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Letter: Warren Can Not, Will Not Raise Taxes to Fund School District

Warren Town Council President Chris Stanley speaks out about the town budget.

The recent has placed the Town of Warren in an extraordinarily difficult position. The JFC council’s ability to meet a number of our resident’s basic needs and will devastate our ability to successfully deal with the fiscal challenges that lay ahead. The JFC significantly increased next year’s level of maintenance for the school district. The town, as a corporation, cannot afford to fund the dollar amount the JFC passed in its 6-3 vote, financially or philosophically.

The town struggled to slash our operating costs in hopes of building a responsible budget. Instead, we built a budget that does not allow the residents to reward their department heads for the hard work and unwavering commitment they have shown our community.

Once again, the Town of Warren is forced to forego many necessary improvements to our infrastructure that would enhance our economy and ability to attract new business to town. We cut each department's operating expenses by ten percent. The town raised the price of a transfer station sticker and cut the number of Saturdays it is open to the public by half. Nevertheless, the most unnerving experience is the fact that the will of over 10,000 residents was negated by the Town of Bristol. The effects of the JFC’s vote are calamitous. Bristol Town Council chairman Kenneth Marshall spoke of building a spirit of collaboration, but instead may have fostered a sense of bitter alienation. The JFC was presented with a clear opportunity to support our community in a time of hardship but instead chose to ignore the steps the council has taken to hold onto our way of life.

Bristol is blessed with the lion’s share of the wealth; Bristol can ride through the financial breakers much more smoothly than Warren because of its larger tax base. Recently the Town of Warren set out immediately to correct the economic vexations that have crippled our town. We had already taken quick, bold steps to reshape our fiscal policies, ensure future successes and restore a sound credit rating. Bristol’s representatives could have offered an olive branch this one time and supported our efforts to level fund the Bristol Warren Regional School District’s bottom line.

I have heard from many residents who are unhappy with Bristol’s shortsightedness in this matter. They have reminded me that the Town of Bristol continues to thrive from maintaining the concept of neighborhood schools. They too believe that the Town of Bristol restored a number of historic buildings using our residents’ hard-earned dollars to subsidize the renovations by channeling those dollars through the school district. Warren no longer enjoys the clear educational benefits that are derived from of neighborhood elementary schools. We have also been saddled with maintaining outdated buildings during a real estate slump.

Sadly, the town of Warren’s economic health appears stifled by individuals who do not reside within our community’s borders or pay taxes to the Town of Warren. Worse still, the council finds itself in a position where it cannot create a budget that it finds acceptable to the people of Warren. Unfortunately, it feels as if six of Bristol’s residents now decide our community’s priorities and to the extent to which we can provide basic services.

To this measure I must now consider the central idea pervading the council’s struggle — fair representation. It is the necessity thrust upon us at this very moment to determine our next move. There exists no formal appeal process. To this end we will discuss our legal options with the town’s solicitor and develop a comprehensive strategy. This will include proposals to change the enabling legislation so that our community is afforded some protections from such a devastating vote in the future. There is an extraordinary inequity wherein an entire community rejects the bottom line and has an unaffordable number forced upon it against its will. A provision stating that at least one vote in the affirmative must come from the opposing municipality — this single measure would ensure a degree of fair representation and protect our right to self-determination.

Certainly, we are not in a position to raise taxes and further cuts to our municipal budget will cause irreparable harm. We will have a frank and open discussion about what to do next and we must research the consequences that may result if the people reject the JFC’s increase at the town financial meeting. We must also urge of legislators to introduce a bill that funds education through another means other than property taxes. Clearly, if we do not act in this way the situation will grow even more dire next year and we must plan ahead in order to meet our community’s needs over the next five years.

Respectfully,
Chris Stanley

Note: According to EastBayRI.com, on Tuesday the council unanimously voted to reject the Joint Finance Committee's orders to increase school funding and will level fund the district in FY13.

