Letter: Tiverton taxes vastly outpace inflation, income

Posted

To the editor:

A while back, while discussing the annual decision of voters to pass budgets that increase Tiverton’s tax levy by less than 1%, somebody quipped that the town couldn’t keep operating on a 1988 budget.  Ah, 1988.  The country was deciding who would fill Ronald Reagan’s shoes as president. Celine Dion was still singing in French.  And movie theaters were showing Rain Man, Beaches, and the first Die Hard.

But what about Tiverton’s tax levy?  My records don’t go back quite that far, but the audit for 1990 reports the tax levy that year as $10.8 million (after exemptions). By comparison, the 2016 audit reports a levy of $37.8 million — more than triple!

Some might point out that this comparison doesn’t account for the cost of living (inflation), and yes, that adjustment would close the gap some.  Increased at the same rate as the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the 1990 levy would have been $20.0 million in 2016, still $17.9 million less than we actually paid. It would be more true to say that in 2016 we paid 2044 taxes, because that’s when the average inflation rate of the last three decades would have brought the 1990 levy up to $37.8 million.  

If remembering 1988 makes you feel old, how young does imagining 2044 make you feel? Those who insist that a few years of relatively low tax increases have already squeezed the excess out of Tiverton’s budgets have to explain all of this extra spending year after year after year over decades.  The most obvious justification would be debt on our still-new buildings and repairs, but the payments on all of our debt totaled 4.0 million in 2016 (not including pensions).  That’s a small fraction of the increase.

One detail is much more shocking: We’re being asked to pay our 2044-level taxes with 1990 income, or pretty close. From 1990 to 2015, median household income in Tiverton increased about 2.8% per year, versus about 2.4% annual inflation, even factoring in population growth.  If Tiverton households’ income had grown as much as their town taxes, the median would have gone from $36,170 in 1990 to $124,295 in 2015.  The actual number was $71,901.

Tiverton residents who constantly demand more of their neighbors’ money in taxes should stop and think about how harmful and unfair that gap is for working families.

Justin Katz

Tiverton

— Mr. Katz is a member of the Tiverton Budget Committee.

Comments

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Helen Reddy

This graph is rather misleading. Tiverton replaced three elementary schools from top to bottom on or around 2008. That should be reflected. Very misleading.

Monday, March 20 | Report this
Jerrett

Justin. Thank you for this graphic. This is exactly why we have voted for the minimum increase. Just a few other points of note. Back in the 90's Tiverton was touted as a great place to retire. Some folks agreed and moved here. Just in (no pun intended) time to see the town decide to build three new schools at the same time. So these folks who lived abroad came here to pay for Tiverton Schools. It never dawned on anyone that the schools could be purchased in phases so as not to burden the town all at once (for 30 years). Other buildings go in disrepair while we are all flabbergasted by the ever-increasing "needs" of the town. It would be interesting to see projections of the graphic considering school loan payoffs, any imaginary income from the casiNO, etc...

You mention "pensions" I think this is one major issue of concern. We see towns across the state going bankrupt over pensions. Had we stuck with an increase closer to the graphic, it might have been sustainable. But we didn't. Something's got to give. I would suggest looking into phasing in matching IRA contributions for new employees of the town. In the short term it costs more to match their contribution (to a point) but long run we aren't locked into 100's of thousands for a person who worked 20 and bails to Florida. Also, if someone decides the job isn't for them, they can leave and take the vested portion with them.

Tuesday, March 21 | Report this

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