A funny thing happened on the way to last week’s Amity School Referendum. Maybe more encouraging than funny, actually. Woodbridge voters became value voters. How? By voting down the second ballot item to fund (primarily) an Astroturf football field. And as percentages go, it wasn’t even close – 60-40 against. This was clearly not a knee-jerk vote to “just say no to everything” because the first ballot issue was supported by nearly identical percentages. Now, both referenda did pass thanks to our friends in Orange and Bethany, so we Woodbridge taxpayers will still be shackled with the financial burden of our part of the $3M+ bill for those “athletic facility upgrades,” but make no mistake – Woodbridge voters did not see the value in that expense and spoke resolutely to that effect.
The current Town of Woodbridge administration would be wise to heed this message. The days of us just paying the bill, without real regard to how much the bill is, look to be over – or at least on their way out. And those days can’t come soon enough, for the sake of our family budgets and property values.
To see where else we are not seeing value came to us in the mail on the front page of the December 2019/January 2020 edition of the Woodbridge News & Events publication from Town Hall. The First Selectman celebrated the creation of a poster to highlight holiday events and looked forward to the next poster on health and wellness. Yes, a poster. This is where a valued town employee is spending time and thus our tax dollars – on a poster. If this is of part of the Town’s economic development efforts, which we understand to be a prime task of the authoring employee, then what is the expected Return on Investment? How many hours have been invested in creating the posters and what is the expected return to the Town? How is it measured? Is it worth it? Does it add value? No disrespect to the employee, but would a value-driven manager assign such a project without knowing its value?
The looming golf course public meeting and vote will likely undergo the same consideration by the voters. What is its value to the town? In the presentations made to multiple boards and commissions by the developer there were many, many questions about how many homes would be built, and when, what is the expected selling price, what is the net expected tax revenue, what additional services will the town have to provide for these new homes and residents, etc. These questions all revolved around the issue of value. In the same (above referenced) article of the Woodbridge News and Events, the First Selectman offered the reason for the delay on the golf course public meeting and vote was to get a fully negotiated sales agreement for the voters to consider. Being aware of the issue brought up in these public meetings thus far, one would hope the final agreement will be materially impacted by the public comment and concerns made to date. Seeing how Woodbridge voters are doing their homework and sharpening their collective pencil when it comes to major financial decisions, the fully negotiated sales agreement better have a plausible, positive value for the Town, or it will suffer the fate of the Astroturf football field – and there won’t be a Bethany or Orange to save it.
By Chuck Pyne, Secretary, Woodbridge Republican Town Committee