Groton Town Council Approves Tentative 6.4% Tax Rate Increase

But Most Homeowners Won't See Their Bills Rise


The Groton Town Council approved a tentative tax rate increase of 6.4 percent Monday, but Finance Director Sal Pandolfo said 70 percent of Groton homeowners will not see a dollar increase in taxes because of the recent revaluation.

Councilors approved a proposed budget of $121,143,428 for the coming fiscal year – a 2.2 percent increase over the current year’s spending.

If adopted as proposed, the budget would result in a 1.21 mill increase in the tax rate, from 18.89 mills to 20.10 mills, or an increase of 6.4 percent. So, for every $100,000 of assessed value, $2,010 in local property taxes would be owed, a $121 increase over 2012.

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Councilor Deborah Peruzzotti cast the sole vote against the tax rate increase.

“I’m having a very hard time with that number in the end,” she said.

But Mayor Heather Bond Somers said the council deliberated many hours and days over the budget and had to support spending on areas like roads.

Town Councilor James Streeter said he decided he would rather spend money to repair now than millions to rebuild later.

Most of the additional spending covered capital improvements; about half were in the schools. The council also added two projects for roads in Groton City and Groton Long Point.

The budgets for the subdivisions went up $366,000, mostly for public works, Town Manager Mark Oefinger said.

Another Approach

Councilor Dean Antipas, who reviewed the budget as a councilor for the first time this year, said it's harder to cut the budget than it looks.

“And I still wonder, in the back of my mind, if there isn’t another approach,” he said.

Antipas said rather than looking at the existing budget line by line and deciding what should stay, perhaps the council could start from scratch thinking about what services the town wants to provide, and then build a budget to provide them.

Residential Values Down

After the most recent revaluation in Groton, commercial real estate values fell 10.5 percent and residential values dropped 6.9 percent since the 2010 grand list, according to a recent memo by Pandolfo.

The list showed some increases in values: industrial real estate went up 3.3 percent; personal property climbed 16.8 percent and motor vehicle values increased 11.3 percent.

The assessor signed the 2011 grand list on Jan. 31.

Dannyboy April 24, 2012 at 11:07 AM
The first step to a Town/City going to go under. Gas prices and taxes are squeezing the middle class and lower income families and we are raising taxes. I, for one, am moving my family to another State and another town, where fiscal responsibility governs, and not some sort of crazy idea that we need all these police departments, fire departments, highway department's ect.. The town counsilor's are afraid of there City counterparts and thats just the facts. Bankrupt. It doesn't have to be. All taxpayers in Groton should vote against this because the Town will go under. If you like living here than you need to step up and demand change now. Millions upon millions of dollars could be saved by combining police departments, fire departments and highway departments. Why raise taxes when you could probably decrease them if they do this? It is foolish and yes STUPID.
augie42 April 24, 2012 at 11:23 AM
If residents want more cuts to the budget, they need to go to the RTM meeting next monday and tell them specifically what they want cut. Councilors and RTM members have to ask specific questions to the town employees to determine if the investments will benefit the town either financially or through infastructure.
David Irons April 24, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Dannyboy, while I agree that any increase in spending which increases taxes is hard to swallow, the fact that this is only a 2.2 percent increase over the current year’s spending is far better than many towns have been able to do. You might also note that even with the increase in the mil rate, most taxpayers will still not see an increase in how much they actually pay in taxes since the assessment has reflected lower property values on which the mil rate is applied. Now, if you still feel aggrieved, you might take the advise of augie and attend the RTM meeting and let them know just where you would cut the budget.
Dan Royce April 24, 2012 at 01:43 PM
"But Most Homeowners Won't See Their Bills Rise" - this tries to put a good face on the fact that, although all our properties are now worth less, we still have to pay the same amount in taxes. This was a cop-out. Instead of looking for ways to save money or tighten belts, they went right to the people and pulled more money from us. If they had made any effort at all, they would have found savings somewhere and presented us with a 2 or 3 percent increase. But instead they took the entire drop in revenue right out of our hides. What happens when the housing market bounces back? When our properties are worth more this will cause issues for all home owners. If this were presented as a temporary measure that would expire when things got better, then I could see it. All they did was take the town's problem and put it directly on the people.
David Irons April 24, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Dan "What happens when the housing market bounces back" depends entirely on what happens to the budget. If house values climb and the budget remains the same, the mil rate will decrease and the dollar amount you pay in taxes will remain the same. I believe you are also asking that the increase should be held to 2 to 3 percent when you stated "If they had made any effort at all, they would have found savings somewhere and presented us with a 2 or 3 percent increase.". If I read the report correctly is was 2.2 percent. This falls within your 2 or 3 percent range.
B.R.E.E. April 24, 2012 at 02:18 PM
What is interesting is that the education budget has been flatlined for 3 years, yet our town budget continues to rise. Doesn't the education budget account for more than half of the total budget? What message are we sending when we continuously ask for sacrifices to made to education when we are not doing the same for others? I agree that the middle schools should have been brought to two, but they way in which it has been handled has been poor. We need a solid plan for maintianing/ upgrading our existing schools. The pace at which our current board gets things done is outrageous. Community meetings are nice, but we need to be sending surveys home to parents and asking for feedback using the internet. If we are to continue to thrive as a community we need to continue to diversify the tax base.We also need to remain attractive to middle class families and we need to take care of schools in order to do so.
Marie Tyler Wiley April 24, 2012 at 02:37 PM
I love the way the Patch puts on an online survey...and last I saw it was 86 % could NOT handle an increase...with 12% (I want their lives) said they could. You cannot tell me NO ONE from the board reads the Patch (just to keep an eye on the pulse of the public)...and yet...the push forward with an increase! It's a bunch of crap! I know I am not alone when I say we are barely holding on. And now the town...instead of tightening their belts just flagrantly raises our taxes. Two words; Curb SPENDING!!! I'm taking Augie42 advice and going to the RTM meeting next Monday to voice my complete dissatisfaction over a 6+ % tax increase.
Molly B April 24, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Here we go again--extract every penny from the taxpayers. Where is the fiscal responsibility? When will it stop? I'd like to see a major Charter overhaul and put the budget to the voters. Then we'll see for sure what the people want...not the Council
augie42 April 24, 2012 at 04:02 PM
You go girl!...and bring friends. Look at the budget on-line and come up with specific cuts(whole dollar amounts). I suggest going to the Capital improvement area, which is where the biggest increase from last year is located. State your reason why the town does not need to spend this $$ now.
augie42 April 24, 2012 at 04:10 PM
BREE, The only reason the ed budget has been flat was becuase the RTM cut it back the last 2 years. Moreover, state MBR (Minimum budget requirements) mandate that poorly performing schools can not be reduced below previous years budget number. The ED budget is ~61% of the whole budget....with the bulk of that coming from salaries. There are no 'sacrifices' as you say in the ED budget.
David Irons April 24, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Marie Tyler Wiley, once again, allow me to correct you. It is not a "6+ % tax increase", it is a 6+ % increase in the mil rate. Since assessed values on which taxes are based have fallen, the mil rate must increase just to maintain the current dollar amount collected to fund the budget. Yes, they could further reduce the budget and that would result in a lower dollar amount you pay in taxes. Now, please just let the RTM know what services you are willing to forgo in order for them to reduce the budget. Don't get me wrong. I do support reductions to town budgets, including in Waterford where I live and pay taxes. But we have to decide what we are willing to do without to make that possible.
C.J.Boa April 27, 2012 at 03:11 PM
The town can't just tack over a subdivision. If you want just one police,fire, public works, ect. you have to start with them.


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