Sengle: "School or Sewers – Clinton’s Dilemma"

"We should be voting on waste water treatment first as a necessary project."


This letter is written by Philip Sengle:

Clinton will vote on April 11th, yes or no, on building a new high school on a new site.  It’s unfortunate we are not given the options of a new building on the existing site or renovation options.  But the choice does not end on April 11th

Clinton is under orders from the state to solve its long standing pollution problem.  The school project is discretionary; fixing our pollution problem is not.  A new school would be nice.  The question is affordability. 

The Clinton Taxpayers Association has estimated that by 2016 our mill rate will be over thirty.  They used historical inflation rates for the town and education budget and the debt load caused by a school.  Many seem okay with this outcome.  The problem is this estimate did not include a waste water solution because the cost is unknown.   But just as day follows night, the cost will come home to roost.  Estimates have ranged from forty to sixty million dollars.  With a state reimbursement rate of only 25% on these projects, the impact on tax rates will be significant.

The state order and eventual fining of the town for non-compliance that might come with it aside, without a waste water solution; economic development in Clinton will remain at a standstill.  We’ve got to have real economic development to pay for the projects we want, especially the school.  A new tattoo parlor won’t do it.  We spend first and then look for ways to pay for it last.  It’s the proverbial cart before the horse. 

As the mill rate rises, businesses will not move here and more will leave, shifting the burden increasingly to homeowners.  The most recent example of this is our West Marine Store moving to a beautiful new facility in Old Saybrook, where incidentally tax rates are lower.  Residential properties don’t sustain education with per pupil costs over fifteen thousand dollars annually and rising.  Cutting budgets is not a long term solution - generating more revenue is.  A resurgence of economic development on and near Route 1 is critical to Clinton’s future (aka it tax base).  This cannot and will not happen without a proper waste water solution.

Some believe building a school will spur economic development.  This is more hope, than strategy.  My hope is that parents will get more concerned about Clinton’s student performance, than they are about a new building.  It’s possible some development will result from a new school (principally the current Morgan site), but the higher tax rates that are inevitable will work against that.  A better economic development plan would be to buy property and turn it into an industrial park, giving tenants a tax break to come to Clinton.  This would also produce jobs we badly need.

My most serious concern is that if the school is approved, the waste water project will be defeated at the polls later this year, as even the pro-school voters will have reached their tolerance for taxing and spending.  This outcome would be a disaster for Clinton’s economic future and potentially trigger the fining mentioned above.  We should be voting on waste water treatment first as a necessary project. 

Unfortunately for Clinton’s future, the town government focuses on popular projects without attending to necessary economic development.  We must get Clinton on a sustainable economic footing with a tax rate close to its neighbors or be prepared to watch your homes’ resale value decline.