John Coccio April 09, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Still Broke. BINGO!!! You get bingo. Now, please explain to me how at the JFC when a decision is to be made here and now and YOUR rep shows bogus numbers, gets called out on it before a vote is made yet he says nothing it is MY responsibility to verify their numbers?? It's NOT!!! Stanley screwed up. STILL hasn't answered the question, and you guys get left holding the bag for HIS incompetence!!!!
DownTown April 09, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Everything was fine when the State was over funding the schools here and the school department could spend like drunken sailors. Now that the over funding is being phased out it's every man for themselves. I'd like to see local taxes related to schools paid 100% by taxpayers under under the age of 65. Those are the people screaming bloody murder for increased funding at any costs so let them pony up and put their wallets where their big mouths are. It's about $15k a year to educate (I use the term loosely) one child so in most instances parents are paying much less in property taxes than they use in services but at some point retirees should see some relief from the backpack brigades.
DownTown April 09, 2012 at 07:37 PM
You appear to be talking about the busybody carpetbaggers at the Bristol HDC who tell a small area of town that they have to spend more to perform the same maintenance as anyone else in other parts of town so that the town as a whole benefits but with ZERO help from the majority that benefit. The town should grant property tax credits for any higher costs born by residents who live in the HDC area.
John Tattrie April 09, 2012 at 10:48 PM
To: Ugoloco, I couldn't help but notice your post and think that in some fashion you are correct in several ways. when I sat on Warrens Planning Board I promoted the Meredith Managment project for American Tourister, as we all know a certain faction beat the living Hell out of that and the project never transpired after months and months of meetings and negotiation...they moved on to greener pastures. And so instead sits the empty Mill with very little hope of anything constructive happening soon. This is just one example of the failure to not see an opportunity when its rite infront of you. I hope all those individuals that fought that project feel good about themselves for placing a additional nail in the coffin of Warren. That project and many others were continually shot down because of power trips from past members of the Planning Board and the so called Develop Warren Wisely group.....Wow look at all the development Warren has...????? None! Thanks a bunch guys for your contribution to Warren being in the situation it's in now. At present we should be kissing the "fanny" of "Any" business that would be willing to move here. but I can't imagine who would after all the detrement caused in the past, Lesson Learned! Next time some nimby say's we don't want that, they will think twice. Thus the lack of Warren having any good amount of business to support it's spending. Anyone care to comment go ahead, my list is very, very long..!
Still Broke April 10, 2012 at 02:20 AM
"I'd like to see local taxes related to schools paid 100% by taxpayers under under the age of 65. Those are the people screaming bloody murder for increased funding at any costs so let them pony up and put their wallets where their big mouths are. It's about $15k a year to educate (I use the term loosely) one child so in most instances parents are paying much less in property taxes than they use in services but at some point retirees should see some relief from the backpack brigades." That's ridiculous. I agree that people shouldn't be screaming for increases but, to let people over 65 off the hook? Forget it. Using your numbers of $15K per child and my 3 kids. I pay just over $7000/yr. in taxes. It takes 2 years of my taxes to pay one year of education for one of my kids. Multiple that by 13 years of school for each kid and that equals 78 years of taxes to pay for my kids' education. If I started paying taxes at 22, I'd need to pay until I was 100 for the town to break even. We need a better plan than yours. You said yourself that parents are paying much less in taxes than they use in services so, they must be stretching the payments out which is why you don't get to not pay just because you are over 65! You were the beneficiary when your kids were young now it's your turn to be the benfactor. It's called society!
Joe Burns April 10, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Lets go back to town schools!!!
kristin April 10, 2012 at 07:30 PM
you can have your students back. If warren residents cant afford $132 more a year in their taxes to support the schools (HOW MUCH IS YOUR MONTHLY CABLE BILL?) then you can go back to figuring out how to support your own schools. Bristol shouldnt get thrown under the bus for having more money and more impetus to invest in good schools and a good community. what kind of students do you want? better schools = better communities and more money from smarter students! DUH
DownTown April 10, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Taxpayers over the age of 65 have paid into the system for decades. You call giving them a break letting them off the hook? I suppose someone with 3 children in public schools would have that attitude. No one in my family has seen the inside of a public school since the early 1950's but we've been paying property taxes the whole time. People who decide to have many children should pay more in taxes. Their children shouldn't be the burden of retirees. Society is what voters make it and I'd wager most retirees would be in favor of shifting the cost of education to those that are using it.
DownTown April 10, 2012 at 08:03 PM
The biggest problem is that the State is ending the bonus money for regionalizing schools in Bristol and Warren. That money was meant to lower long term costs. It wasn't used that way. The result is going to be a battle every year for the limited resources of the towns. Warren is going to be in the same situation for the next 9 years as more money is taken away from the schools by the State. What will be really interesting is what happens when other town services want increased funding for raises etc at the same time.
