Vote yes on the budget

Look, I’m disgusted with the cuts in education that have already been made, as are many others. But at this point, what’s done is done. Maybe next year we can push for more.

This year, though, we have to choose whether to support a flawed budget or vote it down. If it gets knocked down, it will be widely interpreted — wrongly, I think — that taxpayers want more sliced away from already lean spending plan. So there’s no choice except to back the budget and make sure that officials don’t pare it further.

It’s important to say  yes to the budget because at this point it’s the only way we have to say yes to education, to say yes to our schools, to say yes to the service and programs that make our town such an attractive place, and to say yes to the kids who are our future.

A no vote puts fear above hope and tells everyone that West Hartford may be ready to cut education in order to cut taxes for years to come. That would undermine our home values, scare off talented families who might move here and put us on the road to ruin.

There’s no option except to vote yes.

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24 Comments

Filed under News, referendum, Taxes

24 responses to “Vote yes on the budget

  1. Here, by the way, is the West Hartford Taxpayer Assocation’s take on the referendum:
    http://www.whta.org/TaxFatFacts.htm

  2. And here, thanks to Chuck Coursey, is the town manager’s rebuttal to the taxpayers’ group charges:

    To: Town Council
    From: James Francis
    Town Manager
    Subject: Review of Taxpayers Fact Sheet
    Date: June 5, 2007
    The following is a brief review of the statements labeled as “tax facts” by the Taxpayers Association. Many of the numbers and statistics are either incorrect or are from the proposed budget not the adopted budget. I believe these statements are misleading and are meant to make a point, rather than present or explain the budget. I will take the items in the order they are presented:
    Town Manager
    • There is no salary increase for the Town Manager in the budget. There is a 3% salary increase for the Assistant to the Town Manager position which is also included in this budget. Salaries have not increased by the 18.2% specified by the Association.
    • The fringe benefits are increasing by 9.5% (not 10.7%) and are not directly related to the positions in this account but represent proportionate town-wide allocations of pension, health, retiree health, workers compensation, and other insurances.
    • The offices non-personnel accounts, which include dues and travel, food expenses, and other office expenses, have a 0% increase. The amount is exactly the same as last year.
    • The increase in pension contribution is reflected in the above statement on fringe benefits and is not an additional increase as portrayed by the Taxpayers Association.
    • The phrase “he wants to pad his office” is not a fact. The total budget for this office is 0.75% less than the FY06 actual expenditure and 4.84% over the FY07 estimated expenditure. Adjustments were made to this budget to make it a more accurate reflection of the actual cost of the office.
    Corporation Counsel
    • The salary increase is for 3.5 employees (not 2.5) and is 1.7% (not 9.3%).
    • The adopted fringe benefit increase totaled $46,253 or 38.8% (not 40.1%) and is primarily due to an increase in self-insurance expenditures as the Town incurred legal costs of $40,715 to defend itself against a resident’s claim.
    • There is no change from the prior year in the professional services budget of $88,000.
    • There is no change from the prior year in the contractual services budget of $42,500.
    Financial Services
    • Payroll increases 5.6% (not 9%) in the adopted budget. This includes an increase of 3.9% in regular pay due to contractual COLA and anticipated merit increases. An additional part-time employee in property tax collections ($22,770) is included in the budget, which is partially offset by reduced overtime (-$5,000) and lower banking services charges (-$10,000).
    • In total, the adopted Financial Services budget increased 3.8% with wages & salaries increasing 5.6%, operating expenses decreasing 1.2% and fringe benefits increasing 4.7%. Fluctuations within programs (i.e. payroll, accounts payable, purchasing) relate to an annual review of the department’s work-plan for the upcoming year and where we expect resources to be spent.
    Human & Leisure Services
    • The adopted budget increased 10.1% (not 12.8%) overall.
    • The adopted professional services budget for this department in fiscal year 2007 was $10,000. The adopted figure for this account is $12,000, an increase of 20.0% (not 50%).
    • There is an accumulated deficit, since 1992 or 15 years, of approximately $1.9 million, not a one-year operational deficit. Of this amount, $1.1 million is for debt service on the Veterans Memorial Skating Rink and the balance of $0.8 million represents operational costs.
    • Adopted wages & salaries are up 3.0% for anticipated contractual increases. The overall wage account is 18.5% higher than the prior year (not 28.9%), due to the allocation to the General Fund of the customer service personnel at the main lobby desk, a portion of the Director of Human & Leisure Services position, and a portion of the Executive Assistant position to reflect their actual responsibilities.
    • The adopted fringe benefit increase is 18.9% (not 27.3%). Increases are not directly related to the positions in this account but represent proportionate town-wide allocations of pension, health, retiree health, workers compensation, and other insurances and the allocation of one self-insured general liability claim to the office.
    Miniature Golf Course
    • This capital project was approved as part of the prior year budget (April 2006) not this fiscal year. Preliminary work is being done on design and to locate a site and will be brought to the Council for review and approval before any work is authorized.
    Property Taxes
    • The Taxpayers Association states that property taxes are increasing 6.6% in 1st year of revaluation phase-in. This is correct for 99% of the property owners. The other 1% will be less than 6.6%.
    • They go on, however, to say that there will be tax increases of between 10%-125% for years 2 through 5. This is incorrect. The tax increases in each subsequent year will be based on the change in the grand list, the revenue projections for each of those years, the expenditures authorized in each year, and the amount of change in each person’s property valuation yet to be phased in. Each property will be different. Some of very little left to be phased in and may in fact have tax decreases in the subsequent years. Some still have substantial amounts to be phased in and will have significant increases.
    Board of Education Budget
    I am not as familiar with all of the items mentioned in the Taxpayers Association brochure, but will speak to the ones I know.
    Healthcare
    • The Taxpayers say the average co-payments are $3.00. I do not know where this comes from but the co-pays for teachers, administrators, professionals, and nurses are: office visit -$20; emergency room – $75; Inpatient hospital – $75; Prescription drug – $5 for generic, $20 for brand formulary, and $35 for brand non-formulary.
    Various Salary Accounts
    • These accounts represent multiple year contract settlement adjustments.
    Other Referenced Accounts
    • The Taxpayers Association refers to proposed numbers that were in most cases already reduced by the Board of Education or question accounts that have no changes but simply reflect actual experiences.
    If you have any questions regarding the above, please feel free to contact me.

