Chariho School Parents’ Forum

June 26, 2008

Running for Hopkinton Town Council

Filed under: 1 — Editor @ 3:22 pm

In case you missed the south county section of the ProJo, I have thrown my hat into the ring for town council.  I will provide more details later, but briefly, my platform will be focused on two issues and one philosophy.

 

I expect to utilize my resources to fix education – not fix Chariho.  There is a difference.  Reforms such as school choice will improve education as a whole, thus improving Chariho in the process.  Whether the towns ends up settling for vouchers or something akin to the newly approved mayoral academies, additional choice for parents is the goal.

 

I will also continue to push for more open government.  Transparency, as exemplified with this website and the one sprung out of my day job (http://www.oceanstatepolicy.org/transparency.html).  Here and there you will find budgets, payrolls, employee contracts and the check registries.  Many places do one or more of those items on their own website but there is no reason that each town and school district can’t do them all.  I will also push for more transparency in contract negotiations. 

 

Finally, I cannot speak to each individual issue such as planning board or zoning issues, but you can rest assured that I will maintain to my “free-market” principals.  I am supportive of responsible development, and keeping the government out of our hair as much as possible.

 

Gotta run, but will post more as time goes.  Just wanted to give you the quick heads-up.

 

[UPDATE] – Someone emailed me asking if I thought there were problems in the town government that needed “transparency” which I replied no.  My commitment to open government is a philosophical one.  Actually, I’m looking forward, if I’m elected, to working on a board where I don’t feel that things are being hidden. 

 

 

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41 Comments »

  1. I look forward to voting for you Mr. Felkner. Your platform of school choice and transparency should appeal to all voters…especially parents. Most problems with government are addressed by opening up the process so transparency covers many of the issues which concern me.

    I feel loyalty to Ms. Capalbo, Mr. Buck, Ms. Thompson and Mr. Cordone for their steadfast refusal to bend to the demands of Chariho and the other towns. They were loyal to the families of Hopkinton. No insult to Mr. Abbott and Mr. Hirst, but they will have to show me quite a bit to knock any of the others off my list.

    Overall, Hopkinton should be thrilled by the slate of Town Council candidates. Other than Mrs. Kenney the town should be in good hands.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 26, 2008 @ 5:06 pm | Reply

  2. Good luck, Mr. Felkner, may the best candidates win their rightful place on the town council.

    Comment by CharihoParent — June 26, 2008 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

  3. So Mr. Felkner, has your campaign officially opened? If not then ignore my question and I will bring it up at the apporpriate time.
    Question: What would you do about the tax inequities that exist in Hopkinton regarding waterfront property?
    Some properties that are clearly waterfront (wood river and various ponds) are not taxed as such, while others (Locustville and Wincheck Ponds) are taxed as waterfront. Current council could give 2 hoots…actually looked like deer in the headlights when the subject was brought up at a council meeting.

    Comment by RS — June 26, 2008 @ 8:07 pm | Reply

  4. Congrats on throwing your hat in and best of luck to you! And if you don’t get elected I hope you remain on the school board… but let’s hope for a victory first!

    Comment by njwashor — June 27, 2008 @ 9:01 am | Reply

  5. RS this is a great question for all of the candidates. This has been a problem for a long time. CR praises the TC for taking a stand on tax equalization against another town but NO-one seems to care that the very same inequity is going on right in our own town. John Matson has voiced this for a long time now and still nothing gets done. And before we go off on a wild chase about tax equalization, I am not against their opinions. I just want to know what the plan is for fixing this in our own town?

    Bill,George I was a little shocked to see your names in for TC but the best of luck.

    Comment by Bob Petit — June 27, 2008 @ 9:17 am | Reply

  6. I know nothing about the issue RS mentions. I’m sure there are several town and school issues that I know nothing about and therefore have not expressed an opinion. Do not take my silence as pro or con. I try my best to be informed before I pontificate. I find I agree most often with RS’s opinion of government. I’m confident his taxing concerns are legitimate.

    I praise the current Town Council for taking a stand against many of the problems at Chariho. They not only support district equalization, individually they have spoken out against components of the bond such as the track; irresponsible spending; needlessly complex budgeting; hidden budget items; foolish employee contracts; etc.

    In the end I always remember that Chariho takes the most money from Hopkinton families, and Chariho has been mismanaged for years. Makes sense to focus more attention where the most good can be done. Besides, when Hopkinton spends too much on policing, it only hurts our bank accounts. When Chariho wastes our money, it hurts our children. Sorry, but the damage done directly to children puts Chariho front and center in my mind.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 27, 2008 @ 11:03 am | Reply

  7. Hi!
    My previous post did not register. For candidates check http://www.sec.state.ri.us/candidates/ ,this listing needs updating.
    BTW check out Mr. Mageau’s comments on the the meeting with the committee on Charlestown’s withdrawal do search at http://www.projo.com and do serach also for election news.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — June 27, 2008 @ 11:22 am | Reply

  8. You can read Charlestown’s honest confession, including Mr. Mageau’s comments here:

    http://www.projo.com/education/content/SC_CHARLESTOWN_CHARIHO_WITHDRAWA_06-27-08_AEA_v48.403b2b5.html

    As we’ve come to expect, the threat of withdrawal is more huff than puff. Item #1 in the handbook may be to scare voters by claiming state reimbursement is going away…item #2 seems to be to threaten withdrawal but then back down when your bluff gets called.