Still Broke April 10, 2012 at 08:08 PM
To your way of thinking, DownTown, I should get discount on my taxes too because I've ever called an ambulance, the fire department or the police. In fact, I've never been on welfare or unemployment either. Further, I paid taxes to the town for 10 years before my kids were of school age and when they were old enough, they went to private school... and didn't take a bus there either! I agree with you that the cost of education is out of control in Warren. However, if we let people over 65 off the hook, what would stop the couple with no kids from requesting an exemption? What about the couple who adopt a child when they are in their 50s? How would we bill them? We need a way to keep taxes from going up even higher for EVERYONE!
DownTown April 10, 2012 at 08:29 PM
There you go again using the phrase 'off the hook'. How is paying property taxes for 45 years and then getting a break letting them 'off the hook'? That is ridiculous. I agree that people who send their children to private school should receive some break also as they are NOT adding to the burden of the local school system. They are actually lowering costs for other taxpayers. There is a cost to send a child to school and more of that cost should be assigned to those that actually use it. The ambulance bills you when you use it btw. We need a way to lower taxes for residents who are not using expensive town services. I had a good view of where my tax dollars are going when that story about clown make up made the rounds. Yeah, our tax dollars are really being used well.
Rhody April 10, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Hey DownTown, by your logic, you should be entirely responsible for your health care coverage. I shouldn't be taxed every pay period to subsidize your Medicare costs. Also, let's exempt everyone under the age of 40 from paying into Social Security as we all know by the time that poor 21-22 year old adult gets to the age that he or she can finally collect, there won't be anything left in the system to fund. Finally, how about people on Welfare pay for their own food stamps -- they're the only ones using it, right? Solid logic right there...
DownTown April 10, 2012 at 08:53 PM
I'm not on Medicare but I pay into it. You pay into it because you will be on it someday. You pay into FICA because you will will use it someday. FICA has maybe 70 years of solvency left without any changes made. If you never have children or sent your children to private schools etc you are paying much higher property taxes so someone else can turn out children without a care. Welfare and all the rest of the 'my babys daddy' my babys momma' services are for people that want someone else to pay their way. Solid logic.
John Tattrie April 10, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Kristin, It's a matter of finance nothing more, and quite frankly your comment leads one to believe that you could care less about anyones kids but perhaps your own. Very childish remark. If your home has a leaking roof do you go out and buy a swimming pool? Answer No! If you just got laid off from work, do you go and run up bills on all your credit cards? answer No! Your mortgage is past due, do you go buy a new car. Answer No! You see Im trying to put this in perspective for you... Now apply senario's to a Town with important problems. Warrens Sewer System in dire need of repairs. Warren Police cruisers in need of repair with excess of 100,000 miles Warren Public Buildings in dire need of roof repairs and HVAC work and more. Warren Streets in need of repair. Warren has all the left over "Empty" Schools left behind by the BWRS....not on tax rolls..making no income for Warren. Population of Warren, people over 65....65%....no kids in school. Empty buildings in Town....Lost count..? Median income in Bristol 60 to 70 thousand, Median income in Warren 35 to 40 thousand. See the picture here? I've got more but you won't like any of it. Learn to live within your means...thats all the School system needs to do, if they thought they could do this, there wouldn't be any issue would there. Money doesn't teach kids people do, and over spending is teaching them nothing but how to fail. Last rule: Never pick on less fortunate individuals, "Ever"....
John Coccio April 11, 2012 at 12:02 AM
John, unlike the 2 schools in Bristol that are on the Common, has anybody floated the idea of selling those schools to put them on the tax rolls?? I assume they are now "owned" by BWRS, but if they sold them that is cash for the schools (and seeing as how they are in Warren, a "credit" for the fiscal yr they are sold goes to Warren to lessen the funding???). No reason a viable building should be left vacant to fall into disrepair.
Rhody April 11, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Ah, it must be nice to go through life with the level of ignorance you do.
DownTown April 11, 2012 at 01:26 PM
It must be upsetting for someone to actually tell it like it is.
Rhody April 11, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Tell it like it is? You sound like an uneducated, incredibly misinformed buffoon. It's sad that internet message boards have become nothing more than a breeding ground for trolls like you. Enjoy fantasy land.
Still Broke April 11, 2012 at 01:48 PM
People! Can we stop with the personal attacks? I know talk of taxes gets everyone's blood boiling either because they want them cut or because they think it's OK to spend more because THEY can afford it or they think it's worth it but, let's stay civil to each other.
DownTown April 11, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Perhaps you would like to weigh in and show me where I am uninformed as opposed to your own unfounded rant?
