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Letter: Is The Nelson/TCC Budget Really Worth The Risk?

Tiverton resident Ron Potvin writes a letter to the editor.

To the Editor:

The in Tiverton over the Budget Committee’s proposal versus the Nelson/TCC budget proposal has been framed mostly in terms of school supporters versus school opponents. While I believe that there are people in town who would like to “stick it” to the schools, I prefer to frame the discussion in terms of long-term planning versus short term thinking. The Budget Committee proposes a vision that benefits the future of the entire town, while Nelson and the TCC propose a plan that serves the immediate needs of the few.

It’s worth summarizing the main elements of each budget. The elected Budget Committee proposes to increase school spending by 3.6 percent, the bottom line appropriation that the town is obligated to fund; raise municipal spending by 1.6 percent; and raise the tax levy by 2.6 percent. The Nelson/TCC proposal increases the budget by 1.5 percent, cutting nearly $600,000 from the budget committee recommendation that provides for fixed cost increases in special education and benefits; it increases municipal spending by 4.6 percent, nearly three times the Budget Committee proposal; and it increases the tax levy by 1.1 percent. This is a smaller amount than the Budget Committee proposal, but it does this by withdrawing $193,000 from the town’s general fund, and by projecting $200,000 in revenue from unidentified sources.

Let’s look the schools, or more broadly the value of schools to a community’s economy. A 2010 article in the Wall Street Journal makes clear the relationship between quality public schools and property values: “When housing markets go south, areas with exceptional schools tend to hold their value better than the market overall." And according to a 2011 Time “Moneyland” article, “A look at six months of foreclosure data shows that as the quality of a public school district goes up, the incidence of foreclosure goes down.” Conversely, foreclosures rise when the quality of public schools goes down. With the housing market only beginning to recover, drastic funding cuts to our schools would damage their reputation and could cripple the recovery and growth of the town’s residential tax base.

Tiverton schools have made great strides recently. In 2012, more than 200 Tiverton elementary and middle school students received the highest score on their NECAP exam. In addition, more than 80 high school students received top scores in science, reading, math, and writing, including several perfect scores. Over the past four years, Tiverton students increased their reading scores by 19 percent and their math scores by 8 percent, among the highest gains in Rhode Island. These accomplishments were led by teachers who have not received a raise during the same time period. To maintain this momentum, and its long term economic benefits, the schools must be properly funded.

Of great concern in the Nelson/TCC budget is the $393,000 in non-revenue related and unidentified income. The Nelson/TCC budget withdraws $193,000 from the town’s savings account, which could have a negative effect on the town’s bond rating, potentially raising the debt service on the new community library and limiting the ability of the town to borrow in case of an emergency that would ordinarily be covered by the surplus. Another $200,000 of revenue in the budget is identified as “natural levy growth and unallocated surpluses.” This represents wishful thinking rather than reality and is spending money the town simply does not have. With these two actions—essentially breaking open the town’s piggy bank and swiping its credit card—the TCC/Nelson budget increases the possibility of further long-term indebtedness. What the average taxpayer gains in tax savings in the slightly smaller levy is about the amount of money to buy a Big Mac twice a month or a paperback book once a month. Is it really worth the risk?

The budget committee did an admirable job of balancing all of the town’s needs, present and future, while keeping the tax rate as low as possible. What the town needs is long-term vision rather than short-term money-shuffling. I urge you to vote for the Budget Committee proposal, option number one on your ballot.

I also urge everyone to get out and vote. The future of Tiverton is at stake.

