Ouch. What’s next?

While I know there were many people who voted against the budget because they wanted more money for education, there’s no sense arguing that a majority of those who voted are not looking for more cuts. Obviously, given the margin, there’s no other way to analyze what happened.

But I still believe a large majority in this town opposes more education cuts. That they didn’t vote is a testament to the price of inattentiveness. And now their kids will pay the price.

Still, I’d like to see the town council focus its attention in areas other than education. Replace fewer curbs, pave fewer streets, postpone sensible maintenance in the hope that next year will be better. Maybe if Joe Visconti hit a pothole or two he might see the need for the town to spend some money on municipal services.

Anyway, what’s done is done. Now we need to pressure the town council not to swing its ax at the schools again. Been there, done that. Focus on something else, guys and gals.

Advertisements

64 Comments

Filed under budget, education, News, referendum, Schools, town council

64 responses to “Ouch. What’s next?

  1. And Joe, Judy, etc. You can crow a little. To the victors goes the right to strut for awhile.

  2. From the Courant’s story:

    “While I respect the voice of the people, I hope that tonight’s outcome isn’t the result of misinformation that’s been disseminated throughout our community,” councilman Chuck Coursey said. “Regardless, we need to go back to the budget and identify those areas to be cut. I would be reluctant to look at further substantial cuts in the board of education budget We’re going to have to talk about town services.”

    Council member Maureen McClay, “It’s not unexpected. I hope the people didn’t vote because of erroneous information that was distributed and we’ll do our best to cut some more.”

  3. Fred Garvin

    The taxpayer association won a huge victory. They worked hard. They campaigned. They had lawn signs all over town.

    Those in favor of the budget did nothing.

    I suspect the taxpayer association got a lot of help from people who might otherwise have been inclined to vote for the budget — families with young children. There does come a point where the tax increase is too much. And I suspect lots of those younger folks felt the pressure of increasing costs all around them — gas, taxes, utilities, etc.

    The lopsided result of the referendum and the pretty good turnout, about 30 percent, represent a decisive victory for the taxpayers.

    And truth be told, they probably didn’t have to distort the truth to win this victory.

    Fred

  4. EJ

    Just going back to the former trash hauler might save $500K

  5. EJ

    Fred, now that the tone seems to have calmed down a bit, You had to be out there in the trenches. The people signing the petitions were scared and they were from all corners of the community; old, young, with kids, w/o kids, married, single.

    None of them want this town or its’ school system to go down the tubes but they opened their eyes and saw where the taxes were going. They had to speak up, they were starting to worry that they would be forced out of town by the taxes.

  6. Can we at least agree that if the town manages to slice, say, something like another $500,00 that there’s no reason to have a second referendum? How much does the WHTA want to see cut in order to avoid having to go through another public showdown on Sept. 25th?

  7. And wouldn’t it be nice if the damned legislature would finish the state budget so we could all know what’s coming, or not coming, from Hartford? Those folks ought to be totally ashamed of themselves for failing on just about everything on their agenda this year, including the annual task of producing a budget.

  8. EJ

    BTW, the letter sent out last Friday by Jim Francis may have done more to turn out NO voters than anything else. People who were too lazy to run the numbers may have seen what their tax bill was going to be for the first time

  9. EJ

    I think the goal here, is as it was in the begining limit spending increases to 2.5%. That would be a 1% reduction of the budget.
    There is no desire to go to a 2nd referundum and I think if the Town shows a good faith effort and can come close it will be over. If the do what Ellington (?) did and change it by $10 you’ll see the petitions passed around again, with alot of people PO’d that the town is sticking it to them.

  10. EJ

    This would be a great time for the Council to go to the State and ask for the funds to help bail them out.

    It also would nice if the idiots in Wash. would bring home some money for MDC.

  11. EJ,
    I agree about the MDC funds. What’s the use of having one of the most powerful congressmen if he can’t bring home some serious money for the MDC, which impacts most of the towns in his distict? That’s an issue I think we can all rally around. I’ll try to post some about it in the days ahead.

