Peru tax hike results from bad management
To the editor:
Peru taxpayers have just learned that their tax rate has increased to $20.15. We were informed by our gatekeepers (the Board of Selectmen), via an explanatory insert included with our tax bills, that 85 percent of the increase was due to the school budget.
They also pointed out a $24,000 increase in our veterans services account. Obviously, the reasons for the insert were to throw the children and veterans under the proverbial bus and to draw attention away from the gross negligence of the financial management of this town.
Review of the veteran's account ledger for the last year clearly showed that there were more funds spent to pay our newly appointed VSO's stipend along with his training, lodging, meals, mileage and a laptop (costing $1,100) than any veteran ever saw in a single payment by this town. The funds that are raised and appropriated for this account are for the veterans' care and support they have earned with their service and not some VSOs personal money tree. In prior years, Peru had a fully trained, qualified and competent VSO who did not resign but was replaced for no apparent reason.
The school budget is 67 percent of our total levy (actual school budget minus state aid divided by tax levy); all other town services make up the remaining 33 percent. Are there any services in this town worth it? The roads are horrendous, you can't get information from town officials without a warrant and it is blatantly obvious that they have no intention of working for the best interests of taxpayers.
Last year's town report reported over $500,000 surplus revenue. It also reported around $330,000 of uncollected taxes (taxes that are not paid and not moved into tax title). Tax title is a process that not only protects the town by placing liens on properties that are not paying taxes, it also frees up the surplus revenue to be put back into the system via free cash — the free cash that is currently being certified annually is (basically) surplus revenue minus uncollected taxes.
With this huge increase how many more uncollected tax dollars will be holding our free cash hostage? Free cash which can be used to reduce the tax rate, something Peru has not done in years but obviously should be doing now! That surplus revenue of $500,000 represents $5.79 of our tax rate. If it were available as free cash, we could vote $5 off our current rate and to hell with using free cash to "pay off the fire house early" or buy the "latest and greatest" of whatever town officials want.
Here are Peru's tax rate increases since FY 2012: 2013 up 90 cents; 2014 up 96 cents, 2015 up $1.10 and 2016 up $1.79 cents. Can anybody see the forest?