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Friday, July 26, 2019

Monday’s Charlestown Budget vote

Slightly improved, but still questions remain
By Will Collette

After handily defeating the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) version of the town budget on June 3, this Monday we get to vote on a new, somewhat improved version this Monday, July 29.

All voting for all districts will take place at Town Hall from 8 AM to 8 PM.

The CCA and its arch-rivals, Charlestown Citizens United (CRU), are both urging a “Yes” vote.  

CRU’s full statement is reprinted below the fold.

I am not convinced this new budget warrants your support. 

I am still troubled by the $3.1 million “surplus” the CCA claimed it had and sought to squirrel away in a bogus “community center” slush fund. 

Somehow, between June 3 and the production of the new, “improved” budget, the $3.1 million surplus became something else.

The new budget only proposes giving taxpayers $1 million of the aforementioned $3.1 million, with $1,250,000 going into a general surplus line item and the remaining $845,000 into a General Fund Budgeted Surplus line item.

The CCA-controlled Town Council proposes to spend $74,552 on a survey to ask “residents” (not voters necessarily) how they want the $2.1 million they withheld to be used.

I thought the VOTERS made that pretty clear on June 3.

If the CCA (and CRU) really want to put that survey cash to good use, they should use it to study the many facets of tax inequity in Charlestown that reduce the tax base by millions of dollars and cost honest taxpayers lots of money.

These include the property tax breaks for properties in Quonnie and Shady Harbor sheltered by two fake “fire districts” that have NO fire-fighting capacity, or rampant mis-zoning that gives favored tax treatment to many friends and supporters of the CCA.

I still bothers me the CCA tried to get away with taking the entire $3.1 million surplus and squirrel it away for a project that was probably not going to be built but would constrain summer entertainment in Ninigret Park. This, not coincidentally, was exactly what the CCA supporters in Arnolda wanted.

But consideration for such tax policies as a Homestead Credit for people who make Charlestown their home and small signs of gratitude such as creating a tax credit for the town’s volunteer First Responders isn’t even on the table.

So as for Monday’s vote, sure go ahead and approve it - or not. But understand that the CCA will almost certainly come up with other ways to divert the money toward their own clique.

Here is the CRU’s statement on the budget.

Dear Friend,

There will be a second Charlestown financial referendum Monday, July 29th, from 8 am until 8 PM at Town Hall. Charlestown Residents United urges all residents to vote, and vote "YES", on this new budget proposal.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected the first proposed budget on June 3, because of the $3,095,000 "Construction" line item that had no plan associated with it. We had no idea what would be built for the $3,095,000 nor did we know the additional operating costs that would accompany the new "construction".

That "Construction" line item has been removed from this new budget proposal. $1,000,000 will be used to reduce the tax rate, $1,250,000 will remain where it currently is in the Unassigned Surplus. The remaining $845,000 will go to the General Fund Budgeted Surplus. $74,552 will be used to help determine what, if anything, residents would like to do with the remaining surplus.

We urge you to vote "YES" on this budget. Approval of this budget will reduce the tax rate, maintain surplus, and give the residents of Charlestown time to decide what we want to do with our money.

You can read more on our website, here and here.

Thank you, Charlestown Residents United