Letter To The Editor:
Ten years ago the Town of Essex needed $12.9 million to cover all of its expenditures. The projected expenditures for next fiscal year amount to $21.4 million. The $8.5 million difference, a 66% increase in annual expenditures over the past ten years, is rather steep. The numbers are neither Republican nor Democrat. They are simply numbers reflecting the choices we as voters have made over the past ten years. They are not indictments of the Board of Finance or the Board of Selectmen. However, the rising expenditures are cause for concern, especially in this tough economic environment.
Moreover, the amount of tax collected from the town’s property owners has increased 85%, from $10.9 million ten years ago to a requested $20.2 million. This is because the funds received from State and Federal governments have declined and therefore the town’s property owners now pay for a greater portion of the town’s expenses than in prior years. Given the current state of the economy, that decline is likely to accelerate, placing an even greater burden on taxpayers.
According to the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc., our population has only grown by about 240 people in the past ten years. The increases in the town’s expenditures are not the result of needing to provide significant services to these few additional residents. In fact, funds paying off the expenses associated with major projects that were undertaken years ago, for example renovations and additions to our schools, have added little to the amounts that require funding each year. Likewise, funding that will be used in the future to purchase needed equipment and provide for replacements of outdated equipment add little to the overall budget. These numbers combined represent only about 5% of the requested budget.
These budget numbers provide a clear warning that we need to reduce spending. Gas prices, food prices and the housing crisis are real concerns that must be taken into consideration when budgeting for the coming year. Has your income or wealth increased 85% over the past ten years? Is your home worth the same or more than when you purchased it? In most cases household wealth and incomes have been hit severely by this terrible economy. Many people have lost their jobs. People living on fixed incomes have seen no increases in their income while their costs have escalated. Our town is not immune to these problems. Under the circumstances, when taxpayers are under pressure from all directions, the Town of Essex should make every effort to bring down its operating expenses and look for ways to lighten the financial burden carried by all its residents and taxpayers.