NEWINGTON – The Town Manager is urging elected officials to adopt a budget that would keep spending to a bare minimum while maintaining services and quality of life for people that pay taxes in town.
Keith Chapman pled his case to Newington Town Council at a recent public hearing on his 2020-21 proposal, a $125.6 million spending plan which would lower the current mill rate by .8 percent.
“If I was a company or a homebuyer I would like twice at Newington if I could be saving a few hundred a month in another town,” Chapman said in relation to the high burden currently faced by taxpayers, who pay $39.45 per $1,000 of taxable property they own under the current mill rate of 39.45.
In comparison, surrounding towns offer better rates, like Berlin, at 32.5 mills; Cromwell, 30.33; Rocky Hill, 32.4; and Farmington, one of the lowest in the state, at 27.2.
Chapman offered officials a lookback into Newington’s history over the last few decades, and how taxes have risen disproportionately against taxpayers’ incomes and home values. He served as town manager through the 1990s up until 2001, and spending began its steady increase upon his departure.
“The town grew tremendously at that time,” Chapman recalled of his era of service. “We tried to keep taxes flat or at a decrease. Now that I’ve come back after 18 years I have a very different perspective. I see the taxes increasing every year. Things are not going the way they should be going, at least in my professional experience as town manager. We need to turn that around.”
He used the last twenty years as a starting point to demonstrate the discrepancy between town and taxpayer spending with income earnings.
For example, the average home assessment in Newington has increased 54 percent over a 20-year span, while taxes on the average home have increased 112 percent. At the same time, the town’s yearly budget has seen an 88 percent increase and the Board of Education Budget, a 110 percent increase. Meanwhile, salaries have risen on average 50 to 60 percent during that same span of time.
All this points to a heavier burden on taxpayers, Chapman pointed out, and one that many are unable to shoulder.
He encouraged the council to give serious consideration to the proposed decrease, which would lower taxes on the average home assessment by $47.60 on tax bills effective July 1, 2020. That may not sound like a big cut, but Chapman’s hope is that is sets a tone for future years.
“At least 30 percent of our taxpayers are now 55 and older, many of them on fixed incomes,” he explained. “They cannot afford to pay more in taxes. If the grand list were to grow significantly, then maybe we can reevaluate things.”
In an effort to protect the health and safety of citizens during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, councilors encouraged people who wished to speak at the public hearing on Chapman’s budget proposal to call in their comments following the presentation. In years past, some budget hearings have been so packed that they had to be moved to the facility’s auditorium. In this particular case, there was no public comment offered.
Town Hall and all meetings are currently closed to the public due to concerns about spreading the Coronavirus. The next opportunity for the public to offer their input on the budget is during a hearing scheduled for April 9, after the council has set its tentative spending plan. It has yet to be determined if the building will be open to visitors on that date or if the council will again request comments by telephone. Check back for updates.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.