It’s definitely back to the drawing board for Central Coventry Fire District board members.
In a contentious, 4-hour-long annual meeting before an overflow crowd of more than 400 taxpayers at the Coventry Town Hall Annex on Monday, most citizens responded with a loud and collective “No!” in voting not to accept the Tax Collector’s and Treasurer’s Reports for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2012, the proposed CCFD budget for 2012-2013 and a resolution to adopt the tax rate for next year.
Discrepancies in figures between the two reports- including one estimate that budget figures were $300,000 apart- left many voters confused and upset.
The Treasurer’s Report showed the budgeted total revenue for fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2012 was $6,276,340. The total of revenue shortages and expense overages resulted in a deficit of $995,998, due to expenses in excess of amount budgeted ($343,179) and total revenue being short by $652,819.
In the past year, it was noted that the amount of delinquent balance was cut from $854,868 to $196,334.
Interim Chief Andrew Baynes read and discussed, line by line, items for the 2012-2013 proposed budget totals for personnel, $5,098.859, and operations, $1,584,920, and projected revenues, of $1,000,384.
A vote was also passed to abate noncollectable taxes for $6,000
“Get us some answers,” implored Coventry voter Conrad Burns to board members. “We don’t know this, we don’t know that, we don’t know anything.”
The board did display information showing district residential property owners with a house valued at $140,000 would pay an estimated $67.42 more annually and mobile home owners $49.00 for 2012-2013.
But Leo Blais explained the three-tier system for different tax rates for residential, mobile home and commercial property owners was “an illegal action”.
After much discussion, a measure was adopted to suspend discussion on both reports and complete further business on the agenda. A resolution was adopted to have reports audited by Dec. 3 when the board and citizens would reconvene. An amendment was added requesting the reports include more information and comparative annual statistics. “We will do our best to have a more ‘people-friendly’ budget,” said President Girard Bouchard. “We will also advertise the meeting.”
Chief Baynes presented the Chief’s Report for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2012. He said the department was staffed with 52 career Firefighters/EMT’s, one Fire Marshall, one Tax Collector and one Administrative Assistant. EMS service accounted for 2,452 incidents and fire-related service 765, or 8.8 alarms per 24-hour period.
A loan for tax anticipating notes was approved with a provision that the board must pay off the total loan by August, 2013.
CCFD Board members voted to accept and support two possible resolutions by District 33 Senate Candidate Lou Raptakis. If elected, he promised to introduce in the General Assembly legislation to freeze the district fire tax for elderly residents and another to adopt a 4.25% tax cap for the district.
A resolution proposed by Leo Blais was passed for a charter and by-law commission for the fire district.
Finally, during a brief recess, dozens of voters did not return to vote in the election for new board members due to the lateness and delay in voting. Earlier, a hand vote to adjourn the meeting was taken and defeated.
Paper ballot results were: Marie Fisher, 119, R. David Jervis, 104 and Girard Bouchard, Jr., 65. Lou Raptakis earlier had bowed out of the election. Bouchard was given a standing ovation by the remainder of the crowd for executing his duties as CCFD President as the session adjourned.