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$107 Million Budget Request Sent to Referendum Unchanged

Public will now get to vote on $107 million budget request.

With fairly little debate, the Legislative Council voted to send the $106,626,075 budget request to public referendum without any modifications Wednesday night at the Municipal Center.

At the same time, the final vote results, 8 to 4 in favor of the proposal, indicated some controversy regarding the final budget amount.

After citing statistics that appeared to show rising unemployment and an increase in education expenses at a disproportionate rate to inflation and town services, council member Rich Woycik attempted to cut $1 million from the budget request — $200,000 from the town’s contingency and $800,000 from the education system.

“I recognize that this is a very difficult choice that we have to make,” Woycik said.

But he was unable to garner enough support, with only Dan Amaral and Bob Merola being the only members willing to back his proposed million dollar cut. Merola said he remained convinced Newtown High School offered too many electives and has too many certified staff.

Other council members said they had reviewed the budget request in detail and could find little room for cuts that would not negatively affect town services although a few said they disagreed with the addition of a fourth Newtown High School assistant principal.

While most council members spoke to the reason for their vote, George Ferguson was among the exceptions, keeping quiet during deliberations but joined Woycik, Amaral and Merola as part of the opposition in the final vote.

Ferguson said in an interview after the meeting that he did not want to “obfuscate” the points Woycik and Merola were making, and that he would let his vote speak for itself – he did not agree with the proposed amendment that sought to cut an additional $1 million from the budget but he also was not in favor of the budget as presented. Ferguson made no follow-up amendments of his own.

One thing nearly all of the council members appeared to agree was that if they sent the proposed budget to referendum and the voters rejected it, there would be no other choice but to cut from the budget -- a situation unlike last year when education supporters sought to convince council members that a “no” vote might have been cast by some who wanted education funds added back to the budget.

“Sending the budget as proposed -- a no vote means too high,” council member Ben Spragg said. "We won’t need advisory questions to figure that out so I will vote to support the town school system and pass the proposal to referendum as presented."

It took three referendums last year before the budget was finally approved. Officials said they are hoping this year the town will only have one referendum, although turnout may be a problem. Last week’s referendum on the charter revision drew record low voter turnout.

“Are we going to have that kind of apathy?” Ferguson asked Capeci as the two walked out the Municipal Center after the meeting.

Capeci said low turnout would put the referendum in jeopardy of failing. In order to pass, enough people who support the budget would have to come out to the polls to counteract the faithful group of residents who vote “no” every year to the budget request.

“We can expect the 2,000 ‘no’ votes,” Capeci said.

The budget referendum is scheduled for April 26. If the proposal were to pass, it would lead to a tax increase of 2.7-percent. The mill rate would change to 24.64 from 24.

