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Mount Will Vote Against the First Selectman's Budget

Town councilwoman claims the proposal has missing information and a lack of transparency

To the Editor:

Why as a council member, I am voting NO tomorrow night on this budget. This meeting is open to the public.

The budget presented to the Town Council was mired in obfuscations, missing information and a lack of transparency. The town presented many questions which the first selectman could not answer.

A quick overview – shows spending up by 7%, Business revenue down by 4.5% (Since the economic development director position was cut last year Monroe lost 168 businesses and gained 140) and a proposed new bonding that would add 8 million dollars to our bond obligation over the next two years.

This budget includes a purportedly “streamlined” consolidated Planning and Building Group that includes Building, Inland Wetlands, Planning and Zoning, a new “Engineering department."

It actually creates 2.5 new jobs, and includes an increase of more than 615% increase in consulting fees. Also salaries are increased in some areas by over 15%. The Planning and Zoning Department spending increased by 16.71%, Inland Wetlands by 64.94% and “Engineering Department by 100% because it is new.

This not a streamlining it is an expansion. This new organization includes $26,500, in new consulting fees. The proposed new jobs and salaries were not accompanied by job descriptions and the Town Council was not provided new Job descriptions on which to approve new salaries.

This reorganization was not done according to charter rules. It is the town council’s purview to approve, new non-appointed positions, the corresponding salaries and new department. I will vote no to all of the above.

The first selectman’s budgets again draws down our undesignated fund even further by $370,000, which jeopardizes our bond rating, and leaving less than half of the recommended $7-7 1/5 million that is recommended. I will vote that any money we cut go into the undesignated fund balance for the future health of Monroe.

Again there is no one year or five year capital plan by the First Selectman. The First Selectman wants to bond close to $5 million in new bonds, $1 million of which will go to roads increasing its debt service over $100,000.00 or 127%. The new proposed bonding will also increase our current bond obligation from $60,650,672 to $68,338,072 in 2013.

I am not in favor of bonding for roads and suggest we add money for roads into the operating budget and not incur greater debt service that will be our future generation’s responsibility.

There are other areas which can be decreased such as Police Department overtime; it increased overtime while having added two officers. We talk about sacrifice, yet the budget includes $60,000 for Wolfe Park improvements, that’s $60,000 we could use for roads.

There are increases to non-essential departments while cutting money for the Assessor to conduct a business audit which the Tax Collector stated would yield $10 dollars for every $1 spent. If the true goal was to increase the tax base and
reduce everyone’s overall tax burden, cutting $15,000.00 which would produce $1 to $2 million, is not the way to do it.

This budget increases spending, drives up debt service, doesn’t fund revenue generating activity and lacks a capital plan making it incomplete. It greatly increases the planning and building function of the town by over a couple of hundred thousand dollars while it purports to streamline the process.

We need a forward thinking budget that makes the hard choices now to make a better and more affordable Monroe later.

