Reply to Rep. Donna Walsh’s open letter to the Charlestown Town Council

The following letter appeared in local newspapers and is shared with us here by the author George C. Tremblay. Mr. Tremblay is a member of the Charlestown Town Council and Town Council Liaison to the Planning Commission.

George C. Tremblay
George Tremblay

Challenges to the funding formula for the Chariho School District, and the Chariho Act, are not imaginary. Attempts at introducing formulas to benefit Hopkinton and Richmond at the expense of Charlestown have been introduced with mind-numbing regularity since at least 1999. By 2004, Charlestown responded with a bond on the ballot to build a new campus, independent of Chariho. Engineering overlays were prepared to show how prospective properties could accommodate the proposed Charlestown campus. After deliberation over options, Deb Carney, president of the 2004 Town Council, signed an agreement to acquire the Whalerock property for $3.6 million. To the credit of the voters, the ballot initiative failed and Chariho was rescued to achieve its enviable academic performance over the following years.

But advocates of tax equalization are as persistent as summer mosquitoes. Last year, a six-person study committee issued a detailed financial analysis that, once again, dismissed a single taxing district as an option for funding Chariho. No matter; this year Richmond’s Rep. Larry Valencia proposed to introduce legislation to unilaterally open the Chariho Act. Rep. Walsh assures us that opening the Chariho Act can’t happen without agreement of all three towns, but Rep. Valencia is quoted as saying, “The General Assembly has the right to do whatever they want to do with the Chariho Act. They’ve proven that in the past” (Westerly Sun, 02/04/14). With that, Rep. Walsh’s confidence becomes less than reassuring. Repeated efforts at resisting such measures are born of challenge, not whimsy or fantasy.

Experience shows that it takes steady vigilance to hold legal agreements to account. To avert costly legal battles over claims of authority, we need to persistently resist partisan attempts to open the Chariho Act. Educating the public on the potential impact of opening the Act is vital to that resistance. To that end, the mix of political loyalties on the current Town Council voted unanimously to distribute the latest tax-impact analysis via The Pipeline, akin to that which appeared in The Pipeline in Oct of 2000 and again in 2004. All were driven by the threat of tax equalization to Charlestown.

Rep Walsh reminds us that no such tax-burdening legislation has yet been passed.

We thank her for any role she might have played in seeing that it hasn’t.

George Tremblay, Charlestown Town Council