  12. Another Dad

    School budget will not escape cuts. A 1% reduction adds to a little less then $2 million, with the BOE likely to be given their 60% of that. I would think at minimum they will need to cut $1 million.

    The second page of the the document from last weeks meeting shows a starting point for those cuts. http://www.whps.org/board/budget%20reductions%202007-08-6-5-07.pdf (Sections C & D)

    Timing will be interesting because those cuts will involve contracted staff and I would think those contracts need to go out now. If Curruculum specialists are eliminated at some schools then their seniorit allows them to bump other teachers. It promises to be an chaotic and uncertain summer in the administrative offices.

    (NOTE: There is no 500K savings to go back to in thetrash haulers contract. Because of workers comp costs, I beleive that hauler declined to bid or at least warned that the bid increase would be substantial.)

  13. Another Dad

    Though you did not ask for reduction suggestions (and knowing Harry Captain reads the blog) – High School has an eight period day in which many kids (I do not know the numbers) choose to take an 8th class rather then lunch. If a lunch period were manadated, how many FTE’s would be recovered?

  14. EJ

    If they ever decide to tell how much the Snow Savings were, they should have about $500K right there.

  15. As you know, I’m glad the budget was defeated (although surprised by the margin of outrage). But we all know darn well that one will have to be passed sooner or later.

    I have to congratulate the residents of the town of West Hartford for rejecting it outright. While its true that the WHTA worked very hard and deserves lots of credit for organizing – in the absense of a functional Republican minority – ultimately, West Hartfordites looked at the totality of what was being asked of them, looked at their own fiscal responsibilities, and called the ball on a poorly designed and bloated budget.

    Really, there was no trickery here. And no magic spell cast over hundreds by the WHTA or anyone else. Just in talking to people around town, many are just fed up with how things are being run. And the vote showed this. This defeat was also a referendum on the current government in West Hartford.

    WHTA spent a lot of time defending itself against accusations from the Democratic spin machine – you can see that this is still going on based on the comments in the Courant. It would be nice to see a comment or two from our leaders that simply chaulk up the defeat to a poor budget and credit West Hartford families for seeing that and rejecting it. But they don’t have it in them – that was very disappointing to see. If the pro-budget people had spent more time supporting their budget and less time attacking WHTA (and confusing voters) then the Yea crowd might have had a chance.

    The turnout was not bad for a non-election ballot.

    Where do we go from here? Do the right thing. Take the message from the voters and get on the stick. Stop the whining, open up the budget and make some sizeable cuts. And moreover, if the Council can’t do it alone – then ask for citizen help, there are some of us that have experience in this realm who are willing to help for the sake of passing a reasonable budget. And get off the WHTA stick, we don’t want to see the spin. Focus on the budget, not them.

    And Whdad, the state budget is a whole other matter worthy of its own forum. Wait until those taxes go up (again).

  16. turtle

    WHTA spent a lot of time defending itself against accusations from the Democratic spin machine –

    I must have missed the part where the WHTA explained what might charitably be called the high level of inaccuracy in its “fact sheets” and on its website. They are rank propagandists and deserve every bit of scrutiny and criticism directed at them.

    I don’t doubt what EJ says about life in the trenches and the panic that set in after reval. We experienced it ourselves. And Fred is right–the Yea faction did next to nothing.

    It’s also clear that our politicians on both the state and national level have failed to deliver. Now that our school is already reeling from the first round of cuts, I take comfort in the fact that the supermajority in Hartford devoted time to such important legislation as the elephant bullhook ban. Hey, first things first!

  17. Quest4More

    Well put turtle. The recess our state legislators have inexcusably been on while they watched to see if West Hartford taxpayers would tolerate another significant real estate tax increase is over.

