NEWINGTON - The Town Council wants to draft a resolution opposing additional sewer charges under the Metropolitan District Commission’s (MDC) ad valorem tax structure-in the event that the financially ailing City of Hartford does not pay its last two quarterly payments for the fiscal year-but they’ll get an opinion from the Town Attorney first.
The questions at hand are whether the town has the legal right to refuse to pay the additional sewer taxes, and if the MDC can even impose the reserve fund charges to begin with.
Councilor Gail Budrejko brought the item to the agenda of the February 14 regular meeting, citing a resolution passed by the Town of West Hartford-which voiced opposition, with an agreement to pay the extra fees this one time, if necessary.
During the meeting, Budrejko and other Councilors expressed that they’d like to see Newington take it “a step further”, and refuse any additional ad valorem fees.
Under the MDC’s reserve plan, Newington would be on the hook for more than $700,000 in additional costs.
“It’s setting a precedent that’s quite scary to me,” said Councilor Beth DelBuono. “While I take nothing away from what Hartford’s going through, I think it’s unrealistic to expect other towns to pay for what they’ve already paid for. I don’t see the right of MDC to levy an additional tax.”
The Council’s sentiments reflect those being expressed throughout the MDC’s member towns-already facing a tight budget year with uncertainty regarding their levels of state aid. Meanwhile, Hartford-facing a $50 million budget deficit-would normally cover 26.7 percent of the $41 million in sewer tax revenue anticipated by the MDC.
Last week, the Republican Majority on Wethersfield’s Council introduced a resolution of its own, also disputing the MDC’s right to establish a reserve fund designed to come from the other member towns. The Council will hold a public hearing on the matter at its February 21 meeting.
The MDC itself has been seeking to avoid having to turn to a reserve fund-by way of legislative fixes to its Charter. The Commission has proposed the right to impose revenue liens on municipalities in order to protect tax money meant for sewer costs, as well as the ability to borrow for operating expenses.
While Newington Councilors expressed a desire to figure out and state where they stand on the matter-for budgetary planning purposes, if nothing else-they opted to seek the opinion of Town Attorney Ben Ancona in order to avoid the possibility of a long and costly legal battle with MDC.
Town Manager Tanya Lane said that if the additional cost is mandated, and not budgeted, the town would have to seek a last minute increase by way of referendum.