Philip C. Sengle

Phil Williams March 29, 2012 at 12:20 PM
You are correct in your assessment that the town in focusing on the things that are appealing to the audience, the New Morgan. Should the state begin fining Clinton for it's lack of action on the waste water treatment plant then every public official that has pushed this issue to the side should be held financially accountable. I know that will not happen as they are immune from making bad decisions - other than losing the next election. We need to take care of the infrastructure as well.
VIN CIMINO March 29, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I identified the wastewater situation as one of the top 3 issues facing our town during last year's election. Please see my article, "Clinton Belongs To Its Residents, 9/30/11, or go to GOCTA.org and listen to the debate. I also identified the solution, which is to acquire the Sciongay property, which could qualify for clean water, senior housing and open space grants. $500,000 was spent on a comprehensive study years ago that clearly identified the Sciongay property as the wastewater solution. Until the wastewater issue is resolved, we won't see significant development or increases in the grand list.
VIN CIMINO March 29, 2012 at 01:37 PM
The CTA's forecast of the town surpassing a mil rate of 30 very shortly if the new school is approved seems very accurate and, if anything, very conservative. You're quite right, Phil, in asking how the town will ever be able to afford to pay for a mandated wastewater solution if this new school is approved. The answer is obvious; it won't be able to. Businesses continue to leave. Residents are trying desperately to sell their homes before this financial meltdown hits. Last August, I wrote about this "terrible, downward spiral" and pointed out that a business in Clinton would pay twice the taxes that an identical business in Old Saybrook would pay. It should come as no surprise that West Marine decided to build in Old Saybrook and leave Clinton. We can look forward to many similar decisions until we regain control of town finances. PLEASE VOTE NO ON APRIL 11th!
Vindaloo March 29, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Old Saybrook already has a West Marine. They are just building a larger superstore to replace the small old saybrook location. I don't believe the Clinton West Marine is building a new store in OS to run from Clinton Taxes. I'm not even sure they are leaving. If they are, it's because they will be displaced by the large store and it will effect their sales. If people are to make wise decisions for our town, we need to have facts and not blow our problems out of proportion. www.theday.com/.../zip06&town=Old-Saybrook&template=zip06art. Clinton has a lot of problems to fix in the near future because of all the years of looking backwards rather than ahead. It's all been left up to us to do. Let's get this stuff done and not leave it to our kids to deal with someday.
Jay March 29, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of School Superintendents, one of the six groups, said: "What we are really saying is that the teachers unions have almost veto power over anything that happens in education in Connecticut." Almost three quarters of the annual budget is spent on children and the teacher and administrative unions financially benefit. The average dues paid by education union members averages a thousand dollars a year . That money is paid to pay professional lobbyists and pro spend activity at the state, federal and local level to promote even more education spending . The fact is they have been making false promises and threats for years and the average voter is bullied into being quiet or led to believe he or she will be accepted into this "special" community if they go along. The reality is there is no need for a new high school now. It would be nice but we cannot afford it and all the other multi million dollar taxpayer paid project the town, state and federal govt bureaucrats are proposing. Just say no.
Vindaloo March 29, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Jay, that sounds a lot like how wall street and big corporations work. While we all gripe about how the unions effect our incomes, we should be even more pissed about the fact that that's how our job creators are using our money to control the system and bring down working standards for American workers. I'm not envious that some employees still get treated like human beings through the help of their unions, but would rather defend those rights for everyone. At least with government, much of the money goes to help people in need, but with corporations it just helps eliminate more jobs and benefits, while supporting inhumane treatment of workers overseas. The goal for us all should be to make this a better country with better opportunities and working conditions for the future, not to endorse the destruction of our standard of living. Show more support for your education system than your corporations. It will serve us better in the long run. As a former high school science teacher, I can say that it was the most difficult job I ever loved.
Phil Sengle March 29, 2012 at 08:55 PM
So we can only make things better by more government spending? I think not. Most of our taxes are wasted in give aways and boon doggle projects. If that isn't bad enough, they over reach into our lives. Without the corporations some love to bash, nobody would have a job. We all can't be government workers.
Vindaloo March 29, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Not everyone works for a large corporation. Most people I know do not. and no.....excessive government spending isn't the answer. This is not a black and white world. All I'm saying is that the corporations have just as much, if not more control over our lives than the government and we should be just as upset about the working conditions that they are forcing on American workers because they can do it overseas. Let's not overvalue corporations. We don't have to work for them to have a productive world. It's a bit of an overstatement to say that without them NOONE would have a job. I'm just saying that it should be more important to all of us to defend and maintain the standard of living that this country was always known for and to be more concerned about the future for our children.
