Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Fixing a flaw in the process

The Reader's Forum
Journal Inquirer
May 7, 2007

Rejection of the first budget referendum in Vernon has redirected the tax-assessment process to correct the primary flaw.

Material available for taxpayers' review at the polling place clearly indicated that owners of the lowest-value homes would be assessed with a higher tax burden than owners of average-value and higher-value homes.

This flaw in the initial process would have had an immediate consequence for the town: A significant tax increase on homeowners with the least ability to pay will precipitate an immediate shortfall in tax revenues, which will leave the budget underfunded.

Homeowners with limited means, such as retired seniors on fixed incomes and working families on modest income with stressed budgets, will be forced to move out of Vernon. Placing their homes up for sale will cause a glut of housing on the market, thereby accelerating an already declining housing market.

The council adopted a "phase-in" approach that spreads the tax increase over three years, which reduces the first year's tax payment and also shifts the increased tax burden to higher value homes. (I don't know how, but I'll take it!)

The "phase-in approach" increases the tax burden - on all homes.

The questions are: How soon? How much? And, for whom?

Council members were anxious to see this complete picture of their decision authorizing assessors to proceed. It must be realized that the statute authorizes only our elected representatives (Town Council) to proceed with any change to the tax process and this is subject to review for compliance with the statute.

In defense of the assessor's seemingly incomplete presentation, council members and concerned taxpayers must realize that they have had only two weeks since being authorized by the council to examine this phase-in approach.

The assessor and his staff should be congratulated for producing the encouraging data indicating we are headed in the right direction.

It is also comforting to see the Town Council is looking out for us.

Tune in to tonight's (May 7) council meeting for an update.

William J. Green