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May 1, 2007 Public Hearing Minutes
TOWN OF EAST WINDSOR
BOARD OF FINANCE
PUBLIC HEARING
MAY 1, 2007


BOARD OF FINANCE MEMBERS PRESENT:  Paul Catino, Chairman, Noreen Farmer, Dale Nelson, Jack Manette, William Dove, Marie DeSousa.

Mr. Catino called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. at the East Windsor Middle School, 38 Main Street, Broad Brook.  Mr. Catino explained that the public hearing was regarding the $3,720,361 proposed 2008 General Budget.  The budget as proposed represents a .295 mill increase and a 1% tax increase over all.  For example, a house valued with a net assessment (70% of value) of $125,000, the taxes for that taxpayer increase $37 a year; similarly, a homeowner with a net assessment  of $200,000, the dollar amount increase for taxes is $59 a year.   Mr. Catino emphasized that this is a small increase compared to previous years.

Mr. Catino outlined he understood some taxpayers are speaking up for a larger budget than what is proposed..  If that is the view, there needs to be a large push to obtain the yes votes for a budget.  Mr. Catino outlined the town’s recent history with referendum defeats of bare-bones budget and the looming possibility of cuts to existing services.  As a result of that recent history, and the “No” vote momentum, the Board of Finance has geared its proposals in that light. If the “Yes” vote movement gains momentum, and the larger budget has a force behind it, next year the Board can gear its determinations on that.  But, again, recent history dictates that the “No” vote has a momentum and stripped down budgets are what pass at referendum.  If the proposed budget is defeated, cuts will be made to the budget.  Another tight vote this year will result in the Board of Finance rationale being the same for next year – the taxpayers put through minimal increase budget. The result of the vote this year, will set the stage for the Board of Finance rational next year.

Mr. Catino stated that the budget does show an increase in the Town Departments budget, this is directly related to addressing the issue of future pension liability.  Mr. Catino presented the scenario of an underfunded pension plan, which is falling way behind the median, and needs to be addressed. This budget proposal shows turning that trend around,  there is more use of the fund balance, akin to “spending savings”, but it was made clear, no much of it.  It is an attempt to meet a long term liability.   

Mr. Catino strongly commended the Board of Education and the new Superintendent for efforts to provide accountability and cooperation throughout the budget process.  The Education budget does have an increase due to transportation costs – this cost will be met, therefore if cuts are made, it will be to other items.  There is nothing new for the students in this proposal – it is status quo again.  

The budget presented does not fund any new positions or programs.  This is a tight budget that holds the line.

Mr. Catino outlined the parameters of the public hearing – it is not a debate, but a chance for the public to speak.  Public comment on the budget is “in order” – if the comments or discussion from the public are not regarding this budget, the discussion will be ruled “out of order” and the speaker asked to get back on track.  Each speaker give five minutes to make comments.  The Board of Finance will also accept written comment through close of business on Wednesday.  (Any written comment received, by close of business Wednesday, will be added as an attachment to Minutes submitted.)


STEVE KNIBLOE, 14 ELLSWORTH ROAD

Mr. Knibloe began by stating he did not envy the Board this tough job.  As he went through the proposal the first thing that stood out was the 713% increase to the Board of Finance.  While everyone else sustained a cut, he inquired as to what the $30,000 was for?

Mr. Catino provided that these monies are in anticipation of contract negotiations to occur.  He outlined that past history has provided the Board of Finance with frustration as they do not have more participation on anticipated legal fees.  These monies have been moved from another part of the budget, to the BOF budget to be released at a later date.  Due to the Board’s, and the public’s, frustration with the proceedings, this is an effort to better handle negotiations. It will help improve the selection process for the attorney that does the negotiations.  It was made clear these monies were for legal fees, not for the Board of Finance members.  

Mr. Knibloe inquired as to the Board’s authority for this rationale, and Mr. Catino indicated he answered factually the reason for the increase noted, but this was not a time to debate the issue.  Mr. Knibloe had a question regarding increases to the Board of Selectmen recommendations and again Mr. Catino outlined the public hearing is for comment and suggestions, and the Board would provide factual answers, if possible.  Mr. Catino stated in some instances the Board of Finance had more information that the Board of Selectmen at the time of the recommendation.  Mr. Knibloe inquired about the 50% removed from the Police Commission budget.  Mr. Catino stated this Commission was the only one that has a secretary to do memos, letters, etc.  Mr. Knibloe felt information should be more forthcoming to the public.


