I have lived in New London since ’98. My husband purchased our house during the time that we were engaged, taking advantage of an incentive for first time homeowners. Once we married, I asked to be put on the deed. I was excited about our future together as a married couple and I was in love with our new city. I wanted it to be official. It was a simple process that an attorney took care of for us.
I mention this because our Mayor is not a homeowner in his own city. That’s an important point with a budget referendum looming. Perhaps it allows him to most identify with renters who make up 75% of our residents, and who some feel might not feel the full effects of a tax hike. I disagree. But more on that later.
An appeal to homeowners, who as I alluded to before, make up only 25% of the residents…you are a minority, but an important group nonetheless: The Mayor and other proponents for the budget make a point about New London’s taxes not going up in over five years. As a property owner, you know that is simply not true. You know that tax payments rise with the appreciation of the properties we own. It’s up to you to maintain your home, and it’s up to the your local government to help foster a healthy real estate market and positive city image so that your home can remain a good investment for you. In turn, a good revenue generator for your city.
Promoting New London as a safe place to own a home would help spread the burden. But if property values are not able to sustain basic government services, additional revenue streams can be investigated. Otherwise you are, in essence, being hit with a double whammy. My house was just assessed two weeks ago, as all are slotted to be. I expect taxes to go up based on that revaluation.
Not a property owner? Renters will feel the hit too, because property owners pass down those cost increases in the form of raised rent. Or they have less money for upkeep of buildings, parking lots, or such things as security. Rent space to run a business? Add this to your list of expenses that threaten your ability to remain successful every day in this down economy.
I need to address another group of voters as well. It’s rumored that somewhere between 150-200 Connecticut College students have registered to vote and that the mayor has spoken to the student body about the importance of voting yes in this referendum. (http://thecollegevoice.org/2012/09/13/could-conn-students-save-new-london/comment-page-1/#comment-213834) I would never dream of challenging a citizen’s voting rights, but I’m still trying to reconcile the thought of temporary residents with no financial stake helping to determine the fiscal future of the rest of the city. Please consider your vote carefully and investigate all sides of this argument before you vote in any referendum. You may be signing up for more than you bargained for.
I acknowledge that many willingly accept they will have to fork over some increased taxes. But this willingness is based on a lot of misinformation circulating around this issue. What was once talk of closing the Senior Center (since retracted) and cutting the library, has now turned into talk of a state takeover and a 32% tax increase! Talk about a scare tactic! In the end, a final vote on cuts goes to the council’s hands. They have the final say, and they’ve mentioned none of these outcomes. They have not been given enough information to make such a statement.
Voting NO will force our Mayor to be accountable for providing a budget document that accurately reflects what the Council approved. Without that information, there will be nothing for the current administration to compare against. Voting yes may actually get us in more financial hot water, since months from now, city leaders will be wondering, “How much were we supposed to spend on that again?” Remember: The main reason for the fiscal year 2012 confusion was that the old Finance Director reportedly left the new Finance Director with scattered budget notes that the new Finance Director interpreted.
Before accepting this budget, we need to demand this: Disclose the budget in it’s entirety, allow proponents of a tax increase to make their decision based on factual and complete information. Ask Mayor Finizio to uphold his promise to be transparent. To me it’s simple…the issues surrounding this budget are important enough to go back and re-examine.
I ask the voters to do what's right for all residents. If you agree with me on any of these points, don’t sit home on Tuesday. Demand accountability, go to the polls and Vote NO. Voting yes raises your taxes, voting NO raises our possibilities for other answers. And not all of them are scary.