Ms. DeSousa called the meeting to order at 7:40 p.m. at the East Windsor Middle School, Main Street, Broad Brook. She introduced the members of the Board of Finance and asked the audience that comments be limited to five minutes. If after five minutes a member of the public still has more to contribute, at the end of the meeting that individual will be invited to complete their comments if needed.
BOARD OF FINANCE MEMBERS PRESENT:
Marie DeSousa, Acting Chairman
Kathy Pippin, Alternate
Also Present: Kim Scovatto, Treasurer’s Office
Also present Board of Selectmen members:
Denise Menard, First Selectman
Edward Farrell, Selectman
Dale Nelson, Selectman
Gil Hayes, Selectman
There were approximately 70 members of the public present in the audience at the start of the public hearing.
Ms. DeSousa gave the schedule in the near future as the next meeting will be May 12, the Annual Budget meeting will be on May 20, where they will set mill rate or do whatever action appropriate that evening. Ms. DeSousa addressed the audience and asked for a respectful meeting – she outlined that it is understood that all of the various arenas of the town are important to each individual and everyone should be allowed to state their opinions at this meeting, even if they differ with others present.
Ms. DeSousa invited Carol Madore, the Assessor to make a brief presentation in regards to the Reval. Ms. Madore spoke briefly detailing the two part hand out available this evening which shows results stemming from a meeting between the First Selectmen, Town Treasurer the Assessor and the previous Chairman of Board Of Finance. The hand out is attached to these minutes. The spread sheet indicates a sample of ten individuals. Ms. Madore explained the only sure thing in the spread sheet is the mill rate in the first year – and beyond that point it is a best guess estimate as to the mill rate. She outlined that for what is bolded that there will be a higher tax liability if phased in. This is a sample – ten properties were chosen to do this with. The hand outs
are to provide information to the public. The Assessor invited anyone to come see her if there are questions concerning this, the assessments or revaluation.
Ms. DeSousa invited Denise Menard the First Selectmen to speak. Ms. Menard thanked everyone for coming. She expressed thanks to the Boards of Finance and Selectmen and all of the town agencies that worked so hard to put together a fair budget. This meeting is an opportunity for the public to speak, but the Board of Finance does not enter into discussion with the public. This is the chance for the Board of Finance to take input from the public hearing into account as it pertains to the proposed budget. Ms. Menard again thanked everyone for attending the public hearing.
Ms. DeSousa took a moment to introduce the department heads from most, if not all, of the town agencies that were present in the audience so the members of the public could know who was present. Ms. DeSousa thanked everyone for coming out for the public hearing.
At this point Ms. DeSousa opened the public hearing, calling the names in order as written on the sign-in sheet.
GEORGE BUTENKOFF , 169 WELL ROAD
Three weeks ago he presented a petition to phase in reval for five year period. A Town Attorney opinion references that this is an issue for the Board of Finance only. According to Mr. Butenkoff, the case that the Town Attorney sent has no factual basis for this petition. The opinion of the Town Attorney is that it is up to the Board of Finance to phase in the reval over a five year period. Mr. Butenkoff strongly urged the Board to phase the reval in over five years. Mr. Butenkoff noted the original petition was signed by the people of Spring Village. Mr. Butenkoff again strongly urged the Board of Finance to phase in the reval as there are a lot of elderly people in town and a lot of people will be hit with the hefty reval increase. In fact he stated there are over 439 appeals before
the Board of Assessment Appeals and most people are crying poverty. People are living on fixed incomes and facing difficulties with the increase in gas, food and other items. He strongly urged the Board of Finance to phase in the reval over five years. Mr. Butenkoff felt it appropriate to have the expenditure increase to 4% as he thinks 8% is too steep for the townspeople, stating that a lot of people are on fixed income and these people will be hit hard if they go up 8% on taxes.
CLIFF NELSON, 51 OMELIA ROAD
Mr. Nelson introduced himself as the Chairman of the Police Commission. Mr. Nelson stated that he usually does not read from notes, but he is so passionate about this issue that he will read from his notes. To begin, he appreciates the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance volunteering time to serve on these commissions as these days it is hard to find volunteers to serve and especially as everyone knows how loved the Board of Finance is.
