2016-09-08 / Opinion


Middletown Assessment Alternatives

To the Editor:

The Tax Exploratory Committee met at the Middletown fire station on Aug. 24. The purpose was to examine the way the Town of Middletown assesses and levies property taxes, compare alternative methods for levying residential property taxes, and present their findings and make recommendations to the Middletown Town Council.

After examining the property taxing system of several states, it was decided to concentrate on the California Proposition 13-type model, which would give Middletown taxpayers affordable, predictable, and transparent tax liability.

Economists evaluate taxes using five common tax policy criteria – growth, stability, simplicity, neutrality, and equity. The state’s property tax system exhibits strengths and limitations when measured against these five criteria. Property tax revenue also tends to be less volatile than other tax revenues in California due to the acquisition value assessment system. (Falling real estate values during a recession, however, caused some areas of the state to experience declines in assessed value and more volatility than in the past.)

Although California’s property tax system provides governments with a stable and growing revenue source, its laws regarding property assessment can result in different treatment of similar taxpayers. For example, newer property owners often pay a higher effective tax rate than people who have owned their homes or businesses for a long time. In addition, the property tax system may distort business and homeowner decisions regarding relocation or expansion.

A California property tax bill includes a variety of different taxes and charges, including the 1 percent rate established by Proposition

13 (1978), additional tax rates to pay for local voter-approved debt, property assessments, and Mello-Roos taxes.

Certain properties – including property owned by governments, hospitals, religious institutions, and charitable organizations – are exempt from the 1 percent property tax rate.

Mello-Roos is a form of financing that can be used by cities, counties, and special districts (such as school districts). Mello-Roos Community Facilities Districts (referred to as “CFDs”) raise money through special taxes that must be approved by 2/3rds of the voters within the district. A CFD is formed to finance major improvements and services within the district, which might include schools, roads, libraries, police and fire protection, or ambulance services. The taxes are secured by a continuing lien and are levied annually against property within the district.

Please join us on Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Middletown Fire Station community room. Your input is important to us.

Antone C. Viveiros
Middletown Town Councilor

I’m Off

To the Editor:

I'm moving away and wanted to thank you for printing my musings and penpricks for all these years. I also want to thank my large and loyal following. Keep up the good work and change will come.

I'll miss Newport aplenty, but Rhode Island not at all.

Mary Weston

The Power of the Arts

To the Editor:

Designated by Congress as the National Arts in Education Week, Sept. 11-17 is a time for educators and supporters to join together to promote the power of arts in education. In 2016 we welcome a new chapter in American educational policy with the “Every Student Succeeds Act” and its arts-friendly provisions. In this law, arts involvement remains a key component of a “well-rounded” student curriculum and is considered essential to our children’s public school education.

The arts are important! They teach students many lessons, including practice makes perfect and collaboration enables creativity. Research has also shown great benefits of arts education on student motivation, attitudes and attendance. Involvement in arts education encourages students to stay in school, to be successful in school and in life. I encourage everyone to support the arts and arts education in our community.

Nancy McAuliffe
President, Arts and Cultural
Alliance of Newport County
Artistic Director, Rhode Island’s
ballet theatre

Hold Administrators Accountable

To the Editor:

Several months ago four Newport School Committee members took a stand to make things better for our children and change the leadership at Rogers High School. In the end, it was found that this action, despite the truest intent, was beyond the scope of their power. I wanted to write this letter to share my perspective as someone who has served the City of Newport on the School Committee for many years, personally worked with five superintendents, but was not on the committee at the time this action was taken.

Anyone who is familiar with the situation understands the need for a change of leadership at Rogers High School. For too long, leadership has not been held accountable. During my years of serving, I witnessed only one superintendent hold their administrators accountable for their actions. Prior to this, not one administrator was removed from their role, even in situations where sufficient cause was evident.

Without this accountability, there is no incentive for administrators to succeed and no incentive to improve the learning environment for this community’s children. I believe these four members of the School Committee, faced with the choice of returning to the past when accountability was preached but not enforced or moving forward and doing what is best for our children, made the only choice they believed was right.

Much has been said on the legality of the School Committee’s move to remove an administrator from their role. I do not argue the legality of the move; what I can say is that in my years on the School Committee, we as an elected body never undertook a controversial vote without first consulting the School Committee’s legal counsel. It was his/her responsibility to advise the citizens elected to the School Committee of what they could or could not do from a legal perspective.

