The COVID numbers seem to be worsening fairly rapidly. For the week ending April 30th, the rate is 47.5 per 100,000 with 34 new cases in Easton. That is certainly an understated number given the number of home tests. What seems to be happening is that again we have a highly infectious strain which seems not to make most people sick. It is good that you probably will not get very sick, but still, getting COVID is at least a real annoyance, and at most pretty unpleasant and still potentially dangerous for those with reduced immunity. Just be careful and think about your neighbors. There will be no changes in town restrictions.
It has been a busy week with the referendum on Tuesday. While the results are posted on the town website, all four items were approved by large margins.
The town approved a budget with a 1.02% increase. The Board of Finance set the mill rate at 28.44 for a decrease of 12.1%. Again, remember your taxes are calculated by the value of your property multiplied by the mill rate. While a 12.1% decrease sounds great, most peoples’ property values increased, therefore, it does not necessarily compute to lower taxes. On the other hand, reducing the mill rate by 12.1% is obviously better than raising it.
We think that the budget increase is a small and is a very responsible number. However, there are a few things you should know. In part, this small increase was made possible by the fact that the debt payments for what the town owes on its bonds dropped sharply this year as it does periodically and this is a fortuitous, but somewhat random event. Also, the return on our pension has been outstanding and our town pension is over funded, therefore we were able to substantially reduce our contribution to the pension fund. These are one-time events that will not be duplicated next year making it harder to keep next year’s budget increase to a minimum, particularly because our contribution to the Region 9 (Joel Barlow High School) budget continues to increase as the percentage of Easton students at the high school continues to grow.
Regarding the mill rate, after the town passes a budget we look at our revenue and determine how much we need to collect in taxes to pay for our expenditures; that sets the mill rate. However, there is one more decision to be made. The town has an undesignated fund that contains the money not spent by the town annually versus what was budgeted. This money serves as our “rainy day fund” for unanticipated expenses.
When we accumulate more money than is needed in that fund, we can transfer funds to help pay for expenses and that ultimately reduces taxes. As you can imagine, there is sometimes disagreement among Board of Finance members as to how much we need to have in our “rainy day fund.” If a large amount is withdrawn one year and taxes are reduced, but the next year we cannot afford to withdraw the same amount, we will be forced to raise taxes to pay for our expenditures. All of these factors go into setting the mill rate. In any event, we are strong financially and I want to thank the Board of Finance for their efforts.
The demolition delay ordinance was passed. If someone is looking to tear down a building of historical significance a waiting period of not more than ninety (90) days will be imposed to encourage the preservation, documentation, and protection of historically sensitive buildings, structures, or parts of it. Thanks to Bruce Nelson and Elizabeth Boyce of the historical society for their hard work in getting this passed. We will now begin to set up a committee to review demolition requests.
Lastly, we voted to sell 18.7 acres at South Park Avenue to the Aspetuck Land Trust for $470,000. Since the town bought this property in 2008, there has been much consternation about its ultimate fate. This is the first step toward resolving this issue and preserving this beautiful piece of land and the adjacent Mill River. There is still more work to be done to settle the fate of the remaining acreage. Perhaps of equal significance is the vote itself. For the first time in our history, the decision to sell this land to our great partners the Aspetuck Land Trust was made not by the Selectmen, but by you the voters. Your voice in favor of preserving this land was loud and clear, and it was YOUR voice because the people of Easton last year passed the land use ordinance. You looked at the issue, sorted through the facts and made your decision.
We had several days of a number of car break-ins or thefts. While the police are collecting information and working hard to prevent these crimes, it is worth noting that not one theft occurred where the perpetrator actually broke into a car. In every single crime, the cars were either unlocked or had keys in them. Please be careful.
If you are like me, I cannot believe that we are already planning our annual Memorial Day parade which begins at the firehouse on Center Road at 9:30 a.m. and ends with a ceremony at town hall. It is a wonderful annual town event where you can sit or walk and enjoy with your neighbors. Please come join us.
We all want to keep Easton clean and beautiful. I have heard complaints about litter on our roads. It may well be that some of it comes from people passing through town, but please for all of us let us be mindful to not litter and keep Easton beautiful. Also, we have been receiving an increased number of complaints from the processors about the contamination of Easton recyclables. If there is ordinary waste in the recycling containers, it is a laborious process to remove that ultimately increases the cost substantially paid for with your tax dollars. Please separate out your recycling and keep it clear of any contamination. If you have questions as to what is considered recyclable, please refer to https://www.eastonct.gov/recycling.
Last Saturday we held an electric vehicle exhibition which was well attended. One vehicle that was discussed was the Westport police electric vehicle. Charging stations and possibly electric town vehicles will remain items that we explore. This very much fits the character of our town from an environmental and conservation point of view.
Easton Town Hall has several job openings, please refer to the website https://www.eastonct.gov/home/pages/job-postings-all-job-postings-for-the-town-of-easton.
The Easton Garden Club Garden Mart is a tradition here in Easton. The Garden Mart is back in-person this Saturday, May 7th, at the Easton Firehouse Green at 1 Center Road, Easton from 9:00am to 12:30pm for this year’s plant sale! Learn more by visiting www.eastongardenclubofct.org/gardenmart-2022.
Happy Mother’s Day,