Full Disclosure: The Disposable Income Tax

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Thanks to consistently irregular weather and our nonexistent winter, I have ceased to embrace nature’s concept of “the seasons.” The only season that I can truly rely on is the town’s budget season, which always arrives on time and is reliably turbulent. 

Over the next month, the town’s governing bodies, public servants and stakeholders will endure lengthy hearings (along with the occasional heckler) to nail down a complex budget and make sound financial decisions for New Canaanites. 

Concurrently, I, the reluctant and wholly unqualified CFO of my household, will continue to engage in questionable personal finance practices to ensure that my “constituents” also are satisfied. 

When things go awry under my roof (and that’s seemingly a weekly occurrence), I put on yet another hat as a grumpy, de facto facilities manager. In this role, I tackle a staggering, time-sensitive home maintenance to-do list. With each frustratingly new-and-never-before-seen problem or task, I gain unwanted insight into specialized trades and vocations that this lazyperson, I mean, layperson, never imagined. As a result, I have been known to go to extraordinary lengths to cross projects off the dreaded checklist — at any expense and at all costs. 

Living in New Canaan is expensive, thanks to incredible schools, beautiful parks and other public services and resources that are expected of “The Next Station to Heaven.” What is not often addressed is the extra financial burden that New Canaanites endure: the additional 75-ish% upcharge on any service, repair or quote provided by nonlocals who want to cash-in. This “disposable income tax” is brazenly levied by service and trades people who are very well aware that some jobs just need to get done at any cost. The overages can (and ought to) be laughably dismissed, but most of the time, homeowners are too desperate and resolution-driven to solicit competitive bids. You arbitrarily decide what you are willing to spend and pay the piper. I know, my parents taught me better.

Last year, a painter who came highly recommended provided an estimate for repainting my daughter’s modestly sized bedroom from one pale, neutral color to another. I wasn’t asking for a replica of the Sistine Chapel or intricate frieze work—just slap some paint on the walls and call it a day. I received a dead-serious quote for $3,000, so I guffawed in his face and bid (pun intended) him adieu. Even I can spot a rip-off when it’s that blatant. I was also pretty convinced the guy was not the second coming of Michelangelo. Yet, clearly, some people didn’t think twice about overpaying this painteur. Surprisingly, I found someone who was unaware of the New Canaan upcharge scheme to complete the work for $350. And, I firmly believe my guy could be the reincarnation of one of the Great Old Masters.

More recently, my sanity and good judgement as household CFO and facilities ace came into question when I was made aware of a mouse “situation” in our basement. My first impulse was to pack up, relocate and let the critters have the joint. However, after consulting the New Canaan Mom’s Facebook group, I found an exterminator who was willing to take advantage of my vulnerability and sell me the platinum protection program at the “special” New Canaan rate. The multi-phase action plan was commensurate to that of a military operation, so perhaps it was worth it? Honestly, there was no price I was not willing to pay to drive out the enemy. I was going for shock and awe (but in a cruelty-free-ish, let’s-not-disrupt-the-ecosystem kind of way). 

After suppressing the intruders and shoring up our defenses, the pest management company proposed a massive clean-up effort that would have made even a Greenwich homeowner blink. When I finally came to my senses and cut the company loose, I took the only rational next step as an unfit CFO: gut the entire basement and start over. I was sure a handyman would come along and make me a terrible offer that I simply couldn’t refuse. 

Now that I have a rodent-free and spanking new basement, I can focus on the burgeoning items on my checklist that are sure to spiral out of control and trigger costly, overpriced spin-off projects. In the meantime, should anyone need inept personal finance advice, project mismanagement suggestions, or my list of the most shady service providers, I would be happy to hinder you. 

Just think, we are so lucky that citizens like me are not sitting on the Board of Finance and steering the town into the gutter. I will continue to wreak havoc in my own home and try to get to the bottom of my to-do list before the disposable income tax has drained my account for good. 

2 thoughts on “Full Disclosure: The Disposable Income Tax

  1. Humorous article pointing out cost of living in New Canaan and need for self reliance to avoid being vulnerable to maintenance service providers. Similarly New Canaan is now vulnerable to financial industry ( Wall St ,Bankers, Hedge Funds, Insurance etc) for reliance on jobs to pay for rising property and State taxes. In the mid 90’s New Canaan had a more diverse industry representation with jobs in chemicals, paper, energy, pharma and other industries which provided a more balanced tax base. Town planners should keep this in mind considering financial industry jobs nationwide have decreased by 5% last year, coronavirus impact is still unknown and older residents are relocating to other States taking away a stable wealth base.

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