He asked that the Board of Finance keep in mind that the residents of town elected members onto the Police Commission. The members of that Board are dedicated to town and the residents that elected them. The Police Commission has worked closely with the Chief and the Captain for the proposed 08/09 budget and they did their homework with 1.98 increase. What Mr. Nelson found confusing is that after the Police Commission’s power point presentation there were a couple of Finance Board members who approached him to say are you sure the 1.98% increase was enough to operate and Mr. Nelson assured them it was. It seems the $26,000 that was cut already before it has even been voted on by the residents of the town is a little premature. Mr. Nelson can say from hands on action
including ride-alongs and frequent stopping in to the police station unannounced that the police department needs monies with no cuts. Mr. Nelson has seen Sergeants filling in at dispatch when a dispatcher calls in sick. That is an Officer or a Sergeant doing dispatch work rather than on the road servicing citizens and protecting. In response to the cuts to training – the Officers need to keep up with training issues to keep up with latest so town is not liable for incorrect procedure or improper paperwork and that is only one aspect of training. Since he has been elected to Police Commission and appointed as Chairman Mr. Nelson has spent time on every shift – these are all dedicated Officers and it is about time that Board and residents give respect to the Department, rather than setting it up for a return to the Board of Finance where the Department and Commission are begging for added appropriation. It sends the wrong message to make
unnecessary cuts and set this agency up to beg for money during the year. The Commission and the Department has showed that it can stay within the budget when receives the funds they need.
MICHAEL DREWNOWSKI, 1 PERRI LANE, BROAD BROOK
This resident requested that yard waste be picked up more frequently than twice per year. He was informed this is a budget issue, he understands costs go up, he pays taxes every year and does not have children in school. He pays $1200 in car taxes and $6000 in property and he has to make a couple of trips to the dump, putting rotting grass in the back of wife’s new car and recently he got stuck in the mud. Also he must take time off from work to accomplish this. He is aware that other towns have yard waste picked up -10 bags a week from April until Fall. They were on vacation when the East Windsor pick up was. He stated he had to take time off from work to drive to Ellington. Recently this resident called town hall and asked about this situation and it was suggested
that attending the public hearing and proposing the idea it to the Board was appropriate. He concluded that any help in getting this accomplished is really appreciated.
WILLIAM DOVE, MELROSE ROAD
Mr. Dove stated many may recognize him as a former member of the Board of Finance. Had the job for four years and every year same questions on the board, why isn’t there enough money to go around – it is true for every budget, it is true for residents at home too. Every year the Board receives three inches of paper and the Board is supposed to make an intelligent decision how to spend $30 million of the taxpayer money. Quite frankly it is not fun and you can not see forest for trees as there is too much in front of you. About a year ago several people decided there should be something to do to decode the three inches of paper – they sat down, what are three categories of town budget? It was broken up into categories – town municipality and providing services. It
came as no surprise that the biggest category was salaries to pay employees. Category two was benefits town employees and category three everything else. Salaries and benefits were 2/3 maybe even 3/4 of the town budget. This is no surprise as a town municipality has several hundred employees who all need to be paid.
The next step was to look over the last seven years, starting in 2000, and take a look at growth over last seven years, so no one could accuse the numbers of not being representative of long time frame. They found out that salaries and benefits are eating town budget alive – which are harsh words – but if you ever wonder why Board of Finance does not have money, why they do not buy things for town, for example a new boiler, it is because of salaries.
Over seven years Social Security cost of living index is up by 22%. For those on fixed income, do you think that amount has covered everything of last seven years – probably not. Total budget salaries and benefits 65%, everything else 38 %. Mr. Dove also has a picture which shows this data in graphical form. Mr. Dove asked those present - Why does the Town not enough money? The answer is because there is an 800 pound gorilla sitting in the living room eating. He challenges the Board of Selectmen, not the Board of Finance – to find out what to do about the large portion of salaries and benefits. The town is cannibalizing everything else to pay for salaries and benefits.
