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Volunteer Push Helps Budget Pass by 605 Votes

Parents, Farmington Future members took to the phones Thursday to get voters out.

The massive effort to pass Farmington's 2012-13 budget included thousands of phone calls, hundreds of flyers and dozens of hours speaking at Town Council meetings and to parents on soccer fields, playgrounds and at school concerts.

For the dozens of parent volunteers, the effort was exhausting. But in the end, it resulted in 2,288 yes votes, and it was enough: the budget passed by 605 votes, with just 25 percent of voters turning out.

For the parents, it was a nerve-racking day. At 1 p.m., voter turnout hovered around 10 percent. At 5 p.m., it was reported at just 16 percent. Farmington Future members and other volunteers continued a campaign of phone calls, reaching out to every parent, urging them to get to the polls.

“We put in a lot of effort, made a lot of phone calls and got people to understand the budget and even educated people that the referendum exists and that it’s important to have a say in how your town is run,” said Liz Fitzsimmons, who with Beth Kintner leads the budget advocacy group Farmington Future. “We had a great group of people who were very supportive.”

And it worked. At 7:39 p.m. at the Community Center, several parents came rushing in, young kids in tow. Many had on baseball uniforms, one child was in stocking feet.

Lou Rossitto was one of those parents.

“I got here because I was encouraged by all the flyers, hearing about it at every event I attended and I saw the numbers and the consequences [of the budget failing]. Even the kids knew,” he said.

Another parent, who had been at a sporting event, rushed in at exactly 7:59 p.m.

Farmington Future leaders and volunteers grinned and thanked each parent who came through the door. Board of Education Chairman Mary Grace Reed greeted them.

“I’m proud of every single parent and individual that made the effort to get the vote out and to vote and to understand the budget and know how much we need this budget,” Reed said after unofficial votes were tallied. “Thank you, Farmington.”

Town Council members, volunteers and apparently voters echoed a common theme: the $90.3 million proposal is a good budget.

“It’s a good budget and people realized that,” said Town Council Chairman Jeff Hogan at Town Hall Thursday night. “People appreciate the value they get in Farmington.”

The $90,335,142 2012-13 town budget includes a 3.1 percent increase in spending over 2011-12 — with a 2.75 percent increase in education spending and 2.28 percent increase in town operating expenses as well as $1.8 million for capital projects.

Polling Place Yes No Irving A Robbins 662 557 West Woods 224 185 Community Center 782 537 Farmington Library 620 404 Total* 2,288 1,683

*Numbers taken from the Head Moderator's Report. All numbers include absentee and property owner votes.

