Letter: Selectman calls on public to weigh in on budget

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letters_flatTo the editor,

After a record-setting winter, the calendar finally has reached spring, which also means budget season has also arrived. The First Selectman’s draft budget was presented and reviewed by the Board of Selectman at our March meeting, and our joint review with the Board of Finance will begin soon.

While the town addressed several notable capital projects in this year’s budget, which were financed as discussed at last year’s public hearing, we face similar requirements both in the immediate and near future. I urge every resident to stop by Town Hall and obtain a copy of the initial budget, and to attend our joint budget meetings prior to this year’s public hearing which will occur some time in April. We need to hear what you, the residents of Beacon Falls have to say.

One significant point of disagreement I have with this initial proposal is the First Selectman’s request for a substantial increase in compensation for this office, which would not take effect until after the results of this November’s municipal elections. This position currently earns a bit over $34,000 annually, with no benefits.  His proposal would increase the pay and benefits package to around $80,000 annually (pro rated from mid-November through June 2014, taking full effect in July), an increase of over 135 percent. While I recognize we have the lowest rate of compensation for any leading municipal official in the area, and that there has been no increase in any elected official’s pay for some time, I question both the timing and especially the size of thus proposed raise.

Although there are encouraging signs nationally that the economy is slowly picking up, the effect locally is even slower. Asking our residents for an extra $46,000 for the First Selectman’s office seems, in a word, excessive, especially given the arbitrary way by which this figure was arrived at. I would trust the Board of Finance to employ a much more rigorous statistical evaluative process to arrive at a reasonable starting point for discussion, and I am ready to lead that discussion. In my view, the present figure proposed by the First Selectman fails to represent such a starting point.

Again, I encourage every member of our community to weigh in on your thoughts on this and all the issues affecting our budget process, and not only for the 2013-14 year.  I hope to see you all at the upcoming meetings.

Christopher Bielik

Selectman

Beacon Falls

7 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Mr. Brown,
    I respect your right to your own opinion but you need to use facts. I was not ‘illegally’ appointed to the Board of Finance. I am registered as unaffiliated. The Town Ordinance limits the number of members of one party to a maximum of 3, not a minimum of 3. For your information, Former First Selectman Cable appointed me to the BOF some years ago and publically complimented me on my strong creditials. If you or anyone else takes a look at Board Minutes, you will see that I do not always support the administration. I have been elected Region 16 Board Member, Town Treasurer, Selectman and served on the BOF, once as Chairman. I have a track record of independent thinking and doing what I believe to be in the best interest of Beacon Falls.

  2. one thing to keep in mind,is that Jack is nothing but a mouth piece for Jerry Smith. Look at the illegal way he was put on the board. You cant believe a word he said because he doesn’t have a opinion of his own.

  3. To Whom It May Concern.

    In reply to goe-anita concerns of who is the one that is politically motivate and is scared?? To be fair, the issue is not that anyone on the board 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 isle 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 2 of the 3 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 1 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 BOF 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 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.

    Brian Ploss
    Board of Finance Member

  4. Obviously an issue that is critical… And who is WE, actually your concerns seem to be politically motivated. A selectman asked in a LTE for residents to ‘weigh in’ on the budget and proposed salary increase. A smart move since many residents need to be financially motivated to vote. As a member of the FB and someone who states is not politically driven why do you question this at all.

  5. The letter addresses a single issue in a budget yet to be voted on and brought to the Town residents for their comments. It is totally one-sided. If the purpose of the letter is to get the public involved and not political, why not just invite the public to get involve and come to the budget workshops? The Board has yet to discuss the budget. We have been listening. Clearly, his letter was to make ‘political points’. I don’t think it passes the test of being ‘fair and balance’. At the Board of Finance meeting on April 3rd, we will begin to discuss all the issues. We welcome debate and discussion. At that time, Town residents will get to hear both sides of ALL the important issues.

  6. Jack,

    The letter to the editor from Selectman Bielik encourages residents in the community to weigh in on the 2013/14 budget and more specifically the salary increase proposed by the current First Selectman. I applaud his letter reaching out to the community. Why do you see this as a campaign issue? Selectman Bielik has the best intentions with his appeal for the residents of Beacon Falls to be involved and ‘weigh in.’

    What are you afraid of; that the community will actually get involved?

  7. The Board of Finance has just begun working on the budget with input from the First Selectman and Selectmen. We heard from a number of Department Heads on Thursday. We are meeting again on April 3rd. I can assure Town residents that each member of the Board of Finance will give serious thought to the entire budget without political objectives. There are two-sides to every story and this letter fails to present a fair and balanced analysis. I urge residents to hear all the facts before they decide how they will vote on a budget yet to be finalized. Politics should wait for the campaign; putting together the best budget for our Town’s residents should be the only objective.