By Elsa Peterson Obuchowski
To The Editor:
Voting for mayor and Common Council members is important, but the candidates on the reverse side of the ballot can have an equally great impact on our lives as Norwalk residents and taxpayers. That includes taxing district commissioners and treasurers. Every voter in the four taxing districts with elected officers should get to know those candidates and their vision for the district.
The taxing district structure can seem mysterious — at least it seemed that way to me until I learned that it dates from 100 years ago when Norwalk was unified into a single city. Taxing District commissions are local, neighborhood-based bodies that make decisions about how our taxes are spent on utilities, libraries, parks and other public goods. Each taxing district has the power to borrow by issuing bonds, to be paid back through my taxes paid to the city. As a voter, I would like my taxing district officers to be intelligent and well qualified, dedicated to the public good, and approachable. I would reject a candidate who is arrogant or who seems to be seeking office for personal gain.
The First Taxing District comprises (roughly) central Norwalk (voting precincts A1 and A2). Its main task is to operate the municipal water supply for Central Norwalk and other districts. Have you checked the water quality reports from the state of Connecticut? Do you know if the candidates have a plan to avoid repeating last year’s rate increase in response to decreased customer water usage? Is the infrastructure being maintained? All of these questions have implications for your life, your health and your pocketbook.
The Second Taxing District, located in South Norwalk (precinct B1), supplies both water and electricity to South Norwalk. It also makes appointments to the Norwalk Public Library Board. If your electricity comes from SNEW, do you know what the district commissioners are doing to keep electric rates low and to ensure that electricity is available? Is the water quality report acceptable? Will the candidates be responsive to customer requests, such as the one for more street lights in high-crime areas? District decisions made by commissioners will impact the lives of South Norwalk residents.
The Third Taxing District comprises East Norwalk (precinct C1). It operates a municipal electric utility and funds the East Norwalk Library. Did you know that a brand new electrical sub-station is being built in East Norwalk? Do you know how that will affect your future electric rates? What plans does the district have for maintaining and improving its infrastructure going forward? East Norwalk’s electrical supply was the envy of much of the state during massive outages after major storms the last few years. Do you know the candidates’ plans to keep your lights on in the future?
The Sixth Taxing District, located in Rowayton (precinct E2), maintains the Rowayton Public Library and Bayley Beach. Are you satisfied with the availability of these services? What plans do your candidates have for maintaining the quality of life in Rowayton?
These taxing district commissions make decisions that impact everything from educational enrichment (through libraries) to safety (electrical supplies), health (water supplies) and your cost of living (levying of taxes and/or cost of municipal services). Taxing districts have many of the same powers as the City of Norwalk does, and the voters of those districts have the power of the ballot to “hire and fire” the officers that are running the Districts. When you go to your polling place on Nov. 5, be sure to turn the ballot over and vote these important offices.
A map of Norwalk’s Taxing Districts can be found at https://www.norwalkct.gov/DocumentCenter/View/4745/Norwalk-Tax-District-Map-11×17?bidId= . Sample ballots can be found at https://www.norwalkct.gov/DocumentCenter/View/5246/2013-FINAL-BALLOT-PROOFS?bidId= .
Elsa Peterson Obuchowski