Michele Mount,

Town Council

QWERTY March 01, 2011 at 01:52 AM
I don't expect better from any of these people. This is pretty much par for the course. Choosing between the "lesser of two evils" can never result in anything good.
Michele Mount March 01, 2011 at 02:38 AM
To critics of any elected officials anywhere... if you have all the answers, run for office. To every past or present elected official or person that has run for office, thank you for your service and courage.
Anna J March 01, 2011 at 04:03 AM
Mrs. Mount, with all due respect, that reply is a cop out. Not everyone chooses to run for public office. You did. So did Mr. Sredzinski, Mr. O'Hara, Mrs. Lipeles, Mr. Antinozzi. The people of this community elected each of you to your respective positions because you all claimed to have something to offer the town of Monroe. Now we are asking you to make good on those claims and do the jobs you were elected to do. No nonsense. No childish politics. Just represent Monroe with honor and decency and focus on people first. Now that would really take courage.
Christine E. March 01, 2011 at 04:11 AM
With public office comes public criticism. Please stop being so childishly defensive...and this is from someone who voted for you.
Barry March 01, 2011 at 04:56 AM
Implying business loss and gain has a direct correlation to the economic development position is either completely intellectually dishonest or plain old dumb. This was written for adults right?
Michele Mount March 01, 2011 at 12:16 PM
With all due respect that is exactly what I am trying to do. People shouldn't make assumptions based on whether a person is a R or D or I or G. Voters should actually educate themselves on the issues. People need to actually look at the person who is running. There is a wide spectrum of views in all political parties. If elected officials don’t prove themselves worthy of the public trust or capable, they must be voted out. But, I still believe they had courage to run in the first place. We can all disagree on positions, in fact that is healthy. But I am referring to those who remark, all politicians are no good, power mad, stupid, partisan etc. I don't agree with many elected officials, but in order to have any type of republic or a democracy we need to have people run for office. I am trying to make good on all my campaign pledges, however, I am not the first selectman and I am not in the majority party. I speak my mind. In fact if you were at the budget meeting tonight you would have noticde that the Republicans except for Mr. Catropa voted to raise salaries of elected officials, approved a 7% increase in spending and argued against economic development efforts. There was a 5 to 4 split with Mr. Catropa voting the same way as democrats. Can you name anything I campaigned on for town council that I have not done? Perhaps you could sign your full name or come to a council meeting. Feel free to calll between 9am and 8pm 203-209-3132, I’ll be glad to hear your concerns.
Christine E. March 01, 2011 at 01:35 PM
Ms. Mount, I try very hard to be respectful and not rock the boat on this board. However, with all due respect... While I understand the value of attending meetings, I am getting quite annoyed with board members etc constantly suggesting on here that if residents do not attend and speak out at hearings and meetings, our opinion is somehow devalued. I truly do care what goes on in this town, and I would love to some day have the luxury of leaving work early and attending 7:00pm meetings along with you, but I surely can't pay my massive tax bill by doing that, so it simply isn't an option.
Charlie Brown March 01, 2011 at 02:10 PM
Many of our elected people put in numerous hours for free on behalf of the town. Many of the people posting negative comments on this blog don't know what they are talking about. Michele is hard working and straight forward and people who say otherwise don't know her. Both R's and D's have people working hard. Silly comments and personal attacks are childish and demonstrate you have no understanding of the issues at hand. If you disagree with Michele, or with Vavrek, or with any local elected person, why not debate their specific ideas instead of silly personal attacks.
Walt March 01, 2011 at 02:22 PM
If a republican, or a democrat, were to come up with a cure for cancer the opposing party would throw every obstacle possible in the way of it being implemented. Politics on every level are destroying this country. The average person just wants to enjoy their slice of the american pie by working, maybe raising a family and living a satisfying life while keeping some of their own money. I personally don't WANT to go to meetings and workshops at night to listen to posturing pols because it's evident from comments made by them after past budget votes that they don't think too highly of the electorate anyway.
Schap March 01, 2011 at 02:42 PM
