Letter: Former clerk replies to letter

1
13

letters_flatTo the editor,

Since I was one of “the small but very vocal portion of the town” residents that Mr. Smith was speaking of regarding his proposed increase of 169 percent for the first selectman position, I must respond to his letter to the editor.

As former clerk of the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen, I was very surprised to find out that Mr. Smith had planned only one budget workshop before he intended the budget to go to the town for a vote. In reviewing the last five years of budget workshops (his administration included) at least five workshops were “planned” and some years many more before the boards were ready to take the budget to a public hearing, many lasting over 3 1/2 hours.  During this five-year period, Mr. Smith was either a member, chairman or vice chairman of the BOF or the first selectman of the town (with the exception of 2011 when he resigned his position as chairman of the Board of Finance at the beginning of the first workshop). Therefore I am very unclear regarding the point he was trying to make in his letter. Was he upset that taxpayers were concerned about all the salary increases he mandated in his first proposal? Was he upset that the members of the BOF did not just roll over and “do what he said to do?” or was he trying to slip a budget through quickly hoping no one would notice? Again, thankfully we live in a democracy and Mr. Smith does not get to single-handedly decide how our money is spent. I was also confused about the timing of his letter to the editor in that he was well aware that voting on taking the budget to a public hearing was planned and on the agenda for Wednesday May 1 joint budget workshop. The very day his letter went into the Citizen’s News and the Town of Beacon Falls website.

The vote is in and the public hearing is scheduled for May 22.  I cannot support this budget for several reasons.

Instead of a 169 percent increase for the first selectman, an increase of almost 50 percent ($15,000) stayed in the budget. Mr. Smith continues to put the cart before the horse.  Without an ordinance (which is what he should have been working on if he had the best interest of the town in mind) to make the position of first selectman “full time” or change the legal obligations of the first selectman to be obligated to the town full-time (currently the requirements state that he is obligated only to sign legal documents for the town), the town of Beacon Falls will be raising the salary by 50 percent for a first selectman on the “honor system” thereby setting themselves up to be duped. For example, our current first selectman Mr. Smith asked to be quoted saying “Gerard F.  Smith will not be running for First Selectman” at a Board of Selectmen meeting and two months later he started his campaign. He wrote a letter to the editor of the Citizen’s News on Oct. 17, 2011 stating that if the first selectman position was a full-time job he would not be running for the position. He also said in that same article “The Republicans are definitely not seeking any increase in any town salaries.” After that, how could we believe that any first selectman will not go out and get a full-time job elsewhere (or golf every day for that matter) and sign documents on Wednesday evenings between 7 and 8 p.m.? As that is all the position legally requires without an ordinance change.

A salary increase of 47 percent is in this budget for the town’s recently hired building inspector because he wrote a letter stating the building codes have changed and his job now requires more work. Folks, how much building is going on in Beacon Falls? The cart is before the horse once again — 47 percent?

While many of you may think these are small amounts of money and we should only be concerned about how the “big” money in town is being spent, the small amounts of money being spent is an indication of how this town’s management spends any money, big or small,  a trend is a trend as are spending habits.

I watched the BOF painfully go line item by line item at almost every budget worship because Mr. Smith presented them with a completely unrealistic budget in the first place.  I appreciated their questioning specific line items and that they held off voting until Mr. Smith could provide them with back up support or explanations as to each increase because he did not provide any of this information from the start. In some cases, it has still not been provided. 

Yes, I’m guilty of being vocal. After spending so much time as clerk of each of these meetings for so many years, it was difficult not to be.

Please try and attend the public hearing on May 22 at 7 p.m. at the firehouse.

Sincerely,

Lauren Classey

Beacon Falls

1 COMMENT

  1. As the former clerk I am afraid that Ms Classey has forgotten a number of things she is passing off here as the truth.

    First, the Board of Finance owns the Town Budget, not the Board of Selectmen, or as Ms Classey implies, the 1st Selectman. For years the 1st Selectman has collected the department requests, formulated those requests into a draft budget, which is then handed off to the Bd of Finance to fashion a budget to bring to the public. It rests with the Bd of Finance to schedule and administer the budget workshops and set the public hearing date. The Bd of Selectmen are guests at these workshops. The notion that it is a “joint” meeting is not entirely true, but has been called this for many years.

    The 1st Selectman did just what was expected of him and presented a budget to the Bd of Finance. The Bd of Finance (and public) pushed back with changes and the 1st Selectman responded with a revised budget, which was not his responsibility, and he attempted to bring a near zero increase forward. It was the Bd of Finance that decided to increase elected officials salaries that included a “50%” increase to the 1st Selectman’s salary line item. Apparently the Bd of Finance agrees that the 1st Selectman’s position is not fairly compensated for the many, many hours the job requires.

    Ms Classey’s further retorts on the Build Inspector’s increase is equally off base. This is not a salary increase, but an increase in the number of hours that the Building Inspector will have to work to meet unfunded mandates from the State. Not having a understanding of all the Building Inspector does, she mistakenly tries to tie this to just new construction. There are many additional things that are inspected yearly.

    Like Ms Classey I also do not support this budget and urge everyone that can, attend the public hearing on May 22nd.