    It’s time for those of us who have a genuine interest in finding the middle-ground between a quality education for our children and the blank-check spending by the BOE to contact our legislators to demand reconsideration of the following items:

    (1) I’m surprised Joe hasn’t already jumped in to mention this one (he’s probably hung-over from last night’s celebration of the referendum’s resounding defeat), but it’s way beyond the time that this Town receive its fair share of state funding for public education. Those of us who has been asked to cough up another big chunk of disposable income we don’t have to indirectly fund all the excessive funding being directed to the victors in the Scheff case have had enough.

    (2) It’s also time to intervene with the State Board of Education to get them off our backs regarding the state of Charter Oak and Smith. As one of my neighbors put it, what’s the problem? The parents in those two districts love their schools and don’t seem to be the least bit concerned about racial imbalance. Yet we’re allowing some overzealous bureaucrat in the State BOE to decide “what’s best” for these kids and interfere with our Town’s unassailable attention to the special needs of these children. And of course in the process of telling us how to run our schools, they’ve added a significant financial burden to this Town’s budget that I think the “NO” voters yesterday made clear we’re not going to tolerate any longer.

    Are you listening to what’s being discussed on this blog Senator Harris, because I know your buddy Kevin is. It’s time to do the job you were elected to do, and at least preserve—if not enhance—the quality of public education in West Hartford.

  18. Quest4More

    Grrr…what happened to my grammar-checker?

    Before someone quotes me and adds their little (sic), I of course meant “…those of us who HAVE been asked…”

  19. TWC

    It would seem your grammar checker, Quest4More, is no better than the BOE’s first crack at this year’s budget. What a thorough and complete whipping at the polls!

    While I share what appears to be the consensus that our state legislators need to get involved and help address this mess, I suspect the BOE will have no choice but to re-visit their budget and look for additional savings.

    But instead of starting with the old list of proposed cuts, why not ask the Superintendent to submit a completely new budget that simply does two things:

    1. Funds the increase in expenses that are unavoidable due to contractual obligations or external market forces over which we have no control (e.g., higher heating oil prices); and

    2. Limit any increases in discretionary spending to current or new FTEs required to maintain the same class sizes or program levels (e.g., Quest) that are children enjoyed this year.

    Does anyone have a ball-park figure on what the school budget would be if the BOE simply maintained the status quo for one year until this Town’s anger (or fear) over our real estate tax increases have subsided? And if it was independently audited and determined to be in the 2-3% range, would the WHTA crowd find that acceptable so we can all avoid another referendum?

  20. EJ

    I think if the town can get the budget down to a 2.5% increase there will be no second referendum.
    That would be $2mill roughly for the Town/BOE to share.

    This years real estate increases are only 1/5 of the problem, that was one of the major reasons forthe turnout. You have people out there who are going to see their taxes double over the next 5 years even if the town doesn’t spend an additional dime.

  21. Mike

    Hi all, my 1st public comments regarding the budget and the process.
    Town Officials claiming bad info dispursed by the WH Taxpayers Assoc., Have you ever tried to get the facts, very, very difficult. I have spent well over 6 months trying to meet our Town Manager (both phone and Office visits) to this day, nothing. I totally agree that it apppears our Council, Mayor and Town Manager think we are all stupid. This “phase in” with an equal increase to all residents of 6.6% this year is nothing, just wait till the budgets are submitted & the mill rates set for the next 4 years. It will shock most, those who can least afford it. The Board of ED thinks it’s business as usual, forget the reval, gas prices, electric bills, health care costs, etc. just increase as they see fit. What decision does a young family make when faced with voting for a larger education budget causing increased tax’s or moveing to where it’s affordable, education is available in all towns. Fixed income neighbors of which we have many, (usually elderly) what do they do?
    Again, it’s our elected officials and our paid managers job to provide the facts, if they don’t or can’t then they are responsible for the results.
    Shifting any of the tax burden from commercial to residential which is seldom if ever mentioned is uncomprehencible. Their properties produce for them and have extreme value due to the $’s spent by West Hartford residents (why do you think the blueback square developers built here). Why are they silent, shouldn’t they share in our dilemma during difficult times.

