Letter: Finance chair responds to letter

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letters_flatTo the editor,

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.

Sincerely,

Jim Huk

Chair, Board of Finance

Beacon Falls

4 COMMENTS

  1. One barely knows where to begin, but since at least one person is sitting on the edge of her seat, here goes :

    At the end of the day, dollars are dollars and votes are votes. Neither dollars nor votes are subjective.

    We’ve spent our dollars on things like a third of a million dollar house on Wolfe Avenue that no citizen in their right mind would have purchased for that kind of money in 2008 as the real estate market was in decline, and like a percentage of the million dollar streetscape that wasn’t funded by state or federal funds. Oh wait, I pay state and federal taxes too, so contrary to what was spun about the percentage differential at the time, the truth is that we, the tax payers, funded THE WHOLE PROJECT.

    We then counted our votes, and the people of Beacon Falls were so dis-enchanted with the town leadership that the First Selectwoman came in fourth out of four, not even retaining a seat on the Board of Selectmen. (My cousin JD06403 is right – the people of Beacon Falls will remember things on Election Day.)

    Dollars are dollars and votes are votes. I personally would like to see governmental budgets at all levels managed more like I’m required to manage my household budget to keep my healthcare options intact, the food on our table and the roof over our heads rather than that of a 20 million dollar ‘private sector’ organization.

    What’s unfortunate in a discussion about the budget in Beacon Falls is the use of phrases like “very arrogant man” and “embarrassed to use his name”. The time for phrases like that is the first Monday in November, and if that’s the best we have to offer today, we’re not focused enough on the task at hand.

    Lastly, the people that do their best and volunteer to serve our town should be commended and thanked, regardless of party affiliation. This includes all board and commission members who lead our town – even the one that’s paid $38,000 (which really does make it a volunteer position in the grand scheme). The fact that our town is led by volunteers shouldn’t change. It’s one of the many things that makes Beacon Falls such a great place.

    RESPECTFULLY,
    bf06403

  2. Secret budget? You mean the one that I read about in the paper and was given to the BoF weeks ago that all you “members of the public” have been rallying against? You call that a secret?

    Really Ms Goerig. Next you will want us to believe that all those “members of the public” who have been speaking are not current or former members of or closely related to, the Democratic Town Committee.

    I will attend my first 2013 budget meeting at the hearing on May 22 and I will be listening intently to what is said and who said it. I will remember in Nov.

  3. I hope Beacon Falls residents will come to the budget hearing on May 22nd at 7:00 p.m in the Firehouse. Your opinions will help the Board of Finance decide what changes, if any, to make to the Town Budget before the vote. My colleagues and I on the Board of Finance have been working very hard to find the ‘right’ balance between providing Town services and holding down tax increases. Believe me, we all would like no tax increase or even lower taxes. But, this would necessitate cuts or elimination of services. If this is what you want, please let us know what services you want cut or eliminated. We do try to listen and act on the wishes of you, the taxpayers. Lastly, I am reminded we are not paid for being on the Board of Finance; some would say we are overpaid. I can only smile and say that I am proud to serve on the Board of Finance with a fine group of well-intentioned, knowledgable people who care as much about our Town as I do. We hope to see you at the budget hearing.

  4. Mr. Huk,

    This is a small town and a lot has been said about the budget process. Many folks on the BoF have presented themselves well and are doing a terrific job.

    Unfortunately the First Selectman has not presented himself well, he is an embarrassment to this town and a very arrogant man, his latest letter is a testament to this fact. His interests don’t extend to the town but rather for him alone. Many people throughout the town have heard of the secret budget he tried to pass off.

    Thankfully this is a two-year position as this town needs a real leader, whether DEM, GOP or Independent.

    I can’t wait to hear what bf06403 (embarrassed to use his name) has to say.

    Anita Goerig