With over $600,00 identified in uncollected delinquent taxes and penalties, the 2017 Budget Committee Report stated “it is absolutely necessary for the town to maximize tax collections, arbitrary waivers of penalties and interest coupled with uncollected taxes that are caused by a lack of tax collection procedures cannot be tolerated”. The statement is great, but waivers of penalties (totaling over $160,000) that have been granted for some delinquent taxpayers but not all, along with the complacency of the Tax Collector to do her job of collecting delinquent taxes, has been tolerated by the Town Council for the 14 years that she has been in office. Motorists should not be allowed to register vehicles when motor vehicle taxes are delinquent. The block on a DMV account takes a simple step of flagging by the Tax Collector; that is not done in Little Compton. There is one local company that owes over $37,000 in delinquent taxes, yet they continue to work for the town, tolerated by the Town Council.
Little Compton has a FY2017 budget deficit, and the register voters were asked at the annual Financial Town Meeting last Tuesday night to authorize the Town Council to cover those deficits by transferring funds, not to exceed $310,000, from the Cell Tower, Reserved and Unreserved General Funds. The Fire Department’s $116,000 deficit, the School Department $169,000 deficit and additional Legal Fees that amount to $25,000, received the transfer approval from a large majority of the voters present. The motion was not without an amendment from one voter that wanted to transfer all of the Town Council members salaries, $6,372 for the Town Council President and $8,495 for the other 4 members of the council for a total of $14,867, to assist in covering the deficit. The motion did get a second but was strongly defeated by the majority.
The total FY2018 recommended budget is $13,818,181 with a proposed tax levy of $12,076,228, representing a $3.84% increase. The required rate to reach this levy would be $5.84 per $1,000 of accessed value, a 2.9% increase in the rate.
A motion was made and seconded to accept the recommended budget but an amendment was made to level fund the School Department, seconded, and a discussion took place from several voters on the pros and cons for that amendment. 20% of the electorate voting for the amendment was required in order to go to a paper ballot on the amendment, and that is just what happened. The amendment was defeated 161 to 79, the school budget passed as recommended. Another amendment was passed to add $1500 to the budget to fix the stairs in the community building.
Another budget amendment was made by Pat Griffin (husband of the Tax Collector), to “increase the Tax Collector’s salary by 2.5%” with the argument that she is the only one not receiving a raise in FY2018. The motion did get a second but was close to a unanimous defeat by the voters. Perhaps the taxpayers were sending a clear message to the Tax Collector that they will not compensated her for years of poor job performance that cost the town hundreds of thousands of dollars. There has been talk in town of supporting a recall of the elected Tax Collector, but there has also been talk that the Town Council may offer the Tax Collector a nice compensation for an early retirement. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of these scenarios the Town of Little Compton voters will tolerate.