Ron Potvin
Tiverton

KSilvia May 03, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Jim, You obviously don't want those answers. Every meeting is open to the public, every meeting is posted on-line. Matt and others report after the meetings on budget details, as well as other facts.You just want to bring up questions in the hope that people will think that the schools are trying to hide something.
Rug Doctor May 03, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Since when is not getting $578K a cut? This was money that was asked for over and above last year. We have not voted yet to give any money. How is this a cut?
Bob Gaw May 03, 2012 at 03:50 PM
“When housing markets go south, areas with exceptional schools tend to hold their value better than the market overall." I don't think this statement supports the higher tax increase. My property evaluation went down 40% from the last tax assessment! I wish my taxes went down 40% but at best they will go up 1.1%-2.6%. How do other towns manage to go with 0% increases? Any businessman will tell you throwing money at a problem is not always the best solution.
Just Another Taxpayer May 03, 2012 at 04:00 PM
"Any businessman will tell you throwing money at a problem is not always the best solution." BG, please explain what you mean by this statement.
oldandtired May 03, 2012 at 05:12 PM
You mean like throwing $630K in additional spending at the municipal side Bob. You mean like throwing another $60K into their legal budget. You mean like taking a loan out = $150K to pay for a sewer study instead of waiting until you have saved up the money. Any business man will tell you when you know you have a loan that you need to pay back, you don't spend all your savings on OTHER things leaving nothing to payback that loan..Any business man will tell you that spending revenue that you haven't even earned yet, because you are "pretty sure" it will come in, is a bad idea. Any business man will tell you that you don't ignore an underfunded pension to buy night goggles. So for $70 in savings, you think those are the kind of decisions a business man would make? That is a business that won't be around too long.
Rug Doctor May 03, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Again as in life it is not a cut if the money has not been voted on yet. The Dave Nelson budget choice gives the schools more money than they had last year. Who in life gets everything they ask for? I sound like a parent here but it is true. Sometimes you must live within your means.....
Bob Gaw May 03, 2012 at 05:41 PM
I am sorry I have to explain this; #1 Money does not solve all problems. #2 Paying a truck driver the same as a CEO does not turn the truck driver into a CEO. #3 Paying the third string quarterback from the Patriots the same as Tom Brady does not turn him into Tom Brady. #4 Throwing money at rebuilding the Sakonett River bridge would have cost twice as much as building a new bridge. Bottom line money needs to be spent wisely and more money does not replace talent or desire to succeed. The author of this blog indicates solid school systems stabilize real estate values. I have kept up my property, why did my house decrease 40% in the last tax evaluation and at a higher rate than neighboring communities? I challenge anyone to call 10 knowledgeable local realtors and ask them what is the biggest drawback about moving into Tiverton. - I will bet my large tax bill the overwhelming majority will tell you TAXES!!!!
oldandtired May 03, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Also, the avg assessment in Tiverton went down by 15% (http://tiverton.patch.com/articles/letter-is-the-nelson-tcc-budget-really-worth-the-risk#comment_3218789) So if yours went down by 40% you are going to see NO tax increase at all, not 1.1 or 2.6%. Basic math.
Just Another Taxpayer May 03, 2012 at 06:30 PM
BG, so according to you the Town should not expend funds to pay for anything, including legal obligations like pension payments and special education costs etc.? Like minded people like yourself would like to see the elimination of every service the Town currently provides its residents.
oldandtired May 03, 2012 at 06:43 PM
And the budget committee budget gives the municipal side over $200,000 whihc is more than they got last year. The Nelson budget gives them over $600,000 more. Why should they be given that kind of increase. Sometimes one must live within their means, no? Still letting someone else think for you I see.
Bob Gaw May 03, 2012 at 07:11 PM
@ Old and tired, until you identify yourself as another businessman I have trouble respecting textbook answers, if you hide behind a "name old and tired" it is difficult for me to respect your background and any experience you may or may not have. You need to have walked the walk to talk the talk.
Bob Gaw May 03, 2012 at 07:20 PM
