After Lengthy Analysis, Finance Board Moves CIP Policy
As the vote was called October 13 for the Board of Finance to approve and move a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) policy to the Legislative Council for review, finance board member Ned Simpson seemed ready and eager to advance to other matters after countless hours over the course of many meetings had been spent reviewing and deliberating policy points.
“It’s been two years, time we moved this along,” Simpson said as he motioned to accept the CIP policy draft.
But even then there were a few loose ends to wrap up. Finance Chair Sandy Roussas mentioned that before this week’s meeting, a key section of the policy on processes used to authorize bonding and appropriations for a capital assets and projects was rewritten and simplified by Town Finance Director Robert Tait.
In justifying his last-minute effort, Tait sad the previously suggested language in section 310-10c of the proposal was technically incorrect. Tait said while the draft policy section appeared to separate authorizing permission to spend from the source of the appropriation funds, both activities are part of a single action and needed to be codified as such in the policy.
“A special appropriation is one act,” Tait said. “You have to state the source. And if that source is bonding, we call it a bonding appropriation — but it’s [still part of] one process.”
Tait went on to say the suggested language, which spanned over a page in the draft, was confusing, and needed to be simplified and scripted in a way that was consistent with similar language set out in the Newtown Charter.
The simplified language of the passage, as approved by the finance board, more succinctly outlines the steps in the process for projects readying for implementation to include appropriating funds for projects for which bonding has been approved following several steps. Those steps begin with a special appropriation request for a capital project that is prepared and initiated by the First Selectman — or, less commonly, by the Legislative Council.
A special appropriation includes the method of financing. If the method of financing is bonding, then, as Tait indicated, the resolution is called a bonding resolution and is drawn up by bond counsel. All other special appropriation resolutions are drawn up by the Finance Director.
The revised CIP policy stipulates that an impact statement must also be included with special appropriation requests.
The next step involves any special appropriation being voted upon by the Board of Selectmen. If approved, it is then submitted to the Board of Finance for consideration and action.
If approved by the BOF, the appropriation request then moves to the Legislative Council for consideration. Per the Town Charter, the Legislative Council has the power to make special and emergency appropriations of no more than $1,500,000 for any one purpose during a fiscal year. That amount is cumulative during the fiscal year for all appropriations related to the approved purpose.
The total of special and emergency appropriations made by the Legislative Council for all purposes during a fiscal year must be no more than one mil on the most recently completed Grand List.
Any amount exceeding either of these limits must be submitted to referendum for voter approval.
During the October 13 meeting, finance officials also began looking at projects outlined in the school district’s next five-year CIP. There was some discussion around breaking out an LED bulb replacement project from an HVAC upgrade, as well as an update on the Sustainable Energy Commission’s canvass of school facilities for ways to apply energy-saving measures.
Robert Gerbert, the school district’s director of facilities also talked about how he was hoping an air quality test just completed at Hawley School might influence the cost and scope of an HVAC improvement project slated or that facility.
Gerbert told Finance Chair Sandy Roussas that he will apply the latest air quality data to inform various details as the design phase moves forward, and that he expected to have a good idea of the proposed project cost by mid-November based on that data.