  22. turtle

    I scanned the town-side budget a while back, and it looked pretty good except for the golf course renovation, which I think has been taken out. Also, I am opposed to artificial turf on esthetic grounds.

    $2 million?! I’ll take the referendum.

  23. EJ

    Too late forthe artificial turf at the High Schools they’re all dug up.

    The mini-golf is on paper and apparently in the capital improvement plan but not yet funded.

    Again, they should have ~$500K in savings from the snow removal, unless they already spent it somewhere. As of the end of May Jim Francis claimed he did not know what that figure was. Hard to believe by the end of May. But if that is the case that brings the number down to ~$1.5mill

  24. I posted this question on my blog, but I will post it here as well: Have the budget reductions been translated into an estimated per household tax reduction?

    Are we looking at a few hundred dollars saved per household? A few thousand dollars? Has this been quantified?

  25. Another Dad

    Amy, (rough calculation)

    Current Revenue need via property taxes is $171.97 Million. Working backwards from a mill rate of 39.39 that means the underlying Grand List number is 4.37 billion.

    A reduction in revenue need of 1% (1.72 Million) to $170.25 million would yield a mill rate of 39.00. That is a reduction of 39 cents per thousand in accessed value. For a home with a $150k assessment (for this year) that would yield savings of about $60 per year.
    (To calculate your assessement for this tax year you need to use 1999 plus 25% of the difference between 1999 and 2006 assessment)

  26. Another Dad

    Amy,
    Never one to do things the simple way the first time……. A much easier way to estimate savings is to look at the letter you recieved from the town last week and take 1% of the ‘annual tax due’.

    A 1% reduction in the total budget is actually a little more then a 1% reduction in the current revenue needed so the savings would be a little more then that but for most of the town it will be less then $100.

  27. WH Alum

    TWC – Right on…

    1. Fund the increase in expenses that are unavoidable due to contractual obligations or external market forces over which we have no control (e.g., higher heating oil prices); and

    2. Limit any increases in discretionary spending to current or new FTEs required to maintain the same class sizes or program levels (e.g., Quest) that are children enjoyed this year.

    I hope the BOE and Town Council were paying attention to that one!

    And how, by the way, do people make italics in here?

  28. WH Alum

    It is really is sad that they would add something new for one group, while taking away from another.

  29. turtle

    What do you mean, exactly?

  30. turtle

    $60 a year! Woohoo!

  31. WH Alum

    Turtle – If I’m not mistaken, there is still a 1/2 position for a new tech person at Smith/CO, additions to World Language, and reading specialists – while they took out a Quest teacher, not to mention reducing the coordinator to .5, so they were reduced 1.5 fte. Did the new parent educator survive the first round of cuts?

  32. turtle

    Yes, there is a 1/2 position for a tech person at Smith/Charter Oak. There has been a need for one at Smith for quite some time. Do you begrudge the magnets this expenditure?

    World Language is going to be expanded to 5 new schools next year. Would you be in favor of declining the $70,000 FLAP grant?

    I do not know where the reading specialists are being deployed. I would hope they would be teach wherever in the system they are needed.

    The new parent educator has been rolled back to half-time–a very short-sighted cut since, since investment in early childhood education pays off.

    I was very disappointed that middle school Quest was cut. I don’t have a child in middle school, but I do think gifted children should be cultivated. The thing is, there may be alternatives to middle-school Quest that would offer different avenues of enrichment for these children.

    What is the alternative for a child who struggles with reading? With math?

    What good is technology if people don’t understand how to make the most of it? (I have a little background in this, so I know what I’m talking about here.)

    I ask in all sincerity.

  33. WH Alum

    Begrudge is not the accurate word, here. My point is simply that since we are making cuts – it should be the new initiatives that should go, not existing programs. I voted YES, by the way, so there wouldn’t be more cuts. I would have rather put back was taken out. Now that there will be, get rid of the new stuff.

    The kids struggling with reading and math need more support. But now we don’t have the money to give them any more than they were already being given.

