Should we be mad about the town’s proposed budget?

An overview of the budget in today’s Hartford Courant provides a taste of the increasingly bitter debate about the spending plan town leaders are going to adopt next week. It’s must reading for anyone who cares.

Although it’s written backwards — correcting misinformation before telling the story itself (an obvious favor to town officials) — it’s still interesting.

Here are some choice points:

* “There’s so much animosity,” Republican council member Joseph Verrengia said. “I welcome a difference of opinion, as long as we have a normal conversation and stick to the issues. But unfortunately there are some who make it personal.”

*  “The council’s focus right now is to try to get this budget increase as low as possible. Whether we do it through forecasting additional revenue, or cutting spending, the delicate balance that the council has to be concerned with is continuing to provide the services that make our town so special,” Verrengia said.

“By having it both ways, it’s a clear indication to me that the taxpayers’ association is just bent on having a referendum,” he said. “Theresa [McGrath] has been advocating for this Proposition 2½, and now she’s changing the rules, late in the game.”

* Mayor Scott Slifka, a Democrat, said that the taxpayers’ group is exploiting the natural anxiety associated with the revaluation of property and that the group this year is an “active arm of the Republican town committee.” Previous leaders of the taxpayers’ group, he said, did not engage in personal attacks and did not align themselves with the minority party.

* West Hartford Taxpayers Association President Theresa McGrath said she has not changed her mind about her proposal. She said the taxpayers’ group is nonpartisan and includes Democrats, Republicans, Green Party members and unaffiliated voters. She also denied engaging in personal attacks.
“It’s disturbing to me that elected officials would try to steer the press to create this personal issue rather than actually addressing the real issue, which is our taxes,” she said.

Jack Darcey, chairman of the school board, agreed that the town’s first property revaluation since 1999, coupled with the annual budget anxiety, has increased the level of tension this budget season.
“It’s sent people into a dither,” Darcey said of the revaluation. “It’s made people very nervous and very, kind of angry and certainly ready to do battle because they feel that what they’re calculating for their taxes is something they cannot afford.”

 —-
In my view, the story is awfully scant on details. It looks like Slifka and Verrengia met with one of the two reporters together to go over “misinformation” — steering the story that way — rather than the reporters seeking out what’s going on and telling us the whole picture. After reading it, I still don’t know what even Slifka and Verrengia think the mill rate will be and how much more we can expect to pay.

Now, I’m willing to see a big increase because revaluation makes that a necessity, unfortunately. But let’s get real and TELL THE PEOPLE what to expect. We’re grownups. We can deal with the facts.

But this story is mostly just an insider shot at the taxpayers’ group, not a genuinely helpful piece of journalism.

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11 Comments

Filed under budget, Jack Darcey, Joseph Verrengia, News, Politics, Property taxes, Scott Slifka, Town government, West Hartford, West Hartford Taxpayers Association

11 responses to “Should we be mad about the town’s proposed budget?

  1. Mike

    I have to say, the article came across badly for Republicans in town. Slifka attacks the Taxpayers as being an arm of the party, then he has Verrengia put all the quotes defending the budget into the story. So Slifka, in a pretty smart political move, has pitted Republicans against each other and has stepped the super majority Dems back from the fight until the dust clears. I just have to ask myself why Verrengia is the one defending a Democrat budget? I don’t much go for the overly partisan nature of the current RTC, but c’mon, Joe. Let Slifka fall on his own sword. He has the votes without the R’s – and if this budget is going to be such a point of contention with voters, maybe it IS time to differentiate between the parties. Bipartisanship is nice, but it isn’t going to pick up any seats for R’s in the next election when they are doing the D’s dirty work.

  2. Thanks, Mike. I mean to touch on that issue, too.
    It’s strange that we have nine people on the council and NONE of them are representing the hefty minority of taxpayers who will probably vote against this budget. That seems like bad politics and, ultimately, poor government.

  3. Judy Aron

    I thought this article was hysterical really. If WHTA is supposed to be an “arm of the Republican party” how come Republicans like Verrengia, as well as the two on the Board of Ed support this budget and haven’t come out with statements of support for WHTA or our position? We haven’t had a statement from Carl Donatelli supporting WHTA either. The notion that we are an arm of the Republican party is ludicrous, and only stated because Ms. McGrath and Myself are registered Republicans. So what. We have all kinds of different party affiliations reflected in our group… and in fact the person who initially brought up and championed Prop 2.5 is a Democrat in WHTA whose son lives in Massachusetts!

    Oh and as for us “taking over” this group. All officers were elected by the organization. After Phil Meister moved out of town we had huge organizational issues which needed to be resolved. Ms. McGrath and Myself were involved with this organization long before Phil left.

    The Courant misreported again, is trying to put the taxpayers in a bad light for their friends on the Council, and demonstrated their penchant for biased reporting again. They neglected to ask the really important questions, like why did the town go with a new trash hauler that costs lots more money and is proposing an inefficient way to collect trash given the population density of our town? Why haven’t they given anyone information about how that contract was “negotiated”. Why aren’t they asking questions about how come the Leisure Services Fund is $1.9 million in the red? Why haven’t they printed what the true savings were (if any) to the town after consolidating the Board of Ed with Town Hall? There are a million questions with regard to the fiscal operation of this town that people ought to know, but the Courant continues to be divisive and make the people who are asking the questions to be the bad guys and “negative nattering nabobs”, instead of asking the questions for their readers.