JOHN MATTHEWS – MELROSE ROAD
Mr. Matthews started by thanking the Board of Finance as they tackle this huge job which includes 15 or 20 meetings in the course of a year, dozens and dozens of hours that they put in a course of a year. He also thanked Jack Mannette especially stating that if the Board put in dozens of hours, he puts in hundreds of hours. No one has dug into the data like Jack Manette. The curve William Dove showed when he spoke comes from Mr. Manette’s data. This was presented at a combined meeting with Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance February and it was suggested that the data go to every commission in town so they understand the issues. It shows in the course of the last seven years the average increase almost 7% a year. Mr. Matthews
does not think any of us can extend that much longer. The budget proposed is asking this year for 8%. He thanks Mr. Manette for the work he has done
Over last three years Mr. Matthews has probably attended 2/3 of the meetings of the Board of Finance and has tried to understand the process of high numbers. He concluded that the Board’s process is to invite all commissions, boards and department heads to their meetings over course of eleven months. There is no public input for eleven months and tonight is the first public input – 14 days away from voting - and this is the first public input that the Board of Finance has asked for. The Board hears all of the cases for who needs more money and why. No one hears how the taxpayer is hurt or how they cannot afford it. Mr. Matthews suggested turning the process around – for 11 months have the taxpayers in and give the sad stories and woes and how Mr. Taxpayer will lose his house
and mortgage called on. Then on the last 14 days give to boards and Commission an opportunity to try to show against what taxpayer issues are and try to say why they should get 8% increase. He suspended his input as time ran out and will return at the end to continue
BILL SCHULTZ, 9 LINDSAY LANE
Mr. Schultz saw the budget numbers and he wanted to make some small points. He stated some may have seen the Connecticut magazine from last year where populations of 6500 to 10000 were ranked. As you went thru the ranking East Windsor was dead last in three out of five, second to last in another and was first in being the cheapest town to live in. He is not sure what the details are, but the Town needs to spend money. Mr. Schultz understands there are fixed incomes and we are all on fixed incomes. He understands the problems and suggested working with state and financial experts to save money, but the Town has to fix the problem. All boards and commissions put a lot of time in budget request, they ask for what they think they need – they are the experts, people in the those
departments know what they need. He knows these are big numbers and they pose problem, but need to find a solution. As a community they need to work with State of Connecticut as there has to be a way to share benefits with other towns. He is no expert, but he knows it’s done in other town. Then the Town can spend money to fix problems that the Boards and Commissions think the Town has.
BEATRICE CORRADO, 1 LINDSAY LANE
Ms. Coratto thanked the Departments for the time they put into the budgets. So much of budget is in salaries these are salaries that are paid for with taxes. They are the experts who have looked into numbers and we need to support them. She comes in as a parent and educator. Looking at the Board of Education’s hard work put in place for the budget it is imperative to make budget happen. People have serious concerns if initiatives don’t pass people will move. East Windsor is an incredible community she wants it to hold on to its citizens. She is here to express support so she can keep community here and together and not have people looking for schooling outside town. Hopefully everyone can work together to build and grow as a town.
RICH ROSS, 1 PIERCE LANE
Mr. Ross is here primarily to support the resident at 1 Perri Lane about trash pick up. He did say that he appreciates what was said about building town and making it a better town rather than cutting costs all the time. He got his tax bill like everyone else, and yes taxes are going up but what is he going to do for East Windsor as he does not have elderly parents or children in school system, but what he does have is a small thing he wanted because he is a productive citizen paying taxes - all he is asking for is trash pick up once a month. Mr. Ross relayed that he had a heart attack last year and he has a hard time bringing bags up to green cycle, going thru mud and it is inconvenient for him and his health. That said, it is a very small thing, not important to most, but for many who have no place to
put yard waste it is important. It is important for a good educational system and support for town for police department and for all people who do good work in the town. It is important.