Po Murray April 08, 2011 at 10:08 PM
Tom, Thank you for clarifying this confusing subject. I call this funky accounting. The following language was added to the Charter during the 2008 Charter Revision: "The Town may retain a cash surplus from year to year in an undesignated fund." The goal of the town is to build up this account.
Po Murray April 08, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Jan, It is unfortunate "people like" me are not welcome here. You should not view the growth as all negative. "People like" me moved here and we have supported the local businesses and I am certain "many of" you have benefitted. Your home prices may be lower now than a few years ago but I am certain the value of your home is higher than when you purchased your home. My home value is still higher now than what it was when I purchased my home in 1999. Also, I encourage you to read the Planemetrics Buildout Report in detail---these professionals have projected that there would be "An additional 2,435 housing units can be added at buildout/Currently there are 9669 units/At 2.79 persons/housing unit, the buildout population is estimated at 33,770." http://www.independentpartyofnewtown.com/doc_library/planemetrics-buildout-study/
Tom Bittman April 08, 2011 at 10:42 PM
Jan, As you describe it, I'm a part of the problem, too, since I've only lived here for 16 years. And my son who was born here is also a part of the problem. Maybe, just maybe, the problem is a little different. Maybe the problem is a lack of strategic planning. Maybe the problem is that we do not have a shared vision about the future of Newtown, and a shared plan to achieve it. We have such talent in this town - including the troubling newcomers - that if we worked together as a community, and developed a shared vision, maybe we could ensure that Newtown 2020 was still a very special place. I'm not saying your viewpoint is wrong at all. Maybe the solution is to slow new development, and maintain a lower population. Wouldn't it be great if the many people who cared should share their ideas, and we could come to some kind of consensus on our strategic plan? Wouldn't that be better than the us and them attitude that pervades a lot of the bickering in this town?
WaxyGordon April 08, 2011 at 11:30 PM
Newtown needs more residential development like a bald man needs a comb!
Douglas Brennan April 08, 2011 at 11:54 PM
If we were not so inefficient and we did not institutionalize inefficiency then we would not have the arguments that are being offered up with respect to growth. Actually growth should lower taxes as you have fixed costs being spread across a greater number of people and households. However we have squandered this opportunity and now we debate growth vs. non growth rather then discussing being fiscally prudent vs. being wasteful and inefficient.
Chris April 09, 2011 at 12:02 AM
There is no prudent to this regime. It's the same old shell game. The budget is to high to dole out the gifts to the favored. When we cry the ax is balanced over the school budget and everyone yells"NO"!! That is how this bunch of con-artists got a million dollar field, a new Town Hall and their favorite contracts filled.
Sandy Hook April 09, 2011 at 12:08 AM
The values of people's homes are even greater if they don't have a huge mortgage to pay off when and if they do sell. I don't really care what the value of my home is. It is not an investment that I intend to sell and make a profit on. Look at what everyone pays to a bank in just interest. Stop borrowing and pay for what you can afford. Save everything you can and pay your debts. Don't buy anything you don't need. The town goverments should do the same. I actually own my home in Newtown. I OWN it. And I paid it off by 42 without winning a lottery or getting an inheritance. I am a lot more disgusted giving a bank $$ for nothing than giving $$ for quality schools and roads without potholes.
Tom Bittman April 09, 2011 at 12:23 AM
If "we" were not so inefficient. I 100% support finding and eliminating inefficiencies. If only there were specifics. There's a wonderful way to actively solve this problem. Run for Board of Education, or Board of Finance, or Legislative Council, or Board of Selectman. These are the volunteers who we have elected to help us have an efficient and high-quality community. It's perfectly fine to say they are not doing what we elected them to do, but be specific. Tell them what they are missing. And if they don't listen, then vote for somebody else, or run for office yourself. Unfortunately, I think it's a fact that the majority of our education costs are not fixed, but are instead tied to number of students. I'm not saying there aren't inefficiencies - but if you add students, you add teachers, and they are the largest chunk of the budget.
Douglas Brennan April 09, 2011 at 12:51 AM
Dear Sandy Hook: You are not alone. However I do not think that the amount of taxes should exceed the cost of the home during its lifetime. After all very limited services are provided. At one point in time I thought that I owned the house and the land. The deed says fee simple absolute. However the rent (taxes) seem excessive for the services provided. If you own property in more then one town in this State you would realize the extent of the problem. Too much for too many for too long. Each thousand extra dollars spent on taxes each year reduces your property value by about $15,000. Don't wory though you do get a Federal Tax Deduction for all that is wasted.
Sam Mihailoff April 09, 2011 at 01:53 AM
Don't wory though you do get a Federal Tax Deduction for all that is wasted." REALLY... and now the once "$500 property tax rebate" from State income taxes is to be abolished...the way I see it that is now a $500.00 increase in property taxes
Arthur Hill April 09, 2011 at 02:43 AM
2.7% annual tax increases compounded for 10 years represents a nearly 50% increase over current tax rates. I'm not quite as pessimistic as "WaxyGordon" about Newtown's future, but there could be elements of truth in his prediction. If town committees keep approving budgets almost double the general rate of inflation in our economy, people won't hang around Newtown for long. The school budget will become a nonissue, because young families with school age children will opt to live in communities with more affordability. Property taxes are a big part of a young family's affordability calculation. School enrollments will dwindle dramatically as will property values.
Douglas Brennan April 09, 2011 at 01:51 PM
