Could Conn Students Save New London?

Mayor-Finizio-addresses-CGA-cadets

New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio spoke at SGA’s general assembly meeting on Thursday, September 13 about New London’s financial situation and upcoming budget referendum.

“We are at a very critical point in the history of New London. We’re broke – flat broke, in fact,” Mayor Finizio said.

He explained that the current situation is due to years of financial mismanagement including overestimation of revenues, poor record keeping and an overall negative attitude towards raising taxes or cutting services. As a result, the city is now on the brink of bankruptcy.

Because New London is a municipality, bankruptcy would mean the state of Connecticut would take over all financial management of the city, notably mandating a minimum 32% tax increase.

“This would crush the city of New London; most small businesses would fail, the downtown that I’m sure many of you enjoy going to, would be sacrificed to correct this budget gap,” he said.

To mitigate this, Mayor Finizio has proposed a budget with a 7.5% tax increase, amounting to 79 cents more per day for each New London resident. Ninety-one percent of this tax increase would correct the revenue overestimations of past years. Without a tax increase, Finizio fears the city will run out of money as soon as April.

The budget will be brought to referendum on Tuesday, September 18 – a vote that is expected to be very close. Mayor Finizio argued that even though Conn students don’t pay New London taxes, the outcome of the referendum would have an impact on campus.

“I know many Connecticut College students vote in New London, but they don’t often vote in referendums. This budget proposal affects you just as much as anyone else – you live here, you are affected by our services and by our quality of life,” he said.

“I hope you’ll vote, you’ll get your friends to vote, your roommates to vote, your neighbors to vote and that you’ll vote yes,” Mayor Finizio concluded.

Over the weekend, New London residents reacted to Mayor Finizio’s pitch on the College Voice website. Some expressed anger at Finizio’s one-sided portrayal of the story, while others explained the realities that a tax hike would inflict on New London citizens. The main theme, however, was a plea to students to research the proposal and listen to the opponents before making a decision.

“I consider [Conn students voting in New London] fair only if they, as a voter, are informed on the issues and come to their decision knowing how it might affect their adopted city. I consider it unfair if they, as a voter, are merely voting the way one side instructed them to,” Adam Sprecace, New London City Councilor said in an email conversation with the Voice.

Sprecace explained that his “no” vote on Tuesday is not because he disagrees with the tax, but because he considers the current document incomplete.

He claims that the document lacks important pieces of information, including employee salaries, employee health insurance costs, debt service details and internal service funds. Most of these were included in the Mayor’s original proposed budget, but are not found in the City Council’s adopted budget – the version that will appear in the referendum.

“The importance of properly documenting the Fiscal Year 2013 budget is so that the City Council can do its job over the course of the fiscal year and ensure the Administration is spending taxpayer dollars as approved during the budget process. We currently have no way of doing that with the existing budget document,” Sprecace said.

It was reported that this additional information was posted on the city’s website at about 4pm on Monday evening.

On the other side of the issue, Laura Natusch, New London resident, supports the budget proposal and echoed Mayor Finizio’s concern of looming bankruptcy, “I support this budget because back in 2006, New London had fifteen million dollars in savings, and now we have only three hundred thousand dollars left. To say we don’t need this tax increase is like saying the earth is flat, or that global warming doesn’t exist.”

Responding to comments on the Voice website claiming Conn students don’t have the right to vote on an issue that will not affect them, Natusch hopes, on the contrary, that many students turnout to vote. “You’ll be affected if our city goes under. You’re part of our community and you deserve representation. New London’s last referendum was decided by only nineteen votes. An informed, engaged and organized group of Connecticut College students can absolutely save New London from bankruptcy,” she said.

The votes of approximately 200-250 Conn students would make the difference. The Office of Volunteers for Community Service (OVCS) will be offering transportation for registered students on Tuesday, and SGA has been working through the weekend to register interested students.

Please check back for more information as the story evolves.

Last updated Tuesday, September 18 at 8:25am.

  

29 thoughts on “Could Conn Students Save New London?

