About Town: Regionalism

Regional thinking is a good thing.

But one might wonder why if it is such a good thing it has not become the way government usually works?

The answer is basically that it isn’t so simple. Remember the parable of the blind men and the elephant? Although in this case “the elephant” has nothing to do with the GOP.

It comes down to a question of what our goals and aspirations for society may be. Which usually means letting the good of the many outweigh the good of the few. And that’s great, except if you are one of the few.

In recent times, Connecticut has gone from being “The Land of Steady Habits” to being “Still Revolutionary,” which together with the state’s poor financial situation has led to increased focus on regionalism.

How do regional thoughts relate to public education? How about the property tax? And while we’re at it, why has it seemingly taken forever for some in Hartford to understand some obvious facts regarding the car tax?

Taking these questions one at a time, Connecticut has had regional school systems and comparable arrangements in quite a few of its 169 towns. Providing public education is a constitutional directive for the state.

How does the state of Connecticut plan to provide such education in the future? The state Supreme Court recently made a decision siding with the state on the matter of equal justice in education funding. We are seeing the results now.

In Weston, we don’t receive much financial aid. But many other small towns around the state that have depended on such funds are being squeezed. Is there an economy of scale that would come into play if these towns joined with others to reduce costs? Does this work?

As far as I can tell, having watched the Informational Forum on Regionalism recently held by the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee, not exactly.

The issue of providing students with school bus transportation received prominent mention.  Guess what? In a multi-town school district in eastern Connecticut, complaints abound regarding unfunded mandates from the state specifying the requirements for that transportation.

Property tax relief? Absent a substitute funding source, this is the most secure source of revenue around. Testimony was offered to the effect that removing tax breaks for churches could be a way to right the financial ship in the city of Hartford.

Regarding the ”car tax,” the speaker of the House floated the idea a week or two ago of eliminating it altogether. When pressed as to where local government might find substitute funds, what was his idea? “Raise the mill rate instead,” he suggested.

NOTE: “About Town” is also a television program. It appears on Fridays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Cablevision Channel 88 (Public Access). Or see it at www.aboutweston.com.

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