    All of the information WHTA has given to our members came straight from the budget book. We have not made anything up. The mini-golf course is in the Capital Improvement budget.. does it still need to be there? Is CIP not part of the overall budget? The Town Manager line items do show an increase in salary, so who’s getting that 18.2% increase? (hint: there are only 2 people allocated to his office). Stadium lighting has not been entirely taken off the table, even though it is not in the current budget.

    People are free to think what they will, but don’t rely on the Courant for accurate information. It is always biased cow manure, especially if one takes a stand against the Town administration.

    You can take the position of trusting your elected officials – but I think we also must consider why our taxes are rising (not just because of reval) and how it is a hardship for MANY families in our town. If you think this budget is looking a bit high, you better hold onto your hats for when the MDC kicks into gear. We will have even less control of our fiscal destiny by then. Slifka and Company know this as well. By the way.. what has he and his Council members done to fight or reform the binding arbitration that is choking us?? They have opportunitites to initiate reform with others who are doing that … and I don’t see them seizing those opportunities.

    Wait to see WHTA’s offical rebuttal to the Courant’s trash piece of “reporting”.. I’ll bet it never sees the light of day in their paper.

  4. Mike

    The binding arbitration laws are promulgated at the state level. The town can do nothing until the state laws regarding the practice change.

  5. Joe Verrengia- Republican Party Enemy Number 1

    Will they boot this guy from this years Republican Convention or what? Not, and do you know why? Look for the Union label, la la la la la la la la la la, member that one? Republicans have become democrats with special Interest Invasion and an at least we got 3 in there attitude.

    Come on what West Hartford services Joe Verr? your paycheck? How do you spell conflict of Interest?
    It is very clear Cop or no cop, AFSME Endorsements are just that,The 6% solution. Personal? no, it’s not personal Joe Verr, it’s Politics

    Cause I’m the Taxman should be the theme of the Republican Party if they don’t take a stand.
    Will Barbara’s replacement be any better, or just another Union rep?
    Republican leadership better step up soon or it’s caputsky in November, and not even 2 seats for the Republicans this time around.

    Let me give you all an example- 20,000 voters do not vote in West Hartford, but many of them will this year, a simple database run and a door to door campaign with a fantastic 4 ticket of true representatives of democracy on a new party line can be elected. This is inevitable if no action is taken by the Republican’s at their convention.

    Sample New Party door to door soundbite:
    Mr and Mrs So and So, would you like to know how you can possibly make over $2,000 in the next 3 years without working? Vote for us and keep your money!
    After Mr and Mrs So & So look at their projections for multiple year phased, in piled on new taxes for 08-11 they will vote out the bums.

    Now this long haired eccentric, self promoting incoherent, ranting, Horse riding, accusation throwing, rude, obnoxious, inflammatory,extremist, (Other.. more adjectives) will never be elected and understands that, so it isn’t from me that this new party will be born but from a dark corner called necessity… watch.

  6. Elliot Check

    The 2 articles published by the Courant last week and today would seem to indicate that the Town
    Council and the Courant have delared war on the Taxpayers of West Hartford.

    It seems obvious that the reporters have not looked at the budget and have no intention of looking at the budget and are content to take the Councils’ word on everything. So, it would appear that we can expect no support from the Counil or the Courant.

    The only hope the WHTA would seem to have is a Grassroots response against the “Democrat” Revolution. We have to make as many people as possible aware of where their taxes are going after both reval and the increased spending. The people I’m talking to are stunned and are jumping onboard the WHTA. Once they multiply the assessment by .31 they are stunned. More need to do this simple calculation!

  7. Ryan

    Oh my.

    It’s one thing to see someone go over the edge, it’s entirely another to watch someone go sailing over the edge at Mach 2 while babbling incoherently.

  8. Mike – The Town (members of the Council or the administration) can join with other people and organizations who are fighting to reform binding arbitration. I haven’t seen that happen. Even CCM – which we pay huge bucks to be a member of – has not aggressively addressed the issue. We need the leaders of this town to fight at the Capitol to make some changes and I haven’t seen that happening – have you? They haven’t done more than grumble about it. I would support Slifka 150% if he took a strong stand against binding arbitration and the need to make it an open process. Just because the State mandates it doesn’t mean we cannot fight to change the process. And by the way – where are McCluskey, Fleischmann and Bye on this? Binding Arbitration is killing our town and they have been silent on the issue. Why aren’t they helping Slifka with this issue?

  9. Mr. Ryan

    Oh My,

    It’s one thing to see someone becoming more and more irrelevant, it’s entirely another to watch them hide under a Rock while pretending to matter.

  10. Ryan

    I think I speak for everyone on this blog when I say:

    Huh?

  11. Joe Visconti

    Blogs and the Voting Booth are where people speak for themselves.

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