    And for the technology, I couldn’t agree with you more. But this position is not a curicular/teach’m how to use it position. It is another technician to maintain the new technology they were adding. No money? No new technology, no need to add someone. We can just keep stretching the current staff thinner and thinner. Again, you don’t need to preach to me about the benefit of technology in the schools. I’m all for it and more. I’d like to see technology curriculum integration specialists – teachers – in our schools like they have in other districts. But if we’re holding back the spending – it’s not going to happen for a very, very long time.

    I know what is at stake. I’ve been trying for some time to convince the rest of you…. now it’s too late. I can only hope that they take TWC’s advice and cut the new stuff *OR* go for the town side.

  34. Sheesh, $100 tax savings per household.

    I wonder how the impact on West Hartford’s public school system will affect everyone’s home values. Certainly we could expect to see them decline more than $100 if the town’s reputation regarding education is tarnished.

  35. You folks should listen to Amy Bergquist. It’s her livelihood to know what homebuyers are looking for. And she’s been pretty persuasive that our schools, and their reputation, are what brings buyers to West Hartford. Lose that reputation and home values will decline, at least relative to other communities where they’re adding educational programs, not cutting them.

  36. WH Alum

    Interestingly, it seems that it is our fabulously skyrocketing home values that are causing all the trouble, is it not? Since we have not gone through reval since 1999 – those 8 years have made a huge difference in assessments and people who have renovated are now feeling the pain of having been underpaying their taxes for several years based on outdated assessments. Am I wrong on this?

  37. turtle

    But this position is not a curicular/teach’m how to use it position. It is another technician to maintain the new technology they were adding.

    The budget addendum says the specialist will “initially support the new technology investment [if it ever materializes] with technical support and professional development”, but the reality is that Smith, anyway, needs this person for existing technology and has had a request in for a while. The former curriculum specialist could handle tech, but he left two years ago to become an assistant principal at Bristow. This is a lousy $23K we’re talking about.

    Not that there aren’t people making very good use of technology at Smith. There certainly are. But if the administration is serious about the technology mission, then there’s work to be done. Anyway, Smith and Charter Oak already took a big hit with the last round of cuts. Town, it’s your turn!

    By the way, you make italics by using html tags. Enclose an i in brackets, type the text and then enclose a /i in brackets.

  38. WH Alum

    Oooh thanks – I shoulda figured that out. Now let’s see if I can make it work…

    This is from the WHPS.org open positions postings for the “Technology Support Specialist”:

    Requirements for this position include experience and ability in these areas: knowledge of Windows-based computer systems and software; minimum two year’s technical experience or education in computer and software systems; experience in an educational setting preferred; ability to work easily with others with less technical background; familiarity with network and Internet applications; knowledge of standard office automation software; ability to present technology applications to small groups. The ability to lift, move, and carry computer equipment is required.

    Sounds like a support specialist – not a teacher.

  39. turtle

    What can I say? Maybe the admin decided a part-time person shared between two schools would simply not have the time, as originally intended, to take on professional development.

    A pity.

  40. Another WH Teacher

    Unless they were suggesting it was a certified staff position, it’s pretty doubtful that’s what they were intending. The description sounds like all the tech support guys. The district has one technology curriculum/prof dev’t/software install person and she hires out for most of the tech training that teachers don’t do amongst themselves. If you look at the budget docs, the amount they had in even in full does not look like a professional staff position. They put it in at $55 K instead of $62.5 K. On the posting, the salary is listed instead of saying “appropriate step of teacher scale.” Plus, it’s 12 months.

    http://www.applitrack.com/whps/onlineapp/jobpostings/view.asp?category=Technology

    They sent it out to all the staff in district, as they do with all openings. It did not seem like a prof dev’t position.

  41. Another WH Teacher

    And if I’m not mistaken, there is a guy inside that’s already been working with them in some capacity that was not a permanent hire that is in line for this. He’s definitely a techie.

