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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 , Tiverton is fast approaching its , 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.

David Nelson
Tiverton Town Councilor
President Tiverton Citizens for Change

Just Another Taxpayer April 19, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Maybe Mr. Nelson will defend his proposal at the May 1st meeting?
Joe Sousa. April 19, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Code Enforcement 343 Highland Road Tiverton RI 02878 Tel 625-6715 Fax 625-6754 August 30, 2011 To: William Rearick, Superintendent From: Gareth Eames, Building Official On August 25, 2011, an inspection was performed of the Tiverton High School. The following are a list of deficiencies that need addressing: 1. Loose Brick—Several exterior locations; bowing out above cafeteria. 2. Exposed steel column in lower corridor needs fire protection. 3. Hot water had not been activated. 4. Leak in radiator in corridor opposite library. 5. Bradley wash fountains not working in work & metal shops. 6. Various leaks in boiler room. The Septic system is estimated to cost four hundred thousand . State aid for education cut again this year. The surplus will be needed for repairs if the High School is going to be open next fall... Do we let these items get worse or fix them now with out having to go out for Bonds ? *
Matthew Sanderson April 19, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Thanks for the concern, but that's not the case at all. We are having technical difficulties on comments delayed from appearing on Patch sites. Comments should appear once the problem is resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience this is having to the discussion and we appreciate your patience.
TivRes April 19, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Great Letter! You have my vote!
Just Another Taxpayer April 19, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Mr. Nelson's budget proposal for the schools is not what the School Committee recommended or what the Budget Committee approved. His disdain(insert word of choice) for the schools is quite evident.
oldandtired April 19, 2012 at 06:27 PM
OK, this is just ridiculous at this point. All this group does is attack and blame everyone else. This is not fiscal conservatism, nor is it good government. Let us talk about the facts. Point 1: "Our recommendation is based on the Town Council budget, requested by the town administrator, while adding an ambulance." You mean the one that recommended a spending increase of 4.3% AND your adding to it?? NO thanks. Point 2: "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, " You mean the litigation that you started by taking the money in the first place is already set aside for a DEM mandated new sewer system? Point 3: "In several other areas, it ignores the recommendations of the council, administrator, town solicitor, and the library, to name just a few." So what it was a 4.3% increase?! Point 4: "Taxpayers continue to be battered with demands for more funding," And exactly how has this group that promised flat spending addressed that - increased spending BOTH years. You are cutting school spending to just spend it yourselves. How does that help "the battered" I certainly see how it helps you - no hard choices when you spend like that. Point 5: "We at TCC promise to support a fact-based community-wide discussion on our budget priorities." I think it clear what your priorities are and it is not controlling spending or doing anything that you promised.
oldandtired April 19, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Thanks Matt. I reposted mine.
Jim L April 19, 2012 at 07:02 PM
First with this new comments method it is hard to tell who is saying what about any comment, i think i needs to be fixed, second, lets not forget the last council that didn't even bother to vote on the budget, just said that the FTM was the real budget commitee, that was a nice little sidestep by some folks,now i know this crew has messed up a few times but don't forget to look back and seewhat got us here. oh course spending increased every year, what year doesn't it? that just saying the boogey mans in the closet so ya don't go looking for xmas presents,, Please don't just read these comments on here and think you are being informed, both budgets are on here and should be available elsewhere soon, put them side by side, see what YOU agree with, thats why the FTR was passed by so many of you voters, Now is not the time to listen to unfaced boogers (oops) on here don't forget most of them fought tooth n nail to keep the FTM oh and as 2 point 5 above, guess someone jumped the gun huh, whats the meeting on may 1 st for. if not an open disscussion?
