News coverage of West Hartford sucks

If I read today’s West Hartford News correctly, and sometimes it’s not easy, the town council this week adopted the property tax freeze for 500 or so allegedly low income seniors. The lost tax revenue is supposed to be made up from a grant, the source of which is entirely unspecified. There’s no indication whether there’s an asset test involved or if this is a giveaway to rich seniors who don’t have much income. But I’ll give the weekly this: at least it mentioned it. The Courant didn’t tell us squat.

We deserve a lot better than this from our town officials, who have a duty to inform us of what they’re doing, and from the reporters who supposedly cover this town. This is a big, big deal that has been so ignored in the press that it’s seemingly slipped right through without anyone knowing anything about it.

It’s sad and infuriating.

As I’ve said before, I’m not against helping struggling seniors. But without an asset test, this is terrible policy and pure political pandering. It’s unfair to the vast mass of taxpayers.

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5 Comments

Filed under Hartford Courant, News, Property taxes, senior tax freeze, Taxes, Town government, West Hartford News

5 responses to “News coverage of West Hartford sucks

  1. There is an income test, they have to be over 70 years of age, own their own home and have an income of less than $35,800 (married) and $28,800 (single). I am surprised any senior in town that owns a house qualifies with those low incomes. That means these folks owning a home are living on just $2400 to $2983 a month! Heck can you imagine what’s left after food, medicine and heating/electric bills and insurance ? I really feel sorry for these people. They claim there are 500 seniors that qualify. I’d like to know how many seniors own a home in West Hartford, and what percentage that 500 represents.

    In any case, in so far as “a grant” paying for this – I understood that we the taxpayers will be making up the difference for those who take advantage of the program.. which I do not mind.. but I agree that the terms have not been spelled out well for all citizens involved and that the news about our budget has been virtually non-existent.

    example:
    So tell me has anyone seen a report stating exactly how much money we have saved and realized because of the consolidation of Town Hall with the Board of Ed?
    Where was the cost benefit analysis on the proposed Mini-golf course?
    What is the status of the 2 million dollar defecit in Leisure Services? and has anyone examined the Leisure Services Programs to identify which programs should be eliminated because we are losing money on them? Or are we still offering over 3,000 programs?
    Flex time in the schools will cost us $250,000 in added costs (I believe in transportation) – have they proven this is a real benefit to the kids and what is the projected participation rate of these kids?
    We spent a whole bunch of money on “library kiosks” so have they been effective and should we continue using them?
    Why hasn’t this new trash collection system been explained in detail in any news reports? What is it costing us over our present system and what was the reason our current contractor did not even bid on trash hauling for our town for next year? Did we piss them off in some way?
    The list of unanswered questions goes on.

  2. Judy,
    I know working people who are getting by on less income than the new freeze allows. Sometimes, we all buy into the idea that everyone in West Hartford is basically upper middle class.
    But our median family income is $68,714 at last count. That means half the families in town earn less. That some of them earn less than half the median isn’t a bit surprising.
    What is surprising, to me, is that my family’s income is above the median for this town. It sure doesn’t seem that way.
    The other point that an income test fails to note is that you can have an awful lot of wealth but not much income. You could own a place at the shore, a place in Florida, a boat, three cars and a Monet, yet still qualify for this tax break as long as your income was paltry.
    Many seniors, even in West Hartford, get by on little. They are trying very hard to leave their assets alone so they can pass them on to children or at least have them in case medical costs get so awful someday that they have to cash in their stuff.
    Like Judy, I do sympathize with older residents who badly need help. What I don’t understand is why the town adopted this particular policy. It’s unfair and it’s wrong.
    By the way, Judy, your questions are mostly right on the money. I’d like to see the answers, too.

  3. Thanks – and rather than see a particular group get tax relief – I’d like to see some fiscal responsibility and restraint to give ALL residents tax relief.

    I just cannot believe this Town Manager and this Council had the audacity to put out an 8.5% increase – Francis was not working on this in a vacuum since January. Did they really think people were going to like this? To me it is the usual game of ask for something really high and then make like you are lowering taxes by coming in with a 6% budget again.. it’s really an insult to this community in my opinion.

    By the way – I am really enjoying your blog – I have been contemplating starting a newspaper in town.. would you be interested in being a contributor to the West Hartford Free Press?

  4. Hi Chris,

    I just stumbled upon your blog. Wow! This is great! I’d like to add your link to our website to allow people to vent their frustrations about their tax increases. I’ll have to get approval from our association first and with your approval of course.

    I’m just after sending out yet another mass email to reach out to more West Hartford Taxpayers to ask them to join our Association. We’ve also sent out a mass mailing to over 1500+ taxpayers who fought their assessments. Our numbers have increased by % as much as the assessment %’s.

    To answer Judy’s question, I believe we might be able to find out the number of property owners over the age of 70 in the assessor’s office. This is where the 500 number came from.

    Thanks for putting this blog together. The Courant leaves much to be desired.

  5. Though I appreciate the kind words, I don’t want to write for a newspaper, new or old. While I love them, and wish that newspapers weren’t going belly up, I think I’ll stick with this blog. It’s enough and is making me feel a connection to the community that I never quite had before. That’s a good thing.
    I’m not sure, by the way, that another newspaper is the answer for West Hartford. The track record for such things is generally abysmal, particulary given the troubled times that newspapers face nowadays.
    What we really need is to demand more of the Courant and The West Hartford News. I intend to write a lot more about that in the days and weeks ahead.
    But, Judy, I’m pretty sure the West Hartford News would run a column by you. It would get people talking. And I’m sure there’s a counterpart on the other side of the political divide they could also get. I’d love to see that. We don’t have nearly enough clashing public opinions in this town anymore. For guys like me, mired in the middle (at least by West Hartford standards), that battle of ideas and policy differences is how we can learn enough to have an opinion at all.

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