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Letter: Yes on #2 for Long-Term Stability and Low Taxes

Tiverton resident Rob Coulter writes a letter to the editor.

To the Editor:

One of the many great things about the financial town referendum (FTR) is there will be no last-second surprises and we’ve had several weeks to consider the proposals before voting. Unfortunately, as we are seeing, this hasn’t stopped the personal attacks, manipulation of numbers, and scare tactics that are now standard practice from some who in the same breath lecture all of us on community values. At least now there’s time to respond.

Proposal #1 calls for higher taxes, deliberate underestimation of revenues so town surpluses continue to grow, and much higher baseline spending partially disguised by ending our annual contributions to the landfill closure account. By shortchanging the landfill and rejecting capital purchases that would be responsibly paid in full within one budget cycle, Proposal #1 appears to spend less on the municipal budget but actually spends far more over time. Proposal #1 is championed mostly by those who, ironically, in past years supported the depletion of Town reserves far below the 3% charter requirement while raising spending and taxes dramatically, and who just recently fought against the FTR tooth and nail.

Proposal #2, on the other hand, is mostly based on the Town Administrator and Town Council’s carefully crafted budget and policies meant to support long-term stability. It is attractive not only for its low 1.1% tax increase, but also because it cautiously accounts for prior years of overtaxation. Tiverton will not soon forget hearing the same tactics being repeated today that were used by familiar voices to break tax caps during the recession, only to end up with multiple $750,000 surpluses.  Past experience should be a guide when considering the doomsday scenarios floated by those looking for higher taxes, higher surpluses, and higher multi-year spending. 

Some critics of Proposal #2 seem intent, as is their usual routine, to distract from its broad support by personalizing their criticism against petitioner and councilor David Nelson. It looks like that so long as the sun rises over Tiverton, we will have to cope with personal attacks and false criticisms against Mr. Nelson. I won’t waste time responding to obviously selective statistics or slanderous rhetoric against TCC, though I can’t help but note that Mr. Nelson can’t seem to catch a break from these dozen or so folks consumed by anti-TCC hatred even when he proposes tax and spending increases

Instead, I’ll focus on the more reasonable questions about revenues and surpluses. The Town Administrator/Council’s budget, which I support, earmarked about $200,000 out of the $45,000,000 budget for neglected capital needs payable in full with no future budget impact. This is not from “phantom” revenue, but an audited, confirmed surplus from last year. Taxes are also kept down to 1.1% because it stops underestimating revenues which cause these surpluses. Why keep overtaxing when we have a recent history of surpluses?

One argument we’ve heard to grow surpluses is to make bonds supposedly easier and cheaper to get. In my nearly four years of asking, no one has yet been able to answer how much bond interest would be saved, if any at all, with higher reserves. Our current bonds have fixed interest rates, so this speculation can only apply to new bonds. But does it make sense to take $7M from taxpayers (per the stated goal of one Budget Committee member) and park it in a bank account just to have a theoretical but unproven lower interest rate on a $3M library bond?  Of course not.  So maybe their agenda is for the Town to issue even more bonds, but with the several bonds we are paying on now and another one coming next year, I don’t think we should be going even further into debt.

Critics also seem to forget that the municipal government does not spend its entire budget on the first day of the year. Like all of us do in our household and business budgets, if revenue comes in short as the year goes on, we deal with it by spending less and then adjust for the next year’s budget cycle. The sky also won’t fall because the Town Council’s policies encourage savings and prepare for unforeseen expenses like abnormally snowy winters without overbudgeting.  (One more reason to vote against Resolution #4, which attempts to override our Town Charter on this.)      

So with proper budgeting and oversight, 1.1% should be more than enough.  Regardless, no one has the right to attack you for voting for 1.1% for no other reason than the bills on your kitchen table. It’s your money. It’s your home. It’s your town. And it’s the government’s job to do the best it can with what you can afford. Not to run every play in the book at you because a million dollar increase every year (and four bonds) somehow isn’t enough for the school department. You also don’t lose any moral high ground by supporting lower taxes. An estimated 2,000 of our Tiverton neighbors are unemployed or underemployed. For them, every dollar counts. I’m voting yes on #2 for them.

Again, though, it’s not just about taxes or just one budget year. Proposal #2 doesn’t redirect funds from our landfill account to support higher baseline spending.  It funds wastewater planning to keep DEM lawsuits at bay.  It pays for capital needs like a Jaws of Life rescue tool with – and this is important - payment in full rather than lock in budget increases forever.  Like any budget, it’s not perfect but I believe it’s the better choice.  Public works, street paving, library, labor negotiations…the list goes on and on and #2 gets it right on many essential line items with a long-term vision.

