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West Hartford Budget Referendum Is Tuesday

Posted by whforums on June 14, 2008

So. Here we go again.

The West Hartford budget is up for a referendum vote (maybe we can make this an annual holiday) on Tuesday, 6/17. The WHTA (the people who want you to vote “No”) are determined to remind you of a running 36% tax increase over the past five years, while West Hartford FIRST (the people who want you to vote “Yes”) are determined to remind you that the town has a moderate per pupil expenditure rate. Meanwhile, town council relations are at least superficially contentious and actual budget information remains either unreadable (for most of us) or clunky. Just to top everything off, the Board of Education decided, two weeks before the vote, to refund $500,000 to the town. Depending on your point of view, I suppose we could decide that that’s:

1. Good reason to vote “No” and to cut next year’s education budget
2. Good reason to vote “Yes,” assuming we’ll get refunded every year by the board’s “new methodology”
3. A strangely timed “refund.”

Before we enter the voting booth, we all ask ourselves questions — “How will I vote? Why? Am I informed about both sides of the argument, or do I only know the rhetoric?” I haven’t yet decided how I’ll cast my vote — and, for my own selfish engagement in my democracy, would like to hear from those of you who have a compelling argument to make for one side or the other.

There’s another lurking question here, too — both WHTA and FIRST seem pretty media savvy, what with their fairly rocking lawn signs and slick mailings and newspaper ads. So how can their websites be so mutually craptastic?

Yes, I teed that up for you, so go ahead.

8 Responses to “West Hartford Budget Referendum Is Tuesday”

  1. WHTaxpayer said

    Important decisions should be based on facts, so here are a few:
    Fact: WH property taxes have gone up 36% in the past five years while demand for services has been flat (School enrollment same as it was in 2003)
    Fact: Everyone’s taxes went up by the same 36% amount
    Fact: Town budget is projected to increase 34% over the next five years driven primarily by fringe benefits that are increasing at twice the rate of the rest of the budget
    Fact: Unless the State increases payments to WH, property taxes will increase 44%, on average, to support the budget
    Fact: Property taxes will not be increasing uniformly, as in the past 5 years. Actual increases depend on the percentage change in assessed value following the 2006 revaluation.
    Fact: The 2006 revaluation shifted property tax burden from commercial to residential properties and within the residential segment, from high-priced to lower-priced properties.
    Fact: Some property owners will see little change in their property taxes in the next five years while others will see their property taxes more than double.
    Fact: Statistically, the largest increases in assessed value occurred on the lowest priced properties, meaning the greatest increases in property taxes will fall on those least able to afford them.
    Fact: There are about 25,000 tax-paying residential households in West Hartford. 7,000 or so are rentals and the remainder are owned.
    Fact: It takes roughly 4 tax-paying non-school households to offset the cost of 1 household with children in the public school system.
    Fact: West Hartford has 50% more elderly and 100% more 18-24 year old tax payers than peer communities. These two demographic segments represent 30% of the WH population, tend to be at the low end of the income scale and do not have children in the school system.
    Fact: 700-900 single family homes are sold each year in West Hartford. Solid data on rental transactions is not readily available but rentals, by definition, are more mobile.
    Fact: If as few as 10 non-school households per year leave and are replaced by households with children in school, the increased demand for services will hike average property taxes by an additional 1% over the next five years. Again based on assessed value, to some this means little or no increase while to others, it means a 2% or more additional increase.
    Fact: Once initiated, the resultant vicious cycle is self-perpetuating – taxes go up, non-school households leave and are replaced by school households, demand for services increases, so taxes go up some more.
    Fact: The only way to avoid this is by limiting property tax increases to something close to the rate of real wage growth. If costs are increasing at a rate higher than this, cuts must be made in other areas to offset.
    Fact: Wages and benefits make up 74% of current budget.

  2. whforums said

    This is exactly what I was complaining about — rhetoric over content. I’m tempted to let the spam filter eat you.

    Your “facts” are nothing more than a cherry-picked slippery slope, that, when put together, form some sort of incantation.

    It’s as though we can’t talk for catching our breath …

  3. WHTaxpayer said

    Before we enter the voting booth, we all ask ourselves questions — “How will I vote? Why? Am I informed about both sides of the argument, or do I only know the rhetoric?” I haven’t yet decided how I’ll cast my vote — and, for my own selfish engagement in my democracy, would like to hear from those of you who have a compelling argument to make for one side or the other.

    If facts (and they are all factual – if there are any questions about any of them I would be happy to provide the source) can’t be used as the basis of a compelling argument, then all you have is propaganda. Rhetoric, on the other hand, is the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion.

  4. anony mouse said

    hey pot this is kettle – black.

  5. John Hardy said

    Yeah, craptastic?

    Substance or style, which was more critical? Here’s where we came down – we worked on putting facts out there. I’m thinking that was more important than pretty graphics.

  6. whforums said

    Mercy, people.

    The quality of the ads of the “No” and “Yes” was pretty high. Both showed a significant grasp of rhetoric and audience — two things that go a long way in persuasion. But having seen the ads first, I had expectations of the same from the websites. I didn’t get it.

    But if you look at my tone, I was also being somewhat tongue-in-cheek. The “I teed that up for you” comment was welcoming, if not inviting, criticism of this site. If anything, the comments about your sites was an implicit reflection of my own insecurity as I start out on this venture. If you’ll allow the armchair psychology, it was “deflecting.”

    That said, I’d be interested to know — do you feel your websites live up to the caliber of your ads?

  7. John Hardy said

    Okay, so I got “teed” off.

    And your website is clearly much prettier than ours. And I really do appreciate your efforts to provide an active forum here. So don’t obsess.

    To answer your question – the point of our website content was not to “live up to the caliber of []our ads.” Rather, the point was to do exactly what we state on the site: to distill a ton of information about the budget and its related processes down into summaries featuring what we believed to be the significant and critical elements. I wrote a good deal of the material out there, particularly as regards the Municipal and Capital budgets, and that was the goal – to inform, not to persuade. I will say, though, that we genuinely believed (and still do, BTW) that most WH residents are persuaded by the truth.

    But yes, we lost. And we need to make sacrifices. It’s a matter of how and where – I am gathering my thoughts about your post today https://whforums.wordpress.com/2008/06/19/what-does-a-defeated-budget-mean/ (sorry, I’m just too damn tired to work out the HMTL tonight) and will respond in the next few days.

  8. […] 22, 2008 I’d like to keep this simple, because, as I’ve said before, it seems that too often throughout this “budget season,” rhetoric has overwhelmed […]

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