Charlie, I believe you are right! There needs to be more open debate in this Town about subjects that I believe are important to all citizens. When is that debate? Every commission has a public participation part of the Agenda, but no give and take as to the actual facts that are presented without personal attacks. My personal opinion is to have open discussions about items like our ROADS! I believe the majority of the Town after this horrible winter are concerned about WHEN the road repairs are going to take place and what is going to be done to get the roads that where driveable before the storm back to the non pot hole level. I don't think there is enough money in the administrative budget to get us back to the level we were at previous to the STORMS. Where is the debate on this? How about a debate about what the Town plan is for the next 20 years for possible sewers that could possibly add to the economics of the town and maybe generate ADDITIONAL tax dollars. It seems that the issues are not really debated or really measured on a quarterly or semi annual basis and that there are debates only at political elections. We spent the last two years on the POCD and have a working document. We need to address what is needed today and what is needed in the future. Do a survey in Town and see if the citizens are willing to spend the $'s now to get the roads back in shape in a timely manner. I apologize for any grammatical errors prior to ending this opinion. Politics OUT Town IN.
Bridgeport March 01, 2011 at 03:16 PM
In my honest opinion what Michele said was spot on. Bonding is borrowing. There is no way around it, and you'll be damned if you see anyone in the nation borrowing a large chunk of money during these hard times. You've got to realize if things don't pick up, that bonding money will be owed. It's not free money, it needs to be paid back usually over income generated through other capital projects or REVENUE collected by the town through, YES YOU GUESSED IT. Taxes. You keep bonding for capital improvements and you are increasing debt and just making the future even more of a mess. The previous poster above me wants to start thinking about money for sewers? The budget can't pass as it is and even if it does it doesn't do anything for the current circumstances. Sewers could have been done years ago, the perception of the public was NO, not in our town. No we all truly understand the need for them. To much developlment, none of it efficient. That's the problem with Monroe. The taxburden is on the taxpayer not corporations, businesses or any other large entity. But now after deplorable winters our roads are worse than ever before, and we want to borrow money to fix them, only to place that burden on the taxpayer down the road (no pun.) What the Town of Monroe needs to do is they need to get on that WPCA with Bridgeport and Trumbull. That should be the number 1 priority.
QWERTY March 01, 2011 at 03:38 PM
"and you'll be damned if you see anyone in the nation borrowing a large chunk of money during these hard times." Except the federal government, right? How much did they borrow last year?
Bridgeport March 01, 2011 at 03:50 PM
This isn't a discussion of federal government.
QWERTY March 01, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Where might objectionable information be located? Reasonable, straightforward, objectionable data! Don't give me a 100 page, 900 line-time spreadsheet and tell me to analyze it! Voters never get reasonable information because it's so horrifically tainted by politicians or political parties. We vote elected officials into office because Monroe's budget is so terribly complicated! I don't have the time to analyze obscure and nondescript budget line-items! I have to work a full time job to pay my near five figure tax bill which gets me less than my Shelton neighbors half mile down the road from me. This is why I love the referendum. It's the only pure and meaningful vote I have left! I, as a voter, can not control a politician whom I vote into office. They have their own agenda and will do their bidding on how to best represent the people. And the town is arguing about give 3% raises to administrative assistants, while 20 people......20 people make a combined $2.5 million a year. I'll repeat myself, 20 town workers make a combined $2.5 million a year!!!!! Mrs. Mount, while I can't attend the meeting, I will ask you here; why is the town not doing anything about reducing these employees salaries? A similar question also goes to the top 20 municipal earners, although their aggregate total is "only" $2 million. 40 workers averaging $112 a year! This is reasonable?!?!
QWERTY March 01, 2011 at 04:08 PM
You brought the entire nation into the discussion, which is why I commented on the federal government.
Patrick O'Hara March 01, 2011 at 04:12 PM
"The Town needs to get on that WPCA......."-I agree. For those who may have forgotten, when the regional WPCA was first proposed as part of the JHE, Monroe had expressed support to join. I was invited to a meeting at city hall in Bpt as part of the discussions. It was pretty obvious that the folks in Trumbull and Bridgeport have some negotiating to do before any regional WPCA can move forward. At that time I believe Vavrek and Mount were on the Monroe WPCA and both supported the plan. I also supported it because as a regional program it would only financially affect the properties that tie in to sewers. As far as Monroe preparing for sewers the Monroe WPCA has been working hard on maping sewer districts and writing regulation. As far as the often quoted 50 year history of coulda, woulda and shoulda regarding sewers, lets all understand that Monroe can not get anywhere without Bridgeport AND Trumbull approvals. Said approvals need to be affordable to the consumer. Monroe commercial property values will increase, but still be less expensive than our neighbors if we get sewers and they know this. You can read more at: http://onlyinbridgeport.com/wordpress/gomes-flush-sewer-proposal/ If you are curious please note that MCAT=Michele Mount In the end, there is a finite amount of land to provide commercial taxes. and the benefit of commercial development to offset tax increases is limited due to Connecticut being such an expensive state.
