The Public Hearing last night on the Tiverton Budget Committee Proposal was quite civil, with just a few comments and no yelling or name calling. Cecil Leonard, Chair of the 11-member Budget Committee, was quite eloquent in explaining the main FY2017/2018 increases from the current budget, and the rational for the increases. Mr. Leonard stated that, as is the case every year, the budget is 70%-80% fixed costs due to contractual obligations, state mandates and library costs. Two new positions were created, one part time clerk for the Fire Department and one part time clerk for the Building Department, each with an annual salary of $16,183. Both positions were expected to increase revenue for the town; ambulance insurance reimbursements and building permits, respectively. The other major increase was for Rubbish and Recycling Collection, a $380,000 increase from last year’s appropriation. The current contract for trash collection ends June 30, so there is an opportunity for negotiation with a new contract that will hopefully result in a lower actual cost for the town.
The increase to the School Department is just $1, with the rational that the department has a $3.4 million reserve fund, and the school committee should be using some of that surplus to supplement their budget. “It is highly unusual for a school department to have a greater contingency fund than the town”, Mr. Leonard said of a statement that was made by the auditor.
The School Department reserve fund has consistently increased annually from $1.2 million in 2012.
Several electors had questions or comments. Most were thankful for the hard work by the members of the Budget Committee that brought such a fiscally responsible budget to the taxpayers of Tiverton. However, there was on exception to the accolades for the committee. Budget Committee Member Jennifer Rashleigh stated “I strongly disagree with this budget. It is morally corrupt and I am sorry it is being presented to the Town of Tiverton”.
The proposed budget would increase the annual taxes for FY 2017/2018 to 0.5%, an increase to $19.09 per $1,000 of assessed value, although the eventual tax rate will be determined by the final calculation of assessed valuations and personal property that is not known until the tax bills are close to finalization and mailing.
There are 8 proposed Budget Committee Resolutions, 2 Town Council Resolutions and 1 Elector Resolution that voters will also see on the May 20, 2017 Financial Town Referendum Ballot.