This letter is in response to Tom Gentz's letter in the November 20th edition of the Sun.
The election season has begun early in Charlestown and Tom Gentz is leading the charge with his smear campaign against me. He pulled out his poison pen and the lies dripped out.
I suspect he is doing this to try and divert attention from the fact the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) controlled Town Council has overtaxed the residents for the past 4 years.
I have great respect for our volunteers and Town employees. Contrary to the lies written in his letter, I did not speak ill of any volunteer or Town employee. On more than one occasion I have stated I have great faith in our new Town Treasurer and her abilities. I never once disparaged the Budget Commission or the Town Administrator.
Mr. Gentz seems to take exception to the fact that I actually did my homework prior to proposing an agenda item for establishing a Fund Balance Policy. I took the initiative to draft a policy for discussion. In doing so, I enlisted the aid of two financially knowledgeable individuals. One of whom is a CPA.
This proposed policy would prevent the town’s emergency reserves from being depleted by potentially questionable spending proposals while at the same time ensuring that emergency reserves would not grow to excess.
The last budget cycle revealed the need for such a policy. Over the last 4 years, the Town's Unassigned Surplus grew by $3 million. It went from $4 million to $7 million. A surplus is not a bad thing, but our taxes also increased during that same time period. The auditor's recommended between a 15-25% surplus. This $7 million brought us to the 25% upper limit.
The CCA majority on the Council then decided the Town now had too much money, so they proposed a Community/ Recreation /Senior Center for $3.1 million.
The CCA, of which Mr. Gentz is a member, promoted this construction without providing any detail or any projected long term operating costs. This is not fiscal responsibility.
The CCA has controlled the Town Council for the past 6 years. They overtaxed residents annually in order to allow accumulations to increase to sizable levels which was then turned into a proposed project of their choosing. This systemic over taxation would be eliminated with my proposed Fund Balance Policy.
Additionally, the CCA proposed $3.1 million "Construction" item was tucked in the budget and not voted on as a separate warrant item as had traditionally been done in the past. This action was the direct result of the CCA members on the Town Council. No one else.
Prior to my placing this item on the agenda, the CCA controlled Town Council never once expressed any interest in developing a Fund Balance Policy.
The CCA has a history of fiscal irresponsibility. Let's not forget the $7,000 bike path that they approved that ended up costing the taxpayers $300,000. That was irresponsible.
Contrary to the allegation flowing from Mr. Gentz's poison pen, I have no desire to gut the Town's professional staff, nor the volunteers.
By starting this smear campaign, Mr. Gentz is hoping the Town will forget about the CCA's plan to raid $3.1 million of the Town's money for a Community/ Recreation /Senior Center. He hopes that we will forget that their raid on the Town's money was overwhelmingly defeated at the budget vote in June, which caused a significant delay in the budget approval process.
I have great respect for the Town employees and volunteers. It is the fiscal irresponsibility of the CCA that I do not respect, nor will I sit silent and allow them to do this again. The fund Balance Policy that I proposed would have prevented a Town Council from amassing an excessive surplus while raising our taxes, and it also would have prevented a Council from putting large "Construction" items in the budget instead of being voted on as separate warrant items.
Mr. Gentz and the CCA have begun their smear campaign. Recently they have begun to talk about civility. Spreading lies about someone is not civil. If Mr. Gentz truly wants civility in Charlestown's government, then he should put away his poison pen and stop spreading lies.
Charlestown Town Council Vice President
Please also see the related letter by Steven Williams in the November 22 edition of The Westerly Sun.