    By pushing aside withdrawal discussions until after the bond re-vote, Charlestown is admitting they will not walk away from the sweet deal they have at Chariho even if it means better education and facilities for their children. While Hopkinton families are accused of putting greed before education, Mr. Mageau and Ms. Allen admit that money is more important to them than providing Charlestown children with the best buildings money can buy. These Charlestown leaders willingly gives up full control of education in order to save a few bucks.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 27, 2008 @ 11:53 am | Reply

  9. Looks like Mr. Washor has started his own blog here:

    http://zcreed.wordpress.com/2008/06/27/cha-riho/

    Another Hopkinton blog has been started. The writing style and commentary remind me of FoxesInMyHenHouse.

    http://hopkinton.wordpress.com/

    I don’t plan on actively posting on any other blog but here, but it will be interesting to see if more blogs means more people paying attention?

    Say what you want about Hopkinton being illiterate woodcutters, we certainly seem to have our share of citizens who understand the value of the internet as a communication tool.

    Perhaps if Richmond and Charlestown had similar enthusiasm for communicating with the little people, they would come around? We can always hope.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 27, 2008 @ 12:31 pm | Reply

  10. Hey CR, thanks for the cross post… yes I did start a little blog (http://zcreed.com), but it’s more or less unconfined to a specific topic. So far it’s been based around our town, but I’m gonna rant about anything I feel like on there. Comments and beratement is always welcome. I only moderate the first post you make to keep spam out.

    Comment by njwashor — June 27, 2008 @ 2:24 pm | Reply

  11. RS,
    An appraisal as you probably know is based on comparisons – how much similar homes sold for. We use a “professional” service periodically (perhaps every 10 yrs) and are supposed to keep current with comps and various formulas. Being on the water is part of that formula. So your problem is in the accuracy of the appraisal. But the question is – is the home categorized as ‘water front’ accurate or is the one not categorized as such accurate?

    There is a board/panel (whatever they call it) that makes those appraisals. There is also a different board/panel that hears appeals when people don’t agree with the first board.

    Here is your recourse – we can assume that you are not the undervalued homeowner (because no one would complain that their taxes are too low). So let’s say your are on Wincheck pond with a 50 yr old 1400 sq ft home labeled as water front and with an appraisal of $350k. Similar homes on Wood River are not labeled water front. Assuming everything else equal, the lack of the waterfront label would lower the appraisal value for the Wood River home.

    So you, as the Wincheck pond homeowner, go to the appeal board and say your appraisal is too high and you make that assertion based on the Wood River home prices. They might come back and say, yours is water front and theirs is not – thus the difference in appraisal. That’s when you show that both homes are next to a fluid substance and make them justify the non-water-front appraisal.

    If that doesn’t resolve the issue, you are allowed to appeal that decision to the RI Supreme Court.

    Basically, you do have an avenue of recourse but it has to be initiated; the board/panel doesn’t function proactively and would not go out and look for these inconsistencies. Someone needs to make a claim to the board.

    If I understood your question correctly, I hope this answers it. I’ll admit the council will be a similar learning curve as was the school committee and I don’t know it all. Even the above info was given to me by someone with much more experience.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — June 27, 2008 @ 2:26 pm | Reply

  12. Bill I believe what you claim above has been done.Just short of taking it to court; not sure if that has been done. I know you can’t answer this question, but why hasn’t the town council looked in to this? This has been an issue for awhile now. Are you; if elected going to look into this? as we cry about equalization this is one area that we need to find equtiy. We are talking about an injustice to people in our own town.

    John Matson would be a good starting point for you to look into this. he has spoken about this often.

    Comment by Bob Petit — June 27, 2008 @ 3:03 pm | Reply

  13. Obviously, Don’t quit your ‘day job’ but your well thought of from all I’ve had the opportunity to hear. Met Mayor Daniel McKee of Cumberland at State of the State taping last night which is sponsored by operation Clean Government regarding his and a great many others efforts and different sides of the spectrum regarding the mayoral academies and what lives ahead in education. It shows that whether from the left (Progressive Latino, Juan Pichardo or the right (your Ocean State Policy Research) and others in between find that are all working hard for the betterment of education in the state and as the slogan that has been worn out, for the children.

    Good Luck on your efforts in your professional life on behalf of the kids and those educational efforts regarding reform.

    Looking forward to supporting you in November.

    Comment by James Hirst — June 27, 2008 @ 3:05 pm | Reply

  14. Well, Bill, I look forward to seeing you on the TC. I agree that we need less gov’t in our lives, less legislation, less “it is good for you” determinations and the like.

    Who knows what the future will bring? I know you will continue to fight for our schools, sensible planning, and transparency. I’m very happy with most of our current TC, and you will be a welcome addition!

    Comment by Dorothy Gardiner — June 27, 2008 @ 5:29 pm | Reply

  15. Well said Dorothy. Now lets all remember to get out and vote our choice(s) as well as a continued NO Vote on the unfunded bond by the state.Hopefully NO VOTES by all three towns will put it squarely on the Towns and get back local autonomy.

    Fair praise to the AD HOC withdrawal committee in Charlestown who have been on the ball for the best for their town and see the continued writing on the wall (1958 forward). Hopefully the other two towns respect their choice and vote them to leave if they at the end of the day vote again to withdraw. I think its been noted before in The Sun and blog that they voted to leave twice, once by five votes (non binding referendum?) chime in if I’m incorrect and once by binding (yet didn’t leave).