  1. Jackie Hernandez

    Please take many moments to consider your vote. My husband and I live in New London with our four children and pay taxes here. I have lived here my whole life. My parents and sister also still live here. The budget, as it is published now, is not complete and has too many holes in it for us to consider a 7.5% tax increase right now. We need more information and we need to look for other areas we may be able to cut back on. Financially, the city of New London is not alone in their hardship. Many tax-paying residents are in similar positions. Before you cast your vote, consider that many of us are just looking to be better informed and more confident that this is the best budget for our city right now. The price for the tax payer is too high to make anything less than a confident, informed choice. Our families have invested many years into this city and want nothing less than to see it reach its potential, but we must remain grounded and recognize that a 7.5% tax increase may not be the only option. I’d like to give our city and its officials the chance to bring something better to the table. It can be done.

    Reply
  2. Barbara White

    It is absolutely ridicu;lous that the mayor is turning to CT College students to come out and vote on the New London budget issue!!! They are not NL residents except for 2 semesters a year, they are residents of where ever they come from. They live on a campus that doesn’t pay taxes to NL. These students should not be allowed to vote on such an important issue that truely does not affect them!!

    Reply
  3. Shannon Brenek

    Thank you to Connecticut College students for their interest and concern for their adopted city of New London, and for welcoming our mayor and allowing him to discuss this very important topic with you, and his stance on the matter. As a permanent resident, I would ask you to further educate yourselves and speak to proponents of voting No on this referendum, as it also has positive points, not least of which, is the ability to allow the mayor and our city council to look deeper into the budget to see if they can agree upon a budget that is more palatable for the community. Our city council and residents have knowledge that the budget as proposed has quite a bit of missing data and it will also allow the above mentioned parties to fill in these gaps. This is certainly no matter that needs to be rushed into or pushed through without a deeper investigation! Thanks for taking the time to research this matter before voting and for having the permanent residents’ best interests in your thoughts.

    Reply
  4. Susan Plunkett

    This is also my hometown and ask that you please respect the people of this city. Most can not afford a tax hike. A lot of the Ct. College students help in our schools to teach our kids. Do you think the kids parents can afford a tax hike on there property? The threats that Mayor Finizio has told you are not true. The council makes the cuts not the mayor. There are a lot of items missing from this budget and we just want to find out why things are being hidden from us. Please help the people to get a No vote. Mayor Finizio is known for his smooth way of talking. Please don’t be fooled like we were.

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  5. Kenneth Lewis

    Congratulations to all the new Connecticut College students that have become New London Electors, no one takes their decision to vote and to register lightly. We welcome you not only as voters but as legal bona fide New London residents, citizens and taxpayers. Yes taxpayers. I will paste some of the state statutes for your review:

    CHAPTER 143*
    ELECTORS: QUALIFICATIONS AND ADMISSION
    Sec. 9-12. Who may be admitted. (a) Each citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, and who is a bona fide resident of the town to which the citizen applies for admission as an elector shall, on approval by the registrars of voters or town clerk of the town of residence of such citizen, as prescribed by law, be an elector, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section. For purposes of this section a person shall be deemed to have attained the age of eighteen years on the day of the person’s eighteenth birthday and a person shall be deemed to be a bona fide resident of the town to which the citizen applies for admission as an elector if such person’s dwelling unit is located within the geographic boundaries of such town. No mentally incompetent person shall be admitted as an elector.

    Now that you have registered to vote in New London you have declared yourself as a legal resident of New London. There are a few other state legat requirements that must be met. You have 30 days from the date that you became a resident, for you new voters that is 30 days from the date you signed the voter registration form in which to change your address with motor vehicle department and if you have an out of state drivers license you have 30 days to surrender it and get a Connecticut drivers license. Welcome to Connecticut.

