level funded or not funded at all by the state.

Gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil, natural gas, electricity, winter road salt and sand, winter plowing, food, basic supplies and medical/dental have all increased beyond last years budget prices and continue to rise faster and at rates higher than your pay raises..

RI leads the New England states in subprime mortgage foreclosures and as such approximately 5 cities and towns out of 39 have not experienced foreclosures. However, foreclosures in other communities have caused the average sale price of all homes in RI to fall to where some are paying a mortgage higher than the current assessed value of the residence.

As indicated before, the State of RI and cities and towns have a reported estimate of $1.7 billion property tax short fall (includes decreased value of adjacent properties). Couple that with the current budget deficit which grew by another $30 million last week on top of the $50-$55 million to now be in the region of between $464-$469 million and still growing! Reporters are now using the phrase of “RI deficit is 1/2 billion dollars”.

Don’t forget, property tax is where each city and town gets most of its funding for the local school department and there are still unfunded Federal liabilities of No Child Left Behind and other Federal programs mandates that the local city and town must fund.

RI subprime mortgage problems have not bottomed out as of yet (maybe 4th QT this year or 2Nd QT 2009). Coupled with reduced funding from the state, rising consumer price index, stagnant salary growth, decreased state-wide GDP, increasing unemployment and population and business leaving the state you’ve got your hands full just trying to survive the next four years.

Let your voices ring out in the voting booth!

Posted by: Ken at May 19, 2008 10:36 PM

Left wing nut cases love to throw a grenade in the outhouse, then walk away because they know their ideas only have value as sound bites. Deep beneath it all, even Pat Crowley knows he's wrong and if he blows the donuts for Pat at NEARI on Friday.

Crowley should trade in his duck costume for a chicken suit (with a dunce cap).

Posted by: George at May 20, 2008 1:00 PM

Hey Pat Crowley,

Speaking of "making stuff up", why don't you get your facts straight and stop using the Bob Walsh mis-lead & dodge moves.

You said "teachers didn't get a raise for the year". That is FALSE!

Even if there is no new contract, ALL teachers, except the current Step 10 teachers, will receive raises, ranging from a whopping 8% to a massive 18% due to that little Union thing called the "step increase".

The current contract will be followed and all teachers will move up a Step and get those big fat increases that you hacks don't like to talk about.

Indeed, it is that bullshit Step increase that is bankrupting cities & towns.

Bob Walsh likes to suggest that "think tanks should check the facts".

Well, once again, you hacks over at the NEA Stink Tank fail in your attempt to mislead the public.

Kind of like that horse-shit letter you wrote asserting that "education expenditures have not kept pace with inflation", when in fact, education expenditures EXCEEDED the rate of inflation by 42%.

You remember Pat. You compared 5 years of Spending Growth to 7 years of Inflation and said "see, education spending has not kept pace with inflation." Talk about "making things up". Bob Walsh must be proud, as he taught you well.

You seem to think that the public is as dumb as that herd of blind sheep that you and Bob Walsh shepherd around. Fortunately, some of us learned how to do math, despite your Union members best efforts to keep our proficiency at the sub-moron level.

Looking forward to the next NEA attempt at basic math.

Posted by: George Elbow at May 20, 2008 9:47 PM
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