‘Bass is doing what he promised - listening’
To the Editor:
There has been a lot of discussion on social media regarding what happened Feb. 16 at town hall and why. Here’s my perspective on the situation we find ourselves in:
First, the Board of Education passed along an increase for the mayor and Town Council to deal with, in the face of declining enrollment and significant cuts to Educational Cost Sharing revenues coming from the State.
Second, department heads submitted "robust" budgets to the mayor, in light of State revenue cuts, meaning they all submitted increases - not flat budgets or declining budgets (words from the finance director at Town Council meeting Jan. 22, 2018).
Third, taxpayers (including myself) want roads improved. While we as a town can issue bonds to pay for the improvements, the interest cost has to be accounted for and included in the budget.
Lastly, healthcare costs rose significantly (again) and the town and Board of Ed are bearing the brunt of those increases.
By my calculations, the math adds up to just over a 10 percent tax increase - who prefers that? No taxpayer has raised their hand and said that they would rather pay more taxes than have the town lay off employees.
There was some discussion online about “waiting it out” because “there was a surplus this year, won’t that possibly happen again?”
The “surplus” that was applied against this year’s budget shortfall? A majority of that was actually bond premium - money we get when we issue bonds, but have to pay back. $1.1 million of the $1.5 million “surplus” applied was the bond premium.
This confusion is what I took exception to in the Jan. 22 Town Council and you can find the specifics in those meeting minutes.
No one wants layoffs - to have to be the one to deliver the news or be the one laid off. And yet time and again the taxpayers have said they cannot afford more tax increases.
With these revenue reductions, we are in unchartered territory as a community and we all are a part of solving this problem that has been put off and known about for too long.
I believe that Mayor Bass is doing what he promised - listening to taxpayers who have said “better roads” and “affordable increases.”
It is a brave move, and one that I hope sends a clear message that we need to find a way to do things differently.
As of the writing of this letter, there have been no suggestions or alternative ideas submitted to solve our problem - matching our current revenues to a cost structure that provides for the level of services taxpayers want and deserve.
In the upcoming weeks, budget presentations will be made by the town and I hope everyone will attend to get as much information as possible, just as I am, to be able to brainstorm ideas that help move us forward.
If you have an idea, not just a complaint or criticism, I’d love to hear it: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa C. Hida
New Milford Town Council