    (b) Instruction of persons eighteen years of age or older. Out-of-state license holders. Minimum age. (1) A person eighteen years of age or older may operate a motor vehicle without a motor vehicle operator’s license if (A) such person has not had a Connecticut motor vehicle operator’s license suspended or revoked, and (B) such person is under the instruction of, and accompanied by, a person who holds an instructor’s license issued under the provisions of section 14-73 or a person twenty years of age or older who has been licensed to operate, for at least four years preceding the instruction, a motor vehicle of the same class as the motor vehicle being operated and who has not had his or her motor vehicle operator’s license suspended by the commissioner during the four-year period preceding the instruction. (2) A person holding a valid out-of-state motor vehicle operator’s license may operate a motor vehicle for a period of thirty days following such person’s establishment of residence in Connecticut, if the motor vehicle is of the same class as that for which his or her out-of-state motor vehicle operator’s license was issued. (3) No person may cause or permit the operation of a motor vehicle by a person under sixteen years of age.

    We are very excited to have you as a resident to help us pay the new taxes that you are being asked to vote yes for.

    If you have a car here you must also register it in your town of residence. If you lived in another Connecticut town you must change the address on the registration with CT DMV ASAP so we get your car on the New London tax rolls on OCTOBER 1st, The timing is great. Boy our mayor is smart to do this voter registration drive so early. We really need the money. If you were not a Connecticut resident before registering to vote in New London you must register your car in Connecticut. Please do this immediately so that you do not get hit with big fines or get charged with personal property tax evasion.

    Sec. 14-12. Motor vehicle registration. Application. Issuance by dealers. Misrepresentation. Registration number and certificate. Requirements for registration. Regulations. Temporary registration
    (d) A motor vehicle registration certificate issued upon an application containing any material false statement is void from the date of its issue and shall be surrendered, upon demand, with any number plate or plates, to the commissioner. Any money paid for the registration certificate shall be forfeited to the state. No person shall obtain or attempt to obtain any registration for another by misrepresentation or impersonation and any registration so obtained shall be void. The commissioner may require each applicant for a motor vehicle registration to furnish personal identification satisfactory to the commissioner and may require any applicant who has established residence in this state for more than thirty days to obtain a motor vehicle operator’s license, in accordance with the provisions of subsection (b) of section 14-36, or an identification card issued pursuant to section 1-1h. Any person who violates any provision of this subsection and any person who fails to surrender a falsely obtained motor vehicle registration or number plate or plates upon the demand of the commissioner shall be fined not more than two hundred dollars.

    Thank you for registering to vote in New London. We appreciate it. Now that you will be expected to pay the taxes you may want to VOTE NO on the budget on Tuesday.

    Reply
    • Matt M

      THIS IS FALSE INFORMATION! Registration through residence living at a college or university does not change a student’s home address or tax payment policy. It is not a formal address change and you can easily register to vote back home for future elections if you’d like.

      …Also, way to tell people not to register THEN tell them to vote NO…WHAT?

      Reply
      • Cindy Corinth

        You seem to be wrong the statutes posted say it all. Post some statute that show this to be different. You are screwing these students. They already registered to vote now they have no choice but to vote no. To register to vote you have to be a resident. You cannot be a bona fide legal resident in two places at the same time. That is the key. There are no college student tax exemptions in the state statutes. You are wrong Matt M.

        Reply
      • Gary Greene

        I just spent the last 50 minutes reading the Connecticut General Statutes. Mr. Lewis is exactly correct. These students that registered to vote in New London are now New London residents and all the responsibilities and privaleges that come with that apply, taxes, driver license address etc. If they vote and then change there voting registration after the election they become part and party to election manipulation and election fraud with the mayor and those that signed them up to vote. I hope that is not what these students were told. You cannot dispute the statutes. The elector & voter registration laws are written specifically to prevent people from moving their voter reg from election to election.

        Reply
  6. Rusty Darden

    Great these kids will have to pay taxes. Most have cars. This is brilliant. Our mayor may not be a foolish as we think. Get all the college kids signed up, get their cars registered and we can generate some good income for the city from the added personal property on the grand list as of October 1st. These kids should all be voting no now that they are already committed. I cannot believe that they will vote yes once they realize this.

    Reply
    • Phil

      You seem to be forgetting that most Conn students don’t own their cars. Their parents do. As they don’t own the cars, they don’t have any need to register them in New London. Doing so with their parents car would actually be quite incorrect.

      Reply
  7. Carol Fritz

    Could Conn Students Save New London?

    The question is could they destroy New London and cost themselves a lot of money in the process. When these students and the college administration realize what the mayor has done to these students the relationship will be forever damaged.

