MY TURN By Thomas McClachrie

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:34

    Vernon’s 2009 budget pushes property taxes too high It’s the silly time of year again for council members, town manager and the chief financial officer of Vernon Township. Spin and misinformation are the order of the day, along with the opaqueness of the town budget. Politicians and the manager like to point out that the budget is not increasing that much this year. Actually the part of the municipal portion of the budget that is supported by property taxes is going up 14 percent this year or in dollars: 2 million. The municipal portion of the property tax levy will be $15.9 million this year if the council doesn’t get a waiver on $550,000 in pension payments. We assume that they won’t, but if they do it will lower the property tax increase to 11 percent. What all this means is that you are looking at, yet again, a double digit property tax increase or the highest tax increase Vernon has ever experienced. In 2007 we searched for and hired a new town manger with financial expertise to address the town’s financial disarray. The property tax levy was $12.4 million in 2007 and in 2009 its $15.9 million or a 27 percent increase in two years. During the same time period the county taxes have gone up by 2 percent and the school taxes by 6 percent. We rate performance of the manager and the council members by the property tax levy increases and they receive an F minus for this budget. Yet again this year, they have spent a lot of money on things they want which they do not need: $50,000 for a grant writer, $90,000 for an Economic Commission, signed a contract with the police for $450,000 in pay increases over four years. Turns out that the pay increases are actually $880,000, and with pension increases will be (approx.) $1.2 million over four years for 28 police officers. Currently we are paying $2.7 million in interest and principal for our $30.5 million town debt. Or you could say every two years we could build a new town park (Maple Grange) with the money we pay on our debt. The Economic Commission is composed of the same folks who brought you the Town Center. The grant writer’s contract was never put out to public bid but was awarded after he showed up at Council meeting. Seriously, folks, there are people out here on limited incomes and oh, yes, the economy is in the pits. All of this makes these property tax increases unsustainable. When confronted with all this, the council and manager will offer platitudes such as trust us or we went through the budget line by line. Our opinion is that they put the lines in the budget, so what’s not to like? Trust works both ways. Give the Taxpayers the option of voting on your budget. You can trust us, too. Thomas McClachrie of Highland Lakes represents the Vernon Taxpayers Association. The organization’s Web site is