I was disappointed First Selectman Smith chose a public letter to voice his concerns on the budget process, well after the fact, instead of contacting me directly. Though this is not how I handle issues, I’m left with no choice but to respond. Prior to the budget sessions I requested a meeting with Mr. Smith to get his input that he initially accepted, but then cancelled. All requests to reschedule were ignored.
The budget process that Mr. Smith refers to has no documentation and each administration has had their own approach. My change after taking over as chair was to add detail to the agenda and get public feedback early (at the second meeting only), which Mr. Smith now credits as the driver for his third budget proposal. Suggestions we should only do what has been done before are alarming. With the financial issues facing this town, business as usual by any administration is no longer an option. If we don’t change, we should all be prepared for significant tax increases in the next several years.
As to the statement that the board is divided and being used as a “political instrument,” the facts do not support Mr. Smith’s statements. There was only consensus, and I commend my colleagues for voting their position, not their party. Out of 63 votes taken 92 percent were either unanimous or with one opposed. There were zero split votes on a board that has three GOP, two Dems, and one Ind, so all of my motions could have easily been rejected on party lines, as I am the other Democrat. Our final budget vote was unanimous. These documents are posted on the town’s website at www.beaconfalls-ct.org under the Minutes & Agendas section.
The process has taken longer than it did last year and the public can discover why by reading the minutes and seeing for themselves if the time was well spent. There were extended discussions around the financing of the fire truck, and I raised concerns there was no apparent effort to reduce lines underspent in the current year.
I thank Mr. Smith for calling attention to the long hours we put in on the budget and hope the public appreciates our effort. It has been difficult for all of us but I had no intention of rushing the process. As Mr. Smith makes $34,236 more than we do on the board to attend these meetings, I am not breaking out my violin for him.
Where I come from leaders address problems directly, not passive-aggressively. I’m sure readers will find another letter from Mr. Smith in this space soon, but I have no intention of engaging any further. He has my email address and phone number. Criticism of his proposals does not equal political conspiracy, and anyone who knows me knows I am motivated by one thing: this town’s tax burden. As many, my wife and I work long hours to provide for our children. I have volunteered my time so that we don’t see our tax dollars squandered, not to waste it in politically motivated spats. I do have an MBA in finance from UConn and am proud of that, but you don’t need it to see our financial future. What I appreciate most about our board is that we all have something to contribute from our experience. I know nothing about being a small business owner, building inspections, or municipal bonding, but our members do and shared that during discussions. A leader would take advantage of my experience managing budgets greater than $20 million in the private sector, but instead Mr. Smith has chosen a letter that attempts to distract the public from his proposals by blaming a detailed agenda for delays, while referring to citizens who spoke out on his proposals, as is their right in a democracy, as hypocrites. At a time when our public officials should be coming together, he has chosen to push us apart. If this is how he runs his campaign in May, it saddens me to think of what we have in store as we approach November.
I am happy to answer questions about the town finances at my email address JHuk@townofbeaconfalls.com, and please come to the budget town meeting on May 22.
Chair, Board of Finance