Bridgeport March 01, 2011 at 04:33 PM
Mr. O'Hara, did you just really tell me that commercial development won't offset the tax burden on property owners? The fact of the matter is commercial development, SMART commercial development, not McDonald's and not Stop N Shop will pay a large sum of taxes into the town. If you look at the towns with the lowest mill rates in the state, you will understand that all of them have large chunks of commercial property. Monroe has a high mill rate for one reason and one reason only, there isn't a taxable commercial base in town. You are right, some commercial development such as Strip malls, landscaping companies and fast food restaurants will not offset the tax burdern, there is no denying that. But corporations like Swiss Army or the Jewish Home for the Elderly, those things will. And before we do those things, we do in fact need sewers. What I want to know is why did the town of Monroe P & Z shoot down a proposed golf course on Pepper Street years ago. If you look at towns across the state, golf courses (not muncipal owned of course, and I'm not sure if this would have been public or private), pay a large chunk in taxes. That's not a bad idea if you ask me. It would have also allowed people using the course to spend money in our town on our restaurants, family owned buisnesses, etc. Maybe it's a strech but, I'm just wondering the reason behind it being shot down years ago.
anon March 01, 2011 at 04:53 PM
i write this in fear of angering many of you but ......... while i don't believe this is the time to over-spend on Wolfe Park by adding unnecessary things, I, as a parent who spends so much time at the park with my children, do hope there is room in the budget to do any necessary maintenance to keep the park/playground safe and enjoyable for my children
Michele Mount March 01, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Qwerty, the First Selectman makes the town budget. The only thing town council can do is make changes where there is agreement by the majority. I spoke out and voted against raises for elected officials, because I think this isn't the message the town should be sending. I voted against this budget for many reasons as did Mr. Catropa, Mrs. Martin, Mr. Halliwell. We were defeated 5-4. It now goes on to the Board of Finance where public comment will once again be heard. You and I don't often agree but we do on this, there is nothing straightforward about this budget. There is no leadership. Mr. Vavrek has not been able to explain the vast majority of his decisions in this budget; he has had to ask others to explain it for him. Mr. Tomchik did an excellent job presenting the budget with numbers approved by Mr. Vavrek but his job is not to set policy. At the very least Mr. Vavrek should at least be able to understand, and justify why he made the choices he did in his budget. This is not communication, transparency or leadership. It is his job to hear the recommendations of the administrators and make the tough choices himself. The people elected him to do this, to continue the policy he presented prior to the election and follow it. part 1
Michele Mount March 01, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Con't Last night, as well as in workshops, I had many questions to ask of the First Selectman regarding the raises, consultant fees and new positions in this reorganization/new department. R's and D's alike had been similar questions. We all asked for clarification on these matters for weeks. We worked as a team to develop these questions and spent hours working together amicably, which was the most enjoyable thing I have done since being elected. The list was e-mailed to Mr. Vavrek and many of the questions that were put in an e-mail and sent to him by email weeks ago. Many went unanswered. I would even have appreciated an answer that I didn't agree with as opposed to no information. I bleive those who voted for the budget did so without all the information. My only advice is, if you don't like the performance of the person who made the budget, or who didn’t vote to your liking -- vote them out. As public servants we should be here to serve you and take the tough questions. I have consistently given my phone number out publically and I am always willing to talk. I am too outspoken for many, but I say what I think and people always know where I stand on an issue. I abhor pandering on both sides of the aisle. I understand you have to take heat when you’re in the kitchen. You have to be accountable for your performance. I try to be.
QWERTY March 01, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Correct me if I'm incorrect, but weren't these salaries established long before Vavrek? Aren't they an accumulation from years of employment spanning multiple first selectmen? I could be wrong, but all I'm seeing is bickering over small potatoes. Shouldn't reducing the salary of employees making $100K+ a year be a focal point? Respected professional careers in the private sector don't even make this much money! What does a "Director of Operations" do to deserve $140K?! Is he going to quit if the town only gives him $100K a year? You could find 50 qualify applicants to do his job for $90K a year! "Director of Student Support Service", making $137K? I can't even conjure up an image in my mind about what this position does or how it could be justified in earning such a ludicrious salary. And police officers earning $100K+ a year? Really? I know it includes overtime but SIX figures for 8 police officers in a rural town? I know comparasions to other towns will be made but again, are school principals going to quit if you reduce their salaries by $15K? I'd rather pay two princpals $70K a year than have one for $140K! Maybe I'm just venting but I find these salaries beyond ridiculous. You'd find qualified and willing applicants to do these jobs for less, saving the town money that could be used in other areas.
