Hebron Dollars & Sense
- Created on Friday, 01 June 2012 19:12
Hebron Dollars and Sense feels it necessary share the facts regarding events and actions taken during this budget season in Hebron.
Let’s start with the one thing we all have in common. We all love Hebron. We are all committed to the general health and well-being of the entire community. We are not a special interest group that focuses on one program or issue but rather attempts to focus on issues that collectively face the residents of Hebron. An informed vote is critical this year, and we are not alone in the state because many communities are voting down, in significant numbers, their own local budgets.
We are extremely discouraged by the pandering of our Administrators and Executive Boards during this budget season. It appears there is much data and discussions that are not being shared with the boards and the public.
The voters have resoundingly told the our elected officials that they do not support the unsustainable spending plans in place for the entire town, whether it be the General Government Budget, the Hebron Board of Education, or the RHAM Board of Education budget.
There has been a lack of accurate, timely information at the Board of Finance meetings to enable the BOF to make educated decisions. The Town is being held hostage by a nebulous Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR) and acceptance of one-time stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Perhaps the Town needs to look at strings attached to “gifts” of money, and any potential long term costs of accepting one-time funds? Are we going to pay for that ARRA grant of $176K over and over and over again, or at least until the state’s antiquated laws are overturned?
Add to that the fact that we’re being held hostage by a critical, but unknown, piece of data. At the May 22nd Board of Finance meeting, not one administrator, official or board member could advise the public what the Minimum Budget Requirement number was for our school district. Our education spending is going up $539,000, yet we’re “perilously close” to being penalized for not spending the Minimum Budget Requirement?
What is the Minimum Budget Requirement anyway? It’s supposed to be the amount spent last year, less 0.5% due to the lower student enrollment (CGS §10-262i,j).
As a result, and because the Selectmen offered, the BOF reduced the General Government Budget by $100,000. One can easily think that the BOS cut services meant to hurt those perceived as being the most likely No voters: library, Sunday dump hours, and open space.
Kept was an unknown and unproven new position for a part-time Economic Development Coordinator, with absolutely no research on the Return On Investment for that position. Other towns are terminating the position as it is a luxury. In addition, crumbling infrastructure needs and long term goals were pushed by the wayside. Debt management funds that we should be putting aside for future concerns are no longer there because they’re being used up for current operating expenses. This is not healthy financial planning.
The Board of Selectmen further confused the public by stating that the mill rate “has to be set by June 15” if the budget has not been approved. That is the furthest thing from the truth. If you read Section 803 C of the Charter it states: C. The Board of Finance shall meet to set the mill rate by June 15, but if a budget has not been adopted by that date, then the Board of Finance shall meet to set the mill rate on the day following the adoption of the budget. In the event that the budget is not adopted by June 30, the Board of Finance may set an interim mill rate equal to the mill rate of the preceding year, except in a revaluation year when the interim mill rate will be calculated based upon generating the same amount of tax revenue as the previous year. Once the budget is adopted and a mill rate set, any adjustments from the interim mill rate will be made in accordance with the direction of the Board of Finance.
This language is not rocket science. There is no question that if the budget does not pass on June 5, the mill rate does not have to be set by June 15th. There can be another referendum on June 19th and should that budget be approved, a mill rate can still be set in plenty of time for tax bills to go out by July 1.
While our initial reaction was “Don’t let them scare you into a tax increase,” the reality is the Boards are collectively refusing to look at hard data showing what the MBR is and what the true needs of Hebron taxpayers are. They have discounted two consistent, and statistically significant, “No” votes. Instead, they have already threatened to completely cut open space and close the dump. Both the Boards of Selectmen and Finance have indicated they have no intention to further reduce the Board of Education budget despite dramatically declining enrollment, and the ability to cut at least $50,000 from that budget, if not more.
We are very concerned with the threats and misinformation being handed down by the very people we elected to represent all interests in Hebron, the Board of Selectmen. We encourage people to vote their conscience and make sure they fill out the exit poll survey with their honest opinions. Maybe the exit poll will wake up our elected officials who are controlling the tax dollars in Hebron and they will finally listen to the voters; stop the revenge; and achieve a viable solution to our economic problems.
We will not be distributing flyers to encourage taxpayers to vote at the referendum. We think residents already know there is a referendum on June 5th from 6 am to 8 pm at Hebron Elementary School. They have been doing a great job exercising their civic responsibilities, but we agree with town officials that a larger voter turnout would bring perhaps a more serious view of the issues that face our town.
Do you agree with and support the misrepresentations of the Boards of Selectmen, Education and Finance? All we ask is that you vote your conscience, and make sure you fill out the exit poll with your honest thoughts. All boards have said they had not received enough feedback; here is your opportunity to anonymously provide that feedback.