Council Questions Timing of Tax Hike

FAIRFIELD – With a light agenda for Monday night’s meeting, County Council devoted considerable time to discussion of the Fairfield County School Board’s February vote to approve a $20 million bond for the construction of a new career and technology center. That bond comes with a tax increase, from 24 mils to 34 mils, for two years, and Councilman David Brown (District 7) said the increase comes at a bad time.

“A 34 mil increase is going to financially impact residencies and it’s also a pretty good jump for second homes, businesses, trying to attract industry,” Brown said. “Apparently they (the School District) loaded it up with the most millage rate the first year, then it goes down a little bit the second year, then levels out. I don’t know if that’s so lawyers can get paid up front, but that concerned me.”

Brown said he had received numerous calls about the tax hike and asked if the School District had made any effort to contact the County prior to voting to issue the bond. County Administrator Phil Hinely said the District had not done so, and corrected Brown on the actual amount of the increase, saying the increase was up to 34 mils, and not an increase of 34 mils. Davis Anderson, Deputy Administrator, said he had met with Kevin Robinson, the District financial officer, to discuss the impact of front-loading the millage rate.

Council Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) said he was concerned that the District had voted on the bond without a referendum, adding that any hoped-for relief for the bond debt from future V.C. Summer tax dollars is further out than some anticipate.

“We keep talking about the V.C. Summer money being a few years out. The V.C. Summer money is six years out,” Ferguson said. “The earliest we will see that money is 2019. Folks need to be real careful about how they start spending that money. Tax increases never come at a good time, but when you’re trying to get off the train we’re on, we keep putting road blocks up in front of ourselves, and this is going to one of them.”

Ferguson said that while it is clear that a new career center is needed, the question is how the District has chosen to fund it – and whether or not the District actually has the ability to follow through with the bond.

“Does the school need a new career center? Yes they do. But is this the time to do it and is this the way to finance it without going to the public? I’m not sure about that,” Ferguson said. “I’m not sure how the public is going to feel about that. That’s a question for them and not for us. When I asked Mr. Hinely to check and see what their bond load was, they didn’t have anything like what they’re talking about borrowing. Those numbers aren’t anywhere as close to what they’re talking about putting out there in bonds.”

Councilwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) noted that the tax increase on a home slightly over $100,000 in value would be more than $200 [See accompanying story, page 1].

“And that’s a permanent residence,” Brown said. “Putting that on a second home or a business, you’re doubling that.”

Ferguson said the Council was resigned to go along with the tax increase, regardless.

“This council has absolutely nothing to say about tax increases,” Ferguson said. “We’re just going to sign on at the end, evidently, the way this thing looks.”

Councilman Dwayne Perry (District 1) suggested that County administrators meet with the Superintendent in order to at least get everyone on the same page.

“Rather than wait, we could meet with the administrators and superintendent so we don’t get to the end and they give us a number,” Perry said. “Maybe we could schedule a meeting to see what they’re actually trying to do. I still think we can be proactive and reach out, even though they’re not reaching out, and try to work together. Maybe they don’t have a good understanding. I’m not sure.”

Comments

  1. David Lee Waters Sr says

    See, it’s not just citizens, but elected officials that have serious issues with the actions of the school board as well!

  2. gmd123 says

    Please County Council… speak for us. Here’s your chance to REPRESENT. I sure hope you don’t just, “sign on at the end.” We are often told that businesses won’t come unless the schools, parks, museums, etc are improved – I think that is backwards. Those things improve AFTER the businesses come. And the businesses come for economical advantage. How blind can we be? Do we really think all our businesses went to China and Mexico because they have good schools??? Give me a break!

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