Beth Kintner May 04, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Investing in our children and in our town *is* fiscally responsible, Chris. Our elected officials on the Town Council and BOE, along with our Town Manager and Superintendent do an great job of providing excellent services for all of our residents and a stellar school system for the children of Farmington while keeping taxes at a very reasonable level. I am so proud of everyone who showed us today that they do not take these things for granted – they spoke with their votes! Their voices were heard, and it’s a positive message!
Ron White May 04, 2012 at 10:49 AM
Irresponsible is to deny a generation of our kids an adequate education. We are surrounded by towns with second rate schools as well as towns with first rate schools. We were becoming a second rate town. It is good to see this trend reverse. Responsible government is protecting the assets of the town at the lowest possible cost to tax payers. We need to focus a little more on the assets.
Farmington resident May 04, 2012 at 10:52 AM
This is the first time I didn't bother to vote. Based on what happened last year if the budget failed any money cut from the budget would have been restored at the next special meeting and passed on the second vote. Must be nice to get two bites of the apple. Wait until next year when the teachers get their raises (giving 0 % for one year is nothing, I haven't had a raise in four years, look at what the other towns did) the BOE asks for another increase and re-evaluation sticks us again.
Bill Generous May 04, 2012 at 11:12 AM
25% is an OK turnout. Only about 3 of 10 budget referendum votes in CT exceed 25% turnout.
Bill Generous May 04, 2012 at 11:23 AM
To date, the typical revaluation adjusted tax rate increase this year of budgets that have been adopted has been just under 2% compared to almost 3% for Farmington. For 10 of the prior 12 years, Farmington's effective tax rate increase has been higher than the median tax rate increase of CT towns.
Denise Connolly May 04, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Thanks to Beth and Liz of Farmington Future and their volunteers for all their efforts for getting everyone to vote! This is a amazing accomplishment! Kudos to the residents of Farmington for voting YES!! I'm glad that people finally realize what a huge bargain it is to live in Farmington. I know my family and I are happy we made the decision to move to to this town 15 years ago and feel blessed to live here.
arleen kline May 04, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I have to disagree with calling Farmington fiscally irresponsible. We have one of the lowest mill rates and we pay some of the lowest taxes in the area. Where are you during the town meeting when the slide presentation is being presented comparing taxes and mill rates of different towns? Compare the taxes on your home with a comparable home in West Hartford, Avon or Simsbury and you will be happy you live in Farmington. Also our per student cost is less than the amount spent in surrounding towns. Please stop criticizing Farmington's spending. If you know someone in West Hartford please talk with them. Their bulk pick-up costs $75 per occurrence compared to your ability to call and get things picked up in Farmington for free. I suggest you do your own comparisons. You may be pleasantly surprised. .
Bill Generous May 04, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Arlene, comparing mill rates won't give that clear a picture of taxes since towns have revaluations in different years and that can greatly effect the mill rate. Farmington will look reasonable when compared to Avon, Simsbury, and West Hartford as they are high tax towns. Here is how the 2008 median home property tax ranks as a percentage of median income for home owners (i.e. tax burden) compares among CT's 169 towns: Farmington: 73rd highest Avon: 100th highest Simsbury: 123rd highest West Hartford: 153rd highest
Marlin Williams May 04, 2012 at 04:34 PM
How much are taxes going up this time? Truly a win for the parasites in the public sector unions, 'specially the NEA. Being unsustainable, pretty soon this whole rotten system will collapse underneath its own weight. Meantime, diversity coordinators and art teachers pull down $90,000 per year while the rest of us struggle to make our mortgage payments. Celebrate while you still can.
arleen kline May 04, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Mr. Generous, you made my point exactly - West Hartford, Avon and Simsbury are high tax towns. Farmington is not a high tax town. Incidentally in 2005 before we moved from our Farmington condo to our Farmington house we looked at homes in West Hartford. Generally speaking in our price range the prices of homes were comparable to those in Farmington, but the lot sizes were much smaller and the taxes were almost $2000 more than a similar house (the one we bought) in Farmington. And, in my opinion, and this is only my opinion, the Farmington school system was better than West Hartford's system.
Robert Parker May 04, 2012 at 05:40 PM
You just have no clue.
Robert Parker May 04, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Use your real name. And its called revaluation, not re-evaluation.
Robert Parker May 04, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Bill...your medium income comparison just does not make sense. You have to compare town services and similar properties. Comparing the incomes of the people that live in those properties is not a fair comparison. We receive a tremendous "bang for our buck" in Farmington.
Saul Freedman May 04, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Oh snap, you told them Robert.
Saul Freedman May 04, 2012 at 06:08 PM
This is Farmington Future's way (comprised of elites in both local political parties) of purging the unwashed from Farmington. Taxes keep going up, only the well-to-do will be able to afford to live here, or those that they subsidize and make dependent on a government handout.
Ann C. Jett May 04, 2012 at 06:10 PM
To refer to the NEA as "parasites" is shortsided to say the least and ridiculous to put it politely. The salaries of educational professionals, teacher, special education and support services as well as administrators are worth every penny throughout the course of a school year. However, I think one might be hard pressed to find a teacher earning $90,000. That being said, if you think teaching a child, molding a young mind is worth less, you should spend a day in a public school. We hear time and time again from residents who say "I haven't had a raise in 2, 3, 4 years". Do the prices of gas, food, electricity, postage, healthcare, insurance and everything else that is part of daily life remain stagnant? I'm not even talking about cutting expenses such as cable TV or cell phone service. We are talking about a way of life - providing residents with the best in public services and a superior educational system while still continuing to maintain among the lower mill rates in the state. This is about what you are receiving for your tax dollars. Even if you do not have children or your children have moved through the educational system in Farmington, we cannot deny current and future students the best possible public school education Farmington has to offer. In addition, our public servants deserve our support as well. It is unfathomable to think that you can reside in a town with the caliber of services and not see increases in taxes incrementally.
