A dozen West Hartford residents spoke at Monday evening's budget hearing, and most pleaded with Town Council members to make cuts to the 5.1 percent increase proposed by Town Manager Ron Van Winkle.
Many who spoke out against the budget were applauded after their presentations by other like-minded individuals in the room.
"This year’s budget will cause seniors to be posting ‘for sale’ signs," said Francis Arbuglio of Grassmere Ave.
Linda DiNapoli of Mohegan Drive said that the people of West Hartford have give Town Council members a "free reign" with respect to the real estate assessment system. DiNapoli quoted Thomas Jefferson, before concluding her comments by stating, “Residents you must speak up, you must march, and you must vote against this budget.”
Gary Muldoon of Ledgewood Road said that the services are good in this town, but they're good in other towns, too. “I just hope we can do better than a 5.9 percent increase,” Muldoon said.
Nancy Grassilli of Newport Ave., who also owns several rental properties, spoke about the impact that this year's tax bill will have on her business. Grassilli is looking at a one-year tax increase of 21 percent for rental properties. “West Hartford’s a pretty unfriendly place to do business right now,” she said.
Mary Fleischli of Brunswick Ave., President of West Hartford First., expressed that she loves this town, and appreciates the administration's attempt to keep it a "wonderful place to live." Fleischli said that on an overall basis she approves of the budget and doesn't see any services that she would like to have cut.
However, she urged Council members to articulate any changes as soon as possible. "If you plan to vote against the budget, I recommend that you recommend specific cuts. I hope you have suggestions on what you’d cut ... Please give voters suggestions on what you would cut if [the budget] fails in a referendum."
Diana Macpherson said that estimated tax increases for 2012-2013 in her Whiting Lane neighborhood range from a low of 17.1 percent to a high of 54 percent. Even excluding two homes which underwent major renovations, tax increases still run as high as 26 percent.
“We would like to live in a fiscally responsible town. The Council and the Board of Ed. must do more when budgeting ... You have to look at every penny." Macpherson urged Council members to re-think the term "necessary."
Susan Israel asked Town leaders to consider a wage freeze for town workers. Her husband Arthur wondered if the 5 percent tax increase would lead to a 5 percent increase in services.
“I feel like the town’s implied message is that if you don’t like it, sell your house; someone else will buy it and they will pay the taxes,” said a Concord Street resident.
Margaret Glynn of Brace Road said, "We’re all renters now; we own our houses, but we really rent our houses from the tax department."
Glynn said that only the upwardly mobile are able to absorb the Town's budget increases. "Our budget really isn’t growing; it’s metastasizing ... I’ve lived here long enough to remember when the West Hartford brand was Yankee thrift, ingenuity, and simplicity.”
Desiree Bartholomew said she moved to West Hartford in 2005 for the quality of the town and its services. She said real estate values were very high when she purchased her home. Bartholomew, who is currently unemployed, said, "My appeal to you is to also consider those of us who are trying to hold onto our properties despite the fact that the value has dropped and we’re unemployed."
George Kennedy, president of the West Hartford Taxpayers Association, suggested that West Hartford hire a professional for future contract negotiations.
The Taxpayers Association will likely seek a referendum on the budget if the increase is not brought down below 3 percent. "This town is not going to go downhill if you cut this budget,” Kennedy said.
The Board of Education will adopt its on Tuesday night. The on April 24.