The Tolland County Agricultural Center was filled with voters Wednesday night listening to the candidates for the 35th and 8th state districts discuss open space, support for small farms and economic development in their constituent towns.
"The numbers show that farmland costs about 34 cents for every tax dollar that is brought into the town," said 8th District State Rep. Tim Ackert (R), taking his statistics from the Connecticut Farm Bureau website. "Local business brings in about 29 cents for every dollar presented. It's a good investment," he added, explaining that residential properties typically cost towns $1.19 per tax dollar.
Susan Eastwood (D), challenger for the 35th State Senate District, said that the state needs to revamp its tax system, suggesting that a progressive income tax could free residents form high property taxes, a problem in rural communities without large numbers of businesses, such as Tolland or Ellington.
"It would keep us from balancing the budget on the back of property owners," she said. "The current system causes residents to fight over their schools."
State Sen. Tony Guglielmo (R) added that the state has grants and programs in place to assist rural communities, whether by providing tax incentives for open space through PA-490, or through dairy farm reinforcement programs. However, he said that "big-ticket" state projects tie up tax payer money, sometimes leaving the rural programs unfunded.
"We have programs in place, and it's a question of making sure they're properly funded," he said. "We need to refocus the basics, which we haven't always done a good job of in Connectcut. It's not an infinite amount of money. It's finite."
challenger for the 8th District seat, said that he wants to ensure that the state and towns work together to preserve open space and the rural character of local towns.
"It's really about the structure and intent of our local Plan of Conservation and Development," he said. "The state plan needs to become more in sync with the town plans."
Click here for a look at how the state POCD can affect local development.
Other topics discussed included promoting small business as opposed to national chains and supporting the sale of locally grown foods in grocery stores and local schools.
Ashford, Chaplin, Coventry, Eastford, Ellington, Hampton, Pomfret, Stafford, Tolland, Union, Vernon, Willington and Woodstock comprise the 35th State Senate District. Columbia, Coventry, Vernon and Tolland make up the 8th State Assembly District.
The Save Open Space-Coventry Advocates organized the event.
Check out the attached videos to watch the candidate introductions from Wednesday night.