Low Confidence In Elected Boards
To the Editor:
It’s getting hard to have any confidence in our elected boards these days. We’re told to support the budget because we spend near the midpoint in our DRG (peer group). I guess that means despite spending well over twice the rate of inflation on a per pupil basis each year, it’s OK because we aren’t quite as bad as some other towns.
Is that going to be our standard going forward? If so, we’re in deep trouble. Here’s why: Newtown has one of the highest residential burdens, as measured by how much of our budget is borne by taxes on residences versus businesses. We’re well over 80 percent; unlike most other towns in our DRG, our homes bear a huge portion of town spending. It’s no wonder why the average home value in Newtown has lost approximately 22 percent over the past ten years, based upon the last two revaluations. That’s tantamount to a two percent wealth tax every year, plus the additional amount of increase from our annual budgets. Did the BOF investigate that fact?
Newtown is also in the top half of towns in our DRG for equalized mill rates, which means that relatively speaking, we are more expensive than most towns in our DRG. Did the BOF investigate that as well? Good luck getting businesses to move into the state, especially this town, when they will be met with ever increasing property taxes and enormous state-obligated costs that have been shifted to the town either by reducing Education Cost Grants or possibly saddling towns with state pension obligations.
The Board of Finance should be forward-looking. They need to apply common sense. They need to look at more than just how much we spend versus others. They need to encourage the streamlining of schools as soon as possible because the financial path we are currently on isn’t sustainable in the long run. The fact that we have more full-time equivalent employees now with almost 1500 less students is unconscionable. Overspending for education and physical plant is not going to solve anything other than to accelerate an exodus of people from town and the dumping of their overtaxed properties on the market. Those are issues that the BOF must also consider, but apparently do not. Instead, they and this paper are acting as adjuncts to the Board of Education, the latter with the simplistic “it only costs two dimes a day” analogy in a recent editorial. How insulting to hardworking taxpayers and homeowners who have lost much of their home’s value. This year’s education budget tops $78 million, or measured in dimes, 780 million, yet the BOF could not find one dime to reduce? We’re now at a place where our education budget will continue to increase by well over two percent each year despite continued enrollment declines and probably far greater depending on how much the state decides to foist upon our town.
The time for taxpayers to expect reductions is long past due.
9 Daniels Hill Road, Newtown April 10, 2019
Editor’s note: Mr Kearney is a former vice chairman and 12-year member of the Board of Finance in Newtown.
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