Tolland residents approve FY22 town budget

Residents were spaced out in the Tolland Public Safety Complex while they deliberated and voted on the FY22 town budget. (PETER CURRIER PHOTO)

Budget includes regional school assessment

TOLLAND- Residents of Tolland passed the town’s FY22 budget May 10 during its annual town meeting in the Public Safety Complex.

About two dozen Tolland residents approved the budget and largely approved it as proposed. The entire budget totaled $1,356,953.46 after the vote — an increase from $1,302,929.13 in FY21 – and $20,000 was cut from the ambulance budget from the originally proposed budget.

Multiple residents voiced their concern every elected official in Tolland would be receiving a three percent raise from FY21. 

Resident David Pickhardt said that giving the officials a raise during a pandemic that impacted most taxpayers is inappropriate, and that their salaries should be frozen for this year. 

“In a pandemic year, I know everybody worked hard and everybody deserves three percent, but not this year, not while everybody  is hurting and everybody is having a hard time making ends meet,” said Pickhardt. 

In FY21 each Board of Selectmen member  received a salary of $3,182.70, the highest of any elected officials in Tolland. The budget that passed on May 10 increased each of their salaries to $3,278.18.

Assistant to the board, Margaret McClellan, said that town officials are essential workers and have kept Tolland running throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I myself have put in all the hours I am supposed to be putting in, and the selectmen have as well,” said McClellan, “We’ve been here, we’ve been doing our job. We have been working hard. We have not failed this town in anything. I don’t think it’s fair that any of us that have been working through the pandemic should be punished because we are in a pandemic.”

Pickhardt made a motion to make an amendment to the budget to freeze the salaries of the selectmen to the FY21 level and to only raise other official’s salaries by one percent rather than three percent. The motion was seconded by resident Mike Sullivan, who had also been voicing his concern with the raise. 

The amendment ultimately failed, with Pickhardt and one other resident casting the only votes in favor of it, and the three percent salary increase for elected officials was passed with the rest of the budget.

In a letter to The Westfield News sent May 9, Pickhardt said that his property taxes have increased from $400 per year in 1992 to $4,000, an increase of ten times the original tax value.  

My taxes have grown and continue to grow at an annualized rate of 9% per year, in a proposition 2 1/2 state! Based on this projection, within 10 years my taxes will pass $10,000. And within just 30 years my taxes will grow to $49,000 per year on the same unchanged home,” said Pickhardt in his letter, later saying, “The Selectmen often say why don’t you just sell and move. And it’s true I could sell and move. But this is my home!  I grew up here!  I don’t want to move!  Why do we have a taxation system in Massachusetts that forces people to move from their homes?  This is a crime. And it needs to end.”

He said the increase in taxes could be explained by wealthy people from out of town moving into Tolland and driving up property assessments and therefore property taxes as well.

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