RICHARD SHERMAN, 12 ALLEN DRIVE

Mr. Sherman stated that he is the Chairman of the Police Commission. For the last eight years the Police Commission budget has remained the same.  Last year the budget request resulted in an increase of 1.4%, the amount of $54.07 – it was denied.   This year the budget request resulted in an increase of 1.46%, the amount of $54.07 – and the Board of Finance saw wisdom to cut the budget by 48.69%.  The Commission thinks this absurd.

LARRY JOHNSON, 12 SPRING STREET
Mr. Johnson stated he has lived in town for 30 years, he has worked here, he retired here.  He feels its inappropriate that the Chairman of the Board of Finance does not live in town.

RAND STANLEY, 87 RYE STREET
Mr. Stanley began by thanking the Board of Finance for their time and efforts.  As a citizen he truly believes the Police Department deserves the Board’s support and no cuts.  There are problems with guns and drugs, a murder on Depot Street, Allen Drive homes were vandalized, robberies, 220 new apartments are slated to be built on a busy road.   There is a need to support the Police Department, at some point it could happen to “one of us”.  As a citizen and a resident he felt it important not to cut a position.  This is not a force of 50/60/70.  From what can be read in Connecticut Magazine, East Windsor is the last in education, crime, leisure services and economics, but the first in taxes. “You get what you don’t pay for.”  There are hardworking people in Town.  As a father, citizen and member of town government, Mr. Stanley strongly urged the Board of Finance to support the Police Force and the Police Commission.

ELISE SPIELBERG, 244 RYE STREET
Ms. Spielberg thanked the Board of Finance for their time and efforts.  She felt the proposal was a fair budget - meeting the needs to a degree without a financial burden to the taxpayers.  She supports the budget as is and sees no need of cuts.  As the budget stands the library can maintain its current operating hours and programs.  The Board of Finance did give a recommendation that differed from the Board of Selectmen, and that $35,500 goes toward repairing/replacing the lead paint on the front of the building.  There is also grant money in place for that as well.   She thanked the Board of Finance for this, which promotes safety and aesthetics to the building.  The Board of Education budget should be as is – they did a super job as cuts were made in areas that would not effect the students.  

CARRIE PIEKOS, 86 RESERVOIR ROAD
Ms. Piekos thanked the Board of Finance for working closely with the Board of Education.  She stated she hopes there are no cuts to the education budget.  She often hears comment that the schools are good enough for the kids, they need no more.  When she grew up she had more and is amazed what kids today do not have.  For example, when she grew up foreign language was offered more often and at an earlier age, likewise, gym class was more than once a week, not so today.  Social studies was all year, now her daughter only has social studies for half a year.  Now if there is poor weather, recess at Broad Brook School is watching a movie, she used to be able to go to one of the two gyms.  When Ms. Piekos went to school parents did not have struggle to find a parking space, nor did the band teacher have to conduct band in the gym, while gym class was going on.  The Middle School has temporary walls dividing classrooms – she did not have that growing up either.  If a student does not have a personal computer at their home, they cannot go to the local library to get on the Internet, because the local library does not have the Internet, a student must travel to an Enfield library.  How can it be said that kids have enough?  

ANGELO DALEO, 6 STEPPING STONE DRIVE
Mr. Daleo stated he moved to East Windsor a year ago, previously he had lived in Windsor Locks for 35 years.  When he moved here, he should have done his homework.  The crime rate for East Windsor makes the newspaper constantly, there are doctors who sell guns and robberies.  There are two police officers on some nights, but no Sergeant.  He wonders how the Board of Finance and people of the town can put a figure on the cost to fight crime.  If someone needs help, they dial 911 – the emergency personnel is there, they need support.  If the crime goes up, criminals read the newspaper too.  Tax rates may go up, but no one will move into town if crime is high, and then the value of homes will decrease.  Mr. Daleo stated he pays $13,000 in taxes on his home, and he can do that financially. But what will the cost be to the town in  liability if there is “a daughter being raped” and there is no police officer to get there; or there is a domestic situation and only one officer is available “to pull a 260 pound guy off a woman.”  The Town will be sued.  Overtime is not everything, Officers have families that they are away from when they are responding to an emergency situation.  Mr. Daleo relayed a situation where a friend, who is a police officer, was on his way to home and got called to a scene of a car accident involving two people.   The Officer was not thinking of the overtime pay, but protecting the person in need.  Mr. Daleo stated the Police Department knows what it needs and the Town needs to support them, “like they support us.”