@ Just another Taxpayer hiding behind an unknown identity. Anyone can see from my writings that nowhere have I indicated the town should not expend funds, you have made that assumption yourself and no where do I support either budget. Unlike what you have assumed, I truly believe the town should not eliminate any services it provides it's residents, I simply said the town should spend our money wisely. I am sorry if you happen to be a third string quarterback who thinks they should be paid like Tom Brady but unless you have the courage to identify yourself and put your name on your jersey I cannot determine that and have less respect for what you say, think or write .
Jim L May 03, 2012 at 07:50 PM
All this talk about the town side increaseing so much and the school get less because of it? how about we lookk at all the last 10 years of tax raises that took place at the FTM, money always seemed to go to the school side and the town side took the hit, Want proof? just look at mandatory recyclying(a good thing) and the we now pay $2.00 bucks a bag for our trash to be picked up/ the budget comm wants to remove the landfill account? For what purpose? and if their guess is off who gonna get stuck, the taxpayersThe school system budget should be broken down better and more details given. Computers, as i said Middletown uses refurbished ones, at great savings, someone said "well they have problems with that, i don't see Middletown saying that! i do see their schools are rated higher than ours, Money not given is not a cut, if you don't get a raise your pay isn't cut so enough bull about that, the schools are getting more money than they had last year, and the money the council took, for years the budget commitee, the school system and the FTM all waltzed into the FTM on one saturday and danced out with more money, which always meant less for the town side.How about we help out the town and us taxpayers now? The landfill closer account that the budget commitee wants to remove? the one they say they think will work out? If not they can fix it next year? How about we go with the Other budget and if the schools just implode ll i guess we can fix that next year!
Rebecca Elwell May 03, 2012 at 07:56 PM
There is a "transparent" budget available on the school website- and perhaps elsewhere. http://www.tivertonschools.org Lots of valuable information there as well. Regarding the treatment plant: It was built in 1966 with a "life expectancy" of 40 years- at the ripe old age of 46 it needs replacement, a fact of life that the school department accounted for in their carry over funds.
KSilvia May 03, 2012 at 11:13 PM
So funny how people on here pull the "you are posting anonymously" anytime they don't want to answer a question.
Just Another Taxpayer May 04, 2012 at 11:20 AM
BG, if you don't like either budget proposal then what type of increase would you support. Your most recent comment implies that you are unhappy with both. Does this mean you are not voting for either proposal? The $2 bucks a bag was brought to you by Nelson, Coulter, Lambert and Chabot. Letting the schools implode as you suggest shows that you do not care about the whole Town.
Bob Gaw May 04, 2012 at 12:17 PM
@ Just another taxpayer. I will vote and choose a budget. As a proud taxpaying citizen of the United States of America I simply choose not to tell you how I will vote, just because I indicated I do not support either does not mean I will not vote for one. Please read things carefully before you comment, I was not the person who made the comment about the schools imploding, it was Jim L. You seem to want to jump to your own pre determined conclusions based on common sense comments I made about real estate values correlating to school systems and spending money wisely. Just because these comments made sense does not mean I will vote for one budget vs another. Attributing the comment about the schools imploding to me is like teaching a student to give the right answer to the wrong question, it may explain a few things.
Jim L May 04, 2012 at 12:39 PM
I seems to me with all the new toys for septic and such that someone must know just what the ground for the new septic holds, if ledge is there would it show up on a ground scan? Is the new system going to built on the site of the old one, thus saving the cost of new piping?How about this? The ground is Perfect for the system, comes in $85,000.00 under budget, who's pocket is that going into?When you start playing what if, everyone gets to play, thems the rules of this game?
oldandtired May 04, 2012 at 12:40 PM
We have two choices and many on here say go with Budget #2 just because it is lower by $70 and ignore all the BAD financial decisions made in it. Saving $70 will not attract people or businesses to Tiverton but making sound financial decisions will!
old_resident May 05, 2012 at 11:09 AM
As a long time resident with school children I would like to put a voice to my concerns. I do not want to cut funding for the schools in any way but I demand that you stay within the SAME BUDGET as last year in these difficult times. When jobs are being lost it is not too much to have you maintain a zero increase from the previous year. When will you stop asking for more? What will you need next year? Please help me understand!