    These students should do their homework and VOTE NO, the campus should cancel the shuttle to the polls. Who on campus is looking out for the students to allow the mayor to address the students and set them up for bigger tax bills on ther cars. Shame on the college administration.

    Reply
  8. Sherry Lombardi

    I think it is commendable that Connecticut College students take an interest in the community they live in during the school year. Given the accurate information provided by Mr Lewis above, you may want to talk with your families before changing your permanent residence. Beyond that, I respectfully ask that each student take the time to speak with residents who are voting NO before making your decision and casting a vote. This is an important and complex issue. Many residents who are voting NO are not against any tax increase, but are asking the administration for more budget information. The information that is being requested is Information that the city is required to provide according to our charter, but information that has not been provided to the citizens of New London to date. How can any of us make an informed decision about whether the proposed tax increase is too much, too little or the right amount without having the facts? There is so much pressure and misinformation. Please proceed thoughtfully. Thank you for your interest in our shared community.

    Reply
  9. Gary Greene

    Daryl Justin Finizio stated:

    “Because New London is a municipality, bankruptcy would mean the state of Connecticut would take over all financial management of the city, notably mandating a minimum 32% tax increase”

    Please Mr. Mayor show me this in the Connevticut General Statutes. You cannot do that because it is a lie.

    Reply
  10. admin

    Hello all,
    My name is Meredith and I am a co-writer on this story as well as the Editor in Chief of The College Voice. Thank you so much for sharing your opinions. This article was written as a breaking news story for the website, and we will continue to add new information until we print the paper on September 23. In the hopes of being as objective as possible, I would love to quote some New London residents to round out the story. If you are interested in speaking with me a bit about the budget proposal, please contact me at eic@thecollegevoice.org with a subject line: “Could Conn Students Save New London.”

    Thank you again for all of your comments.

    Reply
  11. Joy A. Orlando

    If you can, take a moment and ask the people around you and in your life a question. When they attended college, did they become involved by registering to vote with the local government or politics of the area where their college was located? Were they faced with strong recruiting efforts to become a registered voter in that area? I’m sure you will find in most cases the answer is no. Like many of you, my concerns during college focused on my studies, school activities, holding a work study job in Rhode Island, a weekend job at home and what was taking place in my hometown, New London which was only an hour away; and with that, I was given absentee ballots and the like to still vote because that’s where I was registered, lived with my family and where taxes on my car (which remained at home since I used Amtrak) were paid. Since I am only familiar through what I read and from people I know, Connecticut College students give a lot to this area through volunteering; as an educator, I know students from Connecticut College give a lot of their time in particular to the students in our school district. I believe you give plenty to us through your efforts and I commend you on that. Your main responsibility, however, is to yourself: your education and maintaining your finances to pursue that goal. With that, as harsh as this may sound you owe Daryl Finizio nothing. It’s fine that he comes to your campus to brainstorm, share ideas, speak of his political experiences, offer mentoring or internships—even ask for your help with volunteer efforts throughout the City. It is unfair to treat you like a pawn in this current budget and referendum issue. Mr. Finizio, if anything, owes you and the rest of us who live here in New London some assurances when it comes to safety in light of recent acts of violence occurring throughout the City. I don’t believe I read where that issue was addressed in his visit (I could be wrong). As college students, I have no doubt you wish to venture around, see the City, attend events, go out for dinner etc. You may be walking, using public transportation, driving your car etc. It is important that you feel safe as do the rest of us as we partake in what New London has to offer. What is unfortunate is people may be approaching you in an effort to “unite” the citizens. If you think about it, any time someone or something seeks to create a united front, something actually gets split in the process. We are actually seeing people divide from each other, be confused by information and therefore unable to make a good decision because all the facts suddenly got mixed up in front of their eyes—this has happened in particular with our older population in New London. I am not here to “arm twist” you, scare or bully you about this matter. I guess what really needs to be considered by you, as the student, is their really any benefit for you to become involved in something that will cost you? Does it really make sense for you to become involved in paying property taxes, changing licenses and registrations with the State of Connecticut in order to satisfy someone who will most likely not stay here any longer than you are to attend school? These decisions are yours and I wish you luck with them.

