The Tiverton Budget Committee has no authority to eliminate residential trash pickup, but in order to make a political statement with next year’s budget, a majority of its members voted to do just that. Tiverton residents should not be fooled. The threat of eliminating trash pickup is intended to hurt taxpayers and teach us a lesson so that we never again dare to challenge the demands of town government and its special-interest friends.
The Budget Committee’s assumption that the Town Council can and will implement a new trash fee for those who wish to continue the service is disturbing and familiar. In 2008, a Town Council led by Louise Durfee engineered the financial town meeting (FTM) and effectively undid the smaller tax increase that a majority of voters wanted. Now, in 2016, Louise Durfee has taken the lead of the Budget Committee in attempting to undo the vote of more than 1,200 Tiverton residents (over 55% of voters) who rejected a big tax increase at this year’s financial town referendum (FTR).
The Budget Committee’s move was especially stunning because, as a post on TivertonFactCheck.org makes clear, it was not necessary. In order to match the 0.9% tax increase required by the FTR vote, the Budget Committee had to find $782,895 in adjustments. Between suggestions made by petitioner Justin Katz, a list of “concepts” put forward by Town Administrator Matthew Wojcik, and votes actually taken by the Budget Committee, the members had at least $2.3 million of options without touching trash pickup or paving.
In fact, during its first meeting after the FTR, the Budget Committee was 84% of the way there. When committee member Nancy Driggs asked to continue the progress at the next meeting by going through her list of suggestions, Ms. Durfee told her it wasn’t worth the effort, because she wasn’t going to “win the day.” Instead, the committee reversed course and went on a spending spree on the taxpayer’s dime.
If the Town Council follows through with the Budget Committee’s threat and breaks its contract with Patriot Disposal, maybe voters will “learn the lesson” that angry insiders want to teach them… or maybe instead we’ll remember this stunt when the officials who are supposed to represent voters are up for reelection in less than five months from now. Maybe, too, we’ll decide to take back the new trash fee through additional tax reductions at next year’s FTR. After all, the Budget Committee left over $2 million in alternatives on the table.
We should all prefer a different outcome. The Town Council should not respond to the vindictive scheme of the Budget Committee. Instead it should respond to the clear message from taxpayers and work to balance Tiverton’s budget in a way that respects the will of the voters.