Following the FTR vote the Budget Committee re-convened on June 9, 2016 to carry out its remand responsibility to “determine docket line items(s)”, as required by Tiverton’s Home Rule Charter.
Some, including Louise Durfee, threatened not to show up and participate. However, all but one (Joshua Mello) of the Budget Committee members were present. From comments by some at the beginning of the meeting in opposition to having to make any downward adjustments, one would have thought a few hateful, errant voters had staged a coup, rather than the majority of FTR voters, totaling thousands more than used to participate on the old financial town meetings. But by the end of that evening the Budget Committee did make adjustments to the Municipal Budget which were 84% toward the voter mandate.
Louise Durfee raised the idea of eliminating curbside trash pickup to reduce spending, and increasing the fee for the bags as a way of raising more revenue. Town Administrator Matt Wojcik said the curb-side trash contract doesn’t expire until July 2018 and savings, in any event, would be less than $300,000. Town Solicitor DeSisto warned there could be litigation (an additional budget expense) should the contract be altered. We continued further discussion of any trash option to the next meeting on June 14, 2016.
At the beginning of the next meeting I distributed five pages of possible additional adjustment options, well in excess of the mere 16% still needed. But Louise Durfee opened the meeting with her plan to eliminate trash pickup, and Denise Saurette, the Town Treasurer, with whom Ms. Durfee had met with no notice to other Budget Committee members, presented a possible structure to accomplish Ms. Durfee’s goal. In their proposed plan, residents would have to pay an additional fee for trash pick-up or drive their trash to the dump. The Budget Committee majority refused to consider my list of “tender scalpel,” non-painful adjustments, out of which they easily could have selected the final 16%. At one point, when I again requested such consideration before eliminating trash, Louise Durfee stated my list “won’t carry the day here.”
So, to the majority (55%) of Tiverton taxpayers who came to the polls and voted for Budget #2, I apologize for the haughty and vengeful way in which your desire for lower taxes was addressed. Once the $500,000 was taken from the trash, the frenzy with which your Budget Committee majority re-funded budget items was a wonder to behold. In favor of eliminating $500,000 from the trash budget, the Budget Committee majority cast aside, without consideration or discussion, many sensible options that were voted on the previous week and ignored my proposed adjustment list which Co-chair Cecil Leonard stated contained well delineated line items. Louise Durfee, appointed by the Town Council, not elected, controlled this outcome. Her stated priority was not to adjust the budget so as to cause the least amount of harm, but rather to make sure that as many people as possible feel the effects — ” shoulder the burden”, as she put it.
Nancy Driggs is an elected member of the Tiverton Budget Committee.