    They have some solid people in Mr. Ciccetti, Mr. Hosp and Ms. Carney from my following along. Others may disagree and like others willing to be learned.

    Be Well.

    Comment by James Hirst — June 27, 2008 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

  16. Curious Resident, I just caught the Hopkinton Underground blog. I used to read the Hopkinton Speaks blog. The Hopkinton Underground blog is not as good, but there does seem to be a lot of useful stuff about the movie project. I’m not sure it is FoxesInTheHenHouse, seems like this one isn’t written by a giant space case.

    Comment by Fat Albert — June 28, 2008 @ 8:29 am | Reply

  17. Someone emailed me asking if I thought there were problems in the town government that needed “transparency” which I replied no. My commitment to open government is a philosophical one. Actually, I’m looking forward, if I’m elected, to working on a board where I don’t feel that things are being hidden.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — June 28, 2008 @ 8:43 am | Reply

  18. Better or worse, I’m happy to see Hopkinton Underground, Mr. Washor’s “ZCreed” and the Richmond blog. The more talking among the community, the more informed we all are. Foxes has his unique perspective on things. He’s entitled even when he’s wrong.

    I agree with Mr. Felkner about Hopkinton town government. Nothing strikes me as super-secretive, but transparency can’t hurt and if someone is inclined to try to sneak something past us, they will think twice if transparency is the order of the day.

    Remember the Chariho budget fight of 2005. If the previous year’s “actuals” hadn’t been hidden from us…if we had access to actual spending throughout the year, they wouldn’t have been able to play the district voters for fools. Transparency solves but also averts problems.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 28, 2008 @ 10:27 am | Reply

  19. I agree with Bill.The CHARIHO Administration has been less than forthcoming in terms of releasing information about RYSE and other programs to the School Committee and the public. Ironically , politicians like Mr. Hosp and others,who are actually developing withdrawal plans for Charlestown ,are treated with more respect than Hopkinton’s Town Councilors and School Committee representatives.

    Comment by george abbott — June 28, 2008 @ 10:35 am | Reply

  20. I wish all newcomers well, and I have the utmost respect Mr. Abbott who has tried to be an informed voice as Mr. Felkner on the school committee.

    Mr. Abbott has the cache from working with young people and what is right and has always put his best foot forward regarding the Town of Hopkinton and. There are five spots and George you should be one of them if that is your wish.

    I’m appreciative that Ms. Thompson covered Mr. Hosps Letter to the Editor with Mr. Cordone and Mr. Hosp being correct. Numbers are deceiving unless presented as a reason for one’s thoughts (however may be slanted one way or the other)

    I believe Mr. Silks and he can comment if he chooses to a Letter he penned to the Editor some time ago (last couple of years) regarding that Chariho was in the best interests of the Towns (Tri Towns) in the beginnings of the Chariho District (late 1950’s and early 60’s). If my thought is correct he penned as well its not the same (district) as it once was due to various changes.

    Needless to say since the early 1990’s (@ 1992-1993) when it was noted in a Fall Sunday Real Estate Section that Lincoln, Smithfield, North Smithfield were being over built (as to be between Providence and Boston) that South County was the only place left in the late 1990’s. Whether it be laid at the feet of the planners at the time why planning was or wasn’t done with this in mind is pointless to argue ten years later.

    Its not the same district and things aren’t the same. As far as the secretive nature of information many would argue that lays at the feet of the former Superintendent. He I believe in a 1990’s article was noted that he/or the supereintendent is to provide information to the committee that is asked for by the members and the committee votes their conscious regarding the district.

    The budget process which has become farcical is also noted.

    Anyway good luck to all potential hopefulls. Let’s get out the vote!

    Hopefully all tri town voters will vote no to all three sections and we can all get on with the children, as many have finally woken up that its not about nor has been about the children for multiple years.

    Good Luck Mr. Abbott, when people see that you have years of social work in your resume they will come to know you were always about the children, all the time. I don’t think people know who you are and what you stand for. You will be an outstanding candidate.

    Comment by James Hirst — June 28, 2008 @ 12:27 pm | Reply

  21. RE: #19 George Abbott, I sure do agree with THAT comment George. If Mr Felkner had not asked that we STOP being a bit argumenative, I would have copied my letter to the Westerly Sun regarding the treatment of OUR TC president (by the Richmond TC) right HERE!

    Comment by Dorothy Gardiner — June 28, 2008 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

  22. As I do not buy The Rag, any chance you can post the letter here Mrs. Gardiner? We get more accurate information from letters than we do from so-called reporters at The Rag.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 28, 2008 @ 6:07 pm | Reply

  23. Regarding #8 by Curious Resident, further evidence of huff and puff yet still not committed is the January 8, 1999 article of Local schools could cost Charlestown $18 million. Authored by sun writer Allana Allik.

    Charlestown taxpayers could expect to spend up to $18 million in construction costs alone to start up its own school district.

    Dr. Edward P. Humble, a principal of the educational consulting firm MGT of America, Inc., unveiled a building estimate for a Charlestown-only system at the Chariho Act Commitee meeting Thursday night.

    The town would probably not receive more than the 30 percent minimum of state aid for building costs, if it withdraws from the Charlestown, Richmond, Hopkinton k-12 school district, said Humble.

    Because of the most recent information from MGT, the year’s Act committee labors may not bear fruit after all for the chariho Act Revision Committee and its attempt to create a more unified school district through legislative changes and an equalized taxation district.

    When the committee last met in December, Charlestown residents asked to know how much it would cost to withdraw from the tri-town district and create its own system.

