Budgets, Taxes and Gambling

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By now, most people have heard that this will be an especially difficult budget year for state legislators in Hartford. First indications are that it will be equally difficult for Suffield’s own Town budget with a loss in state assistance to the Town projected to be more than $1,000,000.

The First Selectman and School Superintendant have been working for several months now to prepare budgets for the Boards of Selectmen and Education to approve for submittal to the Board of Finance. From February 27 until April 17 the Board of Finance will be meeting weekly on Monday nights at 7 p.m. in Town Hall to evaluate the Town and schools budgets, and to match them up with expected revenue sources in order to present a recommended budget to the Town for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

You can wait until the April 26 public hearing or the May 10 Town Meeting to ask questions at the end of the process, or you can attend some of the meetings between now and then to “see how the sausage is made.” Each meeting has a section for public comment where you can advocate to the Board of Finance for increases or decreases.

The Board of Finance does listen to input from the public, but there are few people who take the time to participate in the budget meetings. By the time the town meeting comes along, it’s either yes or no on the budget proposal. Take the time during the next seven or eight Monday nights to be part of the budgeting process; you’ll learn a lot about how the Town works!

In related news, there are three significant out of town projects that will impact Suffield during the next few years. To our north, just five miles from Suffield will be a new one billion dollar casino in downtown Springfield MA opening in 2018. To our south, another casino is planned and seems most likely to be Windsor Locks, about two miles from Suffield. Casinos do provide economic changes to surrounding communities, and they’re not necessarily positive. We should expect additional traffic, an increase in problem gambling, and other things that will change future Town budgets and lives.

The two casino projects are going to be built, so town officials will need to be ready to minimize the negative impacts they may cause to our neighborhoods. I was pleased to hear that First Selectman Mack has been keeping close tabs on the plans for the casino in Windsor Locks.

The third nearby project that will impact Suffield is that the Amtrak train station in Windsor Locks will be moving closer to Suffield. In early 2018 the station will move to the north side of Windsor Locks, less than a mile from the Suffield town line on Route 159. The move will coincide with major improvements to the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield segment of the rail system. This will give better local access for railroad trips to NYC and beyond.

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