Fiscal responsibility is one of the most important roles a first selectman must fulfill in running a municipal government. Many would argue that our town, sporting an AAA bond rating, is currently in a favorable fiscal position. However, I would argue that the enviable rating comes at an unnecessary price for Orange taxpayers who have seen their tax bills increase over the past decade.
To achieve a Triple A bond rating, Moody’s, one of the leading bond credit firms, looks for a municipal fund balance (known to most of us laypeople as a “Rainy Day Fund”) to range between 12 to 15 percent. Yet, in the opening comments of our town budget report issued before this past May’s budget referendum, it was projected that Orange’s undesignated fund balance would be 17 percent of the current $76.114 million town budget. The first selectman said it now stands a shade over 18 percent. Others involved in tracking town budgetary matters estimate the fund balance could be nearly 20 percent.
What does that mean to us, the average Orange taxpayer? It means that we are being overtaxed and the revenues from what seems to becoming almost annual tax increases are largely being used to stockpile a town fund balance that’s beyond the required range.
It also means that many delayed small projects throughout the town that residents grouse about such as a long-range plan for some neighborhoods for improvements such as speed bumps and sidewalks or just a new layer of gravel at the widely utilized but deteriorated High Plains Community Center track go undone.
We need a first selectman who will take a collaborative planning approach with town residents to see that tax dollars are expended correctly and with an eye toward even a possible tax cut in the near future. I urge you to vote for Connor Dean for fresh leadership that builds to a brighter future for Orange.
Stephen J. Winters