  42. turtle

    WH Teacher,

    The (cursory) job description in the budget addendum specified professional development. That’s why I speculated about why the description had changed. But I defer to you!

    there is a guy inside that’s already been working with them

    I did not know that. If so, great!

  43. Another WH Teacher

    I never read too far in the budget book, but I can’t picture many of our tech guys running any prof dev’t… They are great at what they do, though, and they have a lot of ground to cover.

  44. Newest WH Resident

    WHDad, thanks for the blog; it served as a wonderful reference tool while my wife and I were house-hunting and now that we have purchased in West Hartford, I’ve become a regular reader.
    This issue is obviously a difficult and sensitive one. I wanted to give my perspective, since we had to weigh the tax issue when deciding where to live in the Greater Hartford area.
    We considered buying in Simsbury, Avon, Farmington and West Hartford, in large part because all have excellent public schools. (I am sure that lumping these school systems together will outrage some, but based on our research they are substantially similar.) While we were immediately attracted to the obvious charms of your town, we were stunned by the taxes, which are significantly higher than those of these neighboring towns (even when you consider things like private trash collection payments in Farmington, for example). (Maybe you’ve already covered this previously, but if not, here is a link to CT mill rates: http://www.opm.state.ct.us/igp/DATARESC/mr.htm)

    For a time, we crossed West Hartford off our list because the taxes are so high, but we found our dream house there and ultimately decided all of the “pros” outweighed one very large con. We also believed (in error, it now appears) that our property taxes may go down in the coming years.

    I will leave it to others on this blog to debate the wisdom of the referendum vote and its effects, other than to say the following: trimming the school budget is unlikely to have a noticeable affect on the quality of the education received by West Hartford students, but the town’s failure to bring property taxes in line with its neighbors will almost certainly cause real estate prices will suffer.

  45. EJ

    Thank you for your perspective on the situation. It is good to see a new buyer’s perspective on how this might affect property values. That has been one of the concerns of the WHTA.

    BTW, in the 20+ years I’ve been in town I don’t think that I’ve ever seen the taxes go down, so don’t get your hopes up (especially in the next 5 years)

  46. turtle

    trimming the school budget is unlikely to have a noticeable affect on the quality of the education received by West Hartford students

    “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

  47. Often I see buyers look at all the following towns because they believe the school systems are of comparable quality: West Hartford, Simsbury, Farmington, Avon, Canton, and Glastonbury.

    Simsbury, Farmington, and Glastonbury will be reassessing house values this year. Avon and Canton will reassess in 2008. It will be interesting to see how much property taxes rise in these towns, compared to WH. And based on this, will families be “stuck” in WH because taxes become outrageous everywhere else, or will this just open the flood gates for exodus?

  48. WH Alum

    Amy,
    Do you know how the shopping development in Canton (on the old golf course) effected home values and taxes out there? And do people here think that Blue Back would be similar for us?

  49. WH return

    After reading all the comments submitted to date, it amazes me that not one comment, article, whatever mentions cutting the top heavy management, supervisory levels at both the BOE and town. I for one do not advocate a decrease in teachers and/or programs in the schools. However, the idea we need more assistant principles and clerical staff to support these positions is just nothing more than wasted spending. Enough is enough. Get in and talk with some of the teachers who will tell you that the administrative / supervisory staff is impeding the true work that needs to be done – educating students.

    Citizens need to start somewhere and it might as well be at the local level. Government at whatever level; local, state or federal need to understand you cannot tax yourself out of debt. The state legislature should be ashamed of themselves but frankly we are to blame for continuing to put them in office. The local representation need to take a deep look and begin to realize the spending party is over.

    Also, can someone explain to me how a 2.5% increase in spending translates into a 1% reduction in the budget. I know you will reply back with some wonderful terminology, but I am missing something.

    Another note to whoever is reading, please stop comparing W. Hartford to Greenwich, Darien, etc. We are not Greenwich and to consistently send out that comparison does nothing to help the folks in Hartford return money to our town.

  50. EJ

    The budget that was just voted down had a 3.5% increase in spending, knocking the budget down 1% more would cut the increase in spending to 2.5%.