Ron Potvin May 05, 2012 at 05:01 PM
There are mandated increases such as pensions, benefits, and special education. The budget committee has put forward a budget that meets the minimum needs of the school department. For its part, the school budget cuts--i.e. lays off--four teachers and eliminates many deferred needs. I too am a long-time resident with children in Tiverton's schools. The Nelson budget puts their education and college prospects at risk, while also putting the future finances of this town at greater risk than they are now. I find it very curious that the budget committee's 3.6% increase in school funding has received far more scrutiny that the Nelson/TCC budget's 4.6% increase in municipal spending, which includes far more "fluff" and uncertainties than the total budget put forward by the budget committee. Why is that?
RI Teabagger May 05, 2012 at 05:07 PM
He told us the budgets were equitable and we believe him. He asked us if we wanted to lose our houses to these bloodsuckers and we will stand together and say no! Stop the schools! God bless the TCC!
Renee Cwiek May 05, 2012 at 05:43 PM
"we believe him". WE do? I don't. I don't think WE is the correct word.
Tim Leary May 05, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Mr. Lipe it is not allowable to build the system on the existing site. Rules (DEM) require undisturbed ground according to what I've read.
KSilvia May 05, 2012 at 08:07 PM
How about the Council? Why don't you demand the same of them??
Gloria Crist May 05, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Wait a minute: You talk about over spending?-yet you have no problem with an extremist group such at the TCC spending-wasting- thousands of dollars on propaganda postcards that are sent out unsolicited? And support a budget that will increase spending to the highest it has been in five years??? What a waste of money-what a waste of breath. Hypocrisy at it's best. The only responsible vote is Budget #1-it is the vote that serves the community for the greater good and NOT that of a select few. Take the time to ask yourself-and really think here-what kind of group spends this kind of money to "be right?"-the same group that spent close to $80,000 of our tax dollars on unnecessary litigation....these are not the people who should be running our town. Take back community-take back Tiverton.
Ron Potvin May 14, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Here's some information about the importance of good schools to real estate values from a local source: "Statewide, strong public schools even matter to buyers who don't plan to use them. School systems are even a factor for those without any children, because a good school system helps increase the resale value of a home." http://www.golocalprov.com/business/the-link-between-schools-and-home-values-ris-top-high-schools-2012/
Ron Potvin May 14, 2012 at 03:09 PM
And here's some information about the performance of Fort Barton School, ranked number two overall in the state and tied for first in reading. We ARE getting our money's worth. http://www.sakonnet.com/news/2012/may/14/tivertons-fort-barton-school-2-overall-state/
KSilvia May 14, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Same article ranks our HS #16/51 schools Ron. If you compare our demographics (low income, % special ed, medium household income), we are doing great and are getting lots of VALUE!!
Gloria Crist May 14, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Thanks Ron: I will repeat this paragraph: And insist that EACH MEMBER OF THE TCC READ ALOUD TO THEMSELVES: We call it community. Public schools matter to buyers without children Statewide, strong public schools even matter to buyers who don't plan to use them. "School systems are even a factor for those without any children, because a good school system helps increase the resale value of a home," said Stephen Antoni. Residential Properties Sales Associate Katie Baker, who works in Cumberland, agreed. "A community's public school system really drives the location choice for most of the home-buying public," she said. "It's a reflection on future resale value." While young families often focus short-term on neighborhood elementary schools, Baker sees the high school as the driving factor in decision-making. "The high school probably holds the most weight," she said. Antoni agreed. "They're important for a couple of reasons," he said. "Families understand that the more demanding a high school is, the better prepared their graduates will be for college. Many parents know that colleges rate high schools, so when kids are applying to college, they'll have better chances getting in if their high school does well in the college ratings." "It's paramount in the decision on where to buy and live," said Coogan.

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