As the lunch crowd eats at Hartford Pizza, owner Christos Penagiotidis said he fears what Town Meeting Day could do to his customers bills.
The town is asking voters to approve a 1-percent local option tax on rooms, meals, and beverages. "Right now it is at 9-percent and adding another 1-percent to the customer -- the economy being what it I -- I don't think it is appropriate at this time," Penagiotidis said.
And that's just one potential tax increase on the ballot. The Hartford "Hurricanes" will be on voters minds. An $8.8 million bond is up for approval for a new turf field and track at the high school. Also included are renovations to the ice rink, a new children's pool, and a new field house. The varsity baseball diamond will be moved to town property on Route 5 -- known as Maxfield Farm -- where additional athletic fields and hiking trails will be built.
"The facilities are all geared toward recreation uses by people of all ages," said Hartford Select Board Chair Ken Parker. In addition, a bond for $4.9 million would make renovations to the municipal building. If both construction projects are approved, property owners with a $200,000 house will see a tax increase of about $140 a year. "It certainly is a lot of money and I can tell you that I am not relishing the notion of paying additional taxes any more than anyone else is, but I believe this is a good thing to do for Hartford," Parker said.
When it comes to the 20-year bonds this business, Christos Penagiotidis says yes. "I am for it because it good for the kids. It is something for them in the future for our kids. I don't mind that one at all," he said.
But he does mind the 1-percent local option tax. He said unlike resort towns, where tourists end up footing the bill, at his restaurant it's the locals who are frequent guests. "When it comes to the local community, which is the same people day after day, I think at this time to increase, to give them another 1 percent increase in their food -- I think it is not appropriate," he said.
The select board could chose to only apply the tax to hotels. That would be decided after town meeting. Renovations to the municipal building were shot down by voters a couple years ago, but town officials said with interest rates at an all time low, the time in now. "There comes a point in time where I think you have to look at your community and you have to consider making an investment in your community. These are not just expenses we are looking to make. We are looking to make investments in Hartford," Parker said.
Hartford residents will gather on Saturday for a pre-town meeting where all the items up for vote will be discussed -- including the 1 percent tax increase. Despite informational mailers sent out to voters, the tax on the upcoming ballot was news to several restaurant owners Channel 3 spoke with Monday.
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