The 2013 New London budget is now roughly halfway through the fiscal year and a little less than 10 months from a head-scratcher of a referendum vote.
The budget was our top story of the year. Practically every month there was a story related to it, and these were almost invariably among the most popular stories of the year. It was a year of sound and fury and outrage and worry.
So I had to chuckle when my revised tax bill came in and I found that the whole thing had cost me $7.13.
Yes, seven dollars and thirteen cents. I’m writing this from Kelly’s on Bank, where my lunch is probably going to have a pretty comparable price. And when I cut a check for the mill rate increase, I was paying from a bank account with funds mostly earned by my time as a war correspondent in the budget battle. Go figure.
OK, so it’s not like everyone in the city is getting such a miniscule bill. The difference I had to pay accounts for the motor vehicle tax on my reliable but by no means luxurious Ford Taurus, which is now seven years old. I didn’t get a property tax bill because I’m not yet part of the landowning gentry.
One friend who does happen to be in the property-owning elite took a bit of a harder hit: about $50. You can’t blame him for being a little peeved about it, as anyone would be when you get a somewhat unexpected crunch on your budget. As he told me, the extra tax was being incorporated into his mortgage bill for the month and as a result there would be that much less going toward the principal on the latest payment.
Still, that’s a temporary pain. Come next month, his payments are back on track. I can sympathize with property owners, but as I mentioned way back at the start of budget process, I’m a little more worried for renters such as myself.
I live in a building with 11 apartments. My landlord owns another seven rental properties. A few are fairly modest buildings, but the rest are towering old mansions that are worth a pretty penny. I’m sure he’s feeling the pinch much more than me and my Taurus and my friend and his duplex.
If he decides to jack up the rent, I’d be able to afford it. I’d probably even bite the bullet and keep up my spending in New London establishments, because I certainly don’t want to see any more go away.
But I’d be much more concerned about some of my neighbors. Some are self-employed and I worry how much the additional rent would hurt them. One recently lost her job at Pfizer and is looking for work.
I’m sure a rent increase is a fear facing plenty of residents now in tenant-heavy New London. This wouldn’t be a one-time jolt but a chronic financial pain. I can sympathize with my friend having to shell out $50 more to the city. But if my landlord increases the rent by $25 a month, I’ll have six times his burden by the end of the year.
We’ve already seen a sudden loss of several small businesses to start the year, and we certainly don’t want people to be fleeing the city due to rents. Here’s hoping the landlords of New London can weather the cost and not pass it on to the renters.