Borough: Facts First
To the Editor:
Yes, it’s Borough budget time again and once more — Facts First. Last year, Mr Mitchell suggested to The Bee there was missing Borough money, now he claims too much money. I’ll address his claims one at a time.
He cherry-picked general fund numbers. The annual budget year is not over, and there are significant expenses still outstanding. After outstanding year end expenses, $35,000 use of General Funds for the upcoming budget, and anticipated $50,000 to $100,000 Sugar Street sidewalk expenses, the General Fund will be around two times the budget of $250,000, which satisfies the Borough CPA firm auditors.
Mr Mitchell claims that the $450,000 General Fund was for legal fees to contest “any affordable housing” at the Inn at Newtown property. That is false. The issue was that the developer’s law firm stated they would not secure a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Borough Historic District because they claimed “affordable housing” preempted the Borough Historic District (yes, the same law firm that Dan Rosenthal called out for conflict of interest.) In fact, the “affordable housing” law preempts zoning commissions, not historic district commissions. Borough counsel (top shelf firm) agrees Borough Historic District approval is required.
The Borough Charter provides for the Borough to hold real estate and personal property (money) and authorizes the “warden and burgesses, or a majority of them…to make, alter, repeal, and enforce…the finances and the property of the Borough.” That means the Borough may hold money for extended periods of time in managing the finances of the Borough. Mr Mitchell suggests that Holmes v. Beckwith, 11 Conn. Sup. 215 (1942), (a Superior Court case) precludes the Borough from holding money despite the Charter because of Connecticut General Statutes Section 7-344. However, the Connecticut Supreme Court case of Caulfield v. Noble, 178 Conn. 81 (1979) held that a Borough/Municipality Charter preempts the Connecticut Statute Section 7-344, under the Home Rule Act. Therefore, a municipality may hold general funds money.
Finally, the Borough does have a separate Reserve Fund for Capital projects specifically identified, LoCIP included. It’s anticipated once the estimates are firmed up for the sidewalk expansion, some assets from the General Fund will be transferred into the Reserve Fund for the specific sidewalk Capital Improvement. Contrary to Mr Mitchell’s claim, the reserve fund does not contain close to three times the annual budget amount. It’s about $76,500.00. Therefore, his Chapter 108, claim, which is Connecticut General Statute Section 7-359, et al., is incorrect.
The proposed Borough tax mill rate is 0.83. That compares to:
2013-14 MILL RATE — 0.89;
2014-15 MILL RATE — 0.87;
2015-16 MILL RATE — 0.85;
2016-17 MILL RATE — 0.86;
2017-18 MILL RATE — 0.85;
2018-19 MILL RATE — 0.95.
In summary, the Borough remains fiscally sound, is complying with law, and is guided by its CPA firm auditors. Mr Mitchell was Borough attorney for numerous years… if he truly had such questions, why weren’t they raised then?
18 Main Street, Newtown May 1, 2019