    Reply
  12. Anne Tortora

    One of the things that students leaving for college should do prior to leaving home for the new academic year is to register for an absentee ballot…for THEIR OWN MUNICIPALITY. More and more high schools are facilitating this for graduating seniors, so it wouldn’t surprise me if most of the students at Conn, as well as at Mitchell and the USCGA, have already taken care of this important task.

    Reply
  13. John

    In Vermont,
    The law provides a variety of definitions of residence. For example, registering to vote in Vermont won’t get you in-state tuition at the University of Vermont (16 V.S.A. § 2282) or at a state college. Also, just because you have registered to vote in Vermont does not mean that you will have to register your car here or get a Vermont driver’s license. The motor vehicle laws spe- cifically exclude college students from the laws that require new residents to register their cars in Vermont and obtain Vermont driver’s licenses (23 V.S.A. § 4(30)).

    Reply
    • Gary Greene

      But John this is Connecticut and the laws here are posted in the comments of the article. The Vermont law explanation is nice but irrelevent.

      Reply
    • Gary Greene

      John in Connecticut you are absolutely a resident for all purposes in the town that you register to vote in. Did you not read the previous posts with the state statutes included?

      Reply
  14. Anne Tortora

    Statute notwithstanding, isn’t it possible that the students are actually interested in the progress of events and issues in their home States? They can’t have it both ways.

    Reply
  15. Gary Greene

    Yippeeeee the mayor releases “MOST” of the requested information at the 11th hour. Months after it was requested. Maybe we should erect a statue in his honor at the parade plaza.

    Reply
  16. Laura Natusch

    Thank you to all the students who cared enough about our city to learn about our financial situation and who voted in the referendum. I hope you will continue to stay involved. A video of our mayor’s response to the referendum results is on the facebook page of Office of Mayor Finizio.

    Reply
    • Roger Tanner

      Laura, these poor kids were lied to and that is so wrong for the mayor of any community to do that to these kids. They should read David Collins piece in the Day. If you were part of that Laura you should hang your head in shame.

      Reply
  17. Doug Schwartz

    COULD Conn students save New London? The better question is SHOULD they? Implicit in the initial question are two assumptions: 1) New London residents do not know how, or want, to save our city and 2) if a 7.5% tax increase is not passed, New London will descend into financial purgatory.

    Should Conn College students vote in New London budget referenda? Connecticut College, like much of the property in New London, is tax-exempt. New London must provide services to the college and its population, but receives no property taxes. With its over 2,500 students and staff, the college is approximately equal in size to 10% of the city’s population, so this is not insignificant The state provides payments to compensate the city for some of the lost revenue from its tax-exempt property, but this has never fully compensated New London, the amount has recently been decreased and we can anticipate this will diminish in the years ahead as the state’s finances continue to deteriorate. Conn is the highest tuition college in the nation [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-12/connecticut-college-has-highest-u-s-tuition-at-43-990.html] New London is classified as a distressed municipality by the state, due to its below-average income level. 32% of our children are below the poverty level. 85% of our students qualify for free or reduced school meals, while our unemployment rate exceeds 12%: http://www.endhungerct.org/ct-hunger-map#group12 The tuition to attend Conn is approximately the same as the average New London family earns in a year. State statute permits New London to tax the automobiles of resident college students: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2005/rpt/2005-R-0938.htm It is a near certainty that New London taxpayers will insist upon assessing taxes on students’ vehicles now that we know they are taxable. The recent vote by numerous Conn students in our budget referendum did not endear these students to local taxpayers.

    Unlike Conn students who can vote in our local elections, many New London property owners are denied this right. Non-resident property owners are currently not permitted to vote in our elections. They must endure our taxation without any say in either our representation or tax rates. Thus we now have a situation in which Conn students, presumably many scions of wealthy families, have taken it upon themselves to work to impose higher taxes upon largely lower- and middle-class citizens, a right not possessed by many of those who will have to shoulder the burden of these increases.

