I am running for office because I care about the people of New Britain and I want to make our community a better place for us all. I had a really difficult life growing up. I grew up in foster homes and group homes. I know what it is like to go to bed hungry at night, to live in proverty, to be bullied and made fun of for having less than what everyone else had; and I decided when I was in middle school that I wanted to be a public servant because no child should ever have to go through what I had to as a child, and every person deserves a equal opportunity to succeed in life regardless of background or economic status.
What is the most pressing local issue facing your community and how would you solve it (within the capacity of the office for which you are running)?
I believe that our most pressing issue is the high property taxes. New Britain has the fourth highest property taxes out of any community in our state, and at 50.5 mills we can't compete with neighboring communities for jobs and families if their taxes are half of what our taxes are. We need to work towards reducing property taxes and making New Britain a more affordable place to live. This can be accomplished through several measures: cutting non essential services and waste from the budget, implementing new revenue streams, increasing the education cost sharing grant and municipal aid money we receive from the state, and apply for more federal and non for profit grant funds to fund services particularly human services services that we currently fund through municipal taxes.
With the state's ongoing budget crisis looming over the election, what are your plans for your community's budget? Is there anything you can do make your town less dependent on revenue from the state?
The New Britain municipal budget is $242 million dollars of year, of which approx. $115 million comes from the state. New Britain is a city that has a low tax base, and a lot of economic improverished people relying on community services for food, housing, and other basic necessities. Over 25% of our population receives SNAP and SAGA benefits from DSS, one out of 36 students enrolled in the New Britain Public School system are homeless or couch surfing, 48% of public school students receives free or reduced school lunches, and roughly 40% rely on public transportation or a friend or family member as their primary means of transport. It is hard enough when the home ownership rate is at a record low, and less than half of the property in our city is taxable to begin with, but there is a great need to help those who do not have the financial means to support themselves, and so there is nothing we can do as a city to be less dependent on revenue from the state at this time.
The legislature has been debating various ideas to allow towns to raise revenue locally through something other than property taxes. If you could ease your residents' property tax burden by adding another method of taxation, is there anything you might consider for your town?
Yes, I would support a local sales tax. This is something that other communities in New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island is able to generate revenue from, and Connecticut's municipalities should have that option as well. If you go around the country and visit various communities, you see nothing but construction cranes and a lots of housing and businesses being built. Why isn't that happening in Connecticut outside of fairfield county? The cost of living is the highest of any other state in the nation, and that is largely because of the fact that we have the highest property taxes of any place in the nation. As a Democrat, I want to increase revenue to provide more services to help more people, but we can't do that in New Britain with a 50.5 mill rate and businesses and families fleeing New Britain. In our city, there are way too many vacant homes and storefronts and we are losing out in revenue. Last year, New Britain had the smallest grandlist growth in the state. That is because people aren't able to afford a 19% property tax hike that Mayor Stewart pushed for over her two terms in office. We can do better and we must do better. Businesses want to invest in communities that are affordable and families want to live in communities that are affordable, are safe, and have good schools and good businesses. New Britain can be that city. We therefore must make New Britain more affordable by lowering property taxes and growing the grand list, but we must implement alternative revenue streams like the local sales tax so that our schools and other essential services do not suffer in the process.
Are you in favor of regionalizing more services in conjunction with other nearby communities? If so, which ones?
Yes I am, especially public works, public safety, and social services.
Should your school district get the same amount of education funding from the state if your district's enrollment is dropping?
Our school system enrollment has held steady in the last few years, but we are grossly underfunded as it is. Our school system spends about $7,000 per pupil on average which is half the average that other communities in our state spends.
What's one thing most people don't know about you?
I am a goal oriented person. Every year, I come up with a list of goals that I want to accomplish for the year. I've been doing this since 2004, and I use a metric based approach to measuring progress and tracking my results. I really want to be a better person, and that is something I work hard for. For my hobbies, I enjoy reading, listening to music, writing, hiking, playing video games, riding rollercoasters and other theme park rides, and traveling to museums. I go to church every week, I go to the gym five days a week, and I love listening to WNPR and WJMJ and podcasts in my two hour long drive to school and back four times a week.
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