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.