Charter commission gets more input on A&T, zoning board, technology
SHELTON — Shelton’s mayor wants to eliminate one of the governmental entities that oversees spending.
His idea, to disband the Board of Apportionment and Taxation while leaving the Board of Aldermen intact, was one of several ideas pitched at the last Charter Revision Commission meeting before all city business was shut down March 17 by mayoral order.
Mayor Mark Lauretti made his suggestion during his appearance before the Charter Revision Commission March 12 along with several other officials.
“We are completing our idea-gathering phase,” said commission Chair Dan Debicella. “We have more than 50 ideas we will be considering and have completed an analysis of 30 other charters from towns in Fairfield County and the Valley.
“The mayor’s opinion is valued just like everyone else’s,” said Debicella. “We are taking all the input and will decide based on the merits of the ideas. We're taking a long-term look at what will work for this community. We want changes that give more power to voters and less power to political parties.”
Many of the recommendations for a change in the city charter focus on the six-member Board of Apportionment and Taxation. The A&T is evenly split with three Republicans and three Democrats serving.
Some speakers have suggested increasing A&T’s authority over budgetary matters, increasing its size and making it more like boards of finance in other communities.
Others want the board eliminated, saying it is redundant since the Board of Aldermen’s finance committee has the same authority.
“I think A&T is a waste of everyone’s time,” said Lauretti, saying the Board of Aldermen is the city’s financial authority and can aptly handle the transfer requests that go before A&T.
Lauretti said the 3-3 nature of the board makes it “a very political board” which only serves to stall necessary budgetary work.
Lauretti also was against increasing the size and political makeup of the eight-member Board of Aldermen to increase minority representation. The Aldermanic board is now 8-0 Republican.
“Why ‘fix’ something that is not broken,” said Lauretti about the makeup of the Board of Aldermen. “Every other November, the voters have the right to decide who they want to represent them. If voters don’t like the decisions, they can make a change.”
The commission is also debating whether the city charter should require a general fund reserve, which it does not currently mandate.
At present, the city’s general fund sits near zero, in part, Lauretti said, because the Board of Education overspent its budget three consecutive years — a charge past Board of Education leadership has vehemently denied. The city sued the Board of Education seeking reimbursement. That case is still ongoing.
Debicella said the commission is also looking at the makeup of the Board of Education and Planning and Zoning Commission. The current nine-member school board is politically split 5-4; a charter change could modify the political makeup to allow one party to hold a 6-3 majority, make the board nonpartisan or elect members by ward.
Debicella said there would be “no real change in size, only in structure, and how to elect the members.”
Another area of focus is size of the six-member Planning and Zoning Commission. Debicella said the current membership number can pose a problem with approving applications, since a two-thirds vote is required. Recommendations have been made to increase the commission to an odd number, such as seven.
One final area that will most assuredly be covered in the revised charter, according to Debicella, is board and commission members being able to attend meetings via phone or internet, especially now with coronavirus protection protocols preventing more than five people from being together at a time.
There is nothing in the charter allowing or prohibiting electronic meetings, said Debicella, and “there is a sense here that we should put some provision in the charter dealing with this, and that has only been heightened by this present situation.”