    If it were less expensive to go it alone than to be part of an equalized
    tax district with its neighbors, Charlestown taxpayers indicate they would prefer to withdraw from the regional district. Charlestown taxes are lower than that of the other two towns.

    Even if the costs were equal, Charlestown Council President Charles Beck said Thursday night, his town would likely vote to withdraw.

    “I’m not recommending you divorce,” said Humble. “I think educationally it would be a mistake”.

    Charlestown Town Administrator, George C. Hibbard said the town was well-positioned to take on new debt.

    Charlestown should think seriously about forming its own district,” said Hibbard, who serves as ex-officio member to the committee. “This appears to be affordable, at first glance.”

    Beck said the town would have to commission its own study to determine costs for operating a group of new Charlestown-only schools.

    Such costs include educational programs, transportation and salaries and , as Chariho Director of Administration and Finance Ron DiFabio pointed out, all the attendent expenses of withdrawing from Chariho, wuch as honoring contractual demands and pensions.

    Charlestown would stand to lose regional bonuses and other state aid as well, DiFabio said.

    An equalized tax rate was among the most salient changes proposed to the Chariho Act (Blogger note, though Mr. Cordone has most recently championed this it was also championed at some point I believe in 1959, this has been a distict problem from the get go, 50 years worth of folks making this point, so no disrepect to Mr. Cordone but hardly the only voice just the most recent), the legislation that created a regional school district over 40 years ago.

    Under equalized taxation for the district, Charlestown’s school taxes, the portion of local school taxes, the portion of local taxes spent on chariho would go up 34.6.

    School taxes would decrease by 28.2 percent in Hopkinton and 18.3 percent in Richmond.

    The three towns are now assessed on a per-student student basis. Currently, Charlestown pays about 66 perecent of its local property taxes for school services, in comparison to Hopkinton’s 78 percent and Richmond’s 81 percent, which Richmond Council President Henry R. Oppenheimer said is the highest rate in the state. (Blogger note, it was opined somewhere, why is Richmond so eager to join with Charlestown regarding a two town school district and they pay more than twice in tax evaluations which is driving these discussions yet only get one voice, please chime in.)

    The newest figures from MGT show that charlestown sends the fewest students to school in the Chariho district, at 29.74 percent of the enfrollment in 1998. The town also has the highest property values in the district.
    According to the State Department of Administration, assessed valuation of taxable property in Charlestown tops, $817 million, over twice that of Richmond or Hopkinton (Blogger note, this drum has been beaten for many years yet hold true in many arguements)

    “I will tell you the (equalized) taxation district will be one hell of a hard sellin Charlestown, ” said Beck.

    Beck said that for weeks town officials have listened to a continous polemic from residents opposed to entering into an equalized taxation district.

    “I’ve gotten clobbered,” Beck said. “They are not buying it, and I can’t sell it. What can we come up with as a compromise?”

    Hopkinton representative Linda DiOrio said the district couldn’t get a bond for building new shools-needed to relieve current overcrowding-passed in Hopkinton without an equalized tax district. (Blogger note what we there nine years later)

    Humble said after the meeting that Chariho was unique among all the districts he has worked with nationwide, (Blogger note, Capped for effect) BECAUSE ITS EDUCATION PROGRAMS ARE REGIONALIZED, BUT ITS TAXING MECHANISMS ARE NOT.

    Chariho administrators were chagrined by Charlestowns reaction.

    “Anyone who thinks you can open a high school for 400 kids and offer the same educational opportuities is sadly mistaken,” said DiFabio.

    Chariho Superintendent John L. Pini said that, until now, he thought a previous “fissure” between Charlestown and the rest of the district seemed
    to have healed as chariho’s academic stature rose in he state in recent years.

    “But the terms are much rawer now than they were then,” Pini said. “Now we’re using the word divorce. Its a terrible word.”

    The Committee said it remains painfully aware of the serious overcrowding problems that plague a majority of Chariho Schools.

    Still Huffing and Puffing since January 1999 and before, much/long before (Reply to #8), Your on the money Curious Resident. Your ducks are lined up and ready to Quack.

    Be Well tri town voters.

    Comment by James Hirst — June 28, 2008 @ 7:32 pm | Reply

  24. BECAUSE ITS EDUCATION PROGRAMS ARE REGIONALIZED, BUT ITS TAXING MECHANISMS ARE NOT.

    Thought it needed to be emphasized again. A school district where a group of people living in one town pay less that a group of people living in another town is an aberration. Around the country regional school districts are also taxing districts. While the Chariho district may not be the only one with the unfair taxing scheme, we are a rarity. There is a reason…the tax structure is unfair and a wealthy town can drive a poorer town into economic devastation.

    We should not fold our hand when Charlestown or Richmond threaten to withdraw. We should say bye-bye, ta-ta, adios, adieu, ciao, hasta la vista, with a smile on our faces. As it stands now, we have been subsidizing the education fantasies of Charlestown for years. As a town we cannot sustain the same level of spending as Charlestown. Why do we try? Too much pride? The time has come for us to stop trying and reject every bond until we have tax equity or they leave. Anything else and we fail future generations of Hopkinton families.

    Bring on the vouchers. As usual, excellent research Mr. James Hirst.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 28, 2008 @ 8:25 pm | Reply

  25. CR, I do believe most, if not all, of the school districts in Rhode Island are not taxing districts. This has be a bone of contention in everyone of the districts that isn’t a taxing district. The ironic part of the statistics that I’ve seen is that the community with the higher tax base has the lower enrollment, which I think is what they (the community with the lower enrollement/higher tax base) use for their justification (right or wrong) for keeping it on a per pupil basis.

