Published on June 24, 2009 by the Yankee Institute for Public Policy
This manual is designed to help local politicians, taxpayer activists, and concerned citizens to lower onerous property taxes by organizing to reduce local budgets, both for their towns and schools.
Although written in the early months of 2009 – a time of dramatically falling home values, widespread job losses and worldwide economic difficulties – it is designed to be implemented during any period, so that events like those of today will never again put property tax payers in such dire economic circumstances.
This manual is also designed to be straightforward and accessible. Even policymakers are often confused by the terminology of local finance. Many otherwise intelligent people cannot clearly define “mil rate” or “grand list.” They are also made to feel helpless by false assertions that the cost of public employment is forever fixed by contract, that local programs are strictly mandated by state law, and that unions and other special interest groups are too powerful to be resisted.
What follows is based on the work of Dr. Armand Fusco, former school superintendent in Branford, Connecticut, and author of School Corruption: Betrayal of Children and the Public Trust (2005), a pioneering study of waste and fraud in K-12 education.
Dr. Fusco wrote two pamphlets for the Yankee Institute – Stopping School Corruption (2006) and Ending Corruption and Waste in Your Public Schools (2007) – and formed the first Connecticut public education audit committee at the request of the Enfield school board. In January of 2009, the taxpayer group Nonpartisan Action for a Better Redding (NABR) decided to conduct a first-of-its-kind audit of both the Redding school and town budgets with the goal of engineering a ten percent reduction in 2010 – a project appropriately called “10-in-10.” Dr. Fusco agreed to guide the Redding citizens audit committee, and its work has influenced what follows.