Winsted Approves Supplemental Property Tax

Despite some loud criticism from the public, the Winchester Board of Selectmen voted Monday night to approve a property tax that would help pull the town out of debt.

The board voted five to two in favor of the supplemental tax.

"We still have a long way to go. It's a step in the right direction," said Winsted resident Lisa Steeves. "I'm of the belief that we need to do that as well as the loan in order to move our town forward."

The supplemental property tax approved Monday night is 3 mills. Since the current mill rate for Winchester is 31.2, it represents about a 10% increase.

For those with property worth $100,000, for the coming year, taxes would jump from $3,120 to $3,420, an increase of $300. The one-time supplemental property tax is expected to bring in about $2 million for the town.

Some residents were supportive of the tax, while others expressed concern.

"It's a hard hit for a lot of people. Some of us can do it, and some of us can't," said Winsted resident Charlene Lavoie.

On Saturday, the town voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $2 million loan to keep their public schools open.

Town officials largely blame former finance director Henry Centrella for the town's money problems. State police arrested Centrella for allegedly stealing millions from the town. He's pleaded not guilty to larceny.

"If we absolutely need [a supplemental property tax], I think the town will support it, but do we actually need it right now?" Lavoie asked the board during public comment.

The 2010-2011 audit was the last one the town completed, and officials are currently working on the 2011-2012 audit. Critics wonder how the town can know where its debt stands without concrete financial information.

"I think that's a valid point, and I think the finance director has done a great job of estimating where we are," said Town Manager Dale Martin.

Residents are required to pay the supplemental property tax by the end of January next year. Officials say $1.5 million will pay bills that are due, and the rest will go towards replenishing funds they say the former finance director depleted.

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