  3. If the WHTA group has a rebuttal to Francis’ memo, I’d be happy to put in here.

    [added later] And here it is:

    The Taxpayer’s Group would like to note that all information was obtained from the proposed Budget book numbers. If anyone is misleading the public it is the Mayor who continues to say that the mill rate will drop to 29.17 after the 5th year of the tax phase in – a fact that has been disputed and denied by our own town manager! Even Jim Francis will tell you that we are starting at 39.39 mills, and increased spending as we have experienced, will continue to prevent us from ever seeing 29.17 mills. The fact is that spending has gone up, and there are areas of spending which should and can be reduced. Regarding the mini-golf course, it IS an item still in the capital improvement plan. It has not been removed. It is still being considered. It is a shame that the Mayor will not own up to the numbers in the proposed/adopted budget, and would instead say that WHTA is deliberately misleading the public. It is also shameful that the Hartford Courant continues to print biased information even after we spent time explaining our points to the reporters. With regard to revaluation, each and every homeowner will at some point along the 5 year phase in realize the total increases that revaluation places on their property. We can argue the points, but the fact is your taxes are going up 6.6% this year with built in increase for subsequent years. The fact is that spending is increasing more than what cost of living increases are. MDC increases will hit us, and we will continue to struggle to get the education funding from the state that is due us. Binding arbitration has choked our ability to control salaries and wages of our employees and nothing is being done to change that. Has anyone quantified how much Town Hall/Board of Education consolidation really saved us? Where is the savings? What happened to the money we saved in snow plowing this past year? Why do we continue to hire back people who have retired and are already receiving benefits? You will not hear that from our town officials… instead you will hear allegations of how we are misleading the public with numbers that the town has supplied to us! On another note, McGrath and Aron did not “take over” the Taxpayers group (again a vicious and biased sound bite from the Hartford Courant). There were elections dictated and conducted in accordance with WHTA By-Laws. The membership of WHTA is non-partisan. All WHTA can say at this point is that our town leadership must be worried about this vote if they are attacking the taxpayers group and saying we are deliberately misinforming the public. Even people who came to testify at the public hearings who will be voting in favor of the budget told them about the wasteful spending that they found in examining the budget line items. Look at what they are spending your tax money on, and then you decide for yourself if it is prudent or not. We did not make up the fact that we are spending $700,000 more in garbage collection. We did not make up the fact that the Leisure Services fund has been running an almost 2 million dollar deficit. We did not make up the fact that there are programs that should be self-sustaining and are not. We did not make up the fact that they will be spending $6.84 million dollars more than last year. You want the truth? The truth is that many West Hartford citizens can no longer sustain the yearly 4-6% tax increases that have become the annual routine and those citizens will make that known at the polls.

