The New London budget referendum is quickly approaching; Aug. 6 will be here and gone before you know it. For many it will come and go with no particular consequence. However, if you are a registered voter in New London, then Aug.6 will be a date of great consequence to you. This is your day to show the administration of this city that you demand the transparency and accountability they promised.
Budgets are created every year as a plan for how the city and the public cchool system will spend our money. In New London, our city budget is approximately $40 million and our school budget approximately $40 million. On Aug. 6 voters will have the opportunity to vote on the city budget, school budget and mill rate (which regulates the tax rate) to determine whether they should accept or reject the budget and subsequent mill rate as the administration has laid out.
I am asking voters to reject all three items on the ballot. While I have spent the time to go through the budget and have found numerous issues with where and how money is being budgeted, I am not asking you to reject the budget based on those findings. I am asking you to reject the budget because the administration has failed to provide you, the taxpayers, with a justification for these budgets based on current and accurate accounting.
Did you know that the city paid $30,000 for an operational audit? An accountant goes through each of the city's departments and determines where they can save money. Great, right? Except the report that was supposed to have been completed by March 31 (prior to the submission of the current budget) is still not completed. Why? Because the Finance Department, which is under the direction of the mayor, has not provided the auditors with the data they require to complete this report. When asked when the information might become available, the finance director said January 2014! We feel it's the taxpayers' right to have their tax rate based on complete data, not guesswork.
Did you know that the school administration has been asked year after year to provide a complete line item by line item copy of their budget to the City Council to justify their $40 million budget? This budget does not reflect that. It's important to have data to properly assess where needs lie based on costs for infrastructure, maintenance, administration levels, classroom support levels, and basic needs for the students - such as working drinking water fountains. Without data and detailed reporting on these items, voters are left to guess on expenditures and their necessity. That's a terrible way to run our schools
Those seeking an "accept" vote will use their scare tactics to sway your vote in their direction. They will tell you programs like the Senior Center, library and recreation departments will all have to be cut. They will tell you that those opposed to the budget are just activists who are hell bent on opposing the mayor. These things could not be further from the truth. Remember, none of these terrible things happened after the rejection of last year's budget.
Without proper accountability and transparency there is no justification for the proposed budget and 3.38 percent tax increase.
Vote "reject" - it's that simple!
Katelin Tell lives in a New London and is a member of the group LOT. To learn more about the group visit Looking Out For Taxpayers on Facebook.