the Holy Grail
Lonnie Brennan, Georgetown
Theres good news
for almost everyone in town this month, but not so in
The Finance Advisory Board has been meeting and the
O word has been tossed around a lot.
Override, that is. Hefty tax increases in the future, or
the gift that keeps on taking. But for now, lets
start with a brief follow-up on our current tax bills.
Last month, this column reflected the first initial blush
at some tax assessment information unearthed recently,
and while some might take offense to printing questions
and data and charts, Ive always believed its
best to kick the hornets nest and get things out in
the open to discuss. It can be uncomfortable for many
(including the kicker), but you can never tell where it
will truly lead.
We Made a Mistake
Subsequent to that column, I met with our assistant
assessor/office manager and asked him why certain
properties had such wide changes in tax assessments (plus
15% for someone, minus 15% for someone else??), and
specifically asked why a house owned by an assessors
daughter stood out as having dropped so dramatically in
The short answer: there were some errors made.
In this case, it appears we can blame Charlie. You see,
Charlie works for an outside assessing firm which the
town hired to help expedite a state-required
re-certification process this past year. Time constraints
were high and in the rush, we got quantity, not
quality. Charlie went around town and made his
notes and gave his inputs as requested. But in the
process, he made some changes.
I pulled out a ruler to measure the nearly 4-inch-tall
stack of paper (estimated anywhere from 800 to perhaps
1,000 potential changes/errors) presented on the
conference table: redlines/notes/changes/errors. By way
of reference, there are 2,388 single-family dwellings in
Fellow taxpayer, I must confess it was more than I could
digest in one sitting. Staggering - the shear volume of
work required to examine these changes. I started wondering: What was Charlie thinking? How
did he look at one of the elected Board of Assessors
daughters house, a house with a balcony deck out
back on the second-floor, overlooking a golf course, on
nearly two acres of land, and change its classification
to a ranch? A wrong classification that
needed to be fixed and corrected, I was told.
Clearly, theres a lot of work needed now to troll
through Charlies work. Most of the changes are
perhaps minor and wont affect your tax
bill, perhaps. And a lot of the things might not be
errors at all. It might be good work by Charlie, and
theres no sense in condemning him for a few (?)
errors. But, my suggestion: if you received an increase
higher than 6% this year, ask the assessor one question:
have you changed my house style or the number of stories
in my home in your assessment this past year? If the
answer is yes, you know what to do! Ill tell you
one thing. If you received a decrease in excess of 6%,
folks will be looking at ya.
Ill keep kicking this nest. There appears to be
more things to learn and it will be interesting to see
what corrections are to be made.
Wheres the Budget?
Want to learn about the proposed requests by the various
town departments for next years budget? Proposed
new hires, dramatically changing hours and corresponding
salaries (changing a part-timer to a full-timer), etc.?
Well, as of this printing you still cannot get any
information from the Finance Advisory Boards
I asked if the board would share the draft budget
proposals with you, the taxpayers, by posting these
drafts on its websites (it has an official town website,
and recently the board started its own private website).
The answer: NO!
Actually, for full disclosure, the answer wasnt
just no, it was a very vocal FinCom member Sandy
Gerraughty admonishing me and calling it irresponsible
to post any draft budgets online, as I have done at www.George-townToday.com.
I attempted to explain the benefits of allowing folks to
play along at home by reading the budgets
which are sometimes discussed when they televise some of
their meetings (hey, at least some of their meetings get
televised now, a big improvement from prior years), and
that getting the information out there, in the public
eye, for folks to see the draft can only help. No. No. No
was the answer.
So, I posted the new budget online again via wireless
card connection, before leaving their meeting. Being a
selectman has one privilege: the Advisory Board cant
deny me access to the information, and what I get, youll
She Said She Said?
Not sure what to add about the exchange between FinCom
member Sandy Gerraughty and our Library Director Ruth
Eiffert. What should have been a simple exchange of
information ended up with FinCom member Tim Rhu seemingly
apologizing to Ms. Eiffert for the rough treatment by a
couple of his fellow board-mates.
Heres how it went:
Sandy: I guess, Ruth, I have a question for you. Two
years ago when you came before the FinCom, in regards to
looking for the library, we specifically asked you what
your anticipation was for increases in operating
Sandy: And you said you didnt anticipate any
increases in operating expenses.
Ruth: No. No, I did not.
Sandy: Now, weve got ... and we asked you if you
could operate your library based on the current operating
budget as it stood two years ago and you said, yes, you
Ruth: No, I did not say that.
Sandy: Yes, you did.
Ruth: No. No.
Sandy: Its just that...
Ruth: From the moment I approached this committee, every
year that I have presented this budget to this committee
... I have consistently asked for an increase ... You
certainly would be remiss to actually admit that you
wouldnt need any more staffing or you wouldnt
need any more operating expenses for a new larger
And on it went until Ruth referenced at least three prior
meetings where she had presented a proposed increase.
Subsequent to this meeting, Ruth and Laura Zalewski,
chair of the library board of trustees, presented
documentation and references from at least five prior
public meetings and presentations to the town and boards
to prove their consistency. You cannot go from a
4,000 square feet building into a 16,000 square foot
building and not have more utilities, Ruth
explained. Its just impossible.
Perhaps, if we can get more budget data and drafts and
projection up on websites and such, we can avoid she
said/she said moments in the future?
Can I Sell You a Bridge?
I would be remiss myself to not mention that at this same
FinCom meeting they chose to leave the Bailey Lane
Culvert Crossing closed. And when our town administrator
presented his request for $5,500 to get emergency access
through that area (police, ambulances), and stated that
he had worked with our highway guy on the numbers, our
highway guy told the FinCom, I didnt come
prepared tonight to talk about this. I dont have my
file with me. He then went on to object to the
opening, as he has in the past, instead seeking a
complete re-build of the area to the tune of $60K in
engineering work and perhaps $200K in construction work.
The culvert crossing spans 12 feet and is approximately
four feet above the mud. In March, an ambulance got lost
down at the dead end at 1:22 a.m. one morning. Confused
that we now have three Bailey Lanes, Upper, Middle, and
Lower, the driver got stuck. Human error. Were told
it wasnt an emergency, just a taxpayer on Mohawk
Circle waiting to get ambulance transport to the
hospital. Poor Mohawk Circle. Tick, tick, at least a
5-minute delay as the ambulance was misdirected.
PTA: Sometimes It Is About the Money
And on a much more positive and happy note, over the past
seven years the PTA has contributed more than $300,000 to
our schools. This is extra money contributed by donors
and those who support the various PTA fundraisers and
Weve been blessed with the hard work and leadership
of the executive board. Hats off to PTA President Lisa
Woodford, Amy Purcell, Heidi Garozzo, and our long-time
Treasurer Robin OMalley who will be stepping down
after years of tremendous service. Everyone extends the
greatest of thanks to you, Robin.
Lonnie Brennan is a selectman in Georgetown, you can
email him at lonnie@the
*Send your questions comments to ValleyPatriot@aol.com
The March 2007 Edition
of the Valley Patriot
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