Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Energy Commission

The Energy Commission met Jan 30 and discussed a number of topics, including energy conservation ($250k for new windows at CHS, Firehouse #3, a microturbine for CHS and the pool), energy benchmarking (measuring town building energy use and comparing to other towns in a nationwide database) and clean energy (increasing awareness of the 20% by 2010 campaign, placing photovoltaic arrays / solar panels on Highland School, grants for clean energy education and a competition with the Town of Bethany).

One of the items generating a lot of discussion last night was the microturbine for CHS. While the estimated cost is $1.89million, it could provide significant energy/cost savings that may be able to be used to pay for the system and save taxpayer dollars. As well, it could help turn CHS into an emergency shelter (as there would be energy generated on site during power outages.)

The Energy Commission normally meets the last Monday of every month at 7pm in Town Hall. For more information on the Energy Commission, see: http://www.cheshirect.org/energy/default.html

For details on various federal tax credits that may be available to you, see: http://www.doe.gov/taxbreaks.htm

For details on the state sales tax holiday that applies to certain home weatherization products, see: http://www.ct.gov/drs/cwp/view.asp?A=1514&Q=307396

Friday, January 27, 2006

06/07 School Budget

"It's still too high," said Town Councilor Tim White immediately after the hearing. "I'm not going to vote for a 6 percent tax hike." - Waterbury Republican American, January 27, 2006

- Tim White (R-4) upon hearing that the Board of Education approved a school budget that included a 6% increase.


Clean Energy (20% by 2010)

Dear Editor,

Several months ago, the Town Council formally engaged in an initiative named “20% by 2010.” This initiative was begun by SmartPower, a non-profit organization. The mission of SmartPower is “to foster clean air, healthy communities and energy independence by increasing the use of clean, renewable energy and reducing reliance on polluting, unhealthy fossil fuels.” The goal of this initiative is to get Connecticut using “clean, renewable energy” for 20% of our energy needs by 2010. This goal is achievable if we all participate.

Who can participate? Everyone, including governments, other organizations (such as churches & businesses) and individuals.

At our town government level, our Council has officially joined this non-binding initiative. (The expected cost to the town is $2,000 for the first year, but we can back out at any time for any reason.) However, more importantly, the Council has officially encouraged residents to personally participate in this initiative at the household level.

Why is it important to participate? It will help protect the environment and it is a step toward reducing our country’s dependence on foreign energy, inarguably a national security issue. Furthermore, it is affordable for most. (It costs about one cent per kilowatt hour.)

The entire initiative is rather extensive and merits a much more detailed explanation. For more information visit http://www.smartpower.org/.

We urge everyone in Cheshire to learn more about this opportunity. And we urge you to at least consider having your household participate in this very worthy initiative.

Diane Visconti, Town Council, liaison to the Environment Commission
Tim White, Town Council, liaison to the Energy Commission

To sign up for clean energy, go to:


Clean Energy in the press:

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Artificial Turf

Artificial turf was the topic of conversation at a recent Council meeting. Councilman Matt Altieri got the artificial turf onto the agenda. And when the seemingly endless debate was over, the Council voted 7-2 to support an amended motion. I voted with Mr. Altieri against the motion that had been amended. However, my vote had nothing to do with supporting or opposing artificial turf. I opposed the motion because the Council was putting the cart before the horse. The discussion on artificial turf (and sewer plant improvements) should have never even happened during the meeting.

Why should the discussion not have happened? The discussion should have begun with the Town Manager, but it did not begin with him.

The Town Council is Cheshire’s Board of Directors. The Town Manager, Michael Milone, is Cheshire’s ChiefExecutive and he does a good job with the finances. So for the town to consider requesting grant money from the state for any capital items, the discussion should begin with Mr. Milone. He should first draft his list of capital project priorities, and only then should the Council discuss opportunities for grant money in relation to that list.

I do not have in-depth knowledge of all the various projects within the town’s five year capital budget. However, the Town Manager does. And similar to the town budget process, this discussion should also begin with the Town Manager, not with the Council.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District

Well, the Council still hasn't had this discussion. But I still want to know why turf is a higher priority than little league fields. Fields have been in the capital budget for years, but turf has never been in it. I have a great deal of trouble whenever anyone wants to jump to the front of the line, including now.

And if you're curious about what other projects may be eligible for this grant, I think this link may be the place to visit (http://www.cga.ct.gov/2002/olrdata/env/rpt/2002-R-0198.htm see "special act grants") Items "such as improvements made to a high school track, or the installation of lights at a football field" appear to be covered by this program.

And one other VERY important question must be answered: has the Board of Ed ever requested artificial turf? I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think they have.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Elderly Tax Relief

Why did I support the program changes?

Tax relief was necessary. And although tax relief for all is the best tax relief, we’re stuck with a bad system in which the property tax is the only major source of revenue offered to municipalities by the state. And many seniors on fixed incomes truly need this tax relief more than most. So supporting this program enhancement was the right thing to do.

Why is the property tax not good?

For seniors on fixed incomes, it’s essentially a wealth tax or an inheritance tax. I dislike both taxes. How many times must we pay taxes? My preference would be to change the system. I think the state ought to offer the town more options for taxes, such as allowing towns to have a municipal income tax or a municipal sales tax. (You can avoid a sales tax, if you want.) And they would both be related to one’s ability to pay, unlike the property tax.

How else can we fix the system?

We should provide towns the option to make their Boards of Education their own taxing authority. This would provide voters with the ability to directly link taxes with (education) services when they walk into the voting booth. Board of Education members may consider the financial impact of their decisions in a different way.

How would I describe our Elderly Tax Relief program?

It’s an ad hoc approach to dealing with a bad system. But it is an appropriate response. When I’ve heard (and continue to hear) from seniors who live in the 4th district… who’ve spent their life in their house… who’ve invested their life in their house… who see their house not as a financial investment, but as an emotional investment… and who go to bed at night wondering if they can afford to pay for their prescription drugs… and be able to continue living in the house where they raised their children… I knew that enhancing the elderly tax relief program was the right thing to do.

Tim White
Town Council, 4th District