Tolland Residents Concerned With Proposed Budget

Many at the annual public hearing felt that it doesn't do enough for the town or schools.

On Wednesday evening, Tolland residents gathered at Tolland High School to discuss the proposed 2013-14 budget.

Town Manager Steven Werbner has put forth a budget of . That is a jump of $482,491 from this year’s adopted spending plan and a percentage increase of 0.94 percent. Werbner said $357,000 of the increase is from the Board of Education’s $36,059,250 proposal. That is a 1 percent increase.

The overriding theme of the night was the people aren’t happy with the budget, but mostly because they don’t believe it does enough for the town or the schools.

“I do not feel that this budget represents progress for the town,” said Jennifer Avery.

Ken Kittredge told the town council and audience that he would like the opportunity to vote on a budget with a higher number. He said that he thinks the school and town need more money and that it’s time to stop telling people what they can’t afford - he wants to see people given something to step up to and something to dream about and go after.

This sentiment was echoed by residents who believe that people in town will be able to find a few extra dollars to support something they care about and want to see achieved. Showing people the value in an increase that makes sense and supports the town and the schools was also a point made by many. 

Resident Paul Krasusky said that people say they don’t want to pay more in taxes, but he asked everyone to really think about what they voting down.

“Just give it some thought please,” he said.

Hugh Jeffries, a 17-year-old student, told everyone that while he can’t vote, he is interested in the budget and the finances of the town. He said that he works part time, assembling lawnmowers in Ellington and pays taxes.

When it comes to the town of Tolland, Jeffries said that he would gladly give however much money it takes to make the town work the way it’s supposed to work.

Many people felt this same way, and these sentiments were echoed several times throughout the night.

“My family is willing to invest the additional dollars per year to sustain Tolland as a community,” said Karen Moran. “I believe the 1 percent proposed budget increase does not do that and I would like the opportunity to vote on a higher number.”

On Tuesday, the council will adopt the finalized budget. This meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Hicks Memorial Municipal Center.

chris tine March 28, 2013 at 11:46 PM
School enrollment goes down 4.5%. Why does the BOE need more money? Our roads have pot holes and playing fields get artificial turf. Taxes are too high.
R Tavolacci March 29, 2013 at 01:38 AM
Totally agree. Businesses throughout America have had to do more with less in these difficult economic times. We elect the Town and BOE officials to do the same. Most Americans are not seeing increases in their budgets and incomes and thus we have learned to do things more cost effectively. The same goes for our school budget. And instead of the first line of eliminations being teachers and programs, perhaps some their should be a reduction in the higher paid administrative (management) roles.
R Tavolacci March 29, 2013 at 01:57 AM
Families with kids want more education budget, others without kids in school want to hold the line, other people see the town's needs in areas such as road repairs but artificial turf---in all cases it has to come from the homeowner tax payer. Why in all these years, Tolland has yet to draw more businesses to the town who will shoulder more of the tax burden and also make it a more appealing place. Honestly, this Town has not done enough to draw new business, and thus the same argument and same tax burden falls onto homeowners primarily.
Harold S. March 29, 2013 at 03:06 AM
As long as you are comparing workload and salaries here is some info. The teacher's BASE SALARY range runs $41, 662 - $82,485 Avg. rate is $62,073.50 for 12-13. This is on the BOE website. The highest paid Fire Fighter / Public Safety Officer BASE SALARY is $48,984 for the same 12-13 period. I found this information on the town's website.
Crystal March 29, 2013 at 11:31 AM
Perfect example of Tolland mentality: if it costs more it must be better. (Oh, and let's teach our children that as well.)
Anthony March 29, 2013 at 11:34 AM
Paul, I don't really think it is the "$5-$13 a month" that is pissing people off. It is that is continues to happen year after year. If this type of property tax happens every year than that $13/month turns into $2600 a year in just a short 10 year period. If you continue to let the government nickel and dime you all the way home they will eventually take almost every penny you own. That is what most people are affraid of. When does it stop?
Anthony March 29, 2013 at 11:40 AM
Considering it will probably pay for itself within 5-10 years, yeah it is definitely worth it. But building that insane Birch Grove school was definitely worth the millions we spent on it. If we had saved the money we had spent on that school we could probably pay the BOE staff for the next 30 years. But yeah just go ahead and blame the sports programs that keep kids out of trouble after school.
Steven Jones March 29, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Generally, the BOE budget has surpluses at the end of the fiscal year. Often this surplus is the result of of energy usage being less than estimated, but otherwise for other variables that may have been overestimated. Nonetheless, I fully support the proposed ordinance that would keep these funds under better control by ordinance and perhaps town council authority. You can check out the story that was reported earlier this week on Patch.
Colin March 29, 2013 at 12:14 PM
Everyone should listen to R Tavolacci, he only speaks the TRUTH.
PJ March 29, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Amen! Is it that Tolland has a reputation of being anti-business? It is time for Tolland to take on an intensive marketing campaign and someone to beat the bushes to attract commercial entities and industry to help make Tolland a more sustainable and vibrant community. It 's great that the Planning and Zoning folks have done a good job of developing plans for a "village" and office park. Now it is time to take action to see those plans developed. Tight restrictions (oh we don't want that type of business) do not make it easy for businesses to come to Tolland. Otherwise, this budgeting will be a perrennial issue.
Crtopher March 29, 2013 at 02:21 PM
I have kids in the Tolland School System. I am tired of giving the Town more and more of my money. I haven't had a raise or cola in over 5 years and yet insurance premiums go up, oil goes up, electricity goes up, car insurance goes up, groceries go up... Where do you think those of us who don't have $500,000 homes are going to find the money?? I've lived in this town a long time, before you Avon wannabes moved in with your over priced homes and money is no object agenda. You claim its only the over 40 crowd that want to keep taxes down, you are flat wrong. If you feel so strongly about paying more and more and shoving your agenda down the throats of others you should be in Avon.
R Tavolacci March 29, 2013 at 02:55 PM
A great school system is indeed one of the elements of a great community. That's what brought many folks to Tolland over the years. But since the "heydays", has this town diversified, taken bold steps to expand its tax base? The answer is NO. For all the "affluent" rhetoric that have been written, where is there a finer restaurant in town aside from some pizzerias? Where are the businesses that can be a magnet to UConn? Where is the long term plan of say 10 years ago that may have indicated a declining school population, or perhaps have executed the plan to bring in businesses that wanted to be near UConn and create jobs and spending in Tolland, that would also make the community more attractive? We sit here today exchanging our different opinions on basically the same issue-raising taxes to support the school system and the town. The only thing that changed is the economy is the worst it has been since 1929, and many folks here are feeling the pain! This town has to find other ways to raise revenue-plain and simple. Its just too easy to raise taxes, but impossible to make the same homeowners bear the brunt repeatedly. We have to willing to open this town to the business community aggressively, if not it will be the same old argument.
Long time resident March 29, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Over the years the business issue has been pondered many times. There have been projections made as to the ultimate revenue benefits that would be received by the town if we fully developed our commercial districts. They were not enough to solve the dilemma of constantly increasing demands for town services. Businesses are also citizens and have a right to expect services for themselves, which increases the demands on public funds. The value of the benefits of increased tax revenue are offset by the cost of providing services. You will not solve Tollands problems by building out our commercial zones, This doesn't mean we shouldn't want desirable businesses here for other reasons, but it is by no means the cure for budget woes.
Steven Jones March 29, 2013 at 03:15 PM
You really should have attended the meeting. Or if you did, seen the slide regarding how we as a town raise revenue or receive funds for town operations. There are only four avenues of revenue raising that can legally be undertaken by the Town, and one of them is out of the question: 1) State-aid, which is expected to (and has trended, as the slide Steve Werbner presented) continue to decline, though the town has benefited from some grants which may make up for decline in state-based aid. 2) Town fees for items like library fees, park fees, etc. Those make such a benign impact on revenue that raising those would solve nothing and make little impact on the issues raised by council members and members of the public who spoke at the public hearing Wednesday night. 3) Property taxes, which is what we're talking about right now. That makes up the bulk of our revenue base, like most other towns in this state. The fourth option is raising our sales tax to 6.35%, rather than the current 6.25%. That is legally allowed by Towns across CT who wish to retain that .10% of sales tax revenue, but you'll not see this town doing that if we want to maintain any semblance of attracting business/housing development in Tolland. And whether or not it would even make a large enough impact is under a lot of scrutiny, as most consider it a 'sneaky' tax by town leaders, and others believe it would drive consumers to patron other stores in border-towns without the .10% increase.
Steven Jones March 29, 2013 at 03:20 PM
But I'll say again, just so I'm not misunderstood. If we are to vote on a higher than currently proposed mill rate increase, that increase should A) Not go entirely towards school services and B) Have current school service surpluses strictly supervised (I purposed use alliteration there to lighten the mood a little :) ). We as a community need to provide the best available to our youngest so they will help revive our economy in years to come, but do so in a way that is effective, smart, and thoroughgoing in terms of providing stability to the BOE's staffing/financial expenditures.
R Tavolacci March 29, 2013 at 03:26 PM
Success breeds success, business friendly attracts more business. There are indeed more demands put on the town, but the opportunities increase. If being business friendly is not a solution, then what is? Doing nothing for decades? What is the grand plan of the town? If it wants to be a nice, bedroom only community, highly selective to non-residential expansion, with great schools, then the price to pay is in ever-rising residential tax base. I ask again, what is the plan, hence then we can find the right solution.
Jim G. March 29, 2013 at 03:32 PM
The bottom line is that Tolland isn't, never has been, and is unlikely to ever be a magnet for business or commercial development. We are too far out on the string - effectively, there's nothing between us and the Mass border - and businesses locating here would have to import employees from the Hartford direction, where there is a a lot more competition in every way. (Yes, there are willing workers here, but not in every commercial and business field.) There's not much reason for heavy commercial/retail to locate here, when their customers would come largely from the same, already-served Hartford/Manchester direction. They'd just be halving their sales elsewhere. What we've had is a succession of town-focused boutique and specialty businesses, and that's all that would go into the long-proposed "Village" concept for Exit 68. We have empty shells all down 195 of failed upscale boutiques already; we don't need more. I don't know precisely what the solution is to get the taxes off the back of residential sources... but I suspect that a lot of those residents live here BECAUSE we don't have a huge, ugly Home Depot/Wal*Mart plaza in our midst. Tolland is an isolated residential community and always has been. The odds of successfully making it anything else are slim. Those who want the advantages of such a town without being willing to pay what it costs should move to the kind of town they want.
Jim G. March 29, 2013 at 03:34 PM
...make that "Should move to the kind of town they deserve; low mill rate and all the loveliness of shopping plazas and car dealerships."
