Tiverton’s casino tax relief and FTR at risk
Attention Taxpayers: The Town Council recently voted for the ultimate power grab, proposed by Town Council Vice President John Edwards V: Eliminate the Budget Committee, eliminate your FTR, and put the Town Council in charge of all spending and taxation. Amazingly this vote passed 4-1 with Hilton, Lebeau, Edwards, and Chabot voting in favor. Add in Hilton’s proposed charter changes intended to strip your FTR voter rights and Lebeau’s recent call for an ordinance for Town Council control of the casino revenue, and there is no doubt of what this council wants: Thwart the will of the taxpaying voter at any cost.
In contrast, at a Budget Committee meeting a year ago, current Town Council President Denise deMedeiros then stated that addressing the casino gaming revenue was the reason that a Charter Review Commission (CRC) was being formed. Then last July Tiverton voters overwhelmingly elected all nine of nine CRC candidates endorsed by the Tiverton Taxpayers Association (TTA) whose campaign platform featured 1) protecting the Financial Town Referendum and 2) ensuring that the casino gaming revenue was available to lower property taxes.
In honoring its pledge to taxpayers, the CRC has approved a measure that would rebate 65% of the annual casino gaming revenue to residential taxpayers by either check or a quarterly tax credit, make 10% available for the general fund, and, largely as a compromise, deposit 25% into a dedicated Capital Improvement Fund (CIF) to address town infrastructure needs. The rebate protects the taxpayer by immediately and directly giving that money to taxpayers thereby excluding it from the government coffers and allowing taxpaying families to decide for themselves how to best spend their 65% rebate. Both the 10% general fund and 25% CIF contributions would be protected too, as subsequent expenditures would be subject to voter approval via the FTR process, thereby ensuring that the government cannot spend the 35% foolishly.
The CRC has had a productive seven months, yet curiously our repeated communication attempts with the town lawyer were met with radio silence for over three months. Just last week we learned that Town Council President deMedeiros has been scheming, as she said, ‘daily’, with the town lawyer regarding how to deal with such taxpayer friendly proposals from the CRC. Did she give an order to the town lawyer not to communicate with the CRC for three months? Did she tell the town lawyer to find arguments to claim that CRC proposals were “unconstitutional?” Why is she doing this if the impetus to have the CRC in the first place was, as she said last year before the TTA candidates swept all nine seats, to address the casino revenue?
I urge all voters who desire immediate tax relief from the casino revenue to pay close attention to Town Council actions over the next six months. Should the Town Council’s unmistakable trend of taxpayer disregard continue, then it is critical that the named councilors, at a minimum, be removed from office in November.
Mr. Caron is a member of the Tiverton Charter Review Commission.