I find it hard to believe that these School Committee members would have proceeded with this action without the express approval of legal counsel at this time. Taking this into account, I can only surmise that this was an act of a passionate and dedicated group of individuals who saw what needed to be done but received poor legal counsel regarding the procedure for such a move.

We should be proud to have School Committee members willing to step up to fight for our children when no one else will.

Thomas S. Phelan
Newport School Committee Candidate

Water Quality Demands Leadership

To the Editor:

Aquidneck Island has a serious water quality problem that is growing worse. We need to develop a sense of urgency about it, because poor water quality is costing a great deal of taxpayer money and the solutions are rapidly becoming more difficult and more expensive.

Recent news articles have reported that our water sources are increasingly contaminated by phosphorus and nitrogen and is becoming more difficult to treat.

How much income are beach closings from unacceptable water quality costing our municipalities and tourism-dependent businesses? How much taxpayer money does it take to treat water to make it safe to drink?

The current situation makes no sense. We are increasingly polluting our water supply upstream, while we spend ever more money to clean it up downstream. On the positive side, since the problem is manmade, it is within our control to fix through better watershed management. Also, it is likely that it will cost us far less in the long run to reduce watershed pollution now than to build and operate more and more treatment facilities.

With candidates running for council seats, this is the perfect time to ask them where they stand on water quality issues. Are they aware that the DEM is about to release a major watershed study for the island? Do they see water quality as an urgent issue for the municipalities to confront?

Scientists say that under ideal conditions we probably can’t live more than a week without drinking water. We don’t think about safe drinking water, until we don’t have it.

Taking steps to improve and protect our water quality is an issue that will languish without community involvement and strong political leadership. Candidates are asking us to vote them into leadership positions. In turn, we should ask them to lead on this critical issue.

Marilyn Hennessey and Roby Faria

Test Drive Voting Machines

To the Editor:

This year Rhode Island voters will enter the voting booths to see new voting machines. Legislation passed in 2015 to purchase new voting machines, which I co-sponsored. The new machines replace ones that are nearly 20 years old, purchased in 1997.

On July 21, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea announced the purchase of 590 new voting machines manufactured by Nebraska-based Elections Systems and Software to replace the previous machines. Additionally, city and town boards of canvassers will receive ballot on-demand printers that will ensure that there is never a shortage of ballots at any polling place, while reducing waste associated with printing too many ballots.

So what can voters expect? It’s still a paper ballot. The biggest change you'll notice is how you fill out the ballot; no longer do you connect the arrows, you fill in the circle. The process is generally the same: You fill out a paper ballot then place it in the scanner.

The Secretary of State’s office is conducting voter outreach to familiarize voters with the new machines. The new machines will be in Newport on the following days at these locations: Wednesday, Sept. 14, from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at Edward King House and Wednesday, Sept. 21, from 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. at the Park Holm Senior Center.

I encourage Newport voters to go and take a test drive on the new voting machines. This will be a very busy election year and voters should be sure to understand both their voting rights and the new machines.

Rep. Lauren Carson
RI House District 75 - Newport

Logler Has Transformed Lives

To the Editor:

I would like to publicly express gratitude to Nick Logler, FabNewport’s head coach and technical director. Nick, after 3½ years of service to Newport County youth, educators and community organizations, is headed back to school, to the University of Washington to pursue his doctorate and research the question, “Can making transform lives and communities?”

We know the answer. Nick transformed the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of youth and educators who were fortunate to benefit from his gentle coaching and infinite patience. While Nick is a self-taught technological savant, his transcending gift is his ability to create playful environments inspiring, even the most fearful among us, to feel the joy of making. Nick assailed the fears of nay-saying educators while empowering youth with the most powerful tools and materials of our time. Nick made it easy for all of us to create and feel good about ourselves. He poured his being into growing FabNewport into a community resource.

“Fab Lab showed me many things,” wrote 12-year-old Tiana, a North End Newport resident who sums up FabNewport’s impact well. “It made me want to explore. It inspired me to do more. The program showed kids like us that there is more out there in the tech world and that we should believe. It made me smarter, more creative, and made me see there are no limits to what I can achieve. I appreciate the help that you all provide. I know what I want to do in the future since you’ve helped me decide. We love Fab Lab and those who helped build this family. Love, T Price.”

Steve Heath
Executive Director, FabNewport

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