Gil Hayes, 143 RYE STREET
Mr. Hayes is a Board of Selectmen member currently and had served previously on Board of Finance for two terms. This afternoon he received a phone call from lady in town who says she is going to lose job next week as she has no ride to work. The town has a dial a ride services but criteria is to be 60 years older – she is disabled and unable to drive herself, but younger than 60, so she falls between the cracks. He stated the town need more transportation for people – this budget is status quo. Services that are needed trash pick up and rides for elderly / disabled are in the budget but no funds to pay. There are services, but just enough. But just enough is really not quite enough in East Windsor. Mr. Schultz spoke of education and how the rank in state being bottom
of some of the subjects. Mr. Hayes attends as liaison to the board of ed, just about every other week and the staff and administration at the East Windsor High School do all they can to do whatever they can to bring the town back to where it was ten years ago. Such as initiatives for language for kids in lower grades, they do not have that yet and would like to get back to that. Reading coaches are very important and he believes are the number one priority on the list. The Selectmen decided to give the initiatives, but up to the Board of Finance to give the Board of Education one lump sum of funds and however Board of Education spends it is up to them. They are responsible for their budget and will spend the funds where needed. Most important for children as they grow up is well being of future. The towns future lies within the school life and hopefully they will stay here. If people think problems will be solved suddenly they have blinders
on. Take blinders off for one second, look at Mr. Bowza on the Board of Finance, who is a former student from East Windsor who has come back to East Windsor to help. Support the status quo budget that is needed.
BILL LOOS, MELROSE ROAD
Mr. Loos stated he has been a resident of town for 73 years, which he supposes tells his age. This The Reval provides some people with a large increase in property tax, some over 50%. Those people who want to have less reval increases to help pay for the taxes – over a five year – pay 1/5 this year 2/5 next year and so on. After five years another reval and pay full amount – people with less than 30% increase to their taxes will go down because mill rate go down – a lot of people bought big houses, their taxes will go down, but if step increase in reval these people have to pay taxes for people who don’t want to pay and put it off. That is wrong - the whole purpose of reval is to bring everyone up to date with property evaluations. As for the school budget there
were two votes, the first one voted down the budget, came back for hearing and the Board of Finance reduced all budgets except the Board of Education, it kept them at 8.2%. The Town cannot afford 8% every year. The superintendent said 106 teachers over 1500 students which is an average of 15 students to teacher, which is low amount, some higher, teachers teaching classes with less than 15. It is also said that next year student population will be reduced by 90 students – divided by 15 Mr. Loos says get rid of about 6 teachers. That’s $100,000 per teacher with benefits, that’s the $600,000 increase in the budget. Instead the Board of Education wants more special ed teachers, reduce it down to 4% increase – do not need an 8% increase in that budget. The third item is that he did not like chairman of police department saying the budget has been reduced. In last seven years police department budget has a
large increase – while last year the fire departments has a zero percentage increase. The fire departments need to get more money and less into the Police Department. Mr. Loos further stated that he understood that Captain Hart is now in school to get a Bachelors Degree that the town paid for. He stated the Town should have hired a captain that had the schooling. Instead
other people applied for the position who had a bachelor degree, but Captain Hart was friend of
the Chief. The Captain is in charge of budget. That line item should be taken out of there - take out money to pay for his education.
(Ms. DeSousa spoke up at the end of this public input to request that the testimony not be directly to individuals personally and setting the tone to have a respectful public input session.)
MELISSA GREEN – BROAD BROOK.
Ms. Green introduced herself as the Director of Parks and Recreation. She thanked the Boards for hard work. To say she is vested in community understatement. She was born and raised in Town and will always be an East Windsor resident. She graduated from East Windsor in 1999 and she is now one of those department heads that put together a budget. She works very hard and does not ask for frivolous things. For example, she is not requesting a new park maintainer because Keith (the current maintainer) wants to have someone to hang with. The Parks and Recreation Department maintains 1415 acres, 25 fields, 7 parks all with one full time maintainer – just one. Recently the question was raised what is the second maintainer going to do during the winter? She also raised a
question, what does public works do when there is no snow? They get five, six, seven people - she asks for one because she has one currently. Ms. Green reiterated that she understands tight budget constraints everyone is on fixed incomes. The only way to do this is to work as a community. The kids want to participate in programs and do well in school - the only way is if we as adults show them the support they deserve.
