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Mayor Kevin Dumas Invites Opponent Ronald Churchill to a Public Debate

Mayor Kevin Dumas defends a 2004 study on water and wastewater funds, says an annual study of the funds would be a waste.

To the Editor:

In his recentMr. Churchill stated that the indirect rate structure “is a deeply flawed one” and falsely accused my office and the Municipal Council of having a “yearly slush fund”. Mr. Churchill is either confused on the issues or is intentionally attempting to mislead the public. 

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue recommends that every community with an enterprise fund should (1) establish a written, internal policy regarding indirect cost allocation, (2) review this policy annually, and (3) apply that policy on a consistent basis. In fact, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue further recommends that local financial officials “should understand and agree on what indirect costs are appropriated as part of the General Fund operating budget and what percentage of these costs should be allocated to the enterprise fund.”

And that is exactly what we have been doing here in Attleboro.  

In 2004, the City hired Maximus to conduct a comprehensive study to determine what the indirect rate should be for the Water and Wastewater Enterprise Funds. After completing a thorough analysis of the City’s financial data and meeting with all applicable Department Heads, Maximus calculated a fair and reasonable indirect rate for both of our Enterprise Funds. 

Since that time, very little has changed in the structure of either of these Enterprise Funds. To conduct a brand new study, year after year, at a cost in excess of $25,000 per year would, in my mind constitute waste. By having this comprehensive study, Attleboro has a written, internal policy regarding its indirect cost allocation. This policy is reviewed, and ultimately approved, by the Municipal Council during each budget cycle.  

According to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, the Director of Accounts may reject any community’s indirect rate methodology, written or otherwise, as unreasonable for tax rate setting purposes. It is important to note that Attleboro’s methodology has never been rejected by the DOR.

Nevertheless, we are already in the process of procuring for an updated study now. This process of procuring for this study began during the budget process long before Mr. Churchill decided to make this an issue. This updated study may result in the same, lower, or an even higher indirect rate. For Mr. Churchill to even speculate that the enterprise funds are being overcharged when he has absolutely no data whatsoever is irresponsible at the very least. 

Finally, I take great exception to Mr. Churchill’s use of the term “slush fund”.  Any qualified candidate for Mayor would know that the City utilizes a stabilization account, a reserve fund for transfer and certified free cash to fund capital projects, one time expenses, and emergency situations. The Municipal Council and I have worked very hard to ensure that the City is financially prepared for its emergencies and capital needs. The taxpayers have benefited greatly by having these funds available because by doing so it reduces the need for the City to incur the high cost of debt. This has occurred through sound financial management and careful planning. In fact, our bond rating has increased because of our reserves. Many other cities and towns across the Commonwealth have not faired so well.

Mr. Churchill’s labeling of the City’s reserve funds as “slush funds” is as offensive as it is baseless, especially given the fact that the indirect rate has no bearing whatsoever on any of the reserve funds.

If Mr. Churchill would like to discuss the indirect rate structure, or any other City-related issues, I invite him to a public debate where our citizens can determine first hand each candidates’ level of knowledge and credibility on the issues.

Respectfully,

Kevin J. Dumas

Roxanne Houghton July 26, 2011 at 07:39 PM
OK...Mayoral candidate Ron Churchill wants Mayor Kevin Dumas's job, and has made several serious allegations against him - in writing - in the Sun Chronicle and in The Patch. Ron Churchill contends that Mayor Dumas keeps his own "slush fund". (for city use) Mayor Dumas denies this and finds this offensive. He has now openly challenged Churchill to a public debate. Given that Churchill has sniped in writing, he has a responsibility to meet the Mayor - face to face - and make a case for his allegations. It would be cowardly to do otherwise. When you are seeking the highest office in the city you just cant "hit and run". I would suggest that Mayor Dumas follow through and name a place and time. Churchill will either show up and defend his positions or he wont. I think that the residents would appreciate a good old fashioned high spirited debate (not mean spirited) , and deserve an explanation for Churchill's charges. if you want to take somebody's job, then you ought to be very clear on why! The Mayor has laid down the gauntlet - let the games begin! P.S It might be fun to hold the debate in a setting where everyone doesnt have to sit "quiet as a mouse". Elections should be about lively debate and spirit.
Patty Austin July 26, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Ms. Houghton, I could not have summarized it better myself. Excellent observation and comments!!!
ohreally October 09, 2011 at 07:19 PM
The question everyone wants to know: why have our water/sewer bills gone up by such a ridiculously high rate in one year? Someone, don't care who, tell us why?
Sandy Miller October 09, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Sewer rate hasn't gone up in the last 3 years. Water rate just went up a little over 1 percentage point this year so if you use the same amount of water as you used the year before your bill would probably only go up a few dollars. You must be using more water. Also, trash rate went down when the city started the new program about 4 years ago and has stayed the same so you are probably saving money overall if you are using the same amount so you should look at your bills closer.

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