In Charles Dickens’, “A Tale of Two Cities” the state of affairs at the time in London and Paris was described as, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,...”. Such is the case today at the national level, statewide and locally.
By all worldwide and historical comparisons, we are living in a time and place of plenty. But as the words of Dickens remind us, we also live in a time of great foolishness.
Here I refer to debt. Debt at the national level has continued to skyrocket. At the state level, Rhode Island faces crippling public pension debt from which recovery is not probable. Locally, cities and towns like Providence, Warwick, Pawtucket face monumental debt. Which brings us to South Kingstown. For a long while towns like ours have been insulated from the state problems of debt. But a reckoning is on the near horizon. The tax man cometh.
Statewide profligate spending and debt will ultimately fall upon the towns in the state that have wealth because... that’s where the money is. This, among other reasons, is why we need to focus on wise management of our tax dollars. The last year of school committee governance has shown anything but this. After the 2017-2018 school committee developed a competent plan to take advantage of a unique (once in a generation-like) state financial offer to consolidate and upgrade our school buildings, the newly elected 2019 school committee recklessly tossed the plan aside, thereby squandering tens of millions of dollars. Soon, they will ask the voters of South Kingstown to approve $80 million of new debt, with whispers of doubling that in order to build a brand new school. They will do so without the savings from consolidations originally considered.
With the loss of close to 40 percent of our students in the last 20 years, a new, prudent, and more fair reallocation of tax dollars for services that accommodate the more varied landscape of our local citizenry is necessary. During the next several years other significant spending issues will arise, tax pressure will increase, and the growing necessity to more properly allocate tax dollars will continue. Wisdom, maturity, and fiscal sanity are needed to confront these challenges. The local Republican Party will be identifying candidates that demonstrate these traits. They may not always be Republicans, either.
The author is chairman of the South Kingstown Republican Town Committee