Tom: If you add students, which we had a lot of experience doing, we added costs. We did not reduce our cost per student as you would expect as decisions were made to also add fixed costs. We therefore did not gain any institutional leverage. Unlike any other institution we did not gain the efficiency of size or technology or reduced maintenance during a period of growth and investment in new facilities. Now that we are reducing students we again are adding costs? We are not just increasing our cost per student but our total cost. Like nothing else in the world?
Douglas Brennan April 09, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Art: You are correct that taxes now make up a great percentage of the cost of ownership. Many people in the 80's came to Newtown because homes in New York were "tax poor" meaning that the taxes were so high that the same priced house cost twice as much to own in New York. The problem that we face is once you are on the wrong side of the curve meaning the downward slope, it is almost impossible to turn it around. More people find it unattractive leaving fewer to pay creating an even greater tax burden on those remaining. The first sign of this downward spiral is the dreaded news by the Town that we are maintaining services yet spending more money. Sounds familar doesn't it. More taxes for the same services making it even less desirable. The next step will be to offer incentives to businesses to relocate to a place that has inefficient government. This will place the burden on the individuals. In actuality the home owners will be underwriting the businesses. They will bond this and indicate that it is economic development. Hardly. So we are at the crossroads. Will we get on track and become better then other Towns and be a model for efficiency or will we morph quickly from Newtown to Motown a place where half the population has left and they cannot downsize enough. Leadership is what you do when people are not looking. Demand leadership.
robin fitzgerald April 09, 2011 at 09:30 PM
WOW! I'm speechless Mr. Waxy, and that takes some doing!
robin fitzgerald April 09, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Jan, there are a lot of "people like you" out here and I'm sure some of them voted for you in the last election. You are an elected official, elected to respresent ALL of the people in OUR town including the "people like you." You should be ashamed of this kind of prejudiced statement. We are all working as hard as we can to make OUR town the best that it can be, we all don't have the same vision for that as this comment page clearly shows, BUT we are all trying hard.
Chris April 10, 2011 at 12:27 AM
This "leadership" has been the same forever. Different painted cow running the same ship in the same direction, onto the rocks. Do any of you recall the fiasco that followed anytime someone from outside the box tried to run for an office in this town? There were more technical fouls than a crooked basketball game! Cindy Simon was a good one for that, yet when she changed the name , (ownership), on a title card illegally, not one person said boo. That is a felony that the "leadership" overlooked. There is no prudent or fairness in this regime, only insider trading. Clearly, at this point we need new, real leadership for this town, for all. And I see a real need for a citizens commitee to look at the entire budget to find the pork, the favoritism and the payoffs. Otherwise "they" will balance the ax once again over the school budget.
Douglas Brennan April 10, 2011 at 02:38 AM
Dear Chris: I filed an ethics complaint against Cindy Simon. She made false and misleading statements about my wife's and my signatures that were placed on a petition on the steps of the Old Town Hall. There were more then 40 witnesses yet she claimed that they could not possibly be our signatures. We actually brought our girls to the occassion so that they could see how democracy works. Were they shocked when Simon made her false statements about the events that took place.. They were more shocked when they found out that she was not actually in Town Hall on the day we signed the petitions. The state election commission quickly intervened verifying that we were there and everyone saw us sign the petitions. Her lies brought shame on herself and her family and anyone that ever supported her. Psychologists can determine the reason for her pathological lies however the rest of us have better things to do. Her reputation is as you indicate and below that of most criminals because at least common criminals have served their time and many have tried to repent. She was forced to move. What a disgrace. What was most disconcerting is that she was not found to have commited any ethics violation by our ethics commission. Imagine that? Maybe that is why she changed documents? Perhaps one of them had the goods on her?
Sam Mihailoff April 10, 2011 at 05:43 AM
Gee, kind of difficult for Cindy to defend your "current" accusations isn't it? Didn't she retire to Florida three years ago? As to your accusations of pathological lies, yes the rest of us do have better things to do, apparently even the law...perhaps even the DA found your accusations were without merit and not actionable. At least your girls have now witnessed adult whiners first-hand...YOU. So, a learning experience was encountered nonetheless.
Alex Tytler April 10, 2011 at 10:28 AM
Longtime, Every time you edit we all get an e-mail of what you wrote, so we all see the 7 drafts of this that you did.
Sam Mihailoff April 10, 2011 at 11:04 AM
well I did not know that...all I was attempting to do was insure proper grammar and spelling, something often criticized by the nitpickers.
Douglas Brennan April 10, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Dear Longtimeresident: I made no accusations. I provided the facts. I made no new accusations. What I did was to recall the situation as it was when this "public employee" sought to lie about a situation where she was not present and had no knowledge. She made these comments under "color of authority" which is worse then someone like yourself that speculates "in camera." Your comments are speculation and not supported by the facts. That is a poor attempt to perpetrate a sham. But the readers in this forum are far more intelligent then to seek wisdom from those that attempt to obfuscate the facts. They seek the truth and what is best for this Town. A part of this is to expect our elected officials to be truthful and forthright. We deserve it and must demand it. PS: Do not worry. I will not reveal your identity as you have chosen to speculate "in camera." However there is no defense for bearing false witness and there was and is no defense for ths behavior by an elected offical.