The resolutions also matter. Proper financial planning and policies build a strong foundation to meet our needs while keeping taxes down, consistently, without episodes of wild overtaxation and always being in crisis mode. To do this, vote yes on Budget Proposal #2, and just as importantly, vote no on Resolution #4 and yes on Resolution #5. Please do not hesitate to call me at 401-525-0469 if I can help answer any questions. Thank you.

Robert Coulter
Tiverton Town Councilor
Former Vice Chairman, Budget Committee

Mike Burk May 13, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Interesting that Mr. Coulter chose to wait until the last minute to post more misinformation. Tiverton's, Rhode Island's and the US unemployment rate are horrible. However, we again see the TCC playing lose with the fact on this. If you visit the RI Dept. of Labor and Training's data center and drill down to this page (http://www.dlt.ri.gov/lmi/laus/town/laus12.htm) you will find that in March 2012 (latest available), Tiverton's labor force was 8,902 individuals, the number employed was 7,849 and the number unemployed (no indication of length of unemployment but certainly the assumption is made that many are long term unemployed) was 1,053. Too high - YES! However, Mr. Coulter states it to be twice as high as the labor department statistics. Oh, what's that, you say he included underemployed in that figure. But how did he determine nearly 1,000 underemployed? According the the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (see http://bls.gov/cps/faq.htm#Ques12), "Because of the difficulty of developing an objective set of criteria which could be readily used in a monthly household survey, no official government statistics are available on the total number of persons who might be viewed as underemployed. Even if many or most could be identified, it would still be difficult to quantify the loss to the economy of such underemployment." Just one more example of Mr. Coulter and his friends use of bad information to mislead voters. Support our community by approving Budget Question #1.
Jim L May 13, 2012 at 03:23 PM
So what does the unemployment rate have to do with anthing other than the fact that their taxeshould be held to the lowest posible fugure so then can't get on their feet again,why should they pay a higher tax rate to a school system that refuses to live within the money they are given in a budget? you think the unemployed and elderly in this town can just tax X amount of their budget an just NOT use it?The schools are getting MORE money this year, it just that their wish list isn't getting all check marks period
Just Another Taxpayer May 13, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Jim L, the person who you support, Mr. Coulter is lying about the unemployment rate in order to justify his good friend, Mr, Nelson's budget proposal which cuts the School Department by $587,000 while increasing municipal spending by 4.6%. Lying comes easy for members of the TCC, its that simple. Fellow residents, Vote for Option #1 at the FTR on May 15th.
Jim L May 13, 2012 at 03:48 PM
that is just an absurd comment, adds nothing to the arguement going on here, in my mind it is just petty
Jim L May 13, 2012 at 03:58 PM
and you real name is?and we should not vote to to save taxpayer money and make the school system live within there budget because some one got employment figures wrong, and some one throws there trash out someplace else? thats a reason to hand the schools more taxpayer money? What cut. the schools are getting more money, their just not getting their complete wish list, no teaching money is involved here, theres no new contract/they are getting what certain citizens after studying the schools think that what the schools realy need not want, thats why the FTR was given life, to stop wastefull taxpayer money, Trashbags? wrong unemployment figures, thats the best you got? doesn't make me want to reach in my pocket to give more money to a broken system
Brian Medeiros May 13, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Mike, you know the TCC motto: never let the facts get in the way of a good con-job. Mr Coulter has a special talent of taking a grain of fact and twisting it to mean whatever twisted point he's trying to convince people of. And then TCC'ers parrot it like it's fact. It reminds me of Stephen Colbert's word "truthiness": what they say isn't true, but they say it because it "feels" true.
jon devolve May 13, 2012 at 07:25 PM
So instead you want to vote for a budget plan that is obviously flawed? That makes a ton of sense. Good for you!
KSilvia May 13, 2012 at 07:31 PM
You mean like these "cuts" being complained about here by DAVE NELSON: This effort by the Budget Committee takes away a new jaws of life, cuts the Town Council's Library budget, limits the Town Council’s ability to fight for the taxpayers in labor negotiations, and eliminates landfill funds which are set aside for its closure. http://tiverton.patch.com/articles/letter-i-believe-tiverton-taxpayers-show-their-commitment-to-public-education All are "getting more than last year", just not what the Council wanted. Hypocrites
Tiverton Dad May 13, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Among all the we-said/they-said, let's not forget the facts: Budget 1 is fully vetted, follows strict accounting standards, and was created by months of hard work by the budget committee. Budget 2 was created in private without citizen input by an ideologically-based private group and uses mysterious accounting methods that its creators refuse to explain. Budget 1 was created by a duly-elected body. Budget 2 was created by a group rife with conflicts of interest including one member whose wife serves on the school committee and flipped her support, two members who serve on the council and used the work of a town employee to create their proposal, and another member who serves on the budget committee. Where do their elected responsibilities end and their personal agenda begin? Budget 1 responsibly funds ALL of the town's operations. Budget 2 guts the schools and adds pounds of pork to the municipal budget. Budget 1 provides a future for our town, while budget 2 will scare away home buyers with children, who also happen to be the chief consumers at local businesses. Whether you vote with your conscience or your brain, the result is the same. Budget 1 is the only sensible and responsible direction for this town.
