Is It Time To Consider Consolidating Newtown And The Borough?
Consolidate: to make (something) physically stronger or more solid; or to combine (a number of things) into a single, more effective or coherent whole.
Over the past few months, one of our neighboring communities to the north with a remarkably similar dual government structure began taking steps to weigh consolidating. The Town of Litchfield, like the Town of Newtown, also contains in a roughly one square mile of its geographic center, a legally and long-designated borough.
The Borough of Newtown — one of nine remaining across Connecticut — covers just over 1,200 acres and includes approximately 800 properties, including residences, retail businesses, banks, Edmond Town Hall, C. H. Booth Library, Trinity Episcopal Church, Newtown Meeting House, Hook & Ladder's headquarters, and other buildings.
Newtown’s borough is bounded on the north on Mt Pleasant Road/Route 6 by Blackman Road, on the east by the railroad tracks, on the west by Sugar Lane on Route 302, and south by Borough Lane.
Similar to the Borough of Newtown, Litchfield’s borough is separately governed by a warden and board of burgesses, levies its own separate and additional taxation on property owners within its borders, elects a number of other officials — most who draw a stipend or are otherwise paid — and employs or contracts others as needed to maintain its scope of operations.
Elected officers, in addition to the warden and burgesses, are borough clerk, treasurer, tax assessor, and tax collector. Things diverge a bit in terms of population and budgets, however.
Earlier this year, 25 of its roughly 1,900 Borough of Newtown residents met and passed a proposed budget of $224,820. The Borough of Litchfield with its population of about 1,000 has a current budget more than double that of Newtown’s, at just over $550,000.
According to reports, in February, the Litchfield Town Selectman proposed forming a committee to study the advantages and disadvantages of consolidation. This occurred after a conflict between the two governments over control of Litchfield Green.
Last week, an 11-member committee was seated and charged with determining the feasibility of merging the two geographically interconnected governments, and issuing a recommendation to the selectmen.
The panel is also looking into the financial effect a merger would have on taxpayers living within and outside of the Borough of Litchfield.
Locally, the idea of consolidating the Town and Borough of Newtown is something that comes up regularly in casual conversation, and occasionally inspires a handful of residents to formally suggest it to one or more elected officials.
These snapshot moments of consolidation inspiration typically occur at times when larger than average tax increases are proposed, or when revaluations hit borough residents a little harder than average — and a number of them face a measurably higher tax bill as a result.
We are not yet in a position to suggest that Newtown and Borough officials follow in Litchfield’s footsteps and formally initiate a consolidation study, but officials and interested residents should keep an eye on both the process and outcome of the work just beginning with our Litchfield County neighbors.
Ultimately, if such an analysis and decision to consolidate was considered here in Newtown, the ultimate authority to approve what would be, in effect, the elimination of the Borough of Newtown, would rest with the state legislature.
Regardless of what Litchfield’s panel eventually determines, the process and documentation could certainly provide a contemporary, practical roadmap to study when and if such a proposal gains motivated support here in Newtown.