Letter: Finance official responds to comments

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letters_flatTo the editor,

This letter is in regards to a comment made online to the letter to the editor, “Selectman calls on public to weigh in on budget.”

In reply to goe-anita’s concerns of who is the one that is politically motivated and is scared? To be fair, the issue is not that anyone on the Board of Finance is afraid about a particular topic. But what several of us on the board are concerned about is, it is starting to look like outside forces are trying to bring political pressure into a board that has prided itself for years on being unbiased and not making votes based on political affiliation.

As a longtime member of the Board of Finance, I have worked tirelessly with many people on both sides of the aisle who I consider close and personal friends and know they felt the same. We may not always have agreed on a particular item but always agreed to do what is in the best interest of the town. Yes many of the residents may have voiced their concerns over this item or that, but always the base budgets were brought to discussion and/or vote based on what would best serve the town as a whole — not on which side had two of the three selectmen seats. If the residents stated that they didn’t want this item or that during the workshops, we would then take that under consideration and many times address accordingly to best meet a middle ground of what the residents said and the needs of the town.

The people on the Board of Finance donate some of the heaviest hours of any town board particularly during budget season. We spend multiple hours over multiple meetings taking the Board of Selectmen approved budget, reviewing thousands of line items, listening to department requests (making changes to those we feel necessary), re-reviewing many of the line items again prior to bringing to the first town meeting. We then listen to the residents thoughts/concerns and then go back and re-re-review and proceed from there. For the entire time that I have been on the board, I have had the pleasure of working on a truly neutral board who prided themselves on checking their party affiliation at the door.

What we have now is a situation where (as Jack stated) we only had one budget meeting where we took the entire budget into consideration and many of us are seeing for the first time undo political pressure trying to be placed on the board. Selectman Bielik was for a short time chairman of the Board of Finance and I am sure that he would not have liked what is starting to occur and would be as upset as several of us on the board are. It is obvious what the difference is now and why all of a sudden a different approach is being made by him. If memory serves I thought he was one of those on the board that cited the need to be impartial and unbiased.

Issue clearly here is not everything needs to be made political. And making statements that have no other interpretation than as threats in a joint BOE/BOF meeting about how certain people are going to address and handle a budget even before the BOF reviewed, discussed, and voted on any items is in my opinion wrong and I have totally lost all respect for a once fellow member of the BOF. I strongly implore that members of the BOF to not allow political issues to creep into a board where we have made a point for years to keep it out. Otherwise don’t be offended if I call out members or others as I see them.

In regards to a comment made online to the letter to the editor, “Letter: Town can’t afford to raise first selectman’s salary.”

What Mr. McDuffie failed to state was why this was done. One of the main reasons (as well as others), was that there were several instances where meetings were significantly dragged far longer (well past the point of constructive discussion) than needed for obvious reasons. And as Mr. McDuffie himself stated, the selectmen can make comments in the general comment area if they desire.

Bottom line is that if grandstanding is going to be done by a selectmen (like what happened this week), then let it be done in their Board of Selectmen meetings — not ours. We have prided ourselves throughout the years to being a neutral board and I personally want to see it stay that way.

Brian Ploss

Board of Finance

Beacon Falls