TIger May 13, 2012 at 10:02 PM
It just shows that the old saying is true, " How do you know when a lawyer is lying, it's when his lips are moving!!" Once again, as Robbie would say, Most reasonable people - vote Budget #1.
KSilvia May 13, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Tiger, Your comments are unacceptable and unwelcome. We can win on the facts, we don't need the name calling. Please stop.
fred floon May 14, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Brian Thanks for the reasoned reply, backed up by facts and not taking the low road of vicious personal attacks! A credit to the teacher's union and democrap party. Your old pal, freddy
fred floon May 14, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Can't fight with facts, attack the man...low class, we'll see on tues if it's effective
fred floon May 14, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Joanne Without having louise durfee to tell you hoe to vote (now that the voters have tossed you both off the town council), how do you know how to vote or what to say? Is chris cotta the new louise when you have to do some independent thinkin' ?
fred floon May 14, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Jon You're confused...louise durfee went to Yale, rob coulter went to the US Naval academy. Nelson is a Marine...what have you and the rest of you union/demoskunk yahoos done for your nation? Standing inthe back of the town hall screaming profanities at the budget committee doesn't count, mike
fred floon May 14, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Let's see...a town budget of about 43 million, of which about 29 million is for the schools; of that about 24 million goes to salary, medical and other teacher's union costs...so when you write "a select few" you're referring to your pals in the teacher's union? You know, those who have bled the town dry, and want even more... Question: what happens when the voters reject the 2.6 % tax increase?
Brian Medeiros May 14, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Jane: You actually posted a disgusting comment demeaning people with disabilities, & you have the gall to criticize someone else as childish? When can we expect your apology? I'm guessing about the same time TCC answers a question honestly about the Nelson Budget. Do you actually read your own comments, or are you an anonymous split personality? What's reprehensible is the depths you & TCC will go to force your will on Tiverton, the destruction you're willing to cause to get your self-serving way.
fred floon May 14, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Brian Again, thanks for the facts and not resorting to a personal attacks on mr coulter...you've been grumpy ever since TCC humiliated you personally and the rest of the local union/democlown establishment by passing the FTR with 67% of the vote...man! This crowd of strangers showed up and took the town (where you went to school and where yourparents are buried) away from you, lower taxes, and change the town charter so you can no longer steal the ftm...it's got to be hard on you guys, and certainly justifies the lies and scare tactics you're using. Try not to choke on tuesday if things...go awry. And if they don't: two years ago it was the difference between a 4.4 % increase and a 12% increase; now it's between 1.1 and 2.6 %. Isn't the irony delicious? Even if they lose this vote, they win... Where's your red shirt? Warm personal regards, FF
Brian Medeiros May 14, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Fred: You humiliate yourself & TC every time you speak. I made my case on the Nov FTR method, used facts against crazy personal attacks & over $10,000 in anonymous TCC political donations, and when voters decided, I accepted it & moved on. I challenge you to do as not one TCC'er has done: PROVE one thing I've said that is untrue. No, you just make baseless accusations because that's all you know & all you've got. BTW, I celebrated in Nov that despite TCC opposition (not made public, of course, for fear of losing FTR votes), the library bond passed as well. Tiverton voters DO care about their community, & WILL choose to pay a bit more in taxes to preserve it. And however things go Tuesday, this fight to stop you & TCC from destroying Tiverton is just beginning. Red shirt? Never wore one. But if you lose Tuesday, will you try to get rid of the FTR and come up with a system even more rigged to produce a set outcome? Warm personal regards, right back at ya.