    Comment by CharihoParent — June 29, 2008 @ 9:43 am | Reply

  26. Interesting question, what other towns in RI share schools. I can only think of Exeter-West Greenwich, and Foster-Glocester at this moment.Does anybody know how these are funded?

    Comment by RS — June 29, 2008 @ 10:29 am | Reply

  27. James Hirst makes reference to a letter I wrote sometime in the last couple of years about the motivation for the formation of the Chariho District, how it solved a serious problem, and the changes that have over time led to the contentious circumstance that we find ourselves in.

    I don’t recall that letter specifically, but a few days ago I wrote a letter to Governor Carciari concerning the current hassle over voting for Chariho bonds. It provided some background information about early Chariho days and the road that has been traveled to get to the current unfortunate impasse. What follows are some excerpts from that letter that may be the sort of thing that James was referring to.

    “It happens that my wife and I moved to Hopkinton in 1958, the year the Chariho Regional School District was being formed, and all three of our children graduated from the Chariho High School, so much of what I describe here is from firsthand observation and, to some degree, participation.

    I have served three terms as the president of the Hopkinton Town Council starting in 1968, in the 1970’s and in the mid 1980’s and a term on the Chariho School Committee in the early 1970’s. I’ve also served about 17 years on the Hopkinton Zoning Board. All that doesn’t make me particularly qualified about anything, but it does make me aware that sometimes the people on both sides of an argument about legislation bring more heat than light when controversial matters are on the table. I hope my comments are seen as bringing light.

    The very first light I would bring is that the objection to the Chariho bond legislation by the Hopkinton Town Council is really only marginally about the bond legislation. It basically is about how unfairly the operating costs of the District are shared between the three towns that the District encompasses.

    That may sound strange, but there is a rational basis buried in the 50 year history of the Chariho District. Please bear with me as I explain.

    A little more than fifty years ago the towns of Charlestown, Hopkinton and Richmond were all facing a school crisis. Each had a small population (the total population of the three was 8,000) and each had their own elementary school system. When their kids advanced to the high school grades, each town sent their own to neighboring towns as tuition students because none of the towns could afford a proper high school. The crisis was looming because the neighboring towns were running out of classroom space to accommodate tuition students.

    The crisis was avoided when the three towns agreed, after some negotiation, to create the Chariho Regional School District and build a school for their Grades 7 through 12 students.

    The costs for the new District were shared by the towns in the same proportion that their children comprised the student body in grades 7 through 12. Each town continued to own and operate their own grade K – 6 school system. The school populations and the Grand Lists of the three towns were such that the District school tax rates for the grade 7-12 school were comparable between the towns. Each town had a separate budget line for their own K-6 grade school system and paid all its operating and capital costs.

    Over the next 50 years the total population of the towns tripled, the Grand Lists of the towns grew (but at different rates), the town elementary schools were all regionalized, a regional Middle School was built at the Chariho Richmond campus and the basis of the State Aid to Education grants to all RI cities and towns fluctuated. All these changes affected the individual school tax rate differently in each of the towns.

    The only thing that hasn’t changed since the beginning is the 50-year-old formula in the Chariho Act that spells out how the District costs are shared by the towns.

    The result of not adjusting for the changes is that the cost-sharing formula that worked well for the three towns in 1958 began producing school tax rates for the towns that were becoming much different from each other. By the early 1990’s there were increasing complaints about the increasingly different rates.

    In 1997 the three Town Councils agreed to jointly fund a wide-ranging study by a national educational consulting firm (MGT of America, headquartered in Olympia, WA) to determine the needed District school facilities and improvements for the next ten years, their cost, the most appropriate grade configurations for those facilities, alternative financing methods for the improvements and the changes to the Chariho Act that would enable accomplishing the recommendations of the study.

    The MGT study showed, among other things, that the cost sharing method in the Chariho Act that produced comparable school tax rates for the towns when Chariho was formed produced very different school tax rates for the three towns in 1998.

    The tax rate on local property to finance the Chariho District in fiscal year 1998 was $8.51 per $1000 valuation in Charlestown, $13.67 in Hopkinton and $15.44 in Richmond. That meant that for the school tax alone a $200,000 home was taxed $1702 in Charlestown, $2734 in Hopkinton and $3088 in Richmond.

    The MGT study expressed concern about these differences and recommended that the Chariho Act be amended to establish a single equalized school tax rate throughout the District. The study showed that equalization would result in a school tax rate of $11.26 in all three towns, and a $200,000 property would be taxed $2252 everywhere.

    In the Spring of 1999, the Councils met to discuss the report’s recommendations and their implementation. When the recommendation to equalize the school tax rate throughout the District came up, the Richmond and Hopkinton Town Councilors favored the change but Charlestown Councilors rejected the change out of hand, saying simply that tax equalization would raise the school tax rate for Charlestown property owners and that was unacceptable. That was the end of any consideration of any of the recommendations in the report by a completely independent consultant that was intended to ready the District for the next decade.

    Hopkinton and Richmond Councilors felt they had no recourse. The legislature’s practice has been to not consider any change to local legislation unless the Town Councils of the affected towns were in agreement with the change. Charlestown clearly would not agree with any change. Everybody gave up despite the obvious unfairness. End of story.

