February is budget time across our state and time to look at how our elected officials spend taxpayer dollars. Not all towns are created equal, each municipality has their own challenges and direct comparisons can be difficult but there are numbers to look at.
Take for example the ability of government to control spending. In the greater Hartford region out of 61 towns 16 spent more money than the total taxes they collected in 2010. Nine municipalities had debt service in excess of their total general fund balance.
Five towns, Cheshire, Colchester, Coventry, Plainville and Stafford were spenders of distinction appearing in both categories. Yes, these five towns managed to spend more than they have and also lead in having more money owed on the books as a percentage of fund balance than other towns.
Make no mistake all towns are not created equal some have more resources than others. Some towns have individuals with higher incomes supporting the town spending habits. These are the “lucky towns” where increasing taxes may be less likely to impact citizens since there is more discretionary income.
According to the Connecticut Department of Labor of the five towns Cheshire would have the highest annual wages available from which to collect taxes with the most recent available figure being $52,305. One town has to have the lowest annual wages and hence the single town that would hurt its citizens the most out of the five spenders of distinction if they were to raise taxes. The town with the lowest annual wages and hence the lowest discretionary income would be Coventry at $33,692.
That’s right the spending town of distinction most likely to impose the greatest hardship on the average citizen by raising taxes would be Coventry. So while the season of budget whining, moaning and grumbling is upon us it would behoove all of us to remember our neighbors and their plight in these tough economic times. Expanding spending for what on the surface may look like a good program and be a small increase could be the tipping point for economic disaster in your neighbor’s family budget.
The Governor has talked about shared sacrifice and too often that has been equated to higher taxes with the sacrifice coming from the taxpayers. It is time the shared sacrifice be looked at from another side, the side of government and spending increases. At no time in the past 25 years has a tax increase been more inappropriate than this year. At no time has the economic hardship on our neighbors been this difficult.
Last year largely due to the insurance appropriation line items there was nearly $1,000,000 extra appropriated in the Coventry budget. If Coventry has no increase in taxes this year they will still have a reasonable amount of increased spending to cover their needs because of the over budget amount allocated last year.
The residents of Coventry your friends and neighbors are hard-working folks, some are even out of work, and they are proud people not looking for a handout but wishing for some consideration in tough times. They are a resilient group struggling to stay economically afloat, too embarrassed to stand up at a public meeting and beg poverty against a tax increase. No they will suffer in silence and their children will see the hardships of increased taxes if it happens, but it doesn’t have to happen.
It is time for government to sacrifice, it is time to help our neighbors over tough times with less government spending, now is not the time for a tax increase. Now is the time to support a no tax increase budget, now is the time for compassion and caring.
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