Gloria Crist May 14, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Here is a valid and trustworthy breakdown of both budgets.....the answer is clear: Budget #1 is the budget for the greater good: Option #1 - 11 person panel including accountant & former treasurer, 6+ months, line by line, site visits, meeting with department heads, and other elected officials produce budget for the ENTIRE community that has an increase of 2.6%. Minimal in the face of the State pension crisis, rising health insurance and fuel costs. No salary increases and no frivolity. VS. Option #2 - 1 man, 1 night, the addition of 3 lines of revenue, 2 of which are completely unsupported, and 1 reducing the general fund, add up to a 1.1% increase - what happens when the 2 unsupported lines of revenue DO NOT materialize? Creative Accounting at best - (I've yet to figure how to account for made up revenue), and future tax increases to restore what was stripped away. > Please check out the RI Office of Municipal Affairs website , and see the budgets, tax bases and tax rates of the other 38 communities in the State of RI. There are only 12 other communities, all with 100% assessment of real property, that have a lower tax rate. Our community, although we have our faults, we are a solid full service community - and the beauty is hard to compare. > > Think about your vote - and look at the process and the hard numbers. >
Chris Cotta May 14, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Great News reported today! GoLocalProv.com reported Tiverton High School ranks 16th out of 51 High Schools in Rhode island. Yes, your tax money IS being well spent educating Tiverton's children to be future leaders for tomorrow and has been confirmed through an independedt study and report. Of course the TCC will find all kinds of fault and never recognize the great work being put forth by all those who work in the Tiverton School System. I have no qualm or issues in how the School Administration has been using the resources we as taxpayers have been providing. Even though my children have long left any my grandkids will not be beneficiares of the Tiverton School system, I do believe in supporting the next generation's ability to compete regardless where I live and pay taxes. Unlike the TCC who continually rail on CHILD ONLY expenses, as can be seen through thier record municipal increase of three times the budget committee recommendation coupled with unsubstantiated school cuts to fund thier wasteful and bloated spending, I am in favor of providing Tiverton kids the ability to have a well rounded education so they can be successful in any endeavor or career they choose to follow.
Matthew Sanderson May 14, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Here is the link I think Chris is talking about. http://www.golocalprov.com/news/chart-ris-high-schools-2012-from-1-to-51/
Gerry Jones May 14, 2012 at 06:12 PM
robbie, how long did you work on lord nelson's budget, 20 minutes? Where will the purported revenues come from? When you can answer these and the other questions asked by your constituents, we might actually take you seriously. Until then, my garbage pick up is mid week- can I drop off a couple of bags for Mrs Coulter to take to Newport or is the car already full from the nelsons'?
KSilvia May 14, 2012 at 06:18 PM
And the robocalls have begun!
Brian Medeiros May 14, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Thanks, Fred. Every time you come up with another fact-free anti-teacher rant, you make my case that TCC, which once promised to be a "taxpayers voice", has simply become a few deep-pocketed, embittered people with no ties to the community, using thousands of dollars in robocalls, mailers & signs to deceive the people of Tiverton into destroying their own community. Sorry, but facts are stubborn things.
Brian Medeiros May 14, 2012 at 06:34 PM
BTW Fred, do you approve of Jane Doe calling those who disagree with her "mentally challenged", using that term to mean "stupid"? Do you folks have no shame?
Chris Cotta May 14, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Thanks Matt for posting the site from golocalprov
Joanne Arruda May 15, 2012 at 01:10 AM
@ Fred FOOL! No one ever told me how to vote, that's how much you know. However you can't say the same.....You are nothing but a pathetic puppet for Nelson(or maybe you are Nelson) and his followers all told what to say and when. It's so obvious none of his people can speak with out a prepared script, and if they do speak without their scripts, they go way off the reservation by admitting things that they should never have said in public, you make fools of yourselves every time. Case in point: here is a direct quote of the post from "the other woman" "We have a difference of opinion on that one, but remember to vote as we have been told and close a school so we can begin healing the town." Again, another admission of being told how to VOTE! Oh and by the way, I wasn't "run off the Council, I CHOSE not to run for re-election due to job committments, I doubt you could do the same. Others talk of people using suedo names, I use mine, you?
Brian Medeiros May 15, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Fred: When you come up with an independent thought of your own, we'll have to throw a party for you--we'll call it Floon-a-Palooza. You belong to a group of people who can't tie their shoes without having TCC talking points telling you how to do it, & you accuse someone else of being told how to vote? You show with every comment that you know nothing beyond what you've been told by TCC, and guess what? None of it's true. Like many others before you, you'll have to find that out the hard way. BTW, I served with Joanne, Louise, Chris & the others you routinely deride with phony accusations, and whether we agreed or disagreed on issues, we were all working for the betterment of the town. Contrast that to this TCC-led Council's destructive personal agenda.
Brian Medeiros May 15, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Fred: All we've done is present fact after fact that TCC & Co tries to distract from with thousands of dollars of robocalls, endless mailers, & signs. TCC looks at Tiverton voters as ignorant hicks they can con into voting against the town's interest, and in TCC's, if they spend enough money. It may or may not work tomorrow, but when people realize what they've been sold, there will be hell to pay.

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