Newtown Well Served By Finance Board
To the Editor:
In the lead-up to the November 8 elections a lot of ink and digits will be devoted to candidates. I’m writing to highlight the Referendums that will be on the back of ballots. There will be a Statewide question, and in Newtown, two questions addressing revision to our Charter. The first of the two Town questions would eliminate the Board of Finance (BOF).
I’m writing to encourage a NO vote on eliminating the BOF.
Newtown has been well served by its elected BOF. Without a BOF, their financial management, planning, policy, reporting, purchasing process, CIP and budget review responsibilities would default to Legislative Council (LC).
LC addresses a broad range of issues: zoning, ordinances, bookkeeping and other, often politically charged topics. BOF is the only town body that focuses exclusively on the financial health of Newtown. Structurally six people (BOF) can have far more constructive discussions developing cohesive practical work products than a group of twelve. Especially when the group of twelve (LC) has other considerations to balance.
BOF does not need to weigh sound financial management against other responsibilities and issues. In recent years, the BOF worked through updating Debt, Fund Balance and CIP policies. After being forwarded to LC, these policies languished for months before LC approved them with some wording changes. LC doesn’t have the capacity to take on more responsibility.
Today’s BOF was created by the voters 20 years ago when the Charter Revision Commission 2001 pushed the question onto the ballot after LC did not. This resulted in disjointed referendum questions and two bodies with overlapping responsibilities.
Eliminating the BOF takes care of the overlap, but leaves a void in Newtown financial management. A politically appointed ad hoc group will not fill this void and will not be accountable to voters. The structure and role of the BOF is not perfect, but it has served Newtown well. Top bond ratings which yield tremendous savings in interest cost for bonding, and flat property tax rate over three years, to name two.
The Charter Review Commission 2021 did not propose an alternative. Throwing out the only town body solely focused on Newtown’s financial health is far too costly. Vote No to taking the BOF out of the Charter.
I am a current or former member of Town Building Inventory and Planning Work Group, BOF, and FONS Board. These comments are my own.