DownTown April 11, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Here is the reasoning behind the HDC in Bristol. 1, 3, 4 & 5 describe benefits to the residents of Bristol. Yet the residents of Bristol do not invest a single penny in the higher costs associated with the maintenance of the houses in question. Busybody carpetbaggers telling a small area of the town that they must pay more to maintain their homes so that the rest of the town can reap the benefits without spending a single cent. "The regulations set forth in this chapter have been established to: (1) Safeguard the heritage of the town by preserving one or more historic districts and other designated structures of historic or architectural value in the town which reflect elements of the town's cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history; (2)Stabilize and improve property values in established historic districts and of designated structures of historic or architectural value; (3)Maintain and foster the civic beauty of the town; (4)Strengthen the economy of the town; and, (5)Promote the use of historic districts and other designated structures for the education, pleasure and welfare of the citizens of the town
ResidentRI April 11, 2012 at 02:31 PM
John - you have seen the latest budget request from the BWRSD. Where would you like to see the next level of funding cuts ... ? Aren't you concerned that the number of teachers is already at a very low level? If the school system needs to "spend within their means", what spending in your opinion is out of their means?
Still Broke April 11, 2012 at 02:46 PM
ResidentRI what part of 'spend within their means' don't you understand? The town only has so much money to give. It wasn't going to be enough so, they made major cuts in municiple services just so that they could level fund the schools. What is making the school department require more money next year than this year? Will they be adding programs? Providing something to students that they don't have now? John is saying that the town has the means to support $X. The school district must live with $X. They aren't going to get $X+$Y. Therefore, they must live within their means. Just like we all do with our household budgets. Haven't you ever put off getting new tires or replacing the roof this year because you just didn't have the means? You know you need the tires or the new roof but, you just can't afford it
ResidentRI April 11, 2012 at 03:12 PM
StillBroke - I am not for or against the funding issues for the schools. I understand that both communities have a fiscal responsibility to all of their residents, not just those that currently have, have already had, will have, or will never have children in the public school systems. I'm just asking where the cuts should be made? I think that Superintendent Thies has done an excellent job outlining the budget request. As it is, they are still going to go back and have to make more cuts to meet the proposed funding levels. With the increase in costs of services, etc. "level funding" is essentially a cut. In your analogy, you may have to get rid of the old tires too and just walk. All I am asking is for some ideas from concerned citizens as to where they would expect the BWRSD to make cuts.
John Tattrie April 11, 2012 at 10:44 PM
ResidentRI, the info I have viewed is very vauge, in fact I have never been showed an actuall breakdown of their budget, my understanding is it's not for my "eye's" to view. I have only looked at what is on-line availible. That info is a farce because it has a great many Broad line items and unanswered expenses. I do know however exactly what Warren has cut from it's Municiple Budget and at present we are bare bones. I can't see losing Town services or laying off people to support an antiquated agreement between two Towns. The present financial climate never was part of the thought process when the regionlization was started. Things change, and perhaps this arrangement will also. Time will tell. Money is always the root of all evil, and this situation is no different.
Bob Venice April 17, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Will someone please tell me what will happen if the Town Of Warren rejects the increase for the schools at the financial town meeting. Although, I am against the increase, I'm starting to think that we should approve it and then set up a committe to look into deregionalizing, or whatever we have to do to get an even vote and what the cost would be to do it. We could be looking at a much larger tax increase.
Mark Smiley April 18, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Barney, no one knows for sure. Most likely it will be decided in the courts.
John Coccio April 19, 2012 at 08:20 PM
I would assume that the school committee would sue under the Caroulo(???) Act to get the money.
DownTown April 19, 2012 at 09:17 PM
John this whole thing makes for a very interesting legal situation. The towns do not have to increase the schools budget just level fund them but with the State aid falling every year for the next ten years does that mean making up the difference? Probably Warren would get more State air for their students on their own because they have a lower financial profile than Bristol including being underfunded on their pension plan under 60%. So they have a case there for relief from the State also. With Warren students folded in with Bristol Warren receives less aid than if they were on their own because the schools are looked at as one district. If the school district had used the extra funding as it was meant the school district would not have to make up the aid shortfall because they would have used it to lower expenses. Instead our towns will go through this dance with the schools for the next decade. Does any one really believe we can afford to make up for a $8 to $9 million dollar shortfall (that's what it will be in year 10) and still finance the rest of the town(s) business?
Bob Venice April 19, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Just think, that if the Town Council would have let the condo's be built in the North End of Town, we would have already been collecting over 1 mil in taxes. Think about all the cuts to the budget that we would not have had to make. What a blunder, and to top it off the Counil has never admitted that a mistake was made. Nor will they ever.

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