Chariho School Parents’ Forum

October 30, 2007

The Chariho Act

Filed under: bond — Editor @ 9:18 pm

Charlestown resident and former chair of the Charlestown Town Council Deborah Carney (3rd letter here) makes two excellent points regarding the upcoming bond vote.  The first is on the new 1/3 split for bond expenditures.

This “one third” language will be inserted directly into the Chariho Act. This change will set a precedent that could be problematic for Charlestown in the future. It will be easy for Hopkinton or Richmond to make the argument for future capital costs to be split in thirds, and they could easily extend the argument for operating costs to be split in thirds as well. The precedent will have been established for this bond, and the language will be permanently reflected in the Chariho Act.

In the past, each town contributed to the budget based on the # of students they sent to the school.  If your town had 40% of the kids, you paid 40% of the costs.  As noted by Thurman Silks, this worked out fairly evenly long ago but it has grown inequitable. 

There is a social compact that we will all pay for our own community.  Any property owner, with or without kids, contributes for education as it is deemed beneficial for the entire community.  But with a funding formula based on enrollment, things can get out of balance. 

As an example, if one town has a lot of business or expensive summer homes without children enrolled in the school, they have a very low property tax.  Theoretically, if one town was full of wealthy residents who sent all their kids to private schools, or home schooled, they wouldn’t have to pay ANY taxes (on a side note – we have had at least 10 students withdraw to be home schooled so far this year – but I digress). 

The question comes from our regionalized nature.  Most of us gristle when we know how much of our taxes go to schools in Providence.  Similarly, I don’t believe its Charlestown’s place to fund my child’s education.  So, honestly, I see her point and tend to agree.  After all, where do we draw the line?  Why not include Westerly?  Exeter?  Perhaps the entire state.  Really, the only solution is the entire state or complete deregionalization. 

Ms. Carney’s letter goes on to identify a more serious problem.

The second issue voters should be aware of is the current state of the Chariho Act. There is not a complete up-to-date version of the Act. The district is currently working on one, but a complete document, including revisions made over the last 21 years, does not exist. The version available on the Chariho Web site is from 1986. How many amendments have been approved since then? What are they? Where are they? How could they affect this proposed change? We don’t know.

In November of 2006 three amendments to the Chariho Act were approved. One of these amendments approved by the voters was deemed to be illegal. Why? Does it violate state law? Was it based on the incorrect version of the Chariho Act? Is this current proposed amendment for the one-third split based on an incorrect version of the Act?

When the voters go to the polls Nov. 6, we are not only being asked to vote for a $26-million bond proposal, but we are also being asked to amend the Chariho Act. How can we really know what we are changing in the Act if we don’t even know what the current language is? How can we truly know the consequences of our vote? 

I don’t even know what to say about that.  When Superintendent Ricci was asked, he said that the last solicitor couldn’t complete it because of his illness.  With all due respect to the solicitor, if he was too sick to complete the job, he should have been replaced.  Besides, we are talking about a document that is 11 years out of date.  The excuse doesn’t hold water. 

Hopkinton Town Council member, Barbara Capalbo reminds us of the importance to get the Act updated.  Call your councilors and committee members – get this done!

With so many people visiting or talking I would like to suggest or recommend that no matter what happens with the bond, please call your town councillors and ask that the Chariho Act be reviewed and revised. It is crucial to Hopkinton and Richmond homeowners, it is less marvelous for Charlestown’s citizens but the money for a school system used by everyone equally needs to be funded equally. Then we could make the bonds pass or fail by a majority of homeowners instead of by town.

In this same comment – Councilor Capalbo notes the fall-out of the funding inequity.

My home will personally pay over $2,000 more per year than the same home in Charlestown using the identical educational system. This has got to stop. It may need a grass roots tax revolt to tear down and rebuild the structure of the act. Vote NO and begin the process. Just like your home, rot doesn’t get better the longer you ignore it.

For years we have seen the result of this inequity (and I hate using that word like its a litmus for “social justice” but I digress – again).  Hopkinton doesn’t want to spend so much money – we are still hurting from the 18.9% tax increase.  But that increase was nothing for Charlestown.  

Charlestown has plenty of money due to its resources (ocean front property).  It should be allowed to have really nice schools – but it can’t because doing so will break Hopkinton’s back.

Richmond is a little bi-polar on the issue.  Their taxes are also high, but since most of the infrastructure is located there – they don’t have the disconnect the other communities do.  Besides, it has long been “rumored” that many Chariho employees reside in Richmond – George Abbott has tried to confirm that, but has not been able  to get the info. 

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2 Comments »

  1. I am all for a grass roots tax revolt. Lies, lies, lies! What the heck is going on? Poor spending, rotten test scores, kids who are just not comfortable in school, information not forthcoming. I can’t think of better reasons to REVOLT!!!

    Comment by Georgies Mom — October 31, 2007 @ 6:12 pm | Reply

  2. I don’t know why Richmond isn’t more concerned. Perhaps even the elderly in Richmond can afford to pay 4 times what the elderly in Charlestown pay for their share of the schools. Even if you work for the Chariho district in Richmond you would want your share of taxes to be less. You still get the same paycheck, your property taxes simply are reduced (or used for something else) and spread afield. The ballot box is private. You can support the schools and still demand revision of the Chariho Act to equalize taxes. The school doesn’t get any less money if you vote NO.

    Comment by Barbara Capalbo — November 1, 2007 @ 10:30 pm | Reply


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