Tuesday, December 12, 2006

NK, RI Town Council Meeting Dec. 11, 2006

Impressions from a citizen:

The new council got off to a good start, I think. The routine of running a meeting was understandably a tad shaky but will get smoother as time goes on. The mood was cooperative and respectful, a very good sign.

The first item on the agenda was an introduction of all the department heads to the council for the benefit of the new members. Maybe there'll be a test next week to see if they remember all their names?

There weren't any fireworks until a request to alter wetlands was before the council. It seems that because a lawyer didn't file a paper in a timely manner that DEM might consider a developer's request to encroach on wetlands to gain greater access to a house lot.

Not one person that spoke before the council was in favor of granting the exemption. The applicant wasn't there.

The council options are: a) lodge a protest or b) veto the request.

The problem is that should a veto be overturned, the town could be on the hook for damages the applicant might demand. The council opted to register a protest and not exercise a veto. Not an easy call for the town but the consensus was that strong town objections were usually upheld by DEM.

There was a discussion about the new tax levy limits, heading down in little increments from 5.5% to 4%. This year it will be 5.25%. The council talked about its own limits which could be even lower than the state's. A limit is just that, a limit; it's not a goal and I didn't see the point of saying that the council might want to spend less than the 5.25% increase. I take it for granted that the council will always try to spend as little as it can for necessary services, not up to a limit. Isn't that the idea of zero based budgeting?

Then came the item about the Elderly Tax Exemption. It makes sense that any exemption takes into account inflationary pressures on values and adjusts the limits of the exemption accordingly. My objection is with the whole idea of elderly exemptions at all.

Exemptions are given presumably on the basis of need. Income is measured as a percentage of the poverty level and the exemption is granted accordingly. Seems to me that a young family who finds that they can no longer afford their taxes on inflated property values are just as worthy of help as older people who find themselves in that position.

Exemptions such as this are a testimony to the need for true RE-FORM of the way we tax property to pay for local government services.

All in all a good meeting and I am very optimistic about the new council.

But maybe it's just me.

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