PLYMOUTH - In an effort to increase efficiency, the town worked out an agreement recently with Thomaston Saving Bank to allow residents to pay their local taxes directly to the bank.
Paul Lavoie, chairman of the Regional Legislative Committee, described the move recently at the State of the City & Towns Breakfast, hosted Thursday by the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce at Chippanee Country Club in Bristol.
The committee held a municipal collaboration forum in April to bring together local leaders to talk about ways to collaborate to reduce expenses, he said.
Lavoie described how Stephen Lewis, president/CEO of Thomaston Savings Bank, worked with Mayor David Merchant to have the bank accept payments at its locations.
“As Steve described it to me, people were going to his bank, getting cash, going to Town Hall, paying their taxes, and Town Hall was making a deposit and bringing the money back to the bank,” Lavoie said. “By accepting those payments at the bank we just cut out a whole bunch of processing by the government and we also had an opportunity to increase customer service.”
Municipal collaboration may be the wave of the future, Merchant said. “In my opinion the days of little communities like Plymouth and Burlington and Thomaston surviving on their own are numbered.”
If the small towns don’t starting talking about combining school districts and police departments to save money “then all we can do is keep raising taxes,” he said.
Merchant summarized issues the town is currently facing.
The town had a difficult time passing the 2017-18 budget because of the property revaluation this year, he said. “Our real estate value dropped so much we lost $25 million off our grand list. If you lose that much off your grand list then you’re going to have to raise taxes just to stay even, so our mill rate increased a substantial amount this year.”
The state legislature’s difficulty in passing a state budget is also a big concern because municipalities don’t know how much state aid they will receive in the new fiscal year, Merchant said.
The state’s proposal to have the towns pay for the shortfall in the teachers’ pension fund is another problem. Plymouth may have to contribute $1.2 million, he said. “Where am I going to get $1.2 million to pay this? If this thing gets dropped on us that’s going to be a bombshell.”
Merchant said some communities are considering sending out an extra tax bill to cover extra expenses.
He focused on positives in Plymouth, too. Even with the tough economic climate, “I’m in talks with three or four companies right now that are very interested in coming into our business park,” he said. “So I’m excited about that.”
In an effort to clean up blight, the old Mayfair Garage on Route 6 has been torn down, Merchant said, adding that he is “cautiously optimistic” that the state will come up with a brownfield grant to help clean up hazardous chemicals on the site.
He described how the Town Hall exterior is being renovated and the Plymouth Fire Station is being expanded. The parking situation at Eli Terry Jr. Middle School is being redesigned so that parental drop-offs and students walking to school are not entering in the same place where the buses are dropping off children any more, he said.
There are free summer concerts on Baldwin Green every Wednesday night, sponsored by the chambers, he said. “Lake Winfield has a one-mile walking trail, it’s a quiet place to go for a walk around a nice lake. The recreation area on North Street is good for kayaking and canoeing, it’s one of the most beautiful spots in the state of Connecticut.”
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.