Coventry is an exceptional small New England community; it is often mentioned at the Town Council meetings we have active and supportive citizen volunteers stepping forward to serve their community. One such organization Coventry Helping Hand has recently been organized to assist our neighbors, not with a handout but with helping hands. The organizers recognize that in this economy some of our neighbors are struggling.
The Council needs to be cognizant and more mindful of the impact even a small tax increase will have on our community at this time. While some will call this proposed increase minimal and point out that to an owner of a median valued house it would be only $1.15 per month, to others that can be significant. How many of us are aware of the number of families living on an economic edge in this town? We have a community food bank that is currently serving about 115 to 120 clients per week. That translates to 115 families that need assistance for even the basic need of food.
Yes, the increase is small but it is not compassionate. I ask the Town Council follow the lead of Coventry Helping Hand and reach out to help your neighbors, reach for your pencils to erase the small increase in your budget. It will not solve our neighbors’ problems but it will not add additional hardship. If we can find money to pay extra for green energy we should be able to find a way to help our neighbors.
According to statistics provided by State agencies and published in the Hartford Business Journal out of 61 towns in the greater Hartford region Coventry was one of 16 towns that spent more money than the total taxes collected in 2010. Only nine municipalities had debt service in excess of their total general fund balance. Coventry was one of only five towns to appear in both categories. According to the Connecticut Department of Labor of the five towns, Coventry has the lowest annual wages, at $33,692. In today’s economy of rising prices that leaves little for discretionary spending and any tax increase can be a burden.
There is a large built in increase this year since the basis of comparison was a budget inflated over actual cost last year largely due to savings in the insurance line item. Even a zero increase this year allows for additional spending since we over budgeted last year. The combination of that savings and the increase in the grand list provides about $1,000,000 extra without raising taxe.
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.
For the sake of our neighbors, I urge the Town Council to adjust the budget to show compassion for your neighbors living is less fortunate circumstances.