    Concern was expressed at the time that the discrepancy of tax rates would cause difficulty in getting school bonds passed. Even if bond debts were divided equally between the towns, the individual taxpayers in Richmond and Hopkinton would have to pay substantially more than a Charlestown taxpayer with property of the same value to pay off the bond debt. But the point wasn’t pressed and nothing changed in the Act.

    Now it is 2008, almost ten years later. While the cost sharing formula hasn’t changed, the results coming from it have. In fiscal year 1998 the school tax rates for Hopkinton and Richmond were 160% and 181% respectively of Charlestown’s school tax rate. The numbers for this year are: Hopkinton and Richmond are at 246% and 263% respectively of Charlestown’s school tax rate.

    That means that for every dollar a Charlestown taxpayer pays for school operation, a Hopkinton owner of property of equal value must pay $2.46 and a Richmond owner of property of equal value must pay $2.63.

    And we see no reason that the differences won’t increase indefinitely. We believe this is unconscionable. We can’t explain why Richmond apparently doesn’t.

    The fears about not passing bonds have apparently been confirmed by the record. The Chariho District has presented six referenda to the voters for bonds for capital expenditures in the last 23 years, four of them since 2000. Only one has passed; it was the bond that paid for the Chariho Middle School in 1986. This record has led to the generally acknowledged inadequacy of the District’s physical plant.

    The Chariho Act authorizes the District to issue bonds, but only if a majority of those voting in each town vote in favor of their issuance. Here’s the record: in 1985 Charlestown vetoed a proposed bond issue that Richmond and Hopkinton approved, in 1986 all three towns approved a bond that paid for the Chariho Middle School, in 2000 Charlestown vetoed a bond that Richmond and Hopkinton approved, in both 2001 and 2005 both Charlestown and Hopkinton rejected a bond that Richmond approved, and in 2007 Hopkinton (for the first time) vetoed a bond that both Charlestown and Richmond approved.

    Note that the first rejection of a bond by Hopkinton didn’t occur until 2001, about a year after Charlestown refused to even talk about tax equalization, and it wasn’t until 2007 that Hopkinton for the first time rejected a bond proposal that was approved by the other two towns.

    It should also be noted that three of the five failed bond proposals have been rejected by the veto of a single town. Hopkinton officials have repeatedly said that they would be willing to eliminate the bond veto provision of the Chariho Act if it were accompanied by an appropriate revision of the cost sharing provision of the Chariho Act. That would almost certainly result in more timely passage of bonds that are generally acknowledged to be necessary.

    No one can say for sure why Hopkinton voters rejected the 2007 bond, but there were a number of factors. The Hopkinton Town Council did not endorse it, many voters did not approve of some of the projects that the bond would fund, and many felt that the costs of the bond repayment were not accurately represented.

    But the most commonly expressed feeling was acknowledgment that there needed to be bond money for the high school and regret that a vote for needed bond money for even the high school could not be cast until the unfair 1958 cost sharing arrangement between the towns was changed.

    The stated concern by many was that if the bond were to pass, Hopkinton would continue to be tied into Chariho for the life of the bond with little prospect of any change in the District cost sharing arrangement. They felt that their only choice was to reject the bond and then see what could be worked out about cost sharing.

    This first-time Hopkinton bond veto brought a firestorm of condemnation from Richmond and Charlestown Town Council members and Chariho School Committee members condemning the Hopkinton Town Council and the voters of Hopkinton, and demanding another vote be taken for bonds to pay for essentially the same work that the rejected bond would have covered.

    That response was counterproductive to the highest degree. There was and is a very strong feeling now, even among those who voted for the bond, that the vote was legally conducted fair and square, and that should be the end of it. The voters have spoken, and the Chariho Act specifically requires that the voters of all three towns must approve a bond before it can be issued.

    And this time, for the first time, four of the five Hopkinton Councilors have hung tough, saying essentially by their actions that before any other bond is considered the disparate school tax rates for the towns have to be addressed.

    Continual rejection of bonds, regardless of their merit, is seen by many as the only available mechanism to call the attention of the General Assembly to a method of sharing costs that would not be allowed if the District was being formed today.

    Rhode Island General Law Title 16, Section 16-3-19 requires regionalized Districts to have equalized tax rates unless all the participants agree to another method of sharing costs. Hopkinton would not agree to anything like the current arrangement.

    Since the bond rejection last November, Hopkinton Councilors have met twice with their Richmond and Charlestown counterparts at their request and attempted to explain Hopkinton’s position. The focus of the Charlestown and Richmond Councils was solely on having the Hopkinton Council support a revote on a new version of the rejected bond issue. Consequently, those meetings have not resulted in any serious exchanges of ideas.

    Hopkinton is once again suggesting that the sharing of the costs of the Chariho District between the towns be on the basis of a uniform District school tax rate. This is neither a new or radical idea. As noted earlier, it was recommended by the educational consulting firm MGT of America in their 1999 report commissioned by the Chariho towns to plan for Chariho’s next ten years of growth. And, as noted earlier, it is also the method of sharing costs mandated by Rhode Island General Law Chapter 16-3, Section 16-3-19 unless the participants agree to a different arrangement.

    In the case of the Chariho District, agreement was reached on a document in 1958 that was appropriate for the circumstances when the District was formed, just like the United States Constitution was in 1789 when it was ratified. And just like the United States Constitution, it needs to be amended from time to time to continue to be appropriate as circumstances change.

