Two trends that impact Redding’s future need to be considered in our financial decisions as a town. The first is the aging of the population as Redding has the oldest median age of similar towns in Connecticut, which is increasing over time. The second is the declining population of school age children as shown by the 33% decrease in school enrollment over the last 10 years.
Accordingly, we need a better balance in the services the town provides to its residents. The town budget needs to consider support for all of the following equally:
- The Highway Department, including road maintenance
- The Mark Twain Library
- Human Services, including the Heritage Center
- Park and Recreation programs, including the Concert on the Green and Topstone Park
- Quality schools, which is not determined by how much is spent, but by how it is spent
- Safety and security, including the Police and Fire Departments
- Low taxes to protect Seniors on fixed incomes
I urge a NO vote on the town budgets. We need a shift in priorities to provide more service to the whole town and all of its residents, while maintaining quality in our school systems.
On May 8 I will vote YES in the annual budget referendum. Despite increasing costs in health insurance, teacher’s salaries and special education, which are all non-negotiable, and the decrease in federal aid, the increase in the proposed budget for the Redding Board of Education is only 3.4%. This comes after four years of negative budgets which total -4.58%. In five years the net result is -1.18. This certainly does not represent irresponsible spending and is not driving increased taxes. To let the schools decline would be extremely short sighted. A strong school system is one of the variables in determining DRG status. I assure you the increase in taxes to help maintain our DRG A designation will be far less than the loss in property value that would accompany a downgrade in DRG designation. People come to Redding for the schools. The children today should be entitled to the same high standard of education afforded previous generations when it was not uncommon to see double digit budget increases.
How can things get so bad in a few months? The BOF is considering a number
of initiatives beginning with a $2 million budget increase! How can Redding
taxpayers afford this? I urge everyone to check how much your tax bill will
increase if this budget is passed, guessing significant. Property values are
sure to plummet. There is also talk that perhaps the Fund Balance will be
raided, which is exactly how Redding got in trouble in 2007. I spent 10
years working with the BOF members to restore the Fund Balance to a health
level, and achieved a Triple A bond rating, and affirmed 4 times. If we lose
our Triple A bond rating, we will pay more interest when we go out to Bond,
and depending on the size of our Bond, this could be hundreds of thousands
charged to Redding taxpayers. The Fund Balance should not be used to pay
current expenditures, rather a safety net for unforeseen expenditures. If
the Town of Redding cannot afford a $2 million increase, we should vote NO
and send a message to the BOF to act in a more fiscally responsible manner.
Over the past 10 years the BOF had always managed to maintain a good balance
in Town services and act in a fiscally responsible manner. All voters should
expect nothing less, so vote NO.
Former Chairman of the BOF 2007-2017