Pipeline / Impact of a Single Taxing District for Chariho

As reported in the Westerly Sun in February and many other times, Hopkinton has suggested a uniform school tax rate for all three town in the Chariho School district, similar to that of a fire district comprising several towns.

State Representative Valencia, who represents Richmond, noted that the consent of all three member towns (Charlestown, Hopkinton, and Richmond) was no longer necessary for proposals for legislative changes to the Chariho Act.

Whether an idea needs to have the support of all three towns to pass through the legislature, as you know, I believe all three towns were against the elimination of the regionalization bonus. So I think the General Assembly has the right to do whatever they want to do to the Chariho Act. They’ve proven that in the past,” he said.

Charlestown’s current government continues to disagree with the above interpretation of the law and with the idea of a uniform tax district and recently prepared a pipeline newsletter to explain the impact of a single tax district to Charlestown taxpayers.

The Pipeline is linked here. Further explanation prepared by Town Council member Dan Slattery to read along with the Pipeline follows:

Dan Slattery
Dan Slattery

Three times during the past decade (2006, 2012, and 2014) the Charlestown Town Council has authorized the formation of a Charlestown Ad Hoc Chariho Withdrawal Committee.  These Ad Hoc Committees were formed in response to suggestions, comments in public meetings, or quotes in local newspapers from Hopkinton or Richmond that the current funding formula in the Chariho Act be changed to reflect a single taxing district.

In 2014, the request to formulate a new Chariho Ad Hoc Withdrawal Committee came from the Charlestown Budget Commission to the Town Council for consideration.  The Budget Commission feared that if Legislation were passed to form a Single Taxing District it would have an adverse affect on the Town’s Budget and on Tax Rates of Charlestown Homeowners.  The Town Council agreed unanimously to approve the study and to send a copy of the results to each resident by issuing a special addition Pipeline.

Town Council member and liaison to the Budget Commission, Dan Slattery, volunteered to Chair the Ad Hoc Withdrawal Committee and was joined by three other volunteers including Vice Chair Linda Philips, Christopher Sheehan, and Ronald Areglado.  The Town Council voted unanimously to approve the Commission members.

The financial figures that appear in the Pipeline Special Edition, Impact of a Single Taxing District come from the following data sources. The first set of numbers reflect the 2014 – 2015 Chariho School Budget and come from the Superintendents website where the numbers reflect the Budget Share for Charlestown, Richmond, and Hopkinton prior to State Education Aid and their share after State Education Aid.  It needs to be noted that the percentage each Town pays after State Education Aid is approximately equal with each town paying about 1/3 of the school budget.

The second set of numbers that appear on the front page of the Pipeline reflect the proposed system that would change the funding formula from student enrollment of each town to the total assessed property value for each town. That first column in that second set of numbers,  represents the most recent Total Assessed Property Value for each town and applies these figures to the 2014-2015 Chariho School Budget. The data source for these numbers comes from 2013 Assessors Statement of Assessed Valuation and Tax Levy for each of the three towns in the Chariho District.  Next to total property value is the percentage of property value for each town.

As you can see from the percentages, Charlestown is the highest at 56.79% under a single taxing district system vs. 32.82% under the current funding formula using student based enrollment.  Under this single taxing district system Richmond’s share drops to 20.91% and Hopkinton’s share drops to 22.30%.  When you apply these percentages to the 2014 – 2015 Chariho School Budget, Charlestown’s share of the school budget both before and after State Education Aid increases dramatically while the other two town’s decrease dramatically.

Under a Single Taxing District based system the impact on Charlestown Homeowners Taxes would increase by 54.63%. The Ad Hoc Committee verified these tax increase numbers with the Town’s Tax Assessor.  Based on the recommendations from the Town Solicitor and the Town’s Tax Assessor, the Ad Hoc Committee choose to put the Single Taxing District Financial Information on the first page of the Pipeline and our recommendations on Chariho Withdrawal on the second page of the Pipeline.

The final conclusions drawn by the Charlestown Ad Hoc Chariho Withdrawal Committee regarding financial impact and withdrawal from Chariho are as follows.

Currently, the contributions to the Chariho School Budget after State Aid are about equal with each of the three towns paying approximately 1/3 of the cost.  If a Single Taxing District is implemented, the burden to fund the Chariho School District shifts dramatically to Charlestown.  Essentially, this results in Charlestown subsidizing the school budget for Richmond and Hopkinton.

The Charlestown Ad Hoc Chariho Withdrawal Committee believes the current funding formula is fair to all three towns and complies with the Chariho Act. The Single District Funding Formula is neither fair nor ethical.  We recommend to Charlestown residents, and future elected officials, that if a Single Taxing District were passed without Charlestown’s consent or through legislative action, Charlestown should consider school options outside of Chariho.

Dan Slattery, Chair, Charlestown Ad Hoc Chariho Withdrawal Committee
July 24, 2014