Saul Freedman May 04, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Ann, let me step in for Robert here and note that it's "shortsighted" not "shortsided"
Ann C. Jett May 04, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Mr. Freedman - thank you for catching my typo. I did mean "shortsighted" but I'm glad you caught it. To your point, I don't speak on behalf of Farmington Future but those of us who support the budget and continue to vote yes are not interested in any type of gentrification. While at one time Farmington may have been considered an elitist community, I believe that currently it is very socio-economically diverse. To imply that Farmington Future or any individuals who advocate for Farmington is tantamount to suggesting that those who question the inclusion of Project Choice/Project Concern seek to keep the perception that Farmington is "lily-white". It's merely jumping to inaccurate and extreme conclusions.
Ann C. Jett May 04, 2012 at 06:41 PM
To imply that about....
Ann C. Jett May 04, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Farmington Resident - your choice to not vote yesterday rests on your own conscience. Don't put your ill-conceived notions about how the democratic process works on those of us who understand it and work through it appropriately.
Robert Parker May 05, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Saul..don't ever speak for me. I am a member of Farmington Future and currently work 3 different jobs, totaling between 50 and 70 hours per week. My wife also works 40+ hours per week and we also both find time to volunteer in the community. If thats an 'elitist', then so be it. Just call me unwashed.
Ann C. Jett May 05, 2012 at 12:25 PM
LOL@Mr. Parker! I, too, am among the "unclean"! And unoddly enough, yet another reference implying bringing undesirables into Farmington. Who is the elitist, Mr. Freeman?
Bill Generous May 05, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Robert Parker: With regard to taxes and spending, there are an infinite number of comparisons one can come up with when comparing all 169 of CT towns. Tax burden, sometimes considered an "ability to pay" measure is a very useful measure whether it be measured as total or an average or as a median. Just because two houses with two different incomes are experiencing a different tax burden doesn't make the measure not useful. "Ability to pay" is relevant whether houses in one town are twice the size as another town. Certainly the level of services in a town will effect the tax burden and that would be one of many things a voter would consider when voting. I see countless towns claim they are giving a great "bang for our buck" although I usually don't see comparisons proving that.
Farmington resident May 05, 2012 at 01:00 PM
I don't vote for or against the budget every year. If it is reasonable then I will support it. At least I am still working and can absorb the increase easier because I have a salary coming in. We need to remember that seniors on fixed incomes may not be able to absorb these increases without cutting out something like medicine or fuel. My taxes have tripled in the 18 years that I have lived here, I don't consider that fiscally responsible of my tax dollars.
Farmington resident May 05, 2012 at 01:05 PM
A democratic process lets stand a referendum vote, it doesn't allow a few hundred people to send the same budget back for another vote. Look at the sewer project, that failed but I see that the town is going to put the question back on the ballot in November. Don't tell me that I don't understand the process, I have been involved in politics for a large part of my life. What I don't understand is how you can call our process a democratic process?
John Haffner May 05, 2012 at 06:10 PM
What has not tripled in the last 18 years? An extra 13 dollars a month for the average household is hardly something to cry over. My favorite post however was this: "Here is how the 2008 median home property tax ranks as a percentage of median income for home owners (i.e. tax burden) compares among CT's 169 towns: Farmington: 73rd highest Avon: 100th highest Simsbury: 123rd highest West Hartford: 153rd highest" By all means go to those towns then. Then you will see actual doubling of your taxes. The biggest message from this budget is the LEAST amount of NO votes in years.... Either people are getting the picture about how great Farmington is, they have moved and pay MORE taxes somewhere else, or have figured out the price over 18 years goes up in EVERYTHING in society. This whining after the fact for those that didn't even vote is boring. Best wishes, save up that extra $13 bucks a month, and enjoy some of the best services and mill rate in CT.
Paul Chotkowski May 06, 2012 at 06:35 PM
My prediction. One of the consequences of the vote is going to be the Farmington Education Association’s [FEA], the union for the town’s teachers, upcoming proposal for a “catch up” pay increases to make them whole for their givebacks. After all, if the town can spend their givebacks, then it is totally reasonable for the union ask for their "sacrifice" to be returned. I dare say that the unionized teachers didn’t give up their “entitlement” just so that the SOS, BOE, and TC could spend it on something else more important, now did they? Mark my words, there will be a request for a greater than usual pay increase / benefits cost contribution reduction next time around and the PTB will look favorably on the request as being “only fair”. And that is an example of how to increase spending in a time of economic hardship directly from the pages of the Progressive / Socialist’s handbook, the latest version entitled - It is only $13 Bucks a Month subtitled This Year!
Robert Parker May 07, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Still waiting to see which office you are running for. As far as I am concerned, you are all talk and no action.
Saul Freedman May 07, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Robert, you are so involved in our lovely town, when are you running for office?
Joanne Lawson May 10, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I don't think you would be hard pressed to find a teacher earning $90,000. The Farmington Public Schools budget book that I picked up from the BOE shows 59.3 out of a total 345.75 teachers in the Step 13 Level 3 category with a base salary of $90,571. That's 17%.

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