  4. Whdad – that too is on our website.. Eye on West Hartford..

  5. Whdad – that too is on our website.. Eye on West Hartford.. with the article..
    also note my comment on your other post about WHTA being liars..
    By the way .. since the article in the Courant came out I have been flooded with calls for more NO signs.. that says something eh?

  6. WH Taxpayer

    I share many of the same concerns you’ve expressed here, whdad, about the future of the West Hartford schools if this budget goes up in flames on Tuesday. But isn’t there a middle ground between reckless and unnecessary spending by our School Board and cuts that are clearly detrimental to our kids’ education?

    For example, I see no rebuttal yet to the claims made by the Taxpayer’s Association that West Hartford taxpayers are being asked to pick up the tab for another 7 students who will be chauffeured into our schools every day from Hartford. Is the total cost to educate children whose parents don’t even pay taxes in our Town truly $ 800,000?

    If so, can someone explain to us why this isn’t one of the first items where the BOE should be holding-the-line on spending (if not reducing), rather than cutting middle school Quest, a new elementary school position, and two new high school positions?

  7. Lil P.

    I’d like that explained, too. I suspect it’s a lot more reasonable than it appears on first blush.

  8. Fred Garvin

    The taxpayer association should be ashamed of itself for broadcasting untruths.

    A taxpayer association can be helpful to a community and promote civic discourse, but West Hartford’s is obviously controlled by a hard-right leaning cabal that hates teachers.

    The misinformation they have spewed forth indicates that its leaders are either stupid or fundamentally dishonest.

    They didn’t get the latest version of the budget.

    They broadcast misinformation, even after apparently checking their “facts” with town officials.

    Explain yourselves taxpayer association. Are you morons or are you liars? Clearly, it’s one or the other.

    It’s a shame that a taxpayer organization in a community such as West Hartford is controlled by zealots and not serving as an honest communicator of information. You people really should be ashamed of yourselves.

    As for the money being spent to bring those youngsters from Hartford to West Hartford to be educated, it sounds reasonable to me. We ALL have an obligation to do our best to help the children of Hartford achieve their potential. If that means providing space in our schools, so be it. It’s an investment a community such as ours can and should be willing to make.

    As for the dollar figure assigned to that cost by the taxpayers … well, they’ve already proven they are not credible. That figure of $800,000 sure sounds fishy.

  9. Joe Visconti

    Fred

    One thing’s for sure, you can’t be a liar cause your a moron. With that fact covered it’s nice to see people with your views and opinions are still allowed to vote in a Referendum.
    Hartford has it’s own schools, if your heart bleeds for all the wrong reasons, do us all a favor and move to Hartford.

  10. EJ

    Wow Fred, looks like the prozac wore off.

    Hartford spends more/student than W.Hartford, I guess there goes the more $ needed argument. Maybe less is better. Or I guess we can try to elevate W.H. to Hartford standards.

  11. Lori

    Or maybe we can recognize it costs much more to educate children growing up in dire poverty than it does to teach kids growing up in the midst of plenty.

  12. Fred Garvin

    You guys still haven’t answered the question.

    Liars or morons Joe, EJ and Judy?

    Let’s hear it.

