Melillo: Fundamental Arguments in Mill Rate Editorial Misplaced

Letter to the editor submitted by Andrew R. Melillo, May 16, 2018

The Town of Greenwich is a beautiful place, it is the place of my birth and where my English and Italian immigrant forefathers called home at very different times; and like any other town in this state it requires upkeep and maintenance. But while some argue to frantically hitch our wagon to a star, there is an unfortunate undercurrent that threatens this Town, centered on the nearly obsessive-like focus on increasing taxation and promoting fiscal policies of all-at-once-spending (and borrowing) by the municipal government. This philosophy threatens the town’s financial health, as well as guarantees increased mill rates in future years to finance the proposed runaway spending and debt obligations.

Not a single, fair-minded, moderate Yankee soul in this town would propose to cut-corners or to neglect town infrastructure. Yet to argue against decreasing taxes, coupled with the same group of people promoting irresponsible financial practices, negatively affects the future health and tranquility of the hard-working families of this Town who would have to front those costs with higher taxes, in a state that already taxes too much.

The Town of Greenwich has contingent liabilities like every town, city, group or organization. A contingent liability is a potential liability that may occur, depending on the outcome of an uncertain, future event. This is not a unique issue that Greenwich faces and is not considered a valid argument against lowering taxes. Is the reality of life as a series of unanticipated and uncertain future events a valid argument for raising taxes, or at the very least not lowering them? A rainy day fund? Sure, but raising the mill rate? No. The Town of Greenwich has needs, yes, but to argue that Greenwich has special needs (which remained undefined) does not pass muster as substantial evidence of a need to raise taxes. The cuts to school funding were disheartening, yet arose out of Hartford and the political party of Governor Dannel Malloy who showed they would rather commit to: (i) slashing millions from state funding for schools (instead of bureaucratic waste), and (ii) attempt to cut disproportionately from Greenwich as if the town and its students were less worthy of receiving such aid. The real shame is two-fold in that, (a) party politics decided to appease center-right calls for reductions in runaway state spending and unjustly hit politically sensitive communities such as schools, rather that bureaucratic waste, and; (b) the average amount spent per year on each student in this state is just over $16,000…while in 1995 the average was just under $9,000. How much more funding will be required before it is enough or equals the tuition costs of a sending a child to a private institution for their education?

When comparing the statistics between sample populations it would be wise not to compare total percentages of Westchester County to that of a single town in Fairfield County. It is apples and oranges. If one were to appease the misplaced comparison, the 2010 Census statistics for Westchester County indicate that 23.5% of its total population is between the ages of 25 to 44 years old. The statistics for the Town of Greenwich identifies 25.7% of the population between 25 and 44 years old. The data suggests that if the youth retention policy of Westchester must be scrutinized, the Town of Greenwich may have a thing or two to offer. What I believe is the real cause for the constantly changing demographics are (a) families having less children thus making increased competition for attracting a smaller population of younger people to towns (than in decades prior); (b) the desire for younger people to seek urban environments, and; (c) the globalizing economy. Greenwich does not suffer from a unique demographic problem which in this new, globalized world is transient and always on the move to the new place, the new market, the new idea wherever it is around the world. Nor is this new to our time for I am confident our forefathers complained in town when after the American War for Independence all the “millennials” of their day left the coastal states in droves for the cheaper farmland and more lucrative prospects up North and out West. The vacuum was filled by mostly German and then Irish immigrants.

People come to our town for the schools, the parks and perhaps our buildings which are top-notch and give testament to the citizenry and government of this town. Whether the maintenance, upgrades and advancement are too slow for others is a separate discussion entirely. Is it wrong that the Town possibly wished to lower taxes on its residents? No. Do rational, private individuals spend their own money better than a local, regional, state or federal government? Yes, every time. Lowering taxes puts money back in the pockets of every day working people. With that extra money, if a school program is cut, the money in their pocket goes towards privately paying for that program elsewhere that previously may not have been affordable; if flowers in a park have not been timely planted there is now money in their pocket to allow increased donations to beneficial groups like the Greenwich Garden Club, and; if a neighborhood requires a vital, necessary upgrade to infrastructure there will be the Voice of the People to petition the government on such matters if and when the problem should arise. To subtly argue to possibly raise taxes because the government may need them in the future is not a valid argument. Raise them when they are needed, not when they are feared for or coveted. If and when the problem does actually arise, assess the unique problem as it has occurred, review what resources are needed to resolve the particular problem and request those resources from the people at the time they are needed. Each problem is unique and each problem has to be prioritized. The Town of Greenwich is in good hands. The Town does not need to raise taxes, as the Left in this town is arguing; it does not require more immediate spending and it certainly does not require devolving into poor and risky financial practices and philosophies that will put the overall health of this Town at risk. Let us not go down the road and commit many mickles, for they always make a muckle. The Town should stay the course and live within its means.

Kind Regards,
Andrew R. Melillo