Looks like the anti-tax group doesn’t want to be irrelevant after all…

The West Hartford Taxpayers Association has decided that it will push for a budget referendum after all. According to the Courant, “the taxpayers’ group is asking that the town cut its 7 percent spending increase in half, to 3.5 percent.”

Is that a joke?

I can’t afford all these tax hikes either, but simply holding steady in the face of rising energy costs — which hit the town even harder than the rest of us — is impossible with that sort of target.

I might consider it responsible if the group also had a list of cuts that we could generally agree on that would bring down the spending. But the only list I ever saw, printed as an ad in the West Hartford News, was utterly laughable.

I don’t know who these people are, really, but I do know that they don’t have the best interests of West Hartford’s families in mind. If the referendum comes, we need to rally together and pass this budget.



Filed under West Hartford

23 responses to “Looks like the anti-tax group doesn’t want to be irrelevant after all…

  1. I don’t understand.

    If U.S. consumers need to tighten their belts amidst current economic struggles then why can’t we ask our government to show a similar restraint?

  2. Vince

    Respectfully, you are missing the point, it is not a lack of restraint that has led to a tax increase, but substantial increases in costs (prime example: energy costs). When your gas bill goes up do you simply choose not to pay it and simply go on that vacation you had planned anyway? Of course not, that is not an option available to you. Well, under the budget, the rising costs have to be paid, other new initiatives are scrapped (in this analogy, your vacation), and maintaining the status quo can be maintained only through a higher outlay of money (thus resulting in a necessary tax increase). Yes, times are tough, and just like you it is costing the Town more and more each year just to do the things it, you, me, and everyone else have been doing for years. That doesn’t mean that in all instances you simply stop doing those things that are important to you/vital to your family’s well being solely because they are now more expensive. The budget in many ways is a greater challenege for the Town than it is for individual households because the Town has a full range of missions it must pursue (like educating our children) other than, for example, just making sure old folks don’t have to sell their homes. As a result, responsible choices have to be made on how, when and whether to cut things others in Town use, rely upon, etc. The council has been responsible in doing so, and I am confident they are exercising the “fiscal restraint” you seek. Torward that same end, however, putting forth concepts like “fiscal restraint” (and other hollow mesages spouted by Steve Adler, WH’s new leading dimwit) without backing it up with real options for cutting custs further is completely irresponsible. Similarly, achieving some arbitray number like 3.5% simply makes no sense. That is not governing. We are a Town with at least some unifying goals and ideals, and we elect the council to manage the Town in a way that pursues those, NOT put the interests of the vocal minority above all others.

  3. TwoCents

    Vince – Thanks for clarifying your view. If possible do you know if there has every been a budget year when spending actually decreased year over year. I somehwat new to West Hartford but my understanding is that from 02 to 07 the economy was pretty good. I have to imagine the council was able to give something back to the fine residents of the town. It would be good to know when considering the next referendum.

  4. Cynic

    I am trying to recall whether the change was the tax rate or the spending rate, but for the 6 years prior to ’07 the increases ran 6-6.5%/yr.

    In ’07 after the referendum the spending increase was knocked down to just about 0%, but the tax increase was 4.5% due to revaluation.

    This year they want a 7% spending increase, which with the 2nd year of reval phase-in will work out to an 8-10% tax increase for the average taxpayer.

  5. Cynic

    Vince criticizes the Adler for talking fiscal restraint, but in tough times that is exactly what has to be done.

    The taxpayers are experiencing the same expense problems as the Town, and many have already looked at and modified their budgets. The Town has been asked to but resists.

    ie. The BOE is planning on replacing all of its’ vehicles this year. It has been suggested that they modify this #, but they have chosen not to do so. Perhaps doing 20-30% of the vehicles this year would be smarter. Instead we hear threats of program cuts.

  6. Jerome

    The energy costs in the budget increased by $183,092 which equates to 4.1% of the total increase in the budget.

    Wage and salary increases (raises, and new positions) represent $1,533,216; 34.0% of the total increase.

    Please don’t “rubber stamp” the budget.. take the time to review it.

    These numbers were taken from page 1 of the “2009 Budget in Brief” which is on the http://www.westhartford.org homepage.

  7. Cynic: “ie. The BOE is planning on replacing all of its’ vehicles this year. It has been suggested that they modify this #, but they have chosen not to do so. Perhaps doing 20-30% of the vehicles this year would be smarter. Instead we hear threats of program cuts.”

    I’d like to correct Cynic’s above-referenced statement. The BoE “maintain[s] a fleet of 37 vehicles with a replacement value of $1.25 million. Some are over 20 years old. Funding at this level [increase of $125k to $145k for code 5640, Equipment] will allow a 10 year replacement plan for equipment.”

    Source: (1) BoE budget document Pp. I-30 and I-31 http://www.whps.org/budget/Section%20I.pdf and (2) BoE budget workshop summary document page 14 http://www.whps.org/budget/workshop%20summaries.pdf

    So in actuality, there is a 10 year plan to replace 10% of the vehicles annually (some of which are already 20 years old) versus Cynic’s “approved” level of 20-30% per year.