Patrick O'Hara March 01, 2011 at 07:29 PM
I remember a golf course proposal in the 90's (?) and while it may have generated revenue from the club house, driving range, work garage and personal property, the houses proposed would have only generated 10-15K in taxes while the 2 children per house would have generated 18-24K in expense. All told a net loss mathematically. Whitney Farms Golf Course appears to pay $140,000 in property tax. The golf course was allowed 1/2 acres zone residential development which created an expense equal to 12K per pupil. After the first dozen students that piece of commercial development became a loss. Stop N Shop pays $185,665, Big Y pays $144,442 and Swiss Army pays $357,384 in taxes on their property according to the tax collectors website. All figures are exclusive of personal property. (Swiss Army also enjoyed a 7 year 70% tax abatement.) The sum of these large taxpayers is $700,000 (rounded). Each time 3 projects of equal size are built in Monroe, a tax increase of $700,000 in the town budget would be offset by 100%. My points are as follows: 1)Annual development of this type of magnitude is unrealistic to expect. 2) You will eventually run out of land suitable for commercial expansion. 3)At what point does commercial development adversly affect quality of life? In the end, commecial development is a part of the puzzle but not the answer to the question some claim it is. Taxes rise in CT due to the State Legislature. The Democrats have controlled for 20 years.
Alan Vaglivelo March 01, 2011 at 10:10 PM
The Director of Student Support Services is the supervisor for special education in Monroe.
Steve Kirsch March 01, 2011 at 10:12 PM
I know there was talk about a golf course in the upper Pepper street area, but I don't know if it ever made it to P&Z or if it was just one idea. The town did vote down the purchase of the Whitney Farms golf course.
Mitchell March 02, 2011 at 12:56 AM
1. Mr. Tomcheck ie a registered DEMOCRAT; of course you give him Kudos. 2. When Buzi was in, you all (and MOUNT) insisted it was a TOWN budget, not First Selectman's. Make up yor mind. Or, follow that other group, and M.O.V.E. from Monroe (best option).
Mitchell March 02, 2011 at 01:00 AM
I was wondering how long it was going to take for your intelligence to chime in. I thought maybe you got lost in a funnel of Norwalk IEP or IPe's whatever they call them.
Bridgeport March 02, 2011 at 02:37 AM
How would it be offset? You're trying to tell me that 3 projects of equal size leading to $700,000 a year in revenue would hurt the town? I propose smart economic growth, which, if actually smart, will not affect quality of life. I don't understand how Monroe can justify allowing a McDonalds that won't pay nearly as much in taxes, vs. another entity like Swiss Army. I think Swiss Army and it's annual tax revenue is much smarter and leads to a higher quality of life than a McDonalds dont you? I understand taxes rise in Connecticut, but this is Monroe. Our budget is OUR issue, not the state's. If you don't believe in the expansion of smart commercial growth, then what do you suggest we do? Services, Salaries, etc. all continue to go up and cost, and those get passed directly down to the taxpayer, with more money genereated through commercial enterprises wouldn't that lift the burden? I don't believe 2 children would cost the town 18-24K? How did you come up with those figures? 24k a year on a child? I know it doesn't cost anything close to that to educate a child, am I wrong? Also who's to say the number of children living directly on that golf course. You also can't forget that Whitney Farms pays $140,000 in taxes and it's municpal owned. If you were to allow private golf club into the area, and it wanted to buy a nice chunk of land, you better believe taxes generated would be way more that 140,000.
QWERTY March 02, 2011 at 03:42 AM
Then why isn't the role called "Special Education Supervisor"? To me, the titles implies this positions offers broad support services to ALL students of Monroe. And the town is paying $137K for someone to "supervise" the education of a small minority of Monroe's student population? No wonder this town is such debt...
Margaret Monroe March 03, 2011 at 08:01 PM
Yes
Margaret Monroe March 03, 2011 at 08:06 PM
There are so many false statements in this letter that I am surprised the editor even allowed it to be posted. The budget has not even been voted upon by the Town Council yet, so any portion of it can still be amended. I encourage all interested citizens attend the Town Council workshop and meeting tonight (2/28) at 6:30p to hear the truth for themselves. Hey J.P. - what are you going to do? Report the Editor to his supervisor as you are so good at doing? And, by the way, why don't you tell all of us why YOU missed more than 1/2 of the budget workshop sessions? I think the taxpayers whom you are suppose to be representing have a right to know!

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