Sam Mihailoff April 10, 2011 at 07:30 PM
...i made no accusations. CALLING SOMEONE A PATHOLOGICAL LIAR IS AN ACCUSATION ...I provided the facts. I made no new accusations. What I did was to recall the situation as it was when this "public employee" sought to lie about a situation where she was not present and had no knowledge... REALLY, THE ACCUSED NOW RESIDES IN FLORIDA ... She made these comments under "color of authority" which is worse then someone like yourself that speculates "in camera."...OUCH, NOW I AM BEING ACCUSED OF SPECULATING TO YOUR SPECULATIONS ...Your comments are speculation and not supported by the facts. That is a poor attempt to perpetrate a sham...SO, WHY IS IT YOU NEVER PURSUED THESE "FACTS" LEGALLY, EVEN IF IT WAS A CIVIL SUIT ... But the readers in this forum are far more intelligent then to seek wisdom from those that attempt to obfuscate the facts... They seek the truth and what is best for this Town...SO, ARE YOU STATING I DO NOT??? ...A part of this is to expect our elected officials to be truthful and forthright. We deserve it and must demand it... HALLELUIAH, WE AGREE ... there is no defense for bearing false witness and there was and is no defense for ths behavior by an elected offical...IF THERE WAS EVIDENCE, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN PURSUED *****Now, can we cease with the personal attacks and stay on topic...the 107+ million dollar budget
Chris April 10, 2011 at 08:15 PM
Yes, let's get back to the budget. Simon lies. Most of the time. I've seen it up close and personal, it's ugly. Why are you spending so much time and energy to defend someone who has even documented their lies? Me thinks thou protesteth to much. Is she in Florida to dodge prosecution?
Douglas Brennan April 10, 2011 at 08:28 PM
I have provided the historic record of what transpired. The person in question was a public employee of the Town at the time of her transgressions. It is unfortunate that you continue to attempt to defend the indefensible.
Chris April 10, 2011 at 09:13 PM
I hope it is clear that the standard operation of the town offices has been to lie or ignore an issue. The lies are usually to protect their illegal acts. This is why to truly appreciate the budget, we, the taxpayers, need to see virtually line by line to pull out the graft and waste.
Douglas Brennan April 10, 2011 at 09:52 PM
Thank you Chris. It does not matter whether it is the Town, State or Federal government. No one will watch your money like you do and no institution can waste money more then government. How many programs that will never provide you with any service are within this budget? 501(c) 3's and many other special interest programs are buried in the budget. They should not be funded with public dollars. If you want to contribute you can and then get your own tax deduction.
Alex Tytler April 10, 2011 at 10:06 PM
So we need to tea party the Newtown government, a total reload, no encumbants should survive, start all over again with fresh bodies.
Kevin Fitzgerald April 10, 2011 at 10:38 PM
Chris and Doug, I am in my first term on the Legislative Council, the Education & Finance Committees however my comments here are my own. As I think Doug is aware, I have been concerned about how the town/schools spends our money since I moved here in 1998. At one point, I was so concerned about the debt cap and spending plans for the schools and Fairfield Hills that in 2004 I and others held a protest in front of Edmond Town Hall. In 2007 I set up my own table outside the polls at budget time trying to educate taxpayers that if they voted YES, they were also approving million$ more for the construction of the new town hall, which I opposed because the taxpayers never approved of it. Little did I know how much the new town hall would really cost! So I know full well what it's like to think no one will watch your money like you can. Having said that, I can tell you that on the Legislative Council and among the other Boards, there are plenty of other fiscal hawks like me who would welcome your input at budget time when we review every dept line-by-line. If you can help us identify line items that could be reduced or eliminated, you have our ear. But you should know that before we consider making any cuts, everyone involved must also weigh the impact that those reductions would have on the taxpayers that depend on certain services. We've been there again this budget season and we voted accordingly.
Douglas Brennan April 10, 2011 at 10:52 PM
Kevin: As you know before the Town Hall was built I provided a complete analysis of what it would cost the taxpayers. The Selectmen, Council and others dismissed it. I reviewed it with you and others and you know that what was ture before it was built is true today. Today we have a budget that is going to the voters where we have the same number of people as we did last year in many of the Town offices. Do we have the same level of work? This is not to say that they should be fired. Are they all fully engaged in productive work? Have there been any overtime hours other then those for snow removal? Are we reviewing the legal bills which seem excessive to get advice that you yourself have had to challenge like the question regarding a split budget vote? I do not want to labor the positions that we have that have contributed nothing to the town in terms of value but have added substantial costs? Do we still have any Town offices in place other then the New Town Hall? If we do why not reduce the spaces for people that aren't there regularly? Some of those areas reserved for people are excessively large. If you go up there on any day you will find a whole lot of space not being productively used. Is this good management? I know that you know what true accountability is. Why should we not have it in our local government?
Chris April 11, 2011 at 11:39 PM
I would guess you know corruption is a two way street. As well as getting the pork and payola out of the budget, a good look at the suppliers of services and goods is needed. I bet a LOT could be saved by contacting manufactures of goods and getting rid of a lot of middlemen. With the current financial crisis it should be a no-brainer to find services at 15 to 25% cheaper right now. Find the payola players and it would be even cheaper as well as an opportunity to give out a few criminal charges to those who helped create the deals.

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