New London taxpayer group disbands, plans donation to library

New London – The local taxpayer group known as Looking Out for Taxpayers has ended a 17-year run of what members say was an attempt to keep local government in check.

The group, which originally formed as a political action committee in 2000 when it was called Lower Our Taxes, is best known for its annual budget petitions calling for spending reductions or referendum votes. Group members figure their work has saved city taxpayers millions of dollars.

LOT is disbanding due to a dwindling and aging membership, said co-chairwoman Karen Paul. The group met on Wednesday and voted to donate its remaining funds, about $4,000, to the Public Library of New London.

“The attendance has been really poor. Technically we have 15 paying members but you know it’s the same five or six people that tend to do everything,” she said.

Paul said that while the group is known to some as the “naysayers,” who love to criticize city spending habits, she likes to think of members as average citizens “pointing out things,” that might otherwise be overlooked.

“I think people are going to miss us,” she said.

The formation of the group was inspired by longtime New London homeowners Barbara and Larry Hample, who in the late 1990s decided they had reached the property tax breaking point.

Barbara Hample, 83, a retired school teacher, recalls that taxes for their waterfront property at 424 Pequot Ave. had already risen from about $4,000 to $8,000 a year and in 1999 jumped again — this time to $16,000.

“That’s when I started making some phone calls,” she said. “It was outrageous.”

Hample’s calls and coaxing of other like-minded residents led to meetings at the Hample household with residents such like William Cornish, Jim Louziotis and Richard Humphreville, among others. The movement had begun.

In addition to demanding budget reductions, the group stayed involved with city politics through the years by putting up candidates for local boards and commissions and showing up at city council or school board meetings “to try and keep their feet to the fire,” Hample said. It also hosted fundraisers and candidate debates.

“I feel kind of sad because I worked so hard to keep it going so many years,” she said.

Hample recalls that she always had a hot pot of soup and would bake some cookies for the guests when the meetings were held at her home. She said the membership only started declining after the meeting location was switched to the Senior Center — where she didn’t cook.

Her husband, Larry Hample, 89, a retired charter boat operator, said his taxes are presently more than $20,000 annually and little has changed in city government since the initial call to action by LOT. He said for all the good the group has done it was “spinning its wheels,” in recent years and not attracting the younger generation.

His theory is that because so many people have taxes in escrow accounts they are simply not aware of the yearly increases.

“As near as I can tell I think we managed to keep the taxes a little lower than they would have been otherwise,” Larry Hample said. “At different times they did drop the mill rate a little. Over the years it adds up.”

The Hample’s home is now for sale and listed for $1.2 million.

g.smith@theday.com

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