KATHY BILODEAU, 343 SCANTIC ROAD
Ms. Bilodeau stated that a lot has been said and a lot she agrees with – she will summarize her thoughts quickly. She agrees it is fortunate as town to have dedicated people who give their time on boards and commission – the Town is fortunate in that it has people who care. The town is also fortunate people in administrators who are highly talented and valuable. She is specially speaking as to those people who work for school system. She is highly impressed by the administrators in school system attempting to attack different problems and processes put before them. It is evident that while the Town may have ranked toward the bottom she understands that the Town has wonderful and talented teachers. She has experienced this with daughter graduating from the school system in
1999 and currently she has a student in first grade. It is very important to support school system budget request and the needs presented. She noted for the record that public present will notice there are some of her fellow PTO members wearing green in support of the budget in particular for board of education. She does think East Windsor is a wonderful town and she loves the community atmosphere. Everyone needs to work together. She has lived in Town for twelve years and wants to stay. She wants children who are future to come forward and be future, or they are going to leave. There is a need to see more youth within community to take over positions as others are leaving them and they need to have skills in order to do that. She believes that many of the town services are necessary. Believe there is a need to take the budget and look carefully and make adjustment that do not directly impact the services in town. The
budgets seen presented by the Board of Education are doing that
Brenda Crockett, 10 ROCKVILLE ROAD
Ms. Crockett stated that six years ago her family gave her and husband 2.6 acres land to try to build a home to accommodate her family of six as they were having hard time finding house in other towns. Do not be offended for long term, initially hesitant as she came from a top town. She had visited East Windsor and grew up nearby. She loved the community, the residents here, so for different reasons, besides the gift, she decided to move here. She has told her children you get out of school system what you put in to it. She does not wear rose colored glasses or have tunnel vision in asking for support to the Board of Education budget. She has been to as many meetings as she could to understand the budget and the increases. It is crucial to children to have a good education
and she has total confidence – she is usually skeptical – really does believe that the Board of Education budget is a request that will allow them to give children an education that is needed to be competitive. She loves the community, staying here, not going anywhere ask for support to the school
JIM RICHARDS 43 ROCKVILLE ROAD
Mr. Richards introduced himself as a resident and also in the capacity of the Chamber of Commerce. Since the Revaluation he has never had so many phone calls in the Chamber office from businesses as he has regarding the reval – some increased sizable amounts. While you will note a 288% increase in Chamber budget – it is only $5,000, asks they vote for it. Mr. Richards is not a long time resident as he grew up in South Windsor. He indicated that 40 years ago town plans showed where development would be necessary and several years ago the Town built sewer plant that allows for 51% capacity. Businesses pay 39% to 42% – large percent of tax base from business. They want to invest in town. Businesses have stated there is a major concern of the Town not seeing the
vision. There are several opportunity of economic development that makes sense to provide tax dollars to town and still keep mill rate low. He agrees about the praise to the education department - his daughter graduating and they have done a good job. Business want to invest in East Windsor but are feeling leery. He suggested everyone look at the town plan from 40 years ago which tells where to built and that will help with the tax revenue. As far as budget the businesses are in support of budget.
Ms. DeSousa indicated that the sign up sheet contained no new names who wished to speak and invited those few who had more comments to come forward for a limited time to complete their presentations.
JOHN MATTHEWS CONTINUED
Mr. Matthews stated these were tough speakers to follow, and does not disagree with many. Everyone has things they want and all want to move forward, it is just a question of doing that efficiently. Everyone needs to ask are we making most of our resources? The Board of Finance vote on budget was not unanimous – 4 to 2 – two looking for 4% or less increase. He has a proposal as to how to get there. Before he speaks further he wanted it known that he is a huge fan of the elementary school and knows that they need a lot of help there. Basically 200 kids, used to be 240 reading at below grade level – personal feeling best way to get to them is get a tutor to spend time. Eight tutors cannot cover 800 kids – they spend about 1000 hours and make
less than $20 an hour and the Town does not pay health benefits to tutors, who would like to have some, but do not get them. Parents volunteer to be tutors. The special ed hire is approaching $90K – you can have tutors with kids. Mr. Matthews is a huge fan of Ms. McCarroll, she knows that – if she had the tutors she would not have room for them anyway, no parking – need to address that issue, make more room for school so students can work. School system has asked for eight more people, probably need them, but he thinks one to elementary school the others are to go after problems created because kids cannot read at high school. Mr. Chambers said he has kids that cannot read – because of that they deserve the classroom and extra resources in high school because of what is not done in elementary level. Kids out of fourth grade have to read. Much better classrooms and fewer teachers and specialist at middle and
high school – huge amounts of dollars in high and middle, nothing left, it is upside down.
