Letter: Let’s work harder to find relief for taxpayers

Posted 5/23/24

Regardless of past mistakes, the town is at a critical point where decisions are being made that affect all of us.

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Letter: Let’s work harder to find relief for taxpayers


To the editor:

The Town budget has increased each of the last four years. Now, with a tragic accident that resulted in a hefty lawsuit we find ourselves in a financial pickle. How did we get here? Surely a lawsuit couldn’t be the only reason for it.

One would need to look at the spending over the last several years to get a sense of what got us here. Hopefully, this is something the current auditors are doing, but from an outsider view it seems much of this falls to former staff. For instance, it’d be worthwhile to look into how much the Town spent on consultants over the last four years and what we have to show for it. For which projects were consultants hired and where are those projects currently?

Regardless of past mistakes, the town is at a critical point where decisions are being made that affect all of us.

The Council is asking for a hike in the tax levy rate to 5.7% even though Rhode Island General Law 44-5-2 prohibits the total levy from exceeding a 4% increase over the levy from the prior year. In order to do so, the town must prove there is a need, either from losses in total non-property tax revenues, an emergency situation, an increase in debt services expenditures, or “substantial growth in its tax base as the result of major new construction that necessitates either significant infrastructure or school housing expenditures”.

There’s certainly cause for this hike based on these criteria, but is it the only (or best) option?

As noted at the Council meeting this month, the Town is awaiting the financial audit before making any final decisions, but it seems (at least to this resident) there were other options.

Why was Councilman Joseph DePasquale, as the lone vote against approving the preliminary budget, the only one willing to do the work and come up with cuts that would drop the necessary tax increase to 4%? Or why, when Town Manager Brian Sullivan suggests there may be unspent money from the ARPA funds received coming out of the pandemic, are the Council Members trying to think of new projects to fund, as they were last evening?

We are in a budget crisis, folks. We should be figuring out creative ways to save money — not coming up with new projects to spend on. Couldn’t this remainder be used to cover costs already accrued if, as Sullivan suggests, these funds can be used for (almost) anything government related?  

Full disclosure, I don’t like paying taxes. But I understand the need and accept it when the money I earn goes towards making the place I live better; to support the programs that are important to me and my neighbors. Heck, I like having my trash picked up and the streets swept. I’m no mathematician or a qualified CPA but I have worked on budgets and bookkeeping for organizations of various sizes and with a cursory look at the proposed budget even I can see areas for tightening the old purse strings, as it were.

Let’s exhaust all options before defaulting to the low hanging fruit of hiking the taxes of our hard-working citizens.

Uriah Donnelly

Child Street

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