  8. Cynic

    Thank you John for the correction.
    I was recalling a conversation between the Board members and I believe Chip Ward where this question was asked. Chip did not correct them on the point, but mentioned the 20yr age, 37 car size and need for replacement.

  9. RSisk

    I’m afraid that blaming energy costs for driving the budget misrepresent the facts. Utility costs represent only 2.9% of the budget ($6.4M out of $220M) and increased 7.4% ($437,407) from last year to this year.
    Wages represent 54.5% of the budget ($120M) and increased 4.4% ($5M). Other operating expenses represent 17.1% ($37.7M) of the budget and increased 6.8% ($2.8M). Capital expenditures and financing represents 8.1% ($17.9M) and increased 12.8% ($2M). Taken all together, these total 82.7% of the budget and increased 6.0% ($10.3M) – high for current economic conditions but within reach merely by postponing new capital expenditures and capping non-utility operating expense growth.

    Fringe benefits, on the other hand, comprise the remaining 17.3% of the budget and they are increasing 12.0% ($4.1M), or double the rate of the rest of the budget. Fringe benefits help neither taxpayers nor students. They don’t heat buildings, light streets, collect trash, provide supplies, goods or services. Fringe benefits benefit only the employee and are a necessary part of employment contracts in today’s world. However, they are growing at an unsustainable rate. In the private sector, fringe benefits are being scaled back or eliminated and increases in fringe benefit costs must be offset with reductions in other areas – wage increases, capital expenditures, operating expenses and headcount. Otherwise, businesses become uncompetitive, wither and fail. The situation is no different in West Hartford.

  10. Vince

    To clarify my comment regarding Adler: talking fiscal restraint is fine and wanted by all, but to raise the concepts without offering any alternatives is useless and irresponsible–i.e., nothing more than politics. Based on the comments here I don’t think any of these posters would disagree with that. Noone wants empty rhetoric, and that’s all this dimwit brings to the table. Maybe someone can point to something Empty Suit Adler has actually proposed as a real reduction that is viable and practical, I doubt it, but I’d listen. All I’ve heard or read out of him is “we should look at _____, and think about ___.” Perhaps I’m mistaken.

  11. another wh alumn

    Vince, not sure why you are attacking any member of the minority party when their advice falls on deaf ears to the majority. Sounds like you have an agenda.

    I recall the minority leader making a statement that they had a list of items that could be cut from the budget or reductions, but, they weren’t going to waste anyone’s time because they knew they wouldn’t be considered by the majority party
    …so what’s the point?

    and I ask you, Vince…what’s your point? or rather, what’s your agenda?

  12. Vince

    To have my name in lights on Broadway!

  13. turtle

    So the minority leader has some budget cut proposals but won’t tell. How coy!

  14. Osemasterofdoom

    I hate to sound like a broken record (now that analogy shows my age, eh?) but the biggest obstacle to gaining some fiscal restraint is the prsent structure of bind arbitration with regards to union contracts, in particular education contracts. If there were a truly honest practice toward determing these salary and benefit levels, it would give town officials much more flexibility in budgeting. But those on the Democrat side want nothing to do with binding arb reform. I wonder if it has anything to do with the CT Education Association’s lockstep support of Democrat candidates in this state?

  15. james

    When the town votes to replace new parking meters at a cost of $400,000 of our money, it’s time to say “Stop” and cut the budget.

  16. Except that the parking meters cost $100k, not $400k and it’s not “our” money.

    The cost doesn’t have anything to do with the General Fund, and has NO impact on property taxes. Zero. Nada. Zilch, Rien. Zed. It has been explained multiple times in public that the costs of the meters and the more energy efficient lights are being borne by the self-sustaining Parking Lot Fund, which gererates revenues from the lots themselves, not from property tax revenue.

    But please, as usual, don’t let the truth get in your way.

  17. Cynic

    And you’re telling us that if parking lot funds went unused they would not be moved to the general fund for other purposes. Isn’t that what they are doing by using it for parking meters.

    Get real!

  18. Kevin Walsh

    If the Parking Lot Fund is not “our” money, whose money is it?

    There can be no question that every dollar that the Town spends on replacing parking meters is a dollar that will not be available for application to other town expenses. Thus, this expenditure will certainly have an impact (albeit a small and indirect one) on property taxes.

  19. Kevin Walsh

    Referendum today – make sure your voice is heard!

  20. Cynic

    Frankly, it’s remarkable that the Council is willing to approve this expense.

    I made that error with the meters, once.
    It taught me to be more careful.

  21. John Hardy

    Still wrong.

    Use of dollars in the Parking Lot Fund is legally restricted. The Council cannot move money out of the fund to offset the General Fund expenses. It’s the General Fund expenses that depend, in part, on the property tax revenue.

    Ergo, Parking Lot Fund dollars cannot reduce the requested property tax increase. And that’s true whether they buy new meters or not.

  22. Cynic

    So use it to pay down the bonds.

  23. Bond service is a General Fund expense. What they can – and do – use it for is to “avoid” capital expenses like paving…or replacement of old, breaking-down parking meters.

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