Jim L April 19, 2012 at 07:16 PM
sure the school budget was vetted by the school folks, who all or almost all want more for the school and the union, they take care of their own, NOT THE TAXPAYERS,, again the phony bologna They increased spenting. like gas oil paint paper paving phone rates nothing went up, boy thats great guess we can just zero budget huh, gee the school could do even better since students numbers are decreasing, it's gotta be good for both sides, been good for school teachers not supplies not buildings not pavement not septic not books step increases, raises pensions, for alot of us the gravy train stopped, we do better with less seems like the head of schools does worse with more, and i'm not talking about pocassett or ranger or fort barton all outstanding schools and staff, why the fallout at middle, and then the high school just drops the super is right there is he not? is the problem the teachers? the lessons?Who's the top dog in charge here, this is the real world, want a raise? do a better job?
Just Another Taxpayer April 19, 2012 at 07:38 PM
I wonder if Mr. Nelson is going to explain his budget proposal to residents at the May 1st meeting?
Just Another Taxpayer April 19, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Jim L, if you want to know why there is not any public input allowed at the May 1st meeting you should the architects of the FTR, Mr. Caron and Mrs. Driggs.
Sick of Tiverton April 19, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Ok..Im confused. Is this 1.1 percent IN ADDITION to the budget comm. propasal? Thats not what is says, of course, is it ever.
oldandtired April 19, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Spending increased every year under these guys. Wake up Jim, They are proposing a 4.3%+ increase!!! Why is that OK with you. Look at the budget. Then they are stripping $400K from reserves to cover it up. BAD BAD BAD. What happens when we have to pay for the bond that they supported - Nelson will be telling us there is no money in savings so we will have to cut our services or raise our taxes. Wake up man. This group is not what we need. These guys make the Dems look like absolute spend thrifts in comparison!
oldandtired April 19, 2012 at 09:16 PM
I am not defending the school budget at all but you apparently are OK with a 4.3% spending increase by your buddies on the TCC/TC. You hypocrite.
David Nelson April 19, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Both budgets raise spending in amounts that are nearly identical. The TCC proposal leverages lasts years' surplus to fund increases, mainly for health care, and one time expenses like the jaws of life and an ambulance, where the BC raids the restricted landfill account. The key point to understand is that taxpayers were overtaxed last year and those funds will be used in this budget, instead of flowing to the general fund, which will maintain a level of about 3%, in line with current policy
oldandtired April 19, 2012 at 10:37 PM
That is a LIE! Your budget raising spending over 4.3% on the municipal side. The budget committee's is 1.6%. The facts get in the way,, but they are the facts!!
Tiverton Dad April 19, 2012 at 10:49 PM
How about the fact that the TCC budget increase is hidden by drawing down from reserve funds? Or the fact that the TC chose to pursue endless litigation against the school committee at the expense of the taxpayers? My mother always told me that a lie of omission is still a lie. These are the values that I was raised with.
Just Another Taxpayer April 19, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Joe,please explain why you keep repeating this post. How is it related to Mr. Nelson's letter?
Just Another Taxpayer April 19, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Mr. Nelson why are you reducing the School Committee's requested budget amount by over 500,000? Residents are entitled to an answer!
oldandtired April 19, 2012 at 11:04 PM
My point exactly Dad. This group campaigned on fiscal responsibility. Over and over they complained about the out of control spending and CONDEMNED the draw down of the reserve (I'll try and find my quote from Coulter) and now I am supposed to applaud the fact that they increased spending over 4.3% and used taxpayer dollars to offset it! How about this, instead of raising your spending through the stratosphere, how about you kept your spending at say 1% and then used my taxpayer dollars to REDUCE the levy. And what about that library bond you all supported. How are you going to pay for that? Certainly not with savings because you just pissed it all away on your own reckless spending.
Tom April 20, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Mr. Nelson you didn't show up at any of the Budget Committee meetings and now you want to complain about the process or in this case the end result. As Joe Sousa said the everyone worked very hard on these budgets and you are just PO'd that you didn't get your way with the budgets and you didn't get your way with the school lawsuit.
