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Thursday, July 14, 2016

You’ve Got Mail!

Your tax bill and if you’re part of the Charlestown elite, a CCA sales pitch
By Will Collette

pinocchio animated GIFThis week, three separate events in Charlestown came together to underscore a fact of life for those of us who make Charlestown our home.

On Monday night, the Town Council, totally controlled by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party), voted to spend over a quarter million dollars of your tax dollars to add tons of asphalt to Ninigret Park for a bike path that no one needs, given that so much of the Park is already paved.

Not only that, they also raided the Recreation Bond funds for another $140,000 in expenditures while blatantly ignoring the top two recommendations of the Parks and Recreation Commission. Ironically, one of those priorities they ignored was the clearing and expanding of natural, unpaved walking and hiking trails.

On Tuesday, like nearly all Charlestown property owners, I received our new tax bill with the brand new tax rate of $10.21 – continuing the streak of tax rate hikes imposed on taxpayers that has taken place every year over the eight years that the CCA Party has controlled town government.

On Wednesday, a friendly reader sent me a copy of the CCA Party’s new fund-raising letter where they pat themselves on the back for saving Charlestown from fiscal ruin. Oddly, the letter also points out:
“CCA opposes our political adversary's plan to replace the current equitable tax model with one that penalizes summer residents.” 
I assume they must be talking about me (even though I’m not running for anything) and my suggestion that it’s time to re-visit the idea of a Homestead Tax Credit. 

I raised this issue because the General Assembly just approved one for the town of Narragansett even more generous than the one proposed by Charlestown Democrats in 2012 and killed by the CCA

Homestead tax credits would give a tax break to people who make Charlestown their home.

However, as the CCA points out, for actual Charlestown residents to get a tax break, absentee property owners – those folks who contribute OVER 60% of the CCA Party’s funding – would see a modest increase in their property taxes. To see the actual effect of what was proposed, CLICK HERE.

It’s funny to see the CCA Party actually trying to raise money for this year’s election since they have virtually no opposition. Only one person is running against them. Their darling boy Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi is also running unopposed.

Hey, maybe the reason the CCA is so cranked up about any mention of the Homestead Tax Credit is that Flip bought a house in Charlestown. The listing on the Charlestown Tax Assessor’s database seems to be calling the property owner-occupied but Flip filed for re-election as if he was a Block Island resident.

From the CCA Party fund-raising letter. Do you see any of these "goals"
at play in their conduct? 
Anyway, at Monday’s Town Council meeting, “CCA Town Council” (a term even the CCA is now using) showed how fiscally responsible they are by approving a $267,000 contract to Cardi Corporation to build another 1.3 miles of paving to Ninigret Park for a fancy bike path.

Ninigret Park, you may recall, was part of a former Naval Air Station and was deeded over to the town virtually covered with concrete. 

Charlestown and the US Fish and Wildlife Service have had to put a lot of money and effort into removing quite a bit of this paving. 

And more should be removed, in areas that are used for infrequent parking but where a more environmentally suitable surface would suffice. 

Ruth Platner: Asphalt paving is terrible, except when it's
going on Faith Labossiere's bike path
Also, let’s also remember the very public long-standing abhorrence to all non-porous paving by CCA shadow leader and Planning Commissar Ruth Platner. This long-standing hate for paving was not in evidence when the Council decided to blow $267,000 on this paving project.

Why? Because CCA Party co-founder Faith Labossiere wants this bike path. I’ll bet you $100 that this thing is going to be named after her. 

And despite the fact that this project is not needed, not a priority, not fiscally or environmentally sound, the “CCA Town Council” approval was a done deal before the Council even sat to discuss it.

So there’s that. Then the next day, tax bills arrive and we see the new tax rate of $10.21 per $1,000 of property valuation. That’s up ten cents over last year even though our Chariho School district cost (which comprises most of the town budget) is down and town operating costs rose only modestly.

When the CCA Party took control of Charlestown, our tax rate was $7.16. So with this new tax hike, our tax rate has gone up by 42.6% under CCA Party control.

This latest tax hike occurred even though, over the past eight years, the CCA Party has carried out the three main measures it promised would actually reduce taxes:

The CCA Party has done these three things with gusto for the past eight years but none of the tax savings have materialized.

But wait, says the CCA, Charlestown has one of the lowest tax rates in the state! 

Not mentioned is that the only reason this is the case is that Charlestown, like the other small towns on the low tax rate list, provides almost no municipal services. You have to pay extra for fire protection and ambulance service, for water, sewage and rubbish.

Which brings me to the CCA Party’s fund-raising letter. So much of it is devoted to rationalizing the CCA Town Council’s tax and spending policies with a sprinkling of the usual CCA Party rhetoric about being civil and fair and careful, while building consensus and hewing to fiscal responsibility.

But it’s fiction. And bad fiction at that. Especially the parts about taxes and spending.

Monday night’s Council pre-determined action on the $267,000 asphalt bike path stands as proof that the claims in CCA letter bear no resemblance to reality. Need more proof? Read your new tax bill.

Then there’s the gratuitous drop-in remark about wanting to protect the poor, long-suffering summer residents from some horrible unnamed political menace who wants to tax them back to Connecticut where the odds are pretty good that they enjoy a homestead credit on their primary residence.

The CCA Party seems to be very self-conscious about their record on taxes and spending, and they ought to be. In their words and actions, they've made it very clear that they care little about the working families who live here but lots about the rich summer folks who need a spendidly maintained infrastructure, but one they don't want to pay for.

Incidentally, these summer residents don't pay state income taxes like the rest of us and it's those taxes that pay for much of that infrastructure.

So even though the CCA Party faces a walk-over in the election and will retain power, still they come at us with the lies, exaggerations and personal attacks which they will probably ramp up as November 8 draws closer.

The one good thing in the campaign so far is that the CCA Party hasn’t done its usual effort to jack up racial hatred against the Narragansett Indian tribe. So far, except for the mandatory mention that they oppose casino gambling, it looks like we’ll be spared their trumped up attacks against our tribal neighbors.