JOHN MATTHEWS, 169 MELROSE ROAD
Mr. Matthews indicated he had been to all the Board of Finance and Board of Education meetings.  He has lived in town for 40 years, and this is a difficult year.  He thanked the volunteers who have dedicated 100’s of hours to this job.  When the budget for the Police Department was set, it involved 100’s of hours analyzing data – looking at other towns.  East Windsor sticks out in the number of sworn officers versus the population.  You go with the census bureau on the population figures.  We all want protection the police can give, but there needs to be a balance in the budget.  The school represents 57% of the budget – comparatively that should be 65% - there needs to be a balance of what can be given to the school.  The Police Department covers a large portion of the rest.  The kids are getting short-changed with not a nickel of help at the instructional level.  If the kids do not learn to read, the crime will go up, if you short-change the kids now, the crime will go up.  There needs to be a reasonable balance between the schools and the police.  

Mr. Matthews stated this budget is being advertised as a 7.9% increase ($2,250,000); but if there was no revenue, it would be a 10.7% increase.  The revenue, state and local, covers all but $1,000,000.  Every $220,000 represents 1% increase in taxes.  If there is no funds elsewhere the town needs to cover 4.8%.  The Board has mitigated the increase to 1% by transferring from reserves temporary funds.  Those funds may go away, but the expenses do not go away.  Therefore, a 3.75% increase is built in for next year.  The taxpayers need to understand this is the equivalent of a 4.8% increase – the spending level will not go away.

Mr. Matthews has sat through meetings and looked at all the line items.  It has been hard on a lot of people – he recommended that the Board has done what it can for the individual line items, people are upset.  The next step is to reduce everybody by 2%, but he is not suggesting this for the schools.  He cannot see anyone going bankrupt with this idea.  If everyone can say “what’s the big deal?” about a 2% increase, then what is the big deal about a 2% decrease?

KEN SMITH, 16 ROSE COURT
Sergeant Smith is with the East Windsor Police Department.  He thanked the Board of Finance members that support the Police Department.  He stated that the rationale to cut the budget and manpower was not valid with the numbers used, they do not add up.  Sergeant Smith  provided the cities and crime figures and how they relate to East Windsor in crime, citing larger cities per capita.  There are a lot of arrests made and sometimes no choices.  Sergeant Smith went on to state that East Windsor is unique in that it is a location between two major cities, Hartford and Springfield, there is access to two major interstates, and increase in people on Wednesdays with the Auction,  Route 5 and Route 140, as well as close proximity to Bradley Airport, which has recently added international routes.  The Police force is too small for the crime to fight.  The decrease to the budget was made with no expertise in the conclusions, an arbitrary decision.  The ratio given that East Windsor has 1 to 3 Sergeants; the average town has a ration of 1 to 6; but that is not to say East Windsor has too many Sergeants, it has too few patrolman.  The force should be 34 to 36 patrolman to be at average with the statistics given.   He suggested a hard look needs to be taken.  It is unique, not an unsafe place to be, but a lot goes on in town that needs to be addressed.

BONNIE YOSKY, 7 YOSKY ROAD
Ms. Yosky questioned that the education budget gets an additional $1 million from the State, for special education, salaries, insurance and energy – but not towards raising the test scores in reading or math.  This is disappointing.  If the money is not received from the State, is there a back up plan?  If so, what is it?

WILLIAM LOOS, MELROSE ROAD
Mr. Loos stated that Social Security last year went up 4.1%.  Everyone has seen similar increases to electric, water, gas and oil.  The projected 7.9% increase is double what the Seniors get, how are they expected to pay that?  Mr. Loos stated the bond vote was for $1.3 million, there is another $569,321 in this budget; $321,100 interest and principal.  The CIP budget is $890,000, why is there more CIP when last month it was voted for $1 million.   He felt 2% should be taken out across the Board, give 0% increases – Windsor did it, other Towns anticipate it – why spend more?  Since 1998 the Police have had a 91% increase in their budget.  He has talked to Somers, there have no problems and there are 6 State Troopers and 2 part-time Constables; they are larger than East Windsor and have a larger population.  Tolland has State Police too.  East Windsor calls the State Police – who covers I-91 and the Children’s Home – State Police cover that, not East Windsor Police.  There are too many cruisers – some use 4 gallons of gas on a shift while some use 8 or 9 gallons on a shift – they are doing their job.   He recommended reducing the budget by 2% and it will make a lot of low income people happy.

