Little Compton Budget Approved Amid 'One Vote Fits All' Concern

With a 0.94 property tax rate increase, a few Little Compton voters questioned the process of approving all line items in one group vote.

Residents approved the $12.2 million Little Compton at Tuesday night's financial town meeting (FTM), but not after some concern raised over the procedure. On July 1 the property tax rate will increase 0.94 percent to $5.38 per $1,000 of assessed value, and the total tax levy will increase 1.49 percent.

Quorum was reached at approximately 7:06 p.m. in the and the FTM lasted about an hour and 10 minutes. According to dispatcher Russell Wordell, approximately 170 voters attended out of 2,975 active registered.

The recently will reportedly have no impact on the next fiscal budget or that year's property taxes.

After voters approved the first six FTM articles, also called strokes, of the Budget Committee's report to the town, they motioned to approve Articles 7 through 59, which outlines all the line item spending. Resident and Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District Chairman Walter Elwell first asked why $1,000 did not get recommended to them for the next year, noting they took a 40 percent cut from the state this year and town spent their annual request in the past.

"We feel those should be funded through grants and not the taxpayer’s dollar," Budget Committee Chairman Scott Morrison said. "That stroke is only $1,000. We’re trying to draw the line."

Resident Francisco Silva took issue with the motion to approve all articles at once. Resident Ellen Kinnane took to the microphone and suggested restructuring the annual FTM.

"If we want a greater number of people, and to engage a greater diverse range of people, I consider restructuring our town meeting to consider things one meeting at a time." she said, addressing the Town Council, Budget Committee and town moderator on stage, of whom are all men. "Town democracy is lost to just a small handful of votes in a town meeting."

Morrison first said it "didn't seem like an efficient use of time" to go through and discuss each individual line item when he's only heard concerns from one or two people. He added they changed the proposal several times, had 14 public meetings as a Budget Committee, two public hearings, sent two mailings out, posted their agenda at and had some of the meetings televised.

"It's your right to say you want to go through every item in the budget," Morrison noted.

An amendment was made to put the $1,000 back toward conservation district and tellers were deployed to count votes. The motion failed after the votes came back of 62 "yes" and 79 "no."

Silva came back, addessing the main motion of "one vote fits all," saying he came to the FTM to vote on 58 or 60 strokes and that some voters are being denied their opportunity to act on a motion to an article they came to vote on. Moderator Larry Anderson gave him the chance to address specific articles, and Silva addressed another $1,000 line item denied that went toward the fund of a former fire chief, Alfred Texceira.

After voters rejected a motion removing that article from the group vote, Silva left the gym with another person before the final vote was taken.

Votes in private booth were still being made following the FTM to elect two new members to fill open positions on the Budget Committee.

for Morrison's explanation on the budget and for the Budget Committee's mailing last month.


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