    Fred

  13. EJ

    Fred, if you read the posts there have been explanations printed. Try rereading. Being polite wouldn’t hurt either. Nobody’s called you a moron (yet).

    Maybe had you come to the open WHTA meetings where the budget was gone over and the numbers looked at you’d have some answers. Every Number used by the WHTA CAME FROM THE PROPOSED BUDGET AS PUBLISHED AND MADE PUBLICBY THE TOWN COUNCIL!

  14. Joe Visconti

    EJ

    I called Fred a Moron above after his absurd Turd Comment to Judy and Mua, but if Fred really wants some answers on the taxpayers group he can easily contact Theresa McGrath and shew will be happy to show him the data as she explained it to Dan Jones (Slifka and Sullivan’s hatchetman). Maybe Fred has burnt his bridge to Judy and rightfully so but Theresa I am sure is still available for submitting data for clarification.
    Last thing, Fred, please leave the ladies out of your sleezy comments, you can call me anything, in fact if you feel you have to vent by all means stop by my house and give the doorbell a ring, I am more than happy to give you the opportunity to express yourself but the Women on either side of the issue don’t need to be treated like dirt by you.

    P.S. I’m in the Book

  15. WH Alum

    WHDad –

    Thank you for trying to start intelligent conversations and discourse on this blog so we may all understand a little bit more about what is happening in our community. Also thanks to those who can respond with respect and dignity. I am getting tired of reading all of these overly dramatic rants and the name calling. It seems interesting that it is mostly (though not only) those who are supporting the “No” vote that are getting defensive and lashing out.

  16. WH Alum

    And EJ – if all the WHTA numbers were from the proposed budget, it seems reasonable that by now the numbers should’ve been updated to reflect the ADOPTED budget.

  17. Joe Visconti

    Hey WH Alumni, if I call you a liar like the Courant suggested the WHTA were, would you get defensive?
    Rants? Drama? No, just calling a spade a spade and Union Kissups what they are.
    The Sky is falling over 1.8 million, oh the crankyness and overworked Education Cartel how will the children survive; You mean that rhetoric and spin in defending No Bid Binding Agitation Handouts, thats where the Drama is.
    No Voters don’t need drama they get it everyday from the Union Sympathizers.
    Good Luck Comrade’s!

  18. WH Alum

    Joe – the article came out Friday. I believe the drama and the name calling started well before that.

  19. EJ

    WH Alum, The only new numbers the town released were the change in expected $ from the state. This was stated by the WHTA. No other new budeget figures were released publicly, as far as the WHTA new. That was how the town balanced their side of the budget, by HOPING the State would be more generous than originally thought.
    Yeah, when pigs fly and we get out $35-45million (the number seems to change daily) in ECS funding.

  20. WH Alum

    EJ – OK but when you said,
    “Every Number used by the WHTA CAME FROM THE PROPOSED BUDGET AS PUBLISHED AND MADE PUBLICBY THE TOWN COUNCIL!”
    I was wondering why it was from the proposed budget and not the adopted one. That seems to be where a lot of the confusion has stemmed from.

  21. EJ

    WH Alum.
    Did you read what I wrote?

    “The only new numbers the town released were the change in expected $ from the state. This was stated by the WHTA. No other new budget figures were released publicly, as far as the WHTA new. That was how the town balanced their side of the budget, by HOPING the State would be more generous than originally thought.”

    We still have not heard what has happened to the $ saved on snow plowing yet. I asked Jim Francis about this at the WHTA meeting at the end of May, he claimed that they still did not know what those savings were.

    You heard the meetings as to how the BOE balanced their side of the budget.

    The town has not released any other updated figures as far as I know.

    You want clear info?! Try getting it from the town, it is not easy.

  22. WH Alum

    So is this a relatively new posting on westhartford.org or is this not the newest numbers?

    http://www.westhartford.org/TownServices/TownDepartments/FinancialServices/2007-2008AdoptedBudgetSummary.html

    Not trying to be rude or flip – I honestly don’t know… but found this pretty quickly on the site.

  23. Pingback: Resident pleads for ‘Yes’ vote « The West Hartford Blog

  24. I noticed that this is not the first time you write about this topic. Why have you decided to touch it again?

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