JOAN O’ROURKE, 18 PLEASANT STREET
Thank you to Mr. Daleo who spoke earlier, Ms. O’Rourke shares his words of support for the Police Department.   Ms. O’Rourke stated she was concerned with the cuts in excess of $137,000.  She also inquired if she had heard accurately and there were cuts to the Police Chief’s salary?  The town is undergoing construction and there is an increase in demand for services.  There were 18,000 calls for service.  The shift in crime rate is startling.  The criminals are not going to Somers, but are coming here. The staff level is inadequate.  She suggested the Board reconsider its cuts to the Police Department.  She asked for that there be support for the Police Department.

JAMES BARTON, JR, 108 MAIN STREET
Mr. Barton commented on cuts made to public safety.  Mr. Barton is the Chief of the Warehouse Point Fire Department.  He stated that Public Safety cannot afford any cuts.  There was a fatal motor vehicle accident this past weekend - crime and accidents do not take a holiday, nor do they occur between 8 and 4.   He has firefighters who enter burning buildings at 2 a.m., who want to go home to their families.  The people on these Public Safety Boards put the numbers in place and they should not be questioned.

KEN CROUCH, 68 STOUGHTON ROAD
Mr. Crouch noted that the Board of Finance cut out the stipend for the Board of Selectmen.  He asked for the theory behind that.  He noted that the two Boards who get stipends are the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Assessment Appeals – why did the Board of Assessment Appeals double?  Why does the Board of Selectmen not deserve a raise, when the rest of the Town does?  

Mr. Catino provided that the issue of a stipend for the Board of Selectmen was raised by a Board of Finance member – and it was discussed that no other Board member gets a stipend, including those working on the Board of Finance.   It was a policy matter that the Board of Finance was asked to delve in to.  There are more and more hard questions punted from the Board of Selectmen to the Board of Finance.  Mr. Crouch questioned if no one else gets a stipend, why should the Assessment Appeals Board? Mr. Catino stated that Board is different, there is work conducted there.    Mr. Crouch stated that all Boards and Commissions should get some type of compensation.  A Board of Finance member noted that the Board of Assessment Appeals increase for was the secretary.  Later in the meeting, Mr. Catino made a point of fact that that the Board of Assessment Appeals increase was due to the upcoming reval.

GILBERT HAYES, RYE STREET
Mr. Hayes indicated he sat on the Board of Finance for two terms, and has been present for discussions on “punting” done from the Board of Selectmen.  He is now on the Board of Selectmen and there are zero instances of the Board of Selectmen not making a recommendation.  The Board of Selectmen work as hard as the Board of Finance, the money, take it or leave it, there should be some sort of incentive for volunteers – be it stipend or tax relief.  Rather than cut the stipend out, an Ad Hoc Committee should be formed to investigate how showing appreciation for volunteers can be fairly accomplished .  If someone was to support a family, they would not take the First Selectmen job.  He suggested the Board of Finance think about the stipend.

JAMES BARTON, 158 SOUTH WATER STREET
Mr. Barton spoke on the public safety portion of the budget.  He stated that at the start of the meeting it was stated there will be a slight increase in taxes with the budget – he felt the Board may have gone to far with the public safety cuts.  He outlined the cuts to the two fire departments and stated that the volunteer firefighters work and train hard – there is no incentive in a cut to the budget.   As a Warehouse Point Fire Commission, he knows the budget increases were for utilities and equipment – to cut that request is unreasonable.  As for the Police Department a lot of the numbers used were unreliable.  As stated by Ken Smith, there is a swell during the day of traffic through town.  The Board of Finance is doing a performance evaluation of the Chief by cutting his salary.  To cut $130,000 out of $2 million budget versus $100,000+ out of a $17 million budget is unreasonable.

CHIEF EDWARD DEMARCO, EAST WINDSOR POLICE DEPARTMENT
Chief DeMarco has heard the numbers and comparisons to various communities.  National averages do not correspond to volumes seen in local communities.  East Windsor is not Somers or Ellington – socio-economially there is a difference.  There are homeless living under I-91.  Residents of Somers and Ellington commute through East Windsor.   There are numbers of people who land at the Airport and sleep in hotels in East Windsor.  National averages present singular numbers – there is too much going on in East Windsor to apply.  The Town is between Springfield and Hartford. There are gas stations, convenience stores, easy on and off access to the Highway.  Every town in the Connecticut calls the State Police for crime services.  The Police Department fleet is aging and breaking down.  The town growth level is high and the needs have to match that level.  Regardless of the budget, police officers will do their job and help.  Chief DeMarco stated he has no emotional or personal agenda. His goal is to protect each citizen and he is asking everyone to help him do that.



As there was no further comment from the public, Mr. Catino adjourned the meeting at 8:42 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,




Cynthia D. Croxford
Recording  Secretary