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Towns implementing low and high tech tools to keep town business running during coronavirus crisis

Coronavirus

Conn. (WTNH) — To keep democracy alive during the coronavirus crisis, many towns are innovating.

The sign on Durham town hall – closed. But government business is going on via ZOOM.

First Selectwoman Laura Francis says they are using technology while still staying true to the town charter. “We are hoping it will accommodate a budget hearing,” Francis said. “The Board of Finance will be taking a vote in public.”

Wethersfield, too, recently held an historic commission meeting on-line.

In Vernon, government documents are plastered to the town hall window. They recently held a drive through vote to avoid a tax increase.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities CEO Joe DeLong says in Vernon, “people got in their cars drove past someone who was tabulating the votes. They would hold up their drivers license to confirm their identity and they would give a thumb up or down.”

Municipal advocacy groups praise Governor Ned Lamont for his executive order allowing local towns and cities flexibility in this pandemic.

DeLong says you have to look at each individual community and make sure that the technology is broad enough and meeting all of the government compliance issues. At the same time, is the technology large enough and broad enough to meet the audience it is intended to engage?

While pensions funds are taking a hit in the stock market, State sales tax and income tax revenues are down. The silver lining: those dreaded real estate tax bills. Leaders say property taxes create a solid financial foundation for governments to operate in a crisis.

In many small towns the property tax is relied on to fund the delivery of education, public health, and safety services and other services, so there’s a lot of concern right now.

Betsy Gara, Council of Small Towns – COST

News 8 has learned the governor may be issuing another executive order later this week to give relief to property taxes. It will come in the form of a “tax deferral” and “waiving of interest on penalties” for those who have lost their jobs or their business because of COVID19.

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