Letter: Tiverton Budget Committee did its job for taxpayers
To the editor:
Unlike the past few years, this year the Budget Committee (BC) recommends a budget that requires a 0.5% tax levy increase all while absorbing a $515,000 bond interest payment resulting from the Nov 8, 2016, voter approval of a new $15 million school bond.
Library and bond payment aside, on the municipal side the BC recommended $14,463 less than the Town Council requested amount, and this included increasing the Town Council contingency account from $25,000 to $40,000.
Despite all the public rhetoric and “fake news” of Budget Committee “cuts,” the library grant benefited from a 3% increase to cover salary and insurance increases. Noteworthy facts include:
• 1) Since the library bond’s approval, the taxpayer library grant has increased 35% although the library told voters costs would only increase by 10%.
• 2) The library budget includes over six employees each working six hours per week while the library doors are locked to the public. Hence the library being closed last summer on Saturdays while employees were also paid to be behind locked doors is mismanagement and an outrage!
• 3) The state’s employment standard requires a minimum of 175 ‘full time hours’ per week. The library requests funding for 363 hours per week – more than double the requirement.
• 4) When a charter complaint was filed against the library last year alleging the library improperly influenced the May 2016 FTR vote, the library adamantly argued that it was not part of the town yet still threatened the taxpayers for more grant funding.
Two years ago the school department threatened that there would be no all-day kindergarten (ADK) unless they won their budget at the May 2015 FTR. Yet even though they lost the FTR, the schools ‘found the money’ for ADK and ended that year with a $1,130,867 surplus increase. To date, the school total surplus has grown to $3.5 million! Surpluses grow for only two reasons - underspending the budget or receiving extra (state) aid – both of which point to over-taxation.
While the School Committee claims to have over $10 million in building repairs over and above the new $15 million bond, it has been dragging its heels in setting up and funding the capital account required for state reimbursement, leaving the full $3.5 million for “operations” and ripe for funding impending contract negotiation giveaways. At bottom the BC recommended that the schools fund their $293,499 grab from taxpayers from their $3.5 million surplus, which is “over taxed” taxpayer money to begin with. Not at all unreasonable.
The library and the schools operate under “maintenance of effort” laws that require taxpayers to fund each year’s budget at no less than the prior year. Hence, each year that these budgets increase, a new and higher minimum is established for the next year. For this reason alone, I urge all taxpayers to hold the line on these non-reversible increases by supporting the BC recommendation of 0.5% which is #1 on the FTR ballot this year.
Mr. Caron is a member of the Tiverton Budget Committee