    The suggestions you mentioned were in several threads, would have been very easy to miss since several threads may have covered similar topics.

    So far the BOE has chosen to ignore most suggestions that don’t involve the class rooms. Remember cuts to the classroom scares parents, cuts to administration doesn’t.

  51. WH return

    EJ

    Thanks! But that is my point. We have listen over the years to all the rhetoric that it no longer makes any sense. We have residents who believe the actual spending is being decreased (it should) when in fact only the budget increase has been scaled back. Talk about misleading! In fact the letter I received from Mr. Francis last week was non-communicative (is that a word) I had to read it 6 times. Funny thing, I still don’t understand it.

    The BOE is way out of touch with reality but that is what happens when you never say no. They have been on a windfall for the past decade and the word NO is not even close to being in their vocabulary.

    All sides need to come clean with exactly what is being spent and where it is going. This is the problem at the Federal level that asking for $1billion is so insignificant no one cares anymore.

    It is time to go through line by line by sub-line and determine who is getting what. It is nice to have salaries of $100k but that doesn’t even begin to show the real problem of pension and other benefit costs down the road.

    I know a number of teachers and they are more and more frustrated by the out of control bureaucracy at the BOE who have to justify their positions by demanding unneeded tasks that then require additional support to complete.

    There is room to cut. More important, what household do you know of that can consistently go to the well without paying the piper at sometime? Can’t happen and it should not happen at the municipality, state or federal level either. It is our fault for continuing to let these individuals spend without any accountability what-so-ever.

  52. EJ

    Just rcvd this e-mail. Anyone want to ask the Mayor or the Council where it went?

    Aug 31 2006
    Hartford Courant. Hartford, Conn.: Aug 31, 2006. pg. B.2
    WEST HARTFORD

    Tax Relief Amount Disappoints Officials

    WEST HARTFORD — The town will receive the $177,277 in property tax relief it was promised in the state budget that went into effect July 1, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced in a press release Wednesday.

    The announcement comes as the town prepares to phase in revaluation, which could prove costly to taxpayers with homes that have spiked in price since the town’s last revaluation.

    The state’s municipalities will receive a total of $33 million in property tax relief — funding that is above and beyond state aid the towns typically receive.

    Mayor Scott Slifka said the $177,277 was far less than the roughly $400,000 grant the town had banked on getting — and which was approved by the appropriations committee — when it drafted and passed its budget.

    “It takes a lot of gall to trumpet this amount as tax relief,” he said.

  53. Neal

    Where what went? The $177K? That obviously went right into this year’s budget, which apparently had a built-in shortfall of $223K because town leaders guessed too high on this particular aid item. So that’s $223K that should have been a part of last year’s taxes but now must be found twofold to make up for what wasn’t there last time and is still needed this time. That’s why it’s a bad idea to overestimate revenues!!

  54. EJ

    Like they say, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

  55. Elmwoodian

    [Long-time lurker, first time blogger. My experience is that blogs tend to encourage freer talk and less personal baggage when the bloggers use pseudonyms, so I’m leaving my name off this. Sorry if that offends some.] I’d like to quickly respond to WH Returns’ comments regarding cutting “administrative / supervisory” staff like AP’s b/c they are “impeding the true work that needs to be done – educating students.” I absolutely get the sentiment, but if that is the goal, firing (or halting planning hiring of) AP’s will have the opposite effect.

    As the spouse of a WH teacher, I can tell you first hand (OK, second hand) that those AP’s are crucial, especially in dealing with discipline problems, which, unfortunately, have been on the rise each successive year (my spouse has taught for 9 years). Without sufficient staff to address the kids who are discipline problems (or to run interference with certain parents) less learning gets done.