    In a continuing effort to communicate with his counterparts in Richmond and Charlestown, Hopkinton Council President Vincenzo Cordone has met with them recently at the Chariho campus in Richmond and presented a description of an alternate to an equalized District school tax rate that would make the District tax rate for each town proportional to the percentage of the student body that lived in that town. That would be a compromise that would relieve the school tax rate for Charlestown (compared to an equalized District tax rat) in recognition of the fact that Charlestown has the fewest students in the District schools (28%). There has been no response, formal or informal, from either Richmond or Charlestown.”

    That concludes the excerpts from my letter to the Governor concerning the Chariho situation. I concluded my letter to the Governor with the statement that “The opinions I’ve expressed are mine and I am not speaking for anyone else. I believe, however, that what I’ve expressed reflects the views of many Hopkintonians.”

    This is a long posting, for which I apologize, but part of the Chariho problem is that that it has a long history that many people are unaware of. My belief is that orderly respectful discussion of our differences is the only path out of the morass we have all contributed to creating.

    “Love thy neighbor” may be too much to hope for right now, but civility surely shouldn’t be beyond our collective grasp. If there are truly irreconcilable differences within the present arrangement, we’ll have to change the arrangement. Civility and facts are the quickest way to get to wherever it is we’re going.

    Comment by Thurman Silks — June 29, 2008 @ 11:22 am | Reply

  28. RS,
    There is also the Bristol-Warren School District. I know that Bristol-Warren is also funded on a per pupil basis. Mr. Thomas M. Padwa published a report that he and his fellow Warren representatives on the Bristol-Warren Regionalization Study Commission prepared showing the differences for Bristol-Warren, Exeter-West Greenwich (which leads me to believe they also fund per pupil) and Chariho between funding on a per pupil basis and funding based on property values. The charts and backup report were prepared on December 7, 2005. You could probably get a copy of it at your town hall since that is where I got my copy.

    Comment by CharihoParent — June 29, 2008 @ 11:49 am | Reply

  29. wow…..if anyone could stay awake w/out being bored to death from Thurms sermon, you deserve an award

    Comment by what? — June 29, 2008 @ 12:13 pm | Reply

  30. Thurm may be long but he is actually succinct.

    Comment by BarbaraC — June 29, 2008 @ 1:35 pm | Reply

  31. barbara…..youre just looooooong

    Comment by what? — June 29, 2008 @ 2:56 pm | Reply

  32. Once again Mr. Silks presents an historical perpective which tells us we are fools if expect the status quo to change without a motivating force. Hopkinton has one chip it can play, and that is the rejection of every single bond until Charlestown leaves or conceded tax equity. I won’t be happy with a watered down taxing scheme and I hope the majority of Hopkinton stands strong for once.

    Regardless of the funding situation for the two or three other regional systems in Rhode Island, nationwide regional schools are almost always funded by district taxing. Everybody benefits the same and everybody pays the same. The MGT study reinforces this truth, and the Rhode Island legislature acknowledges the fairness and necessity of district taxing in current law.

    I urge Hopkinton to remain vigilant and remember we are not doing our children any good by sentencing them to another 20 years of inequitable taxation.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 29, 2008 @ 5:33 pm | Reply

  33. Dear Curious Resident<

    At the risk of being chastised, here is the letter from Friday. I was really angry with the idea that these “officals” would act in such a way. You might like Vinny or not it does not matter. It is the principle of the thing. (the rest of you…don’t read this):

    Some time ago, Mr. Cordone, President of the Hopkinton Town Council announced that he had lost his job. While his demeanor was calm, his voice betrayed the embarrassment and frustration that he felt, and the concern he experienced when confronted by the cost of medical insurance. Considering that most people, facing an unexpected termination are ashamed regardless of the cause of their termination, Mr. Cordone performed a brave and considerate act by announcing this dismal news. Certainly, during this time of high unemployment and home foreclosures, his announcement provided the support that many needed to understand that they were not alone in their own personal pain after losing their job, or finding it difficult to pay their bills.

    Now, that difficult decision to announce his own pain and frustration has served as a source of frivolity and a project for ridicule by town officials in Richmond, and this behavior is supported by Ms Dolan.

    Sadly, Ms Dolan supports this reprehensible behavior, claiming that she has been the subject of ridicule herself. Ms Dolan is acting like an obstreperous, ill mannered child. Behavior where one ridicules personal tragedy or an unexpected economic downturn should NEVER be tolerated, much less supported. Indeed, Mr. Cordones behavior should have been applauded as a town official explaining his own personal difficulties so as to allow others to be somewhat comforted by knowing that they had also been placed in a similar position through no fault of their own.

    The town officials of Richmond should answer to a higher expectation of behavior given their position, and for some, their education. Ms Dolan should have the good sense to recognize and denounce such unacceptable behavior. Alas, this is not so, and Ms Dolan and the town officials of Richmond have sunk to a level below that which is expected of an ignorant, delinquent child.

    Comment by Dorothy Gardiner — June 29, 2008 @ 6:06 pm | Reply

  34. When Chariho apologists take to personally attacking a Hopkinton political leader because he wants what is best for the families of Hopkinton, it is great to see Hopkinton has citizens willing to take the mob to task for their boorish behavior.

    The loss of a job is a tragic event. To turn it into political fodder is inexcusable. Good for you Mrs. Gardiner.

    Comment by Curious Resident — June 29, 2008 @ 10:13 pm | Reply

  35. Wow that is great. All that is said out here and the names you all throw around and you actually have the audacity to claim someone has lowered themselves to a level below you.

