CCFD Fire Tax Meeting Ends Prematurely Due to Charter Discrepancies

Motions from members of the public shaped the outcome of Monday night's meeting.

By simply taking a look at the parking lot of the shortly before 7 p.m. on Monday, it was apparent that it was not going to be a normal meeting. Hundreds of citizens that reside within the Central Coventry Fire District showed up at this year's annual to vote on an increase in fire taxes.

The meeting that was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. did not start until after 8:00 due to the largely unexpected number of voters that had to sign in in order to have their votes counted. Despite the rainy evening, the line of residents wrapped partially around the building for the better part of an hour, making for a near-capacity audience.

In order to quell some of the major questions and concerns that many of the attendees had, the Board decided to hold an informational section before discussing agenda items. About a dozen members of the community shared their concerns with the Board, speaking out against their tax rates and how they are calculated, showing concern for how District's money is spent and several residents suggesting that the town merge all its fire districts into one.

CCFD Chief Bob Seltzer and Board President Girard Bouchard Jr. attempted to answer each of the questions, explaining points like how the new tax rate would be calculated using the most recent property revaluation figures, and therefore would vary from resident to resident. Seltzer also explained the District's need for its most recently purchased ladder truck that several residents spoke out against, as well as expressing his advocation for having one fire district for the entire town.

In a packet handed out to voters as they arrived, the Tax Rate Resolution stated "a tax of not more than $4.45 for commerican and industrial properties and not more than $2.55 for residential properties, on each $1,000 of ratable real estate, be levied and assesed...residential property on leased land will be taxed at the residential rate (including mobile homes)..." Last year's residential fire tax rate in the district was $1.82 per $1,000.

After several residents expressed the fact that members of the Town simply do not have enough money to pay higher taxes, Seltzer reminded them of their right to vote for or against the proposed budget.

"We were very sensitive to that when we came up with the budget," he said. "If you want to vote it down, you can. If the audience wants to propose a different rate or budget, we are open to that. We have a very open Board of Directors that meet every month, and quite frankly, no one comes to our meetings. We always welcome input and my door is always open."

After the informational section of the meeting came to a close at 8:45 p.m., the Board began making its way through the agenda, with the voters passing motions to accept the minutes from last year's meeting as well as the tax collector, treasurer and chief's reports.

Agenda item number nine, if passed, would have elected two new members to the Board of Directors. A fierce discussion between Board members and the voters began when resident Leo Blais moved to elect officials after the budget discussion, bringing the meeting's progression to a screeching halt. Blais and resident Conrad Burns then brought to the attention of everyone present, discrepancies in the language of the Town Charter that would essentially yield any and all decisions made at the meeting void.

Chief Seltzer later explained that when the charter was changed in 2007, residents had voted in favor of changing the annual meeting from September to the first Monday in October. He went on to explain that at some point between the voters' decision and the General Assembly, the decision was never passed.

"In the past, if it is a 'meeting of the people', like tonight's meeting was, the Attorney General usually sides with what the people want," Seltzer said. "Rulings in the past have shown that annual meetings do not have to follow Open Meetings Laws, so no one saw a problem with holding this or any past meetings. It is all being changed and corrected based on the will of the people. It was nobody's mistake - it happened during the process and nobody did it on purpose. We did our best to stay with what the people want."

Blais suggested to the Board that it allow the two current members to continue holding their positions until their replacements have been elected at a special election meeting six months from now. Coventry resident and owner of several mobile home parks, John Assalone, also put forward for consideration that the Board adjourn Monday's meeting and vigorously attempt to collect the $859,000 in unpaid taxes from the prior year in lieu of another tax increase.

"I suggest no tax increase for at least six months, so you can get your house in order and get an attorney that is going to deal with the people that haven't paid their share - another $800,000 in hand is going to solve most of your problems," said Assalone. "Get that money in here, get your new members, postpone the meeting for six months and move forward."

Before adjourning the meeting, the Board of Directors explained that the tax bill being sent out this year will contain the same rate as the 2010 bill, which includes calculations based on the 2009 evaluation, not the in which property values were significantly decreased.

The rescheduled CCFD tax meeting and board member election will take place on Monday, April 2, 2012.

Jaydenleigh October 10, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Tax Anticipation Notes is a program created to borrow money and raise taxes later to pay for it. This should be never allowed!!! These types of programs need to be abolished immediately. Are friend's at CCFD were hoping to get this resolution passed without the tax payer's true understanding of how these programs work. This is another one of those "loopholes" for which "we the people" PAY DEARLY!!! Be aware voter's!! We need to watch our money more carefully as some people seem to have always had unlimited funds at their disposal and don't realise how the average person has had to sacrifice to survive.
coventry voter-Jay October 11, 2011 at 11:29 AM
Well said Jay and Lori, TAN’s should never be used for normal expenses. Using TANS’s to finance the payroll is like taking a second mortgage on your house to pay your electric bill or purchase a car. It’s meant for long term debt to finance a capitol project. The problem is the money runs out or is used and before you pay it back, and there is another Bill in the mailbox. If you take a second mortgage on your home to purchase a car or go on a vacation, a few years from now, you will need another car, and your trip will be over BUT your debt will still be there lurking every month in the mailbox. Long term debt to solve short term needs never has a positive outcome. Good luck getting CCFD to post their books on line
Bill Marzahn October 11, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Here’s the point I would like to make. When I see any public employee—who is on the job—sitting in a lawn chair or I see one person manning a shovel and two others doing the “heavy looking on;” I am offended. It feels to me like those who are not doing their fair share are thumbing their nose at me personally, wasting my tax dollars, and showing a lack of sensitivity for those who are unemployed. This is not “bashing” the hard working for no reason. I have been a union man in the constructions trades for much of my life. I rose through the ranks as a union organizer, business agent, and finally business manager. So I am not, by any means, anti-union. But in my capacity as business agent, I did from time to time council members to refrain from activity that would bring discredit to our union. Here’s something I learned soon after I moved from the ranks of the hourly wage earners to taking a salary for my work. It is simply: “Your perception is my reality.” I find that most people want to be both employed and productive. Those that sit or watch while their co-workers work needlessly risk the ire of those that pay them. And I do not believe that this “ire” is misplaced. I'm Bill, a Coventry tax payer for the last 39 years.
LifelongCoventryResident March 29, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Hi All....this is so funny because one person is "coventry taxpayer 2" and the other is "coventry voter". Talk about calling the kettle black. "coventry taxpayer 2" did not leave their name neither. Anyhow, if you want to argue and dispute this, go to the meeting at 7PM on April 2, 2012 at the Coventry High School, 40 Reservoir Road. They will give us the biggest tax increase ever....if you do not show up. Didn't you hear that we (taxpayers) have to cut back to be to able to eat but the government officials keeps right on spending. Where does all the town, state & federal money come from....you and me that always has to cut back. I am sick of it....don't know about you all. People are out of jobs and the foreclosures are up like crazy...have't you heard.
LifelongCoventryResident March 29, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Let's work on composing all to one district for Coventry. We should be a team and share equipment and everything. Not try to out do...one district to another.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »