Council President Cienki Stands By the FY2018 Tax Cut

by | Mar 7, 2018

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

During all the talk about the merger of the former EG Fire District with the town (in 2013), Town Manager Gayle Corrigan has extolled the ability of fire districts to be able to, essentially, tax themselves out of financial difficulties.

Cities and towns have not been able to do that since 2008, when the state’s 4 percent tax cap on municipalities went into effect. The cap means property taxes – residential and commercial – cannot be raised more than 4 percent over the previous year’s overall tax levy.

As Town Council President Sue Cienki has said repeated over the past year, “We cannot tax our way out of this,” referring to escalating costs.

Now, faced with a potential legal claim of more than $2 million – the result of litigation against commercial impact fees found to have been imposed illegally by the former fire district – as well as long-ignored capital spending on both the school and town sides, it was worth asking President Cienki: Did she regret cutting the tax rate for the FY2018 budget.

No, she replied last week.

“Government spending is completely out of control,” said Cienki. “Taxes are crazy.”

Cienki also said she was not sorry to have lost the ability to set higher-than-4-percent tax rates as the fire district had.

“I believe in what happened,” she said in reference to the merger. Cienki’s predecessor as Town Council president, Michael Isaacs, wrote a Letter to the Editor over the weekend that defended the Town Council’s decision in 2013 to merge the fire district into the town.

The results of the tax cut have been evident this year most visibly in the lack of a librarian at the high school library, rendering that space basically unusable.

But unseen costs include the facilities budgets for both the school and the town. According to school buildings facilities director Bob Wilmarth, the school budget in recent years has been cut so bare to the bone that the capital requests in his budget for FY2019 are for items he has needed for the past 10 years. Additionally, at recent meetings, Manager Corrigan has talked about aging fire trucks, among other capital needs.

If the town raises the tax rate to the maximum 4 percent, that would bring in an extra $2.25 million, most of which will be spent fulfilling contractual obligations. The school district is reviewing its budget this month for submission to the Town Council in April. The town has until mid-June to finalize the overall budget.

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  1. Don Joyal

    Is funding for the high school librarian in the new school budget? I can’t get an answer from anyone. I sure hope they are filling that position.

    • Elizabeth McNamara

      They have not covered that part of the budget yet. The high school budget is on the agenda for a budget workshop on Tuesday, March 13 (along with budgets for the other five schools). The meeting will be held in the library at Cole Middle School at 6:30 p.m. and it is a public meeting.

      • Renee Young

        I received in the mail, a letter that my new property appraisal has gone up and my tax bill will reflect the new appraisal. I’m not at home so I don’t have the letter with me.
        So, I’m assuming are taxes are going up.

        • Elizabeth McNamara

          We don’t know if taxes are going up and won’t until the Town Council approves the 2019 fiscal year budget sometime before June 15. Your appraisal MAY cause your taxes to go up but that is not guaranteed. According to the tax assessor, appraisals townwide went up 3.7 percent, so the tax rate – before anything else happens – will drop to equalize things. It’s complicated, but the bottom line is, you will need to wait until June to know for sure what your new tax rate will be. (Hope this helps more than confuses!)


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