Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mayor Reduces Tax Increase From 1.35% to .13%

Mayor Murphy just posted a Special Town Council Meeting for Friday at 7:30 p.m. This is the Agenda item:

Reopen Budget Deliberations and Set a New Referendum Date

Reopen budget deliberations for the purpose of discussion and possible action on revision of the budget recommended to the Board of Finance by the Town Council on March 10, 2009 by reducing the recommended budget from $90,017,784 to $89,217,784 so as to reflect the anticipated reduction in health insurance costs for fiscal year 2009-2010, and to set a new referendum date. Such reduction will reduce the proposed tax increase from 1.35 percent down to 0.13 percent.

Parks & Rec Seeks Matching $$ for Creative Playground

I received the following from Eleanor Covelli, Assistant P & R Director:

...We are starting our fundraising efforts to build a “New Creative Playground” at John Pettibone School. An anonymous donor has come forward who will match, dollar-for-dollar, any amount up to $50,000! The funds need to be raised by Labor Day in order to be matched.

We are appealing to everyone via this email to fill a 16.9 oz. empty water bottle with pennies (nickels, dimes, quarters, dollars or checks are welcome also) and return it to New Milford Parks and Recreation, 47 Bridge Street. We are hoping to have your donation in hand by June 1st to get us started.

If you can’t get to our offices, we will be happy to pick up the donations!

Checks should be made payable to the “New Milford Parks & Recreation Gift Fund” [47 Bridge Street, New Milford, CT 06776].

This is a wonderful project that will benefit kids for years to come.

Monday, April 27, 2009

State RTC Chair Healy to Speak May 4

This is a press release that I received from the NMRTC:

Republican State Party Chairman
Chris Healy is the featured speaker at the New Milford RTC meeting, which will be held May 4th at the Pettibone School at 7:00 p.m.

Registered Republican voters and others concerned with the current direction of government are invited to hear the briefing, which will focus on the state's current and projected budget deficits, the difficulty municipalities face in assembling balanced budgets, and the growing Tea Bag tax rebellion now sweeping the nation. Healy will also discuss the outlook for the fall elections.

"Fiscal responsibility is the very foundation of our political party," said Pat Sherry, Chairwoman of the New Milford RTC. "It is our top priority today. The sooner our elected officials in Hartford and Washington, D.C. discover fiscal restraint, and reduce unnecessary government spending, the sooner our private sector will energize and lead us out of this financial and economic morass."

Since his election as CT GOP chairman in January 2007, Healy has worked to modernize and improve the effectiveness of the state party. He relocated the party's headquarters and doubled the floor space, enabling better training sessions and more convenient meetings and seminars for candidates and party activists. Healy also introduced new technologies to foster better communications and information sharing, both of which enable the GOP to compete and win in local and state elections.

From a policy standpoint, Healy has helped the state party return to its core principles of small, effective government, free trade, lower taxes and less regulation on businesses -- all while demanding a quality public education and strong support for defense and the war against terrorism.

More recently, Healy has been an outspoken critic of U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, especially his lack of leadership and focus on Connecticut, and his questionable real estate deals involving a convicted felon and a disgraced sub-prime mortgage lender.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Staff Changes at the Spectrum

Current Editor Jacky Smith has been moved to the News-Times and will be its Managing Editor. She will report to Art Cummings.

As of Monday, Norm Cummings will be the new Editor of the Spectrum.

Lynda Wellman has accepted a buyout. Her last day will be May 15 and she will be replaced by Susan Tuz.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Homeless In New Milford

I’m not going to attempt to address the complex social issues. Simply, I’m tired of hearing how little the Town does so I am going to list the services that are available in New Milford. I believe that Homelessness is a problem of prevention; the Town should and must support programs that help people stay in their homes and help them keep their jobs.

Be mindful, though, that I have a problem with people who come to New Milford – and they do – just to take advantage of those services. A kind of, “build it and they will come” problem. I believe that the services that are supported by New Milford taxpayers should be for people who are from New Milford, not carpetbaggers. Sorry.

1) Social Services offers a food pantry, heat and electrical assistance, temporary housing, counseling services and more.

2) A culinary program “for unemployed and underemployed adults looking to work in the food service industry”

3) The Senior Center has great programs including a bus for medical and other appointments, lunch programs, meals on wheels

4) The Town supports the VNA

5) The Town supports the Childrens’ Center

6) Loaves and Fishes uses Town space; taxpayers pay its utilities, maintenance and for its additional police calls

7) The HART bus

8) The Health Department will help with temporary shelter if, for example, a tenant is without hot water or heat in the winter

9) The Youth Agency’s fees for its latchkey program are on a sliding scale and it offers free counseling services

I’m sure that I have missed some.

The best proof of the existence of these services is that the people who come to New Milford for shelter wouldn’t come here if it didn’t offer them. We ought to have a good look at where they come from and how they got here. Finally, I note with some amazement that the New Milford Homeless Shelter Coalition offers driving directions to the Green!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Budget Referendum: May 12

The Town Council set the date: May 12, 2009.

