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Monday, March 21, 2011

A Modest Proposal to Address Our Shrinking Tax Base

As Tom and I have noted in prior postings, Charlestown's tax base just shrunk by $395.6 million dollars or just under 15%. Using our current tax rate of $7.48 per $1000, we just lost $3 million in tax revenue. This is not unexpected, since the national housing industry melt-down has cut into homeowner equity just about everywhere. Most places have lost a lot more than 15% so by that measure, we should count ourselves lucky.

But we're still $3 million short and the question is how will we make that up? We already run a very lean town government and provide very few municipal services, so cuts are not the answer. We could raise the tax rate, which is what most normal communities do, but that would upset the RI Statewide Coalition and the many RISC members within the Charlestown Citizens Alliance leadership.

So what do we do? I have a Modest Proposal, an update of Jonathan Swift's scholarship. We should banish families with school age children.

It costs just under $15,000 for every student in the Chariho school system. As it is, 60% (yikes!) of Charlestown's total budget is spent sending kids to school.

If we can "convince" the families of just 200 of the Chariho students from Charlestown that it would be in their best interest to leave, that generates the $3 million in savings we need to avoid a  tax rate hike.

Charlestown Planning Commissar Ruth Platner has already used the argument that families with kids burden our tax system to block new affordable housing construction. Why not apply that same impeccable logic to resolving the current crisis?

Simply put, we should ask families with school-age children to leave. We can ask nicely, and if 200 of the parasitic urchins go, then fine. But if not enough leave on their own, we should deputize Ruth to make them leave.

We could put up one of those thermometer charts outside Town Hall to show Ruth's progress at saving our taxes by 86'ing school kids.

Unless we want to raise the tax rate and create a fairer tax system, we're going to have to think outside the box. I believe this Modest Proposal certainly qualifies as that.

Author: Will Collette