The town budget process took an unexpected turn last week. At the end of February, the Board of Selectmen (BOS), in a 5-1 vote, recommended a budget with a 2.99% increase to the Board of Finance (BOF). I was the only Selectman to vote against this budget, as I felt that, given the uncertainty of funding from the state, further reductions should be made.
Typically, the Board of Finance receives the budget from the BOS and goes to work making further cuts. But last week, instead of following its usual process, the BOF chairman suggested that his board should not discuss further reductions but should just pass the Selectmen’s budget through to the Preliminary Budget Hearing. Apparently, the chairman felt beleaguered by criticism of some of his remarks about some line items.
Fortunately, other members of the Board of Finance felt it was their duty to analyze the budget and make further reductions. One member suggested that perhaps they were in this difficult situation because they had not given the department heads sufficient guidance – that is, they had not set out budget goals in advance. What a concept! If you are a regular reader of this column you know that this is precisely what I suggested way back in September, when the budget process was just beginning (see my column published in this space on September 30th). When the boards of Selectmen and Finance held a joint meeting last October to discuss the budget process, I again suggested that we might be more likely to achieve better budget control if we had an overall goal in mind from the start (see column published December 9th). The idea was rejected at the time. Actually, it was ridiculed. And so, here we are, scrambling at the eleventh hour to set budget goals for our department heads.
You will very soon receive a mailer from Town Hall with a summary of the preliminary budget . Please attend the Preliminary Budget Hearing on Monday, April 17th if you have any questions or concerns.
Another recent development is the presentation of a new proposal for the Country Club of Woodbridge. The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut is seeking a location for a headquarters and “Wish House”. It is interested in purchasing about 15 acres, an area that would include the current clubhouse, tennis courts, parking lot and the parking area across Woodfield Road. It did not yet make a financial offer, but came seeking to gauge interest from the town before it makes a formal proposal.
The First Selectman expressed her enthusiasm for this idea. While I admire the work done by this group, I have concerns about its proposal. First, it would require a zoning change to allow an office building in our Residential A Zone. This prospect raises the question of whether the town could prevent office buildings in other locations within the zone if it permits them at the CCW, the same questions that have affected proposals for condominiums at the site. In addition, I think it unwise to sell off a part of the property piecemeal, without an overall plan for the remainder that has been fully vetted and approved by the townspeople. To do so could severely limit our future options for this unique and valuable town asset.
By Selectman Maria Cruz Kayne