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Letter: Brookfield Needs a Town Manager

Newer Brookfield resident Dan Smolnik crunches the numbers on hiring a town manager.

To the Editor:

My new home of Brookfield has on its ballot this November a question concerning the adoption of a Town Manager into the governance system. Reflection and some research have convinced me that this is not merely the right thing for a town to do for its residents, it is imperative for any town like Brookfield that hopes to meet the reality of expenses with something other than raising residential property tax rates year after year.

That is, if you want to raise revenue, you need to meaningfully increase the sources for it. Raising the rate on the residential base over and over again has an inevitable deleterious effect on its very purpose.

To attract commercial participants to a municipality, the town needs to offer value. Value, in the eyes of an enterprise owner, is a simple proposition of access to revenue minus the cost of that access. Businesses don’t contemplate moving from town to town every year to shop for the lowest tax rate and best access to highways and skilled employees. Rather, they find a place they like that appears to be committed to those qualities that make it attractive.

No municipal chief elected official can be counted on to be around for more than two years in Connecticut, except for the 18 towns whose leaders are elected for four-year terms. This results in a fiscal climate that can change, often dramatically, with the prevailing political tide. Volatility like this is a real, demonstrable cost to a business owner, one whose dimensions calculate to be exceptionally high.

I have examined how Town Manager-run towns have fared with increasing their equalized net grand lists (ENGL) over the last five years and compared that to the average of similarly sized towns in the state using data from the State Office of Policy and Management, which collects data on every town. It turns out that, from 2006 through 2010, the state average ENGL went down an average of about 1.6 percent per year, leaving the towns budgets balanced on the backs of fewer and fewer taxpayers. However, the performance of the 16 Town Manager managed towns whose populations are similar to those of Brookfield (out of 28 total Town Manager managed towns) reveals that the ENGL values went up an average of about 1.4 percent per year.  To be sure, the Town Manager towns took on more debt that other towns, on average, in the state, but they were able to raise debt and make investments in their schools, roads, bridges and other things that make it wonderful to live in a Connecticut town because they had a reliable and growing tax base that would support it. Government is not like a business – infrastructure needs to be planned and funded often years before it is deployed – but everyone needs the government to have business sense.

I have been proud to call Connecticut home since 1971 and have missed it whenever I was away for school or work.  I know many towns are not based on an agricultural economy anymore. Nor are they economically isolated.  Having a professional Town Manager, who can provide, consistency, predictability and value to the tax base is essential for Brookfield. I commend the voters of Brookfield to vote ‘Yes’ on question 1.

Sincerely,
Dan M. Smolnik

John Hawley December 10, 2012 at 01:45 PM
What is sadder is that when people do not vote, they are actually voting. I never had any sympathy for those who did not vote and then whined and complained. When it is time to vote, get off your butt and go vote...
Steven DeVaux December 10, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Completely disagree. Given a choice of the lesser of two evils one - at least in America - is not forced to choose nor should they be. Now if you were to offer on every ballot line a "None of the above" line, there's an argument to be made that folks should offer up their opinion but nobody is, nor should they be, forced to vote and I don't believe you support that knowing you.
John Hawley December 10, 2012 at 10:36 PM
No one said a thing about "forcing" people to vote..when people do not express a choice, they get what they get with no input and no voice. Elections have consequences and if you don't participate, you live with those consequences. End of discussion.
Steven DeVaux December 11, 2012 at 12:28 AM
That's a copout to the issue. The issue is the offer of no real viable/acceptable choice. Folks stay home when they don't want to show support to any candidate. I agree that folks not voting have to live with the consequences but they knew it was going to be a bad outcome for them no matter what.
John Hawley December 11, 2012 at 03:43 AM
LOL, you of all people should know...there is no copout. The people, in a Town like ours, have every opportunity to get a viable and acceptable candidate through the primary process; through the Town Meeting process; and, by actually working for a candidate...Of course, they don't so special interests win because they depend on voter apathy...by the time the general election runs around, they have abrogated thier choice for the most part to the machines and special interests..give me a break, Steve..you know this as well as I do.....like I said, end of discussion..we pretty much agree

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