In a wide ranging discussion, Mayor Leo Diana and Minority Leader Cheri Pelletier comment on the “State” of Manchester in an appearance on Manchester Review in March. The biggest issue, as always, is money- your money- the tax dollar. Diana says “We can’t afford it all.” There are too many expensive infrastructure needs to do all at once. “Manchester provides more services than many other towns and it’s costly.”
Our schools, library and other Town buildings need repairs and upgrades. The SMARTR Commission’s recommendations alone could amount to $40-60 million dollars in school renovations. Director Pelletier, a member of the SMARTR Commission, explains that up to 65% of school renovation costs may be reimbursed by the State (of course that’s paid for with our tax money also). Pelletier says a $12 million dollar bond for the library is the same as $50 million for schools due to the school reimbursement. The cost of rebuilding a library would not be reimbursed.
State budget cuts will hurt and may result in a corresponding increase in property taxes. Cuts in the school transportation reimbursement to Towns have been recommended by the Governor as well as eliminating the property tax on autos. Pelletier says we are paying for a two tiered educational system- funding public schools as well as charter and magnet schools. “Unfunded state mandates are hurting us.” As state cuts are made, the burden shifts back to the local property tax. Manchester bonding is currently at $74 million but is much lower than what the state allows- up to 900 million. Let’s not go there!
In addition to budget issues, Diana and Peletier reflect on how they gauge public opinion, Walmart, the Parkade Redevelopment Project, the Nichols property acquisition and the unfairness of the Condominium Trash Rebate Program. The Mayor says “if we keep the rebate program everyone should get it, if not get rid of it.” Condo owners- keep close track of this one- you could lose out. Manchester Review hopes the Directors will look at Vernon for a model to resolve the issue fairly.
Asked about Town pensions, Diana and Pelletier explain that employee pensions are now all funded by defined contributions with the exception of Police, Fire and Teachers who still have defined benefit plans.
The “State” of Manchester,The Mayor and the Minority Leader can be seen at 9 p.m. on Mondays in March, Cox PATV Channel 15 or any time on YouTube- Manchester Review: The “State” of Manchester. Comments and questions are welcome at email@example.com.