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Let's Talk: What's Your Reaction to the Tax Increase of 2.76%?

A discussion about hot button issues in West Hartford.

West Hartford Patch is launching a new discussion forum that will appear every Wednesday at 1 p.m. We're hoping our readers will join in the conversation and talk about the important issues facing the town.

We launch the feature today with a discussion of the town budget adopted on Tuesday night. The Republican minority on the council offered a number of amendments in an attempt to reduce the 2.76 percent tax rate increase, including reopening contracts for town and school employees to ask them to increase their benefit contributions.

Democrats on the council countered that town employees — including all teachers who accepted a hard wage freeze for next year — have already made significant sacrifices and that opening negotiations was no guarantee of finding savings.

What's your take on this? Is West Hartford pricing itself out of the market by raising taxes or is the town doing the best it can in a difficult economy to preserve the services its known for?

So let's talk. Please add your comments below.

Ken April 27, 2011 at 10:34 PM
Times are difficult and the democratic town council doesn't seem to have a clue about it. Every company and business is struggling to stay stable and control expenses. Most employers have increased the cost sharing on benefits over the last two years. The school teachers stepped up to the plate what about the rest of the municipal employees. Its time to look at employee and town contributions and pension rules for the town just like industry is doing. It would have been appropriate if our mayor at least let the Republicans have an open dialogue on the budget instead of dismissing any relevant discussion. The value of West Hartford will become a myth if we don't control expenses. I will be changing who I vote for if we can't have the two parties working together. I am still waiting to see the great benefit of Blue Back square for the tax payers of West Hartford.
Doc M April 28, 2011 at 11:01 AM
again, the elected officials say they "get it" but their behavior is in conflict How many working people are getting a 2.76% raise ? I would say very few; so the elected officials, notably liberal democrats CREATED this mess over the last several years, demonstrating precious little foresight, and now fail to make the hard decisions. Obviously this increase is better than the higher one initially proposed, but how about NO increase. We need a Gov C Christy mentality here, and NONE of these folks appears to have that perspective.
amystery726 April 28, 2011 at 11:28 AM
We live in tough times, but, in order to maintain the quality of life in our town and to ensure that our schools stay "centers of excellence" (they are recognized nationally), we need to all share the burden. 2.76% is a modest rise overall - do you want your streets paved? your garbage collected? your parks and other amenities that brought you to this town? schools for your kids with teachers who actually can teach? Stop whining and realize we have something special here and help maintain it!
Matt April 28, 2011 at 11:50 AM
Amystery726- this tac increase did not go toward paying for any of the items you mentionned. It went to paying for the out of control increases in pension, healthcare costs, and frivolous spending thru overpaying what they state mandates for PRIVATE school student busing. The services you mention are being threatenned because council democrats fail to address the above cost drivers. They pay lip service to to the effort, but take Council Republicans are the only ones pushing for action because the Democrats wont tell the special interest unions who vote for them that they need to get in line with the rest of the real world.
Lisa April 28, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Lisa I very much AGREE with what "amystery726" had to say below: "We live in tough times, but, in order to maintain the quality of life in our town and to ensure that our schools stay "centers of excellence" (they are recognized nationally), we need to all share the burden. 2.76% is a modest rise overall - do you want your streets paved? your garbage collected? your parks and other amenities that brought you to this town? schools for your kids with teachers who actually can teach? Stop whining and realize we have something special here and help maintain it!"
Tony Siegel April 28, 2011 at 02:53 PM
No Property Tax Increase Now For years citizens have acquiesced to annual property taxes increases. So the Town Council decided to increase property taxes this time by 2.76%, as part of the $228,000,000 budget. Education is 60% of the town budget, and includes a $6,840,183 increase (5.4%) even though almost all the salaries did not increase. The town also has an underfunded liability for employee pensions by over $124,000,000 and underfunded liability for Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) by over $80,000,000. The times are changing. Except for less prevalent wealthy citizens, people are now primarily concerned about the worst economic downturn since the great depression. Everything bad about the economy has happened and is continuing to happen. Citizens are getting hit from all sides and experiencing a widening, perfect storm. The Town Council and Board of Education can no longer capitulate to unions. They should make sure employees receive a fair wage and pay their fair share for all benefits every year, including health insurance and pension costs. Because of the unpleasant economic realities and the town’s property re-evaluation and tax increase scheduled for 2012, the Town Council and Board of Education should do their jobs to reduce expenses and avoid the 2.76% property tax increase. Only then will the budget help ensure the town's financial stability and prosperity. Tony Siegel 
 
 West Hartford
amystery726 April 28, 2011 at 10:29 PM
Special interest unions? Teachers? What would we do without them. Firemen? What would we do without them? Police? What would we do without them. Personally, I want our town's children educated by the best teachers. Personally, I want someone who comes to my house when there's a fire. Personally, I want a strong and professional police force that cares about ALL the citizens in our community. So, if those are the special interests, I say, yes, pay them what they are worth. These are tough times, but they will be far worse if we make cuts blithely and without regard to quality of life.
Ken April 28, 2011 at 11:14 PM
I am not sure how long you have lived in West Hartford but over the last twenty years our taxes have increased manyfold. We have great schools , police and fire services and we have had this for years and its reflected in our taxes. At the same time basic services have been curt back and all of the staple services have remained which is what we expect. We pay for all of the standard services and there is enough $ to cover these base expenses. Our town council needs to evaluate all other expenses as we have for garbage pick up, leaf collection and Blue Back and have open discussion with a shared dialogue and work to maintain control of our base expenses.
Bob April 29, 2011 at 01:33 AM
All I know for sure is that this change will force a few more of our neighbots, people at the margins for whatever reason, to let their homes fall into disrepair, slowly, and blight will nudge it's way into any neighborhood. Oh well, our elected officials and their counterparts that set these contracts can take a detour around these sights and go on pretending that they deserve much more than 2.7% and their comfort is superior to that of their neighbors.
amystery726 April 29, 2011 at 06:03 PM
I've lived in town since age 7. I've benefited from the wonderful services in town, as have my siblings and their families, as well as my parents. My children have had the pleasure of growing up with amenities and quality educations. We are not wealthy people and live modest lives, but we are glad to pay our taxes for what we get. If we had stayed in NYC, private school tuition alone would have been double (or more) our tax bill. So, yes, you pay for what you get. And I'll gladly pay every penny.
amystery726 April 29, 2011 at 06:04 PM
And, by the way, that is 53 years that I've lived here. And the changes have been great - in fact I think it is a far better town in many ways than when I grew up here.
Bob April 29, 2011 at 06:44 PM
My only point is that there is a portion of those paying their taxes who will not able to afford the increase - to say nothing of the already existing taxes - without decreasing outlays elsewhere. Those of our neighbors who for reasons of age, health, economy or just plain circumstance find themselves in this position will slow or stop maintaining their homes and property and this hurts all of us. What's the choice? Food? Medicine?For what? 2.7% more than last year, which was already more than the year before, and so on. When does shame enter the picture.
Doc M April 29, 2011 at 07:18 PM
the question(s) that remain, are not related to hyperbole of not having a police or fire department. that is ridiculous and reasonable people know that; rather have the elected officials of whatever period of time, ( I have lived here 16 years) year after year been myopic, always assumed nirvana would continue and allow/enable/expenses that could have been managed better, my bias is yes, not to employ so called monday morning quarterback look back, but rather to test our expense per capita, or per other measures, and it reveals we are far more expensive (on the taxpayer back) that other communities who also provide police/fire/parks/library, etc etc.. why ?

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