    Mr. Cordone has done a great job over his time on the TC. I wish him the best in his endeavours.

    Dot, don’t use his unfortunate loss of employment to cover your inadequacies. You are no better than anyone else when it comes to calling people names or throwing around half truths. You all claim others do it, take a look in the mirror. I know where Doreen is coming from. Because I support the bond; have and will continue too; my family has been thrown into conversations, how I pay my taxes, been called a spoiled little rich boy. Come most, not all of you that come on here can’t say a word about name calling; give it a break!

    Comment by Bob Petit — June 30, 2008 @ 9:18 am | Reply

  36. “What”,
    We may know each other but apparently you are NOT in Thurm’s league! Do yourself a favor “What”, instead of ridiculing Mr. Silks, Mrs Capalbo, myself, and others, show you have some grasp of the issues and offer a reasonable point or discussion.
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — June 30, 2008 @ 11:05 am | Reply

  37. Mr. Silks thank you for taking the time to write this information I did find it to be very interesting,

    Comment by Bob Petit — June 30, 2008 @ 12:24 pm | Reply

  38. As Mr. Silks has tried to note he’s not a ‘taxpayer’/’johnny’ come lately to the ‘dance’ but someone who has lived through the growth of chariho not from the sideline but some who has participated in the process. It was noted in headline in THE SUN, Arnold and Silks Request Chariho Budget Reduction, with a sub headline of $50,000 cutback Favored , Tuesday Evening, February 1, 1972 not authored is noted).

    A brief sampling of the article without page two noted, (not on hand):

    Two town council presidents called on the Charih district School Committee to cut its proposed operating budget for the chariho Regional school for 1972-1973 by $50,00 last night at a public hearing at the schoolhouse in Wood River Junction, Richmond.

    The request to reduce the proposed $1,582,023,023 operating budget by $50,000 came from Herbert L. Arnold , President of the Richmond Town council and was supported by Thurman M. Silks, the Hopkinton Town Council President. (Blogger note: whether you like his facts (folks facts, not opinonated bro ha ha). He is a by the numbers guy. Back to the article.)

    There was no committment from the town of Charlestown, the third member in the tri-town school district system.

    Both Arnold and Silks said when questioned by William Penhallow, Chairman of the Charlestown School Committee and a member of the district school board, they would support such a reduced budget at the district held its meeting, the cut amounted to $100,000. ”

    I would like to ask if we abide by this and get the budget won by this amount, what will our stand be at the annual meeting,” Penhallow asked.

    Fight with Vigor (sub headline)
    “Speaking for the town of Hopkinton,’ Silks replied, “If the budget is reduced by $50,000 we will fight with vigor to support and see it is passed.”

    Arnold, who spoke briefly because he said he was running a fever and wanted tp get home, reorted his council would suooirt such a budget.

    Blogger note their is a page two if necessary to pull up and get to if them them may be different, I don’t have it.

    Again the Article is addressed: Arnld and Silks Request Chariho Budget Reduction. (no author).

    As has been noted recently, Richmond and Hopkinton used to be pretty close in numbers and yet from many readers information, Richmond is ready to go into allegiance (in fairness if you look into the beginning of the district that was the thought as well).

    Please add on your thoughtful comments.

    The gist is 1)Hopkinton and Richmond were close tax wise and 50 years later it is still the same.

    Mr. Silks is not the Sermon Silks but an educated activist who some choose to character assinate for a loathesome reason. He is the real deal.

    I was ostracized before in this blog but when the truth doesn’t work your way and you ‘faithfully’ blog a well respected member of the community in a slighted way it says so much of you in the community.

    Back to the chase, if their is enough clamoring for the second page we’ll get it and sort it out.

    Be Well Tri Town Voters

    Comment by James Hirst — June 30, 2008 @ 8:53 pm | Reply

  39. Hi!
    All candidates qualified for the ballot in Hopkinton except Ronald Preuhs, Jr., for Chariho School Committee. Richard Anthony Vecchio clearly will succeed Mr. Preuhs this year. I collected most or many of Mr. Vecchio’s signatures. Mr. Vecchio is AGAINST the bonds.
    I collected signatures for both Republicans and Independent candidates in town. I assume I collected the most signatures?
    Check out Hopkinton and other towns on the VALID SIGNATURE totals at http://www.sec.state.ri.us/elections/candidatessignatures/totalsigs.html ,. Some errors for town listings. These are not total signatures collected but the acceptable ones!
    Regards,
    Scott

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — July 17, 2008 @ 5:30 pm | Reply

  40. Any chance Mr. Vecchio will communicate here or establish his own website/blog?

    Thrilled to hear he is against the bond. Hopefully we will be losing Mr. Felkner to the town, and it would be great to know we have another strong advocate for responsibility, transparency, and accountability at Chariho.

    Mr. Felkner, do you have anyone in mind to replace you, and possibly George Abbott, on the School Committee should it come to that?

    Comment by Curious Resident — July 18, 2008 @ 6:38 pm | Reply

  41. I am going to ask a hypothectical question to Bill Felkner, but anyone feel free to answer with your opinions as well….like you wouldn’t anyway.

    Mr. Felkner, hypothetically speaking, if you were to be elected to the Hopkinton Town Council, who would you like to see on the council with you? Also who would you like to see on the school committee to fill your vacancy and the other seats?

    Comment by RS — October 21, 2008 @ 2:53 pm | Reply


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