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Greater Issues BehindThe Budget Defeat



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Greater Issues Behind

The Budget Defeat

To the Editor:

Cheers to John Kortze for proposing a bond issue to fund open space purchases. Maybe someone understands that there are greater issues behind the budget defeat. It’s about time the selectmen and Legislative Council get it.

It seems to me that the budget defeat was triggered by the revaluation. Would the budget have passed if there were no revaluation? We’ll never know, but also I wonder how many of the “No” votes were from taxpayers who saw 10, 20, or 30 percent increases coming their way? Overall I don’t sense that townspeople want to see a decrease in town services or are against quality education. They just can’t swallow such a huge increase, particularly given the current economy.

The root problems behind the revaluation are the continued residential growth and lack of economic development in town. The people who have been here 15, 20, or more years must have had their heads stuck in the sand. These problems should have been pretty obvious given the rate of residential construction, population growth, and the number of times the schools have been expanded over that period. But what was done about it? It appears next to nothing.

One way to dig out of the hole we are in is to slowly crawl towards a more balanced development that should have been planned for all along. Economic development has been a “bad” word for too long in Newtown with the fear that it will bring bad things –– more traffic, more people. Well, you know what? We have more traffic and more people anyway and no nonresidential development to offset the effects of it. Instead of promoting smaller, less intrusive development over the years, we now have to be shocked by how many Sand Hill Plaza’s it will take to decrease our taxes. We are told that paving over all of Fairfield Hills with development would only bring a change of less than one mill. This only tells me how out of whack the balance has gotten. Maybe the good news is that it can’t get much worse since residential taxpayers will soon carry close to 100 percent of the tax burden.

There are no silver bullets. Ten or 20 million dollars for open space will be a great start. But how much land will this buy and how long will it slow growth? Then what? Another bond issue? How about taxing the sale of homes, or new construction, to help endow an open space acquisition fund. And let’s continue to pursue economic development. Not big box retailers and smokestack industries bringing weekend traffic and environmental hazards. But low-rise offices and warehouses. Much of our local traffic is people leaving town to go to work. What’s wrong with keeping a few more people close to home?

Finally, let’s give our senior citizens more local tax relief. We all have tight finances these days, but we need the seniors voting for prudent budgets, not against them because they are being reval-ed out of their homes.

No matter what additional dollars are ultimately cut from the budget, town offices and schools will be open next year. But at what cost? Unfortunately it may take several years before we see the true impact of these cuts. And we may be sorry when we see the effects. But then it will be too late. Let’s hope our elected officials understand the real problems and take action to get out of this hole now. Or the voters can speak again come next election.

Michael McCabe

5 Far Horizon Drive, Sandy Hook                                  April 29, 2003

Comments are open. Be civil.

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