  56. WH return

    To elmwoodian, well I guess at the end of the day you agree with me since the the increase in AP’s did not eliminate or alleviate the discipline problems (since you stated it has been on the increase for successive years). What next? Asst to Asst AP’s. The more administrative layers we add, it seems we add to the level of the real problem which is not addressing what needs to be done but more acceptance to be tolerant, which leads to more special needs, which leads to more asst principals. Its a vicious cycle that has been created over the years and the more money thrown at the problem seems to only increase the problem. Lets stop the snowball by letting teachers teach, and slow the special needs scenarios down. Its time to address the issues and adding supervisory staff and asst ap’s is not the answer.

  57. Another WH Teacher

    Elmwoodian – I agree with you. While I cannot speak for the elementary needs for APs – at the secondary level they are crucial. Our 2 big middle schools have 2 each, Bristow has 1. And they are all very busy people with hectic schedules and very little down time. I for one watch them and say that’s why I never wanted to go into administration. Supervisors are there to do just that – supervise teachers, evaluate, and ensure that all our students are getting relatively equal experiences. (I said relatively…)

  58. WH Alum,

    The commercial development in Canton has added about $1 million annually in tax payments to the town. However, residential development in Canton has also exploded in the past few years, further expanding the grand list. This additional development has helped alleviate upward tax pressure.

    Blue Back will certainly add to the town’s grand list, but because WH is already densely built, there are fewer opportunities for residential expansion.

  59. JTS

    Am I the only one who finds it interesting that the people who fought tooth and nail against blue back (biggest growth to our grand list in decades & new biggest taxpayer by a mile) are the same ones who fought against the budget? God help us if the people with one word in their vocabulary (“No!”) start calling the shots around here. You’ll see an exodus that would make Moses proud.

  60. Edith Folta

    Next Board of Ed meeting:
    Wednesday, June 20
    Board of Education meeting, 7:00pm

    Next town council meeting:
    Tuesday, June 26
    Town Council meeting, 7:30pm

  61. New in Town

    We recently moved here from the West Coast and compared WH and surrounding towns. We viewed over 30 homes in WH, Farmington, Avon & Simsbury. My husband and I quickly discounted Farmington, Avon & Simsbury — too homogeneous, too suburban, too much like a million other towns. WH is different – it has so many things going for it — a truly vibrant downtown, great schools, gorgeous old homes, an involved and passionate community (as evidenced by this blog) — so many things the surrounding towns lack. We’ve got the only Whole Foods in the state outside of Fairfield County. And MUCH lower taxes than Fairfield County, let’s not forget. If you live in a great place, you must expect to pay for services. The more desirable an area becomes, the more you pay to live there. Isn’t that the nature of things?

  62. WH Alum

    Amen. Welcome to town!

  63. TWC

    In addition to putting in a plug for this blog at last night’s School Board meeting, I thought it would constructive to raise the suggestion I made in the comment I submitted to this post on June 13th (see above) about taking a “bottom-up” approach to this year’s budget.

    Unfortunately, in an article in today’s Courant, the key point I was trying to make regarding discretionary spending–that we should limit any discretionary spending to maintaining equivalent student/teacher ratios and the status quo for current educational programs (e.g., Quest) –got translated into my advocating that the Board should “…not approve most discretionary spending.”

    As I have consistently stated on this blog, I am more than willing to pay my fair share of taxes to maintain the quality of education that brought me to West Hartford in the first place. If additional teachers have to be hired to maintain class sizes comparable to this year’s ratios, I’m prepared to take the hit on that type of discretionary spending. And although I can’t speak for the WHTA crowd, I think most Town residents are willing to pay for this type of discretionary spending.

    But I have yet to hear any response as to what the increase over last year’s budget would be if the Board just stuck to these two types of increases. The 4.8 percent figure attributed to the Superintendent as necessary “…just to maintain current programs…” clearly isn’t the figure, since his Budget–and the one ultimately approved by the Board–is loaded with all kinds of “enhancements.”

    I appreciate that one man’s enhancements (i.e., discretionary spending that we can pass on this year) might be another one’s maintenance of the status quo, but until our School Board is presented with a Budget that strip’s out everyone’s pet projects, how do we know what this figure is?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s