Phil Williams March 29, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Sorry to see this Letter to the Editor get of track. Corporations - of all sizes - are the source of generating wealth which is what government taxes or TAKES from them to provide services to those that are not able or willing to work for. Government NEVER has produced wealth. I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. Thomas Jefferson
Vindaloo March 29, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Not all of the important things that we do in life are done for profit. Gov is not there to produce wealth in the form of money,
Vindaloo March 30, 2012 at 12:38 AM
I will agree that there IS waste in gov, and some people benefit who might not really deserve it, just like many other institutions, but we can't punish everyone for that. We do need to watch spending carefully and I don't blame anyone for being concerned about this project. I believe the waste water issue is of utmost importance, but I also believe a new school needs to happen soon, before we spend much more money on the old one. We all have different philosophies about how we want our money to serve society.
Art Kuever March 30, 2012 at 01:06 AM
The fact is both of these projects have been around for 30 years and because they both have been ignored for that long, they are both at a point that they need to be addressed. Some say we should wait to see what the waste water issue will cost, I would bet that we will not see that amount anytime soon. If we do, the detail will be lacking and we will all be back here arguing that we need more time to find out every detail on that project as well. And we will wait more and more... The beauty of these arguments is not one of us will be proven right or wrong until we have forgotten what the arguments were. Everything is speculation, assumptions, and hopes. Not one of us can say what is going to happen or why things happened in the past. It is all speculation. It is fun to offer opinions for arguments sake but that is all this is, opinions. We cannot fear the future for what it may bring, we need to hope and prepare for what it does bring. We need to improve the schools in hopes of bringing more families to town, new inspired teachers, and possibly more business. If the business comes, great, if not we have still improved our town. I am here for the school because it is not about "ME", I will be here for the waste water because it is not about "ME". It is about the community as a whole. I will not benefit from the waste water, my kids will benefit from the new building, so I will vote YES for both when the time comes.
Phil Sengle March 30, 2012 at 01:02 PM
My letter was about a school versus sewers. If we get both, prepare for a tax rate that will be way above our neighbors. Residents and businesses will "vote with their feet", because we don't live on an Island. Now as far as government over reach goes, I thought we settled that when we threw the King of England out of here. Please remember also that government creates no wealth, it only takes from the productive and redistributes it, less its costs and the inevitable waste. Wealth is only produced by the private sector in its economic activity (aka business). And this varies from a farmer to a sole proprietorship to mid sized Corporations to large corporations. Only with collective wealth generated by private enterprise can we have new schools or anything else. Just once I would like to see town government do something to foster economic activity.
Phil Williams March 30, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Jonathan Sanders March 30, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Have there been any ideas thrown around on how the town is going to pay for the wastewater issue? I know that OS went with a plan that had used state grants to pay for 25%, the townspeople as a whole(tax) paid 25% and the individual property owners that need the advanced septic paid the other 50% through low interest loans. Is this soemthing Clinton could do or is our situation totally different?
Phil Sengle March 30, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Jonathan: I don't believe our situation is different from a problem or technical point of view. What I think is different is our politics. I have heard there is a faction in town, including some members of the WPCC who think the whole town should pay evenly, with a minimal or no share for the benefitting homeowners and businesses.
Jonathan Sanders March 30, 2012 at 02:05 PM
I don't think that should be the case. Personal home septic systems are private and the general public will not get any benefit from someone's private property(septic). Will I be invited in to test out the new systems that many homeowners will get? I think the way OS did it seems fair to me.
Phil Sengle March 30, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Fair to the socialist crowd means everyone pays. The reasoning they will probably use is that many of the new systems will be community septics that many can attach to, therefore all should pay. Twisted logic, but this is how it will go.
Phil Williams March 30, 2012 at 02:56 PM
The more government is involved in your daily lives the more the costs will increase. The more the costs increase the more the public wants everyone else to pay. The more everyone else pays to the government the less incentive we have to work hard. The less we work hard the faster society crumbles. The United States Constitution is one of longest living forms of government. The constant increase in the powers of the federal government is eroding the liberties of the populace.
Stephen King April 01, 2012 at 07:49 PM
My thinking is if the new school is built and completed that will be the best time to put your house on the market. Apparently, there are plenty of buyers who would be wowed by it more so than achievement ranking and taxes.
Stephen King April 01, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Jonathan, we had a perfect solution after years and millions spent studying it. They spent $500K testing the Sciongay property but because of individual politics is was scuttled. Once again, we continue to kick the can down the road.


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