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What's the rush?

There is a significant line item in the Charlestown 2019 operating budget called “Construction/Plan Reserve Account”, being voted on June 3rd at the Town Hall.

This is an amazing 10% of the total town operating budget.

The issue is that this $3,095,000 “Construction” line item is to build a community recreation center in an area of Ninigret Park set aside for other uses in the Master Plan and which already has a community recreation center. This plan was not brought forward by the Parks and Recreation Department nor the Parks and Recreation Commission. Interestingly, the Town Council majority asked the Budget Commission to find “extra” money that is available this year, but never asked for and obviously didn’t want the opinion and recommendation of that commission as to how to spend this new found taxpayer money. Also, the fact that our public school population is shrinking (one of the causes of our town surplus) should make us think twice about a new recreation building with its associated annual increased operating expenses.

The fact is the Charlestown Citizen Alliance proposed this and was able to quickly get this placed as a line item in this year’s budget with the help of Town Council members they endorsed. It’s not highlighted as a warrant item, as large initiatives have always been in the past. This PAC is also hosting a “survey” on their political website and has circulated a “petition” which only presents a new, shiny building with no plan, no estimates of the annual operating costs of running this unknown project and does not give choices nor details of alternatives for the use of this substantial amount of your money.

This is odd, rushed and frankly, wrong.

This taxpayer money is not needed to operate the town this year. It should be returned to the taxpayers to lower taxes, put aside for our unfunded pension liabilities, or should have been placed as a warrant item with a use to be determined by an objective, professional survey of taxpayers to determine the needs of everyone living in all parts of town.

Why the rush to plant a flag in an area of Ninigret Park designed for other uses for a very large expenditure which no one was clamoring for 6 months ago, taking a significant sum out of the town budget?

The CCA, a very small but powerful group, with the help of some Town Council members, is telling you what you’re going to get rather than asking what you want.

If you disagree with this incredible, $3M unvetted item being placed within the budget and not as a separate warrant item that you control, you have to vote down the entire budget. The Town Council should be forced to go back and rework the budget.

Don’t think that it’s wrong to vote this budget down, or believe that you are hurting any of the hard workers at Town Hall or impacting any town services. The Charter of our town provides that last year’s budget will stay in effect and there is more than enough money in that to carry the town forward for this fiscal year. The Chariho Schools are also fully funded for this coming year by a separate vote last month.

Let the Town Council know that you don’t agree with these tactics and reject the Budget on June 3rd at Town Hall.

Thank you,

Cheryl Dowdell

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