THE MANCHESTER taxpayers who turned out at the polls on Nov. 3, 2009, were rightfully frustrated and tired of consistent spending increases and tax hikes at City Hall. On that day, they spoke loud and clear.
With the power of the ballot box, they sent a message that they were tired of government taking more of their hard-earned money year after year. Their voices were heard through the strong approval of an amendment to the City Charter that would place a cap on annual budget increases. And with that, our city’s tax cap became a reality.
Our tax cap was passed not as a result of a small number of elected officials casting their votes in a chamber at City Hall. Instead, it came into existence because individual taxpayers showed up by the thousands to tell politicians that they expect them to prioritize spending and govern efficiently. That should mean something to those we elect.
Regrettably though, for too many of our leaders in Manchester, it does not.
Last week, Mayor Joyce Craig worked political deals behind the scenes to help a majority of aldermen ignore their constituents once again and override our tax cap. On the night the budget passed, she did not veto their actions or speak out against them. Instead, she stood silent and allowed its passage knowing that breaking the cap was exactly what she had hoped for.
The $353 million budget that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed for 2020 will result in a 3.29% hike for Manchester taxpayers.
Rather than standing up for blue-collar families in Manchester who cannot afford higher taxes, our mayor failed to lead once again. And to make matters worse, Joyce Craig deceived all of us. Just three months prior, Joyce actually said she, “respect(ed) the tax cap.” That statement was either untrue or I must have a different understanding of the word “respect.” If she respected it, she would have fought for it.
I have heard some politicians argue that a 3.29% hike is just a small increase. They say it is one that everyone should be able to afford and absorb. As a blue-collar family ourselves, we understand how wrong that claim is. I know how tough it is to live paycheck to paycheck. My husband has worked multiple jobs so I could stay at home to take care of our two boys. When we were a young family, there would have been many months where that extra money could have been crucial for groceries or an electric bill.
Similar to many young families scraping to get by, tax hikes like this are detrimental to our elderly who live on a fixed income. When going door-to-door throughout our neighborhoods, I speak with a lot of seniors who tell me that they often have to decide between necessities such as medicine or heat in the winter. How can we honestly tell that senior citizen that our government cannot find a way to do with a little less to ensure they have what they need?
There will always be a need for taxes. As citizens, we know and expect that. However, we also know that there are government “needs” and there are government “wants.” Our politicians may want more money for increased spending, but in almost every situation, we can find ways to fund our city’s priorities while also not continuously taking more and more from hard-working families. To do so, we need to ensure that we elect leaders who are always willing to put the taxpayer first. If we don’t, we cannot be surprised when they continuously vote to raise our taxes.
While there is little we can do to stop the new tax hike that will hit us all next year, we can change course for the future. I promise that if given the honor to be your next mayor, I will fight to protect the tax cap at every turn. We will fund our priorities, and we will find efficient ways to make government live within its means. Many of us have to make hard budget decisions around the kitchen table each month, my family included. Our elected officials at City Hall should do the exact same thing. As the taxpayers who are footing the bill, we should expect nothing less.