Original Reports

Using Town Property Finder with Payroll Data

Not a few people thought it a sign of a new world of lost privacy when Tiverton joined the other cities and towns in Rhode Island in allowing information about every property within its borders to be put unrestricted on the Internet.  Of course, the information was public before; people just had to go to their respective town or city halls to look it up.

That means that special interests and government agents had this information all along.  Now, the rest of us, who have no occupational excuse to go do the digging, are simply on an equal footing.

The central purposes of such applications are to research property that one might buy and to gather information for construction and zoning purposes.  There are other times that it’s necessary to know who owns a particular lot, and this is an easy way to find out.

It can also help to find out the relationships of people with the same last name.

If you use Fact Check’s payroll application to look up a particular employee and discover that he or she shares a last name with other town employees, it isn’t always easy to know whether the name is just a coincidence they are related.  The property search can often help identify whether or not they are spouses, at least.

For example, while looking up the payroll history of the town’s high school principal, Steven Fezette, one might notice that the list also includes a Susan Fezette, who is a resource teacher at the Ranger elementary school.  Since it’s not a very common last name, it’s reasonable to wonder if they’re related.

Searching the property viewer, which is linked from Fact Check’s home page, shows that there are actually four houses owned by people with that last name (two of them the same couple), and one of them is, indeed, Steven and Susan.

It’s important to keep in mind that life does have many coincidences, so the same name doesn’t necessarily mean the same person.  In this case the property search doesn’t include middle initials, which would have given even more confidence if they matched the middle initials on the payroll application.

Still, while engaging in public debate, it might be useful to know that it’s reasonably certain that the Steven and Susan Fezette household of Tiverton was paid a total of $180,734 in fiscal year 2014 by the school department, which was a 12% increase from the $161,571 the couple earned in fiscal year 2013.*

 

* It should be noted that the school department pays employees on a biweekly basis, so some amount of any increase (or decrease) could be attributable just to the timing of the checks, but probably no more than a few percent.

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Justin Katz

Justin Katz is a writer and researcher focusing on Rhode Island policy and politics. For more about Justin, see our About page. justin@justinkatz.com (401) 835-7156.

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