When it became apparent that there would be a quorum at the annual Woodbridge Town Meeting on June 2, I was hoping that it would result in meaningful dialogue and ideas about the 2021-2022 town budget. Unfortunately, what evolved was a small group of attendees who seemed intent on causing a raucous, rude and condescending tone and no interest in a constructive exchange of ideas with town officials there to discuss the budget.
A dozen or so of the attendees began yelling and accusing the town of trying to suppress their voices and ideas. What followed was a series of motions which clearly showed they had no plan nor idea of the operation of the town budget. The motions put forward were aimed at dismantling several departments and defunding certain town officials. It also showed that they had no idea what the purpose of the town meeting was. Their intent was to decrease areas of the budget with the ultimate result being no tax increase. Claims were made that the mill rate is too high, expenditures were too high and the result is lower home values, which is really not the case as one examines recent home sales at multiples above asking price. Ironically, the very same people who make these claims are the first to oppose any attempts by the town to grow the grand list.
The population in Woodbridge has grown to close to ten thousand residents. I estimate approximately 180 residents were there to vote down the budget by looking to cut $1.6 million of expenditures, which is what it would take to have no tax increase. The town budget comprises 38 departments and commissions. Four departments account for 75% of total expenditures, those being Amity, Beecher, debt service and contractual fringe benefits. The group made it clear that education would not be cut and the remaining two cannot be cut. That leaves 25% of the budget or $12.6 million to be split among the remaining 34 departments that provide all townspeople with all of the services they require and utilize. In fact, over the past 5 years the remaining departments have seen their expenditures reduced through careful budgeting and eliminating and combining positions. To reduce these departments by $1.6 million would devastate the town and result in catastrophic reductions in services.
As chairman of the Board of Finance for the past 32 years and a town resident for 47 years, I can assure the thousands of residents who chose not to attend the town meeting, that the town budget is sound and the result of hundreds of hours of review and compromise. Woodbridge is blessed with an amazing group of employees who provide exemplary service to residents and oversee a long list of programs for all. We have kept education at the forefront of the budget while maintaining all services that taxpayers expect. And we have done this with virtually no growth in the grand list, yet have increased expenditures by a less than 1.5% average over the past two years.
I urge all residents to be involved in the budget preparation process during the many months of meetings and discussions. Attending the town meeting with the purpose of proposing drastic cuts is disrespectful to the countless hours spent formulating the budget. For that reason, I can’t be concerned with a dozen people yelling and disregarding the process, when thousands of residents choose not to attend or make known their dissatisfaction with the budget. I believe the vast majority of taxpayers are pleased with town operations and more importantly the tremendous services provided by our outstanding department staffs.
Matthew T. Giglietti