    It terms of basic fairness, these students could approach this from a different angle. Colleges such as Yale, Brown and Trinity have voluntarily agreed to essentially tax themselves and contribute financially to the cities which host them. Rather than increase the taxes of New London families an additional 7.5%, it would be far more equitable for the predominately wealthy student body of the college to agree to increase their tuition by a comparable amount so that annual payments in lieu of direct taxes could be made to our city. Below are a number of articles on how struggling cities are working with their local colleges to institute voluntary annual contributions to compensate for the lack of taxes. Yale, for example, is currently contributing over $8,000,0000 annually to New Haven:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204062704577221653128623004.html
    http://affordablehousinginstitute.org/blogs/us/2012/03/whats-fair-in-non-profits-property-taxes-part-1-follow-the-money.html
    http://hbweb.sx2.atl.publicus.com/article/20120305/PRINTEDITION/303059994
    http://www.telegram.com/article/20101130/NEWS/11300349/1237
    http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/02/10/brown-dispute-questions-whats-fair-payment-lieu-taxes
    http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2009/feb/27/yale-to-up-payment-to-city/

    Let’s examine the two initial assumptions. 1) Is it not condescending for mostly wealthy students to presume they know best for New London citizens? How many who voted in the referendum actually have any idea of the issues, the basics of our budget process or a minimal understanding of the salaries and staffing levels of our various city departments? How do they know what they know? What don’t they know? Who told them the little they know? What do they know about the political agendas of those who might have provided them with the little they think they know about this complex issue. Democracy is not simple. It requires an informed electorate. It is adversarial process, something the college community is now beginning to appreciate through the online comments of New London citizens at this website. It is irresponsible for people to exercise the voting privilege in a cavalier manner, without pausing to realize this also carries with it a solemn responsibility to educate yourself prior to filling in the black ovals on a ballot. 2) If the magic number of a 7.5% tax increase is not implemented, what does this mean for New London? At the start of this year, our mayor solemnly informed us that only a 20% tax increase would allow us to survive. After numerous budget cuts and union concessions, this number is now considerably lower. Many believe that not only is a tax increase unnecessary, but taxes could easily be lowered if sufficient cost-cutting measures were implemented.

    While most current Conn students are probably not aware of this, a great deal of bad blood was engendered between the city and the college over a decade ago, when a former Conn president oversaw the destruction of entire New London neighborhoods, permanently erasing many millions of dollars of tax-paying properties. She also demolished the college’s finances, and was eventually forced out in a faculty revolt. New London politics has never been a sedate affair, but willingly or unwillingly, the college has now been drawn into this realm, and like the rest of us the college community will be expected to sacrifice for the communal benefit, to leave some “skin on the sidewalk,” as Dr. Gaudiani phrased it.

    New London is a microcosm of New Haven, with all the social service costs attendant upon modern cities. Yale is New Haven’s leading employer. It long ago took a responsible approach to its financial obligations to the local community: http://onhsa.yale.edu/economic-growth-and-fiscal-impact With 11,593 students, Yale’s annual $8,000,000 contribution to New Haven works out to $690 each. The same amount contributed from each of Conn’s 1,916 students would yield $1,322,040, only about a 1.5% surcharge on the current tuition. With the addition of the property taxes we can anticipate receiving from students’ automobiles, this will go a long way toward demonstrating a shared commitment to the financial obligations inherent in the democratic process. This is a dialogue which must occur, and New Londoners welcome the college community in participating in this process. Our state is the world’s oldest constitutional democracy, and as such has long experience in successfully balancing the needs of the many among the various constituencies among our populace. The college was created out of the generosity of the city and its residents. Nothing was expected in return. But a century later, now that the college has flourished and the city has fallen upon hard times, it is incumbent on both parties to work together to craft an equitable solution in the months ahead.

    Don’t tax me, don’t tax you, tax that man behind the tree. Nobody, including Conn students and their parents, wants to pay taxes. However, democracy comes with inherent responsibilities, among which is the shared financial burden for our governance. I am fully confident the Conn College community will step up and embrace its democratic obligations. New Londoners have no desire to dictate what the college should contribute. We only ask for you to responsibly debate this matter internally, and shape a resolution which unites, rather than separates us as a community.

    Reply

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