There’s “Good Special,” Then There’s “Out of Line, Bad Special”
Woodbridge residents can agree our town is special in many ways, and those ways have motivated long-time residents to be just that – long-time residents. The same special qualities draw new residents to enjoy what we have to offer. Unfortunately, our taxation rate is off-putting to potential home buyers and puts a financial squeeze on those residents with limited incomes.
Let’s see how we compare to other towns during this current fiscal year. In FY22-23, Woodbridge’s mill rate ranks as one of the top 10 mill rates in the state out of 169 cities and towns. To be fair, you have to look at the median home price as well as the mill rate to calculate the overall tax burden. We did, and the data show how far out of whack Woodbridge taxes are. We looked at the towns with the top 10 mill rates in the state in the current fiscal year, then applied each town’s current median home price to calculate a comparable tax burden. While our mill rate was the seventh highest, our tax burden of $17,617.43 was by far the highest – $5,694.77 higher than the next town (Hamden). Every town has to raise funds for essential local services and education, to be sure. But you would expect that lower home values mean higher mill rates and higher home values mean lower mill rates. That was not the case here – the median Woodbridge home value is $575,000 while the median home value in the other nine towns is $263,815. In our case, we have both high home values and high mill rates. That combination is indeed special – a bad special.
Another point about our budget. Every resident comment at the Preliminary Budget hearing was ignored – as is clear from the final budget mailed to residents in advance of the Annual Town Meeting. To my recollection, the four items that were changed from the Preliminary Budget were never even discussed at the public hearing. Residents should know Republicans are not all about budget cuts. We support John Adamovich, the head of the Recreation Department, who cited the need for an additional $10,000 to cover the rising cost of the summer Rec Department staff. His budget request was ignored. So, this budget game continues and we lose. The lack of quorum at the Annual Town Meeting meant the budget passed. This system is broken. The fix is a Charter revision to vote on the town budget as we do the Amity budget.
Another important budget topic is the status of the Beecher roof repair/replacement project. For those who don’t know, every big rain yields huge leaks in the roof – especially where most students enter and exit the school. Absent huge sheets of plastic and strategically placed buckets inside the building, our kids would sit in soggy clothes on rainy days. And this is “Wealthy Woodbridge”? Sure doesn’t look like it from inside Beecher. Sheila McCreven of the BOS confirmed that the soonest roof repairs could begin is the summer of 2024. What she did not mention was that, as the Chair of the Beecher building committee, she failed to hold previously agreed bi-weekly meetings between December 2022 and March 2023 to advance the roof project, and thus missed the window to get the work done this summer (2023). That delay, combined with Beth Heller’s four-month delay in even forming that committee, doomed any hope of a fix this summer. In Beth Heller’s last Update, she attempted to run cover for these repeated failures by pointing out the changes in Beecher Superintendents over the last three years. However, one has nothing to do with the other. The roof is a town project – town government is in charge and the players have not changed.
So where do we go from here? The Town and Amity budgets are set for the coming fiscal year, and so is our tax burden. But we can and should do a few things. One, continue to push the First Selectman to abandon her beautification plans for the town center and repurpose any legally moveable funds toward commercial revenue generation projects. Two, vote for a much-needed change in town leadership in November. We need a fiscally responsible First Selectman who will prioritize the growth of our business sector and convene a Charter Revision Commission to reset how we develop and approve our town budget. Three, vote for fiscally responsible Amity BOE candidates who will put an end to repeated multi-million-dollar budget surpluses that effectively overtax us. These are good starts, and you’ll hear more in the coming months about how our candidates will deliver these improvements.
<span class="fineprint">This is an opinion not necessarily endorsed by the Woodbridge Town News.</span>