To the editor:
As a Tiverton Taxpayers Association endorsed candidate for the Charter Review Commission, I subscribe to its platform:
1. That the FTR is working to balance the needs of the town with the taxpayers’ voice and should remain substantially unchanged;
2. Taxpayers’ ability to control their taxes must include the casino revenue in the FTR/budgeting process;
3. The role of the Charter Review Committee is to review and consider past experience and public input to recommend improvements to the charter.
Having been a co-chair of the Financial Town Meeting Changes Advisory Committee (FTMCAC) in 2010-2011, which resulted in the Financial Town Referendum (FTR) major charter update by a two to one vote margin, I understand the charter review process (3) and I believe that Tiverton’s past experience supports 1. and 2.
Since the implementation of the FTR in the 2012 budgeting season there has been a dramatic leveling off of annual tax levy increases: 2.6%, 2.2%, 0.0%, 0.9%, 0.9%, and 0.5%. The elector petition has been used successfully five times in the past six years, and, this year, the awareness of a potential for an elector petition kept pencils sharpened in the requests made by department heads, boards and commissions and in the Budget Committee’s final recommendation of a minimal 0.5% increase in the tax levy which resulted in a seven-cent decrease to the tax rate. Since the FTR, the voices of the taxpayers for lower taxes has been heard all while the needs of the Town have been met.
“Past experience” should take into account the conclusions of the FTMCAC which have allowed the taxpayers to control their taxes these past six years because they could access to the FTR secret ballot via the elector petition. That is why the FTR should remain substantially unchanged and why casino revenues must be included in the budgeting process and not be side-tracked into a slush fund removed from taxpayer control.
The Charter Review Committee’s upcoming review, therefore, can concentrate on a similar thorough review of other charter sections to determine what, if any, recommendations should be made to the Town Council, rather than meddling with charter sections that underwent an in-depth update a few years ago, and that work – for the taxpayers and the town.
Nancy L. Driggs
Candidate for the Charter Review Commission.