Monday, July 09, 2007

Middletown Tax Increase

I didn't blog immediately after the last Council meeting which approved the new budget because there really was nothing new to report. It played out as a repeat of the previous meeting wherein Councillor Ed "The White Knight" Silveira intro'd his resolutions to apply funds which are now sitting & collecting interest and reduce our tax increase this year to zilch.

No use in repeating the discussion which was essentially the same, although somewhat briefer. It should be noted when there is a SMALL crowd (?under 15) with a rather short agenda, Councillors should KISS (Keep it Short, Stupid). We've all heard it before. What reporters (& the public) really want is SHORT (get to the point). We've heard it all & gratefully, most did remember this.

Both sides now use "fiscally responsive" which renders that phrase meaningless. If I hear it one more time I may scream.

What did happen since they last met was the Council voted to spend $300,000 of these "extra" funds to fix street drains. What this translated to was less of these unused funds which could be returned to the taxpayer, rending some of this discussion moot. Planned? I think that I may actually miss some of the drains, such as those on Green End, which seem to defy gravity in their placement.

So the plan seems to be to pay for the proposed police station out of these funds sooner than was planned & then build a fire station containing other municipal offices too. The latter will not need a bond issue, I believe. You get the drift here. We voted for a bonded police station, but by overtaxing us & holding onto the monies from the GMAC housing, we will also get the fire station.

Is this a good thing? In the long run it is cheaper, but it also evades the voting process. A compromise could have been worked out, but it evidently wasn't worth the trouble with only one Councillor proposing a zero tax increase. Hey, maybe it's just me, but this would seem to be an awfully difficult position to cling to come the next election. But maybe the tax decrease will show up then. The White Knight unexectedly took some wind out of that sail, however.

The new trash plan was already discussed. I agree with Councillor Bob "The Inspector" Sylvia that there may be some seniors who will have difficulty with these new fees. However, he had no alternative proposal. Where was "Mother" Theresa Santos here who usually shows so much concern for seniors? And it's not just seniors who have $ difficulties here. Many owners/renters who aren't seniors are having difficulties making it.

Perhaps some funds from the Council or public donations could be set up for those not having the funds to set aside for trash. It's sad to see that our tax monies now give us even less. When the taxpayer sees little everyday results from their monies, it becomes more & more difficult to put up with ever increasing property taxes. And it's going to get much worse with declining State funds from the lege. Expect to see many more fees & other hidden charges.

One might also at least discuss the possibilities of making local gov't leaner & more efficient. Our Sr. Ctr. spends much more than Newport or Portsmouth with little monies received from actual membership therein.

Other communities seperate their Senior Centers from government. They give them an annual allotment & their governing bodies (non-profits) decide how best to spend them. Same thing with the public libraries. I'll bet most don't even realize that Newport public library is not a gov't dept. in these cities. I'd refer to them as quasi-government. How about a committee (or two) to explore this possibility? Also pulls politics out of these groups.

So a tax increase this yr. The lege seems unable/unwilling to make a definitive stand about their funding of localities. While their committee report calls for MORE school funding, they freeze it. With declining state revenues, the rubber is going to hit the road soon. Newport's slot site is going to play a major role next yr., I think.

The good news here is that at least the Council is being civil to each other. I have yet to see, however, indications that they are "playing together nicely." We're all in this together. Politics is all about compromise & knowing when not to. It's not about winner take all (except on the national evel, of course).
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