To the editor:
In two weeks, on May 6, Redding will be voting on the new 2014 -2015 budget and our new administration has done a remarkable job of dealing with the Redding’s budget and our taxes.
Just imagine what our budget and therefore our taxes would look like if the old politicians were still manipulating our finances or if last November the illustrious team from the same political tribe would have succeeded in grabbing control of our lives.
With that being said, it’s in our interest to examine and learn what this administration has accomplished.
Both the Board of Education (middle and elementary schools) and Region 9 (John Read High School) have finally understood that their spending must decrease as the school enrolment is decreasing. To their credit both have looked at their budgets and proposed a lower budget for 2014 – 2015, as compared with last year’s budget.
The middle and elementary school has decreased its budget by $349,049 while the high school has decreased its budget by $106,047 for a combined total of $455,096.
In itself this is both on the right track and remarkable and this will have to be repeated year after year for the faceable future as the decline in student population is projected to continue for years to come.
By now you are probably thinking, great our town budget and therefore our taxes will be decreased by at least $455,096 and if you did that you would be wrong.
While the schools have made an effort to reduce their spending, the town budget will not be decreased by $455,096 instead, it will be reduced by $131,929.
But, let’s not look a “gift horse in the mouth”, never the less this is a budget reduction and we need to understand where we lost the difference of $323,167. To put it another way, let’s figure out who and where is spending this additional $323,167 of our taxes.
There are increases in spending which are presumably out of our control like union contracts, 4% inflation in purchasing goods and services and so on. But that could not possibly come close to spending $323,167. So, where is the money being spent?
As you might expect, the police added two more cops to their payroll and their union contract, as they always do, increased their salaries and our costs.
This manipulation by the police management is particularly egregious because, last February they have added two cops (SROs), while for few years now they have kept three cops on their payroll for the future development in Georgetown, which has not happened.
Adding two new cops is costing us $180,000 annually and … forever. And that of course as we all know, Redding, until it decided to have its own police department and have it managed by the current police management, was well serviced by 12 cops provided by the state at a cost far bellow what we are forced to pay today. But, everyone makes mistakes right?
The difference is that Redding on its own doesn’t seem to have the capacity and deamination to fix it.
So that accounts for the additional spending $180,000 of the reprieve we received from the schools or about 56%. But don’t bring out the champagne bottle yet because, although the over all Redding proposed 2014 – 2015 budget is lower than last year by $131,929, that may not translate into a tax reduction for you, me or anyone in Redding.
Because, as you will see on referendum on May 6, Region 9 (JBHS) is asking for $1,455,000 to fix the roof of which, Redding taxpayers will be asked to pay $787,155. For Redding’s taxpayers this is particularly egregious since this has been known and shoved under the rug by the previous administration for a long time and because before the JBHS roof was fixed, Redding was bamboozled into approving a new stadium at JBHS costing us some $2M.
This is the result of Natalie Ketcham’s political maneuvering and Region 9 irresponsible financial management. That is why we have been forced to undertake some $2M in additional spending before we fixed the JBHS roof. I suppose we have enough buckets but not our own state of the art stadium, which presumably by some twisted logic is far more important.
However, the fact that our current administration has decided to put this on the budget referendum is remarkable and welcomed. Perhaps the new administration understands that adding taxes during the year in excess of the budget referendum through “Special Town Meeting” where a select group of “political friends”, 2% or the voting population, is called upon to serve the political machinery, is unacceptable and plain wrong.
It’s absolutely legal and that is what had been used to burden us with ever increasing taxes for some two decades and it became the standard mode of operation under the illustrious leadership of Natalie Ketcham. Perhaps this practice is gone and perhaps fair voting has returned to Redding permanently … perhaps.
All in all, the current administration and the schools are trying very hard to deal with Redding’s colossal tax problem and I, for one, am very appreciative.
However, the spending at Redding Police Academy, its management and its huge disproportionate staff, remain a huge problem, which needs to be addressed and corrected. Redding’s police department is overstaffed by at least 3 cops.
We now have 17 cops and at best we can use 14 (12 cops plus 2 SROs) and that is if we assume that 12 cops is minimum required to serve a town with no crime, 9200 people and no population growth or infrastructure growth. Not to mention the cost of the police toys which seams to be a local hobby.
That is, unless Redding’s Police Academy plans to annex Wilton like … Putin. Come to think of it, that may not be such a bad idea! The chief may satisfy his professional ambitions and Redding’s taxpayers may benefit from a much larger commercial tax base. Perhaps that is the explanation to what is seemingly an insane and absurd strategy. Perhaps …
Regardless of how the vote will go on May 6, I think, the current town administration and the boards of education are working hard to fix our colossal tax problem and remove Redding from the infamous lists of the 6 most taxed towns, and the list of the towns with the highest cost per student, in Connecticut.
Boy, did we vote the right way last November!