McW March 29, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Anthony---you are so much missing the point, and then go on to make some absurd points of your own. A) Nobody has produced, other than speculation and conjecture, that an artificial turf field will pay for itself EVER, let alone in 5-10 years. They have actually been shown to cost more than natural turf fields, reference: http://turf.uark.edu/turfhelp/archives/021109.html B) your seeing the need to spend that cool million is an admission that the cost of the near new field when built was a total waste of money. Flushed down the perverbial toilet C) your counter in assaulting the money spent on Birch Grove simply enforces the fact that you're of the view that "it's OK to cut, but not from what I want", ie, the sports program. D) Nobody is putting the "blame on the sports program". Nobody has yet to post and ask that programs be cut, so your statement is invalid. E) It shouldn't be the job of our educational system to keep our kids out of trouble after school. It's bad enough that they're expected to babysit kids while they're in school. F) having 4 children go through every level of our schools, and each of them participating in athletic programs, I was then and am now an advocate of pay for play. I've paid several thousand dollars each year to have some of my children play hockey. My choice, my expense. If that's deemed to be unaffordable to someone, there are plenty of less expensive alternatives to "keep kids out of trouble".
Anthony March 29, 2013 at 04:47 PM
McW, in reference to the Birch Grove expense, I believe at the time Birch Grove was built we needed another school in Tolland, a high school, why the BOE proposed an elementary school and it was approved is beyond me. Also i never said it was the "job" of the educational system to keep kids out of trouble after school, just that sports help to do so. I'm not really sure why you're arguing the pay for play thing because I never agreed nor disagreed with it. Congrats on your kids playing sports and you paying for them to play, would you like some sort of medal?
Mary March 29, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Financially responsible is one thing. As an individual I have the ability to put an addition on my home by taking out loans, but that would not be financially responsible. But if my gutters are damaged I will borrow money to do that because not fixing them will lead to bigger and more expensive problems in the future. If I don't fix them I shouldn't be surprised when I have extensive water damage two years from now. The schools are just asking for the gutters to be fixed if you look at their budget. Please don't ask why Tolland is being passed by other towns in our DERG in a few years. The answer is....you didn't fix the gutters.
Mary March 29, 2013 at 05:11 PM
I'm sure Karen and Ken make plenty of donations. It is in the form of PTO donations which gets used by the schools directly. In fact many parents "write a check" many times a year to help out. Schools are already relying on PTO donations far too much.
McW March 29, 2013 at 05:20 PM
Great response, Anthony. You know....the congrats and medal part. That brings a lot to the conversation.
Colin March 29, 2013 at 05:20 PM
More businesses = More jobs; More jobs = More money; More money = everyone's happy PS - Gutters need cleaning.
Anthony March 29, 2013 at 05:24 PM
You are the one who origanally brought it up so I was just responding to it. Not really sure what you were bringing to the coversation originally.
R Tavolacci March 29, 2013 at 05:46 PM
I never suggested walmart or home depot. Why can't Tolland draw business that may want to be close to UConn? Remember Pfizer? Why not take an aggressive approach rather than a "can't do it" approach? How about high tech companies that want and need the value of a university environment and visa versa. Co's that can bring jobs and commerce. That's why Tolland is stuck with high cost to operate--no plan to progress. Its not about big box retail, its far more grand than that. I guess empty store shells of upscale boutiques are better since it keeps the traffic down, avoids future discussions like having a drive through (oooh!). As for the "Village" concept--you have got to be kidding. Where is it? Where is the "Village" center of Tolland where everyone can gather? Oh that's right, between two busy cross-roads--nice. What a non-existent plan! Just keep on going through the motions....and the taxes keep rising!
Emily March 29, 2013 at 06:22 PM
Tolland should sell firewood. There is certainly enough forest could be successfully harvested for a few years until the economy picks up. Discount cord-wood for residents and a little more for others. That is good honest work for some of the men in town that can't find jobs as well.
Jim G. March 29, 2013 at 08:10 PM
I wasn't replying only to you, but making a general statement. Tolland does not have the location for major commercial, and minor/boutique commercial without another draw is a continual failure in progress. The "Village" concept is to build a walking-area commercial center at Exit 68, but it cannot succeed if the only tenants are local providers (that will be hard to get to) or boutique specialty shops (that will fail serially over time). It isn't that there's "no plan to progress" as much as there's no plan to remodel Tolland into a Manchester - and thank 'eaven for that. My point is that the only way we could build a substantial commercial base is to turn Tolland into something it's not and something no one wants to see it become; the solution is for those who don't like living in a town like this to move to one they do. A small town cannot be everything to everyone, and Tolland is a generally upscale residential community, not an old mill town that needs to drag industry back into its center. There are any number of possibilities for specialty industry, but about the only thing Tolland could to to attract them is the one thing counterproductive in every way: offer substantial tax breaks. No, thanks.
Jim G. March 29, 2013 at 08:13 PM
And two years from now when the forest that is harvestable is gone, we... do what? Start clearing town forest to keep the industry going? Shut down and leave the participants unemployed again? We don't need a short-term workfare project. We need a plan to bring sustainable commercial base here that does not reduce the livability of the town.
R Tavolacci March 29, 2013 at 10:20 PM
Now that's a gutter man we all need!


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