Letter: Tiverton Budget Committee Keeps Defying The Will Of The Voter
Dave Nelson, Tiverton town councilor and president of Tiverton Citizens for Change, writes a letter to the editor about the upcoming financial town referendum.
To the Editor:
Pressing on from the historic November FTR vote, Tiverton is fast approaching its inaugural FTR, a statement both satisfying and uncertain, as many have begun asking: “what will the voters say?” Tiverton Citizens for Change believes that now freed from the commotion and intimidation of the FTM, Tiverton voters will flock to the polls to express their frustration over endlessly rising property tax bills even as our homes are worth less, and will come together to support a responsible and affordable budget.
TCC has submitted a FTR voter petition which proposes a property tax levy increase of 1.1 percent. This would be the lowest levy increase in Tiverton’s modern history, and it reflects a determination to slow the endless upward spiral of tax increases our government has placed on its citizens. Our recommendation is based on the Town Council budget, requested by the town administrator, while adding an ambulance. An equitable dollar amount (about $400K) goes to the schools. Spending will rise more than we see as ideal, but this increase is offset by leveraging last year's budget surplus. No budgets are perfect. Democracy is not perfect. The best we can hope for is a fact-based discussion on the merits of the various budgets put before the voting public and trust in their judgment and the integrity of the process.
While past Budget Committees (BC) have occasionally shown restraint, little of it is apparent this year when they rubber-stamped the school budget, dollar for dollar, of just under one million dollars. This is in addition to the $600,000 the schools will now receive as a result of their aggressive litigation against the taxpayers of Tiverton, an unfunded mandate never approved by voters as a local levy. Emboldened by the undying belief that big government is the answer to all that ails us, the BC and schools have doubled down on their demands. Like many around us, we would like to see these annual confrontations abate, and go back to our bucolic lives in Tiverton’s unique place in the world. To find that peace, all our government officials must stop wearing blinders to the suffering of those around us and recall that they work for the people, and not the other way around.
This year, the BC threw out the council’s budget, and ventured into politics and policy beyond its Town Charter mission. Their effort to redirect the $168,000 annual contribution to the restricted landfill closure account is in direct defiance of the landfill committee’s recommendation and possibly in violation of a DEM order. In several other areas, it ignores the recommendations of the council, administrator, town solicitor, and the library, to name just a few.
Taxpayers continue to be battered with demands for more funding, as if some in our government have become deaf to the plight of those it has sworn to serve. Now, we shall see if those weary from governments’ endless demands will vote for business-as-usual budgets in the privacy of the FTR’s voting booth after weeks of advance warning and study. The specifics of all plans will be closely examined in the next few weeks, and you will decide what you think is right. Voting takes place on May 15.
After seeing overwhelming support for the FTR, one might expect all our elected officials to support this grassroots support for reform, and reverse the years of abuse our citizens have endured. Not so. BC Chairman Chris Cotta continues to defy the expressed will of the voter, resisting our FTR every step of the way, recently traveling to Providence to testify against its ratification by the State General Assembly after voters passed it by a 2-to-1 majority. Mr. Cotta’s leadership is simply out of touch with the average Tiverton taxpayer, while he actively resists taxpayer friendly budget process reforms.
We at TCC promise to support a fact-based community-wide discussion on our budget priorities. We also promise that we will fight efforts to continue business as usual by the crowd to who led us here in the first place.
Tiverton Town Councilor
President Tiverton Citizens for Change