Day: October 24, 2018

Laughter that Lasts

A Night of Comedy supporting Mikey’s Way Foundation

Mikey’s Way Foundation invites the community to the Downtown Cabaret Theater in Bridgeport on Saturday, November 10, to laugh all night with the hilarious Chris Monty. A sell-out event every year, you will be treated to a one of a kind performance. Along with being a regular at New York’s best comedy clubs, you may recognize Chris from the comedy film “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”, and on the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black.”

Enjoy the evening in a Cabaret style-theater with “bring your own beverage and picnic.” Doors will open at 6:30pm, to allow time to mingle with friends, enjoy music by Ian Biggs & Sarah Gonzalez, and try your luck at winning one of our many raffle items, and cork-pull. Show starts at 8pm.

Individual tickets are $60 each, or purchase a table and bring your friends and save $10 each ticket. To purchase tickets, please go to Mikeysway.org and click on Events.

Mikey’s Way Foundation is a local Connecticut non-profit that provides electronics to kids who are undergoing long-term treatment for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Public support helps these kids stay connected with friends, family, and school while taking their minds off their treatment. To date, Mikey’s Way has gifted over 6,500 patients and support 56 hospitals nationwide.

To learn more about Mikey’s Way Foundation or to donate, please go to Mikeysway.org.

Selectman Candidates Q&A Session

On October 22nd, the three candidates for Easton Selectman met at the Easton Senior Center for an informal question and answer session. Vance Hancock moderated the session and read questions to Kristi Sogofsky, Ira Kaplan and Anne Manusky. Each candidate answered and then had a time to respond.

In their opening statements, Democrat Ira Kaplan assured citizens that he would listen to all sides and information before taking any action or vote; Republican Kristi Sogofsky promised to always be engaged to safeguard the town values especially education and public safety and unaffiliated Anne Manusky vowed that she would always remain independent of partisan party politics.

All of the candidates agreed that town government needed to step up to communicate in a post Courier world since the long time local newspaper has folded (editors note: hello, Easton has been operating for several years and will continue to cover local news. Please share this issue with your friends and encourage them to subscribe) Sogofsky said it falls on everyone in town to share news. She encouraged everyone to sign up for alerts on the town website where communications can be tailored to individual interests. She said she would also like to see a town hall newsletter with a wrap up of weekly happenings. Manusky wanted to see the return of the postcard system because not all people were up on technology. She also wanted to institute Robocalls. Kaplan agreed about sign ups on the website but also wanted to see the return of real journalism to the area. In response to Manusky, Sogofsky said the postcards were discontinued 3 years ago and they were not proven to have made any difference in meeting attendance. She said that notices were always visible at the senior center for those who did not use computers.

The next question was about the South Park property. Anne Manusky felt that whatever happens, the citizens should decide. Ira Kaplan said that no decision should be made in isolation. There should be a town meeting to discuss options followed up by a machine vote. Kristi Sogofsky agreed that their needed to be a referendum so the town could control its future but reminded the group that the property was originally purchased to be sold for a purpose that was consistent with town zoning.

The candidates then expressed their feelings on the town plan that included a business district. Kaplan and Sogofsky support the town plan created by Planning and Zoning, both citing that it could benefit the town. Sogofsky said it would add convenience and promote community building. Manusky did not support the plan and personally did not want the town center although she said she would support it if Eastonites voted for it.

Hancock’s next question involved the high property taxes. The Republican candidate said it was a major concern for her but it was hard to make cuts when 70% was the education budget and a big part of the remainder was public safety. she said a balance needed to be made and she was looking for state grant opportunities to ease the burden on taxpayers. The unaffiliated candidate agreed that it was difficult to cut necessary services. She felt that Planning and Zoning was marketing to millennials and that was not a good idea because more children in the schools would raise taxes for all. She wanted to welcome all people to Easton. The Democratic candidate said he knew the taxes were not low but that they were all blessed to live in Easton. He said the path to balance needs and wants had to be more sustainable.

The question of the amount of taxes paid by Aquarion was the next question. Aquarius is the largest taxpayer in town. Manusky felt that there should be a true partnership. She supports charging a committee to look into it. Kaplan said he was been investigating this issue and felt they were vastly underpaying. He compared their rate to what they were paying in other towns. Sogofsky said the tax rate was set by the value of the land and that land prices were differing in each town She explained the process where an outside company does the reevaluation and that it is not at the towns discretion.

