December 19, 2014

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Grafton puts income tax increase on November ballot

GRAFTON — The village will ask voters to approve a 0.25 percent additional income tax for five years in November.

Council President David DiVencenzo said Council unanimously voted to place the five-year additional income tax on the ballot.

“Income to our general fund has seen a decline of support that we have traditionally received from state and county governments. We are being asked to take on more local responsibility for our general fund expenses,’’ he said. “Of our general fund expenses, approximately 60 percent goes toward safety services and employee wages, the remaining 40 percent goes toward daily village operations of street repairs and maintenance, etc.”

Grafton Mayor Megan Flanigan said money from the levy will be used to cover general operations of the village and its police and service departments. If passed, the levy would go into effect Jan. 1.

Flanigan said there is no cost to a homeowner, but a Grafton resident who does not work in a community that withholds 1.75 percent in local taxes will need to pay additional income tax to the village.

“It would generate approximately $210,000 in additional funds for the village,” she said.

Flanigan said she doesn’t support the measure and wants a forensic audit to be conducted of the village’s books.

“The village has significant increases in costs from the Police Department, but these items cannot yet be discussed due to union negotiations not being finalized,” she said. “I recommend a policy levy to cover the costs. I would like to see a forensic audit completed before any other options are discussed.”

However, DiVencenzo said the money helps improve the quality of life for residents.

“Council has been diligent stretching and leveraging the general fund dollars to keep the village safe and to maintain, repair and make improvements to infrastructure. Without this tax increase, the pace of scheduled improvements projects, in our long- and short-term plans and the village’s ability to maintain our quality of services to the residents will be severely hampered,” he said.

DiVencenzo said he doesn’t think residents’ frustration with the state Route 57 construction project, which has tangled traffic in the village while a third lane is added, will affect the vote.

“If residents understand the scope of the Route 57 project and the tremendous amount of infrastructure being rebuilt, which is being completed mostly using funding from federal dollars, they will realize that the long-term benefits are huge both for Main Street and our residential neighborhoods,” he said.

DiVencenzo said he believes the additional revenue will “bridge” projected shortfalls in the general fund budget.

“I believe current and former Council, along with our clerk treasurer, have demonstrated a history of being good stewards of our public resources,” he said.

Contact Melissa Linebrink at 329-7243 or mlinebrink@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MLinebrinkCT.