Monday, March 30, 2009

Pilla Responds to Pruss

Any resentment that a very few might feel, Shelly, is unfortunate because for those very same few the message might get lost in their resentment. It is not my intention to do anything but point out that I have a very large, vested interest in the Town’s welfare.

Now to the facts.

I am delighted to hear that the BOF Members are not going to succumb to the temptation to raid the undesignated account. For the reasons that I explained in my comments at your Hearing, that would cause a disaster on June 30, 2010, and surely result in job losses. As I also said, we shouldn’t be talking about raises; if we want to save jobs we should be talking about a Town-wide wage freeze not just a freeze on the Town-side.

I hope that the Members are also not going to succumb to the wishes of a few who want to give more money to the BOE and thus raise taxes. You may have noticed that the turnout at your Hearing produced very few people who thought that this is a good idea. That’s a stark contrast to years past. It’s the economy, Shelly.

With regard to line items, it is true that you don’t have line-by-line authority but I think you missed my point. If I didn’t explain it as well as I should have, let me try to do that here. This is how it works. After looking at a department line by line, let’s say the Members think that a particular capital item should be cut. What you do is reduce the department’s bottom line by that amount and make the recommendation to the Department Head for the specific cut.

Finally, I want to again emphasize the importance of revenue. I urge you and your fellow Members to be very wary of the projected revenues in this economic climate. I think that they are a bit optimistic. For example, State grants may end up to be lower than expected. After all, as the Mayor said, the entire budget process is one that is constantly evolving and subject to this unfortunate economy. You invite disaster if you overstate revenues. The inevitable result of doing that will be an erosion of the undesignated account, a chance that must not be taken.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pilla Seeks Budget Freeze For School Administrators

At tonight's Board of Finance Public Hearing on the Budget, my friend and former Town Councilman Tommy Pilla called on School Administrators and Dr. Paddyfote, "our top paid official," to give "serious consideration" to a salary freeze.

"These are uncertain times," he said, "And the taxpayers need a break from constant year-after-year tax increases."

If Dr. Paddyfote and the Administrators agree to a wage freeze, the tax increase would be reduced substantially.

Tommy also addressed the use of the so-called undesignated fund that some people wrongly think of as a Town savings account. If the Members of the BOF choose to increase the Budget that was sent to them by the Mayor and Town Council, Tommy warned them not to use the undesignated fund as a source of money for the increase.

"Don't touch the undesignated," he said, noting that any reduction in the account could adversely affect the Town's bond rating. "There are many capital projects moving forward and we need a strong bond rating to secure low bond rates.

"Mayor Murphy has changed the fiscal misuse of the fund by prior administrations," he added. "Any future growth of the fund balance should only be used for non-reoccurring capital expenditures."

He also asked the BOF Members to take their time deliberating the Budget. "Take the permitted 15 days to scrutinize each expense, line by line. The people who worked hard putting it together and the taxpayers of the Town deserve no less."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

BOF Member Alexander Should Not Participate in BOE Budget

Mr. K.P. Cofgs. I met this mnemonical individual in biology class the same year that I learned that the ability to reason and the existence of conscience are the province of homo sapiens. That was a long time ago and it wouldn’t surprise me if the definitions of “reason” and “conscience” have evolved such that the concept is now outdated and, just maybe, I didn’t get it right then.

What I do know for sure is that we are each endowed with a moral compass, a compass that is superior to laws and regulations, neither of which can promise good behavior. Similarly, ethics codes cannot promise ethical behavior. The interpretation, application and enforcement of laws and ethics codes, no matter how well written, are subject to political influence and the whim and caprice of those who take an oath to uphold and enforce. Not so the moral compass.

Our personal moral compasses guide the decisions that we make in life. Though we may be influenced by laws or regulations or enlightened by religious practice, education, books and wise people, ultimately our decisions are so extremely personal and, ultimately, one’s moral compass is located between one’s self and one’s pillow.

I have attended Town meetings in which a member, faced with a potential personal conflict on a matter before the body, turns to his fellow members and says, “I will participate in this discussion unless there is an objection from you.” Town Councilman Ray O’Brien has done this. Similarly, Town Councilman Mary Jane Lundgren recently asked the Town Attorney if she had a conflict and shouldn’t vote on a matter. Neither question is appropriate because the decision to recuse or not is personal and must be made based upon one’s own moral compass.

Board of Finance Member Gale Alexander is registered with the BOE as a substitute teacher. Mr. Alexander thus has a contractual relationship with the School and a direct financial interest in the BOE Budget. Mr. Alexander has, in years past, participated in discussions and deliberations about the BOE Budget and voted on it.

My moral compass tells me that that financial interest is incompatible with the proper discharge of his duties as a Member of the BOF and that it could impair his independence and impartiality of judgment in the performance of his public duty.

Mr. Alexander, what does your moral compass tell you...should you be doing these things? I think not and I ask you, to preserve the faith of the hard-working taxpayers of this Town in these extremely difficult times, to recuse yourself from these matters.