Joe Sousa. April 20, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Sitting on the Budget Committee for the last two seasons, I have seen lists of needed items being requested by every dept in town. This town has a lot of needs most of which cost thousands of dollars . Things wear out and need to be replaced. The same applies to the school. We either fund the repairs year to year or we float bonds and do total reconstruction at five times the cost. We need to end the fighting and fix the problems. In my opinion the Budget Committee found a way to fund some of the needed items with out hurting other areas in the budget,and with minimum impact to the town folk. We tried to put as much as possible in to paving as well. I didn't agree with every item in the budget that the BC passed. It was a democratic process and compromise was part of the process. The people will decide.
oldandtired April 20, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Joe, Though I might not agree with all the decisions, I do appreciate your effort and your honest comments about the process.
Just Another Taxpayer April 20, 2012 at 01:40 PM
A new day same question. Mr. Nelson why are you reducing the School Committee's requested budget amount by over 500,000? Residents are entitled to an answer!
Just Another Taxpayer April 21, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Joe, Mr. Nelson can't produce something that does not exist. According to the rules of the FTR, alternate budgets may be submitted by any resident. The rules only speak to placing a bottom line number on the ballot. There isn't any language which states supporting evidence needed to be included with the proposal. This is exactly what Mr. Nelson has done. No accountability to the taxpayers. For example, Mr. Nelson's proposed budget would cut over $575,000 from the school department yet he does not provide taxpayers with any details on what should be cut. Transparency??? I think not!!
Just Another Taxpayer April 21, 2012 at 12:57 PM
A new day same question. Mr. Nelson why are you reducing the School Committee's requested budget amount by over 500,000? Mr. Nelson, residents are entitled to an answer!
Gloria Crist April 21, 2012 at 01:29 PM
This is simply not true. Not one word of it. You may fiddle with your numbers to support your ego driven budget-and increase spending thinking no one will notice-but you are simply not being truthful.
tiverton teacher April 21, 2012 at 01:59 PM
To Jim L. and others who may wonder. Just to be clear, Teacher have not had a raise in four /five years. The middle and high school teachers are "not the top dog" as we do as we are told by state mandates, the curriculum coordinator, and our Superintendant. We are professional who have a four (and usually much more) years at some college. Our education costs more then what we earn, our supplies for the schools have been cut so we do not have new books,we photocopy everything or we buy the material ourselves. Technology? What technology? In 2014 the state will mandate that testing be done on computers by all students. We have 50/60 computers that are all refurbished and not up to date. So before everyone thinks the money goes to the teachers you are very wrong. The schools need repairs, cost of materials,and heating goes up. It is the up- keep of the middle and high school that require an increase not the teachers.
Gerry Jones April 28, 2012 at 01:09 AM
lord nelson, the only person defying the will of the voters is YOU. You want to give you buddy, defelice, the only one who has ABSOLUTELY no experience with ANYTHING a free shot at our industrial park and now you want to defy the ELECTED budget committee. How far does your arrogance go? We, your constituents, want to know.
oldandtired October 17, 2012 at 04:40 PM
A failure of leadership Mr. Nelson? I consider the TCC a huge failure. Two years ago you promised as the President of the TCC in a letter to all the papers and in emails forwarded around town the following: “TCC has stated numerous times, and do so again now, that we support flat spending and expanding the tax base to relieve the burden on residential property owners. TCC endorses those candidates who are committed to holding down spending and taxes. We also want to change the openly hostile attitude toward economic development in town by welcoming community minded business men and women to join us in the effort.” The TCC was elected to control spending and yet approved the largest municipal increase to the budget in over three years and did it TWO YEARS IN A ROW. Not prior councils, you. Yes, the tax rate increase was the lowest in a decade but TCC did nothing to achieve that, that was the budget committee and the people. As far as being business friendly, just look to Four Corners and the Oyster Farm (NIMBY). You all bitch and cry about the "tax and spenders" and you ignore the ridiculous budgets proposed by this group, including one to cover out of control spending of over 4.3%. The past two years is not how a town should be run. We need people in town that will control spending and show leadership. I agree that some past Council members aren’t the answer, but neither is this group. I will never forget all the false promises and flip flopped positions.

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