You can get down to 4% without laying off a single person – open positions do not have to fill, people leaving, do not have to back fill, eight new people proposed in this budget, think twice about that, if did not do those things the budget is down 6% - take another percent off and the Town is close to 4% budget.
KATHY BILODEAU CONTINUED
She wanted to provide something to think about – a point was made that the Town gets all the way to this date before the Board has public input as to what the community wants. The Town has the image of the daunting task before the Board of Finance talking with individual boards and yet not knowing what community wants. She has noticed there is no opportunity for public to speak at Board of Finance meetings, they are allowed to write a letter. She felt maybe the Board of Finance should take some consideration that next year public can have some opportunity to speak before board.
Lastly, she always wonders what happen if budget not pass. Ms. Bilodeau knows it needs to go back and have another vote, especially if back to referendum. How does Board of Finance really know why people have voted against? In the past it is assumed as taxpayers voted against it they did not want the amount and wanted it to be lower. In speaking with many people who voted no have done so as an opportunity for it to go back to what it was originally presented.
Ms. DeSousa at this time invited various Department Heads to speak briefly to address any issues that were brought up by the public.
TIM HOWES, SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS.
Due to computer glitch (more likely operator error) Mr. Howes’ testimony regarding the student teacher ratios, human capital, services to each of the schools and the Board of Educations rationale for the budget was lost. This secretary will be in touch with Mr. Howes and submit an addendum to these minutes with his comments.
EDWARD DEMARCO, JR., CHIEF OF POLICE DEPARTMENT
Due to computer glitch as referenced above, the very start of Chief DeMarco’s comments were lost. This secretary will be in touch with Chief DeMarco and submit an addendum to these minutes his comments, if any, that were lost.
Chief DeMarco stated communications within departments is great. He has heard a lot of people point fingers at the problems but it takes strong man or woman and come up with solution. The Town has seen evidence of shared services, shared insurance costs and that is what the professional administrators are doing. Those administrators are constantly looking for ways to reduce cost, support the budget and make the budget work. He works closely with the police commission and they work with the staff. Chief DeMarco stated he ends with an emotional statement when he says he loves his job. He really does. Tonight he had to stand and hear inaccurate statements about his job, but he does love his job and will work hard for the Town of East Windsor.
Ms. DeSousa ended the evening by stating whether you agree or disagree with comments made, the Board will take everything said under consideration. While she cannot respond to budget specifically she can address a couple things that have come up. What can state do for us – what can you do for state? As of today the state budget is looked at on eliminating the conveyance tax – which the town relies on that money to maintain budget. She suggested to the public, if you have time tomorrow call legislatures and urge them to keep the state conveyance tax the way it is.
As to communication with Board of Finance – statutory in past the Board has taken the option not to have open forum. She reiterated what has been relayed in the past, if anyone needs to make a comment feel free to drop letter to town hall. Thanks to shared services and the Board of Education the Board of Finance now has E-mail. Ms. DeSousa can be reached at Mdesousa@eastwindsorct.com or 623-1065. All Board of Finance agendas are posted and the public is welcome to attend. The
public speak before meeting and after meeting, you will be heard. Specifically as to comments regarding services for disabled under 60 – Elizabeth Burns of the Elderly Commission is working with Gil Hayes on that issue and investigating a regional program with a few other towns. Hopefully will be addressed in near future.
Ms. Menard concluded comments by stating this is the first budget in her role as First Selectmen and she is so proud of the staff, boards and commission for all that they have done to bring town the forward. Public comments were fair comments spoken from heart. She felt it was important to pass this budget and move forward.
Public hearing closed at 8:50 p.m.
Cynthia D. Croxford
Attachment – Two page hand out presented by the Assessor as referenced herein.