Attracting more people to town was the next topic. Ira Kaplan felt that a strong foundation and structure needed to be built. He felt it was a complex problem that needed to be addressed in a fiscally sustainable way. He encouraged collaboration and input from townspeople. Kristi Sogofsky called upon all Eastonites to be cheerleaders and to share the information that Easton not only had a fantastic school system but that there was also a vibrant senior center and many options in between. Anne Manusky does not want to increase population in town and prefers to keep it bucolic. She thought that home values would increase if taxes went down.

The Town meeting format was then discussed, Sogofsky reminded all that the Town Meeting format was a state statute and would not be easy to change. She agreed that it didn’t always move smoothly, but it is the way Easton legislates. Anne Manusky felt that Easton’s citizens represent themselves and that the Board of Selectmen should only administrate and not represent. In a town meeting, they are the same as any other citizen. Ira Kaplan supported an ordinance that after a town meeting, decisions would be made by a machine vote. He explained how in the past when the town was smaller, it was easier for all voters (women did not have the right to vote so it was a smaller percentage of the town) to come to a meeting. He questioned if the current model was still right for Easton.

A quick discussion was made on their opinion on one person holding 2 elected offices. Although they all had opinions, Kristi pointed out that this was not an issue in the Selectman race.

In their closing statements, Ira Kaplan spoke about the problems in unchallenged power including running the town on auto pilot; Kristi Sogofsky shared the story of a election debate she had seen on television where the candidates played a music duet at the end. Her point was that they all had to work together. Anne Manusky pledged to be an independent voice in Easton.

Please remember to vote on November 6.

  
left to right: Ira Kaplan, Kristi Sogofsky and Anne Manusky

Candidate says Aquarion is underassessed

At a recent Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman candidate Ira Kaplan brought an issue to the attention of the Board and the public.  He said, “Some members of our campaign group looked into the taxes paid by the Aquarion Water Company and brought their findings to my attention.  When I looked at the valuations of some Aquarion land, I found that many parcels were valued lower than the state recommendations for the past 13 years if not longer.”

Kaplan found that there are thousands of acres of reservoir property that are assessed at about $3,000 per acre.  He said, “By contrast, there is reservoir property in nearby towns appraised at $30,000 or $40,000 per acre.  If the reservoirs of Easton were appraised at the same $30,000 per acre that we found for a Fairfield reservoir, our town tax revenue from Aquarion would be about $400,000 higher.”

Aquarion is Easton’s largest taxpayer.

Kaplan said that the giant has been undertaxed for years, with that burden borne instead by the residents of Easton.  He added that he wants to know how so little attention could have been paid to the taxes from our largest taxpayer to allow this leakage for all these years.

When approached by hello, Easton, Assessor Rachel Maciulewski made this statement by email, “As we are governed by State Statutes, under the Connecticut Law the assessment of all parcels in Town represent 70% of the fair market value of the 2016 Revaluation.  Revaluations are conducted every 5 years and the property values will be reviewed and revalued during our next Revaluation in 2021.”

Kaplan later said that it had been a suspicion among some residents that Aquarion probably was not contributing as much as they should. Several Eastonites started looking into the actual assessments.

It was noted that Aquarion land categorized as forest land or farm land under Public Act 490 was being assessed at about $91 per acre. Although the state of CT recommends an assessment of about $240 per acre.

Kaplan said, “As the data was gathered we also found that the reservoirs were assessed as “residential vacant land”, but only at around $3,000 per acre.” He said he has a recent document from Fairfield showing a 215.09-acre Aquarion reservoir appraised at 6,452,700 ($30,000 per acre) and assessed at 4,516,890 ($21,000 per acre).  This is where the difference between what is collected from Aquarion, and what perhaps could or should be collected, is in the hundreds of thousands annually.

At the recent debate, candidate Kristi Sogofsky said that land is valued at different amounts per town so it may not be correct to compare Easton with properties in other towns. She also explained that an outside firm does the evaluations.

Selectman Adam Dunsby referred this matter to the tax assessor. Ms. Maciulewski reiterated that there would be no reevaluations before the time planned in 2021.