Four Berlin residents spoke about the Town’s annual budget at the Town Council meeting held on March 18th. It was the first opportunity provided to Berlin residents to voice their opinions about the 1.1% tax increase approved by the Town Council last week.
I raised questions about the annual budget and the democratic process in the Town of Berlin.
My wife, Carole Brighenti, a lifelong Berlin resident, expressed her concerns about never-ending tax increases in the face of a never-ending economic recession when so many middle class families are struggling to make ends meet.
Jim Kasulis, a small business owner and lifelong Berlin resident, requested that taxes be lowered and not raised, stating that property taxes of $600 per month already constituted one-third of his monthly mortgage payment. At 47 years of age, and thirty years remaining on his mortgage, he feared not being able to afford these taxes much longer. Jim also recommended using the internet to conduct the Town referendum in order to enhance participation in the democratic process.
Karen Salwocki, former Deputy Mayor and long-time Berlin resident, recognized the need for increases in property taxes but requested that they be reduced in size rather than at the percentages that have been occurring over the years.
We have good citizens serving on the Town Council, Board of Education, and Town commissions. We have qualified employees serving in the Town of Berlin. I have heard a number of complaints about taxes and the treatment of small businesses in our Town. If the citizens of Berlin do not participate in the democratic process afforded to them by the Town, and fail to participate in Town meetings or our association of property owners, then are these complaints worthy of serious attention?
In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve. All citizens have a responsibility to be informed about and to participate in the governance of their Town. Continued irresponsibility of citizenry may lead to inequity and abuses in government from well-organized, powerful, minority constituencies.
If the citizens of Berlin desire lower taxes or changes in the governance of their Town, then should they not have the courage to step forward and speak out? The Berlin Property Owners Association affords citizens the opportunity of doing so in a group with the support of their fellow citizens. Without participating in an association, citizens are left to speak out alone against injustice; however, many never do so because of fears of reprisals and retribution. That is one of the reasons for participating in a property owners association so that your voice and concerns are one of many.
Franklin Roosevelt’s admonition‒—”The only thing to fear is fear itself”‒—has as much applicability today as it did following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Those words have relevance to our citizens here in Berlin as well.
Mayor Rachel Rochette invited all of us to come back and speak at the public hearing to be held on April 8th, 7:00 PM, at McGee School. To Mayor Rochette’s credit, she makes herself available to meet with citizens weekly even though she has a job and family responsibilities. When I spoke to the Town Council on March 18th, she gave me the courtesy of listening to what I was saying. I liked that.
The Town Councilors are good citizens, giving selflessly of their time for you. You, as a citizen, have a responsibility to participate in our Town government. If you object to higher taxes or have other concerns about our Town’s governance, join us at the next meeting of the Berlin Property Owners Association on March 26th, 6:00 PM, in the hall above Joel’s Hair Salon located at 883 Farmington Avenue, Kensington. All are welcome. Our association is nonpartisan.
Let’s begin a constructive dialogue together with our good citizens in governance and support our democratic process.