Ross Carley describes himself as a moderate Democrat. The "semi-retiree" and 24-year Newtown resident has served on multiple boards in town — currently the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Fairfield Hills Authority and the Lake Lillinonah Authority. He's been working as an appointee since his first post, on the Commission for Aging, 10 years ago.
On Nov. 5, he's hoping voters will promote him to the Legislative Council.
"It all started because I had the desire to get involved — to stop complaining and get involved," he says.
A senior himself, he says his work on the commission gave him perspective on what seniors need in Newtown.
"We're losing our seniors, and we need to do something," he says. "Right now the town will give you tax breaks on your property . That needs to be raised. Something has to be done — more tax relief has to be available — to keep our seniors here. "
He wasn't happy when the budget bifurcated between municipal and education. While he's a supporter of the schools — his wife is a teacher and school librarian, and his son teaches chemistry at Newtown High School — he says the Legislative Council should take a close look at how much money is going to education.
"The budget increases all went to education, not to the town," he says. "That leaves us with the roads and the cleanup services we don't have anymore. When you take roughly 70 cents per dollar and put it in education, it doesn't leave a lot of money to pave the roads and take care of all the town employees."
He suggests the town may even wish to consider an outside audit of the Board of Education.
"Even our First Selectman is one of the lowest paid in the state," he says. "But we do have one of the highest paid superintendents. Our teachers, firsthand, I know are on the lower end [compared to] other towns. Where's the money? They're getting an awful lot, and the town doesn't have enough money to pay for the roads."
Carley: Newtown Has Budget 'Inequality'
Not only did he not support splitting the budgets, Carley says he didn't support the $71 million 2013-14 education budget, which passed in June on the third referendum.
"It wasn't that the school budget was too high, but there was an inequality between the town budget and the school budget," he says. "It's flowing too much to education and not enough to support the town itself. It's just the distribution and the equity of the split."
"The solution isn't necessarily to cut the overall budget," he says. "There's other ways to ease the income of the seniors in town. There are lots of national and state programs we can tap into -- Meals on Wheels, or heating programs."
On More Democrats in Newtown Politics
"This town ran best when the two major parties were in balance, and that's the whole thing with restore balance," he says. "This town functioned a lot better when it was 50/49. 60/40 even wasn't bad. But the Democrats are poorly represented on any of the boards right now, and I just want to see a return to that balance ... I think right now we're seeing one-sided politics. I'd like to have more of a balanced voice in town."
On the Future of Fairfield Hills
"Fairfield Hills has a couple problems, and unfortunately the [Fairfield Hills Authority] gets blamed for it," he says. "We're limited to what we can allow there. We're not allowed to have residential living at all, but we're looking at that right now."
An updated version of the Fairfield Hills master plan re-opens the prospect of eventually allowing residents, and Carley says he's weighing an application that would do just that.
"The main problem with Fairfield Hills is that for anyone who looks at renovating or tearing down, the cost is so great that it [makes more sense] to just go somewhere else and build somewhere else," he says. "Some of those buildings would cost almost $1 million to take down. It comes down to $200 per square foot to renovate. You can build somewhere for $125 per square foot and not have to deal with abatement and all that."