New Milford's Tea Party

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rev. Keeney-Mulligan Transferred to Bloomfield; Needs Help Finding Lost Ring

Until I received an e-mail this morning, I was not aware that Rev. Gail Keeney-Mulligan's son lost a ring of great sentimental value at the Schaghticoke soccer fields. The story is in the News-Times today.

She told me a few moments ago that a metal detector hasn't helped...yet. I offered her the use of mine and I encourage all of you who have them (I know there are many!) to try your hand.

In the same conversation, Rev. Keeney-Mulligan confirmed that she has been transferred from St. John's Episcopal Church to Bloomfield, effective this coming June.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Name This Person!

Who will be the first to identify this muscle-bound 29 year old from the Bronx?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mary Connolly's "Retirement" From the News-Times

"For the past nearly quarter-century," News-Times Editor Art Cummings wrote, "Mary Connolly was the face of The News-Times' editorial page.

"Now, however, the Mary Connolly era has drawn to a close. Mary has retired, leaving a legacy of an outstanding career and a community better off for her many contributions."

This is one Member of the Community who disagrees. But I do owe her some thanks. After all, she's one of the reasons that I started this Page. I became so frustrated with her editorials and her refusal to print some of my words that I decided to find another way to air my thoughts.

Political leanings aside, the frustration was due, in part, to her lack of knowledge and avoidance of the relevant facts. When writing an editorial about New Milford, she often didn’t bother to consult the New Milford reporters who knew the facts so, on occasion, her editorials were at odds with the stories. I think that this was a terrible disservice.

So, Mary, I wish you well but I question whether your legacy was a benefit to the New Milford Community.

By the way. Mary didn’t “retire.” Like others, she put in for and took a buyout. There’s a difference.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Good Budget News: No Cut To ECS

Can you stand some good Budget news? I just learned that there will be no cut to the ECS money from the State. It will be maintained at current levels.

BREAKING: BOF May Have to Revisit Budget

Finance Director Ray Jankowski may know today if there will be a substantial cut in ECS (Education Cost Sharing) funds from the State. If this happens, the BOF may have to call a special meeting to revisit the Budget. Ray brought this up last night.

Here's an example. Let's say that the State's financial woes are really bad and the ECS amount is reduced by $1.5 million. This loss of revenue would result in a new tax increase of 3.66% if substantial cuts -- not reductions in requested increases -- aren't made.

Procedurally, this raises some interesting issues. First, I believe that the BOF has the right to revisit the Budget so long as it does so within the 15 day period that the Charter provides it must act. If it does call a Meeting, someone who voted with the majority last night must make a motion to renew, not a motion for reconsideration.

Second, in the unlikely event that the BOF does not hold a special meeting, the Charter mandates that the Budget go to a Town Meeting and, as also required by Charter, to Referendum thereafter. But what can be done, if anything, to stop that process since the Budget that would go to the Town Meeting and the Referendum is known to be deficient?

Third, what happens if the Town Meeting takes place and the Budget is declared a nullity but the BOF's 15 days have expired. Does the BOF still have jurisdiction to consider any Budget?

Finally, I must point out that every budget, every year, is not more than a snapshot of a point in time and really just a guessing game when it comes to revenue. That's why they are called "anticipated" revenues. At what point does a Budget lose such relationship to reality that it has to be adjusted before it goes to the voters? When revenues are down $3? $3,000? $300,000?

Must a municipality warn voters at the polls about this, assume they already know or just avoid all the above by sending the Budget along and later sending out a supplemental tax bill if necessary?

All good questions for the Town Attorney.

BOF Sends Budget to Voters Without Change

In a half-hour Meeting that was attended by only a handful of people, the Board of Finance passed the Mayor/Town Council Budget by a 4-2 vote. Shelly Pruss and Gale Alexander voted against.

The Budget provides for a 1.35% tax increase and now goes to the voters.

"The vote was what's best for the Community," said Mayor Murphy. "With this Budget we can still provide the services that people expect. If it doesn't pass, I have some real concerns."

Two motions were made to increase the BOE Budget. Both failed. The first motion was to add $750,000 to the School Budget, the second was to add $500,000. "People can afford it," Shelly said.

Board Member Frank Wargo disagreed saying that people he knows "aren't having a great year economically."

Member Gale Alexander, whose Budget books are still sitting in the Mayor's Office, was the lone opposing vote. If it was his intention to use the on-line edition of the Budget, he certainly could have saved the Town the printing cost by so advising.

Chairman Bob Sherry said that in prior years he supported putting money back in the education budget but "this isn't the time to do that given our economic condition.

"We all care deeply about education but based on the turnout at both the Public Hearing and our Meeting last night I think we did the right thing.

"I think that it's time for the BOE to tighten its belt. Last year it had a surplus of about $750,000.00."

In the past, some have said that the Town doesn't support education. "It's obvious that the Town supports education," said Mayor Murphy, "But right now we don't have money and we're worried about what's coming from the State.

"Don't support education?" Mayor Murphy asked. "All you have to do is take a look at the School's debt service -- all of which is on the Town side of the Budget -- and you'll see that we support education."