Shelton Apportionment, Taxation Democrats call for budget workshops with BOE
SHELTON — Democratic members of the Board of Apportionment and Taxation say politics played no part in last week’s meeting walkout that canceled a vote on the mayor’s proposed budget.
A&T Democrats hung up their phones May 8, leaving the budget workshop and preventing Republican members from voting on Mayor Mark Lauretti’s proposed fiscal year 2020-21 budget. With the three Democrats no longer at the remote meeting, there was no quorum, therefore no vote could be taken.
A&T Democrats Michelle Laubin, Steve Guralnick and Joe Knapik have stood firm on the board holding budget workshops with representatives from each city department, including the Board of Education. The trio said they hope an agreement can be made to hold a joint meeting with the aldermen and Board of Education.
The results of the May 8 meeting sparked outrage from the Shelton Democratic Town Committee, which called on residents to email or call Lauretti, the aldermen and members of A&T to demand transparency in the budget process. This would, Democrats say, include workshops with the Board of Education.
“This is about fulfilling our responsibilities as elected officials in the city of Shelton, to serve the public interest, and act to protect the interests of the taxpayers of the city of Shelton,” stated the A&T Democrats in an open letter to Lauretti and the Republican A&T members sent out this week.
"We have a collective responsibility to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars that have been entrusted to us,” wrote the trio, adding that it was “regrettable that we were not able to reach agreement to schedule a budget hearing with department heads including the Board of Education prior to discussing and voting on the proposed budget.”
Lauretti called the Democrats’ move at the meeting simply politics. After the May 8 meeting, he said he would determine the board’s next step, “but it doesn’t look like we’re getting a vote out of A&T.”
Lauretti did not return a request for comment sent by text Thursday.
For the past two years, the letter states, the three A&T Democrats served amicably with the three Republican members.
“We may not have always agreed with one another, but we gave each other and our oath of office the respect that was due,” the three A&T Democrats stated. “For some reason, that same spirit does not seem to be present this year, and it is unfortunate.”
Two new members - Jay Francino-Quinn and John Boyko - joined John Belden Jr., as Republicans on the board this past November.
The letter further states that the trio was given no choice but to leave the meeting to prevent an illegal vote from occurring, “since the failure to hold budget hearings is in violation of the Charter of the City of Shelton, and the governor’s executive order 7HH, which requires adherence to the charter except for the deadlines and in-person voting requirements.
“We have an opportunity to hit the ‘re-set’ button here and get back on track,” wrote the three Democrats. “Let’s give the Board of Education the respect that it is due, the taxpayers the respect and transparency that they are due, and the parents and kids who attend the Shelton public schools the respect that they are due, and hear from them as to what is needed to properly fund a school system, as well as city services, for the benefit of all residents of the city of Shelton.”