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Meet the Candidate: Robert Levine

Robert Levine. Submitted photo

We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to meet the candidates running for election on Nov. 7, 2017.

Compiled by Ronni Newton

We-Ha.com is offering our readers the opportunity to “Meet the Candidate” – designed to help them get to know the candidates running for office in West Hartford’s Nov. 7, 2017, municipal election.

Identical questionnaires have been sent to all major party candidates, and each profile received has been submitted directly to We-Ha.com by the candidate or the candidate’s campaign management. The responses have not been edited but have been formatted to match our publication style. Questions left blank have been deleted.

As profiles are received, they will be published on We-Ha.com under the “Government” tab. We-Ha.com is not making endorsements of any political candidates but we are publishing this information in order to assist West Hartford voters in being informed and prepared when they go to the polls on Nov. 7.

If you are a candidate and wish to submit a profile, please return it by email to Ronni Newton at [email protected] as soon as possible.

Name: Robert Levine

Age: 44

Party, position seeking: Republican, Board of Education

Family information:Married to Gayle, we have three school age children, Jack, Cam and Katie.

Other occupation, if applicable:Real Estate Broker/Owner of Hart Real Estate and Hart Property Management Services

Political experience: Serve on the West Hartford Board of Assessment Appeals

Other relevant experience: Vice President of the Greater Hartford Association of Realtors. Previous work experience: I served as a policy analyst on the speaker’s task force on education in New York State. I also had consulting positions where I conducted financial audits and did program evaluations for public housing authorities and child support enforcement agencies around the Country.

Why are you running for office? The Majority Democrats have had control of the board for over a decade, so I thought I could give a fresh perspective and look at things differently than the way they have always been done. In the past 11 years our student population has remained largely the same, with a small decrease actually (further decreases have been forecasted). Our school budget has increased by over 51%, that is over $54,000,000, in the same time period. My biggest concern is that costs are out of control and that the education dollars are not being focused on the students and positive classroom outcomes. Simply put, where is all the money going?

What issue(s) are your primary area of focus? It is all about the budget and giving our students the best opportunities possible.

Several topics are likely on the minds of West Hartford voters this year. Please provide a brief statement regarding your opinion about:

  • The Town of West Hartford budget Like the school budget it is ever increasing and as residents, we need to ask more of our majority party elected officials. It is simply not sustainable to continue with the year in and year out tax increases. Part of the problem is certainly that West Hartford for literally decades has been chronically underfunded year after year from the State’s education cost sharing formula. Until our State legislators fix that problem, we will face difficulties as a town with balancing out budget. Regardless, there is much more our Democrat majority town councilors need to do to balance a budget and not always turn to tax increases on our town residents.
  • The State of Connecticut budget situation While I am relieved that we have a budget that was just signed by the governor it is important to note that as a town we are receiving millions of dollars less than what was passed in the Republican budget that the governor vetoed earlier last month (including a $1,000,000 hole in the education budget). I urge our town residents to speak up and ask for no tax increases in car or property taxes. We need to work harder to be more efficient with our spending in town. It should not be an either or proposition, tax increases or program cuts. I believe that too much money is simply being spent on things we don’t need or can’t afford long term. Refocusing our spending to student outcomes would help reign the school budget in significantly.
  • Regionalism If there were possibilities that would benefit West Hartford and our students then I would be in favor of that. However, I am not interested in combining services or functions with other towns if we do not see any such benefit. I will protect West Hartford schools from any such proposal.

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing West Hartford today? As a real estate broker in town, its taxes and affordability. Our community is becoming unaffordable, so we can’t simply keep raising taxes and expect people to continue to come to our town. Yes, there are many great things about our town, but we can’t rest on those accolades. If people stop seeing us as an affordable place to raise their children (and I believe that is already happening), we will have lost one of the pillars that we hang our hat on in this community.

What do you feel differentiates you from other candidates also running for this position? Being a small business owner, I know how to work with others and get things done. I want to bring this same can-do attitude to the board. Having a wife that teaches in town and three school age children also gives me not only great insight into our education system but also great incentive to make sure we have the best schools around. I will work tirelessly for town residents to this end.

Anything else you would like to share?I only ask fellow residents to please take time to get to know the candidates. Those folks elected to the board and council make more decisions that impact your daily life than anyone else will! There are excellent candidates running on the Republican line, so please check all of us out. I know all of them personally and they simply want to volunteer their time (these positions are unpaid) for West Hartford to make it the best it can be, and an affordable place for all to live, work, be educated and play!

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