Shelton Board of Aldermen Ward 4 candidate: Mandy Kilmartin

Amanda "Mandy" Kilmartin

Amanda "Mandy" Kilmartin

Contributed photo

Party: Democrat, running with Envision Shelton

Are you an incumbent?: Current BOE Member

Current job: Consultant

Volunteering background, if any: Valley United Way: Leadership Committee, Resource Development, 7/2016- 8/2018; Booth Hill School: Director of Curriculum Support, 9/2016 - 6/2017, treasurer, 9/2014 - 6/2016

Education: Bachelor of Science, Quinnipiac University

Previous offices held: Board of Education Member, 9/2017 - present

What prompted you to run for office? My last four years of service on the Shelton Board of Education have made it clear to me that to effect meaningful and positive change in the community, change must first come to City Hall. I am fed up with the current “us vs. them” approach to governance. I have tired of fighting the annual cuts and the dozens of layoffs this administration inflicts on the schools every year. I am sick of asking for fiscal transparency and a clear accounting of our tax dollars every budget season, only to be ignored. I am done with waiting for our current leadership to present a vision and a strategy of what they believe this town should look like three, five or even 10 years from now. I was prompted to run for 4th Ward Alderman because this town needs a representative who will (finally) make their voices heard.

What are the major issues/changes you are focused on if elected? There are real issues all across this town, from development, to road maintenance, to land preservation, to first responder support, to quality education. Most of these issues can tied to what I believe is our most significant challenge, which is the complete absence of any long-term strategic plan. Many of our currently elected officials have been in office for several years — decades even — and yet we have no clear vision of what we want this town to look like three, five or 10 years from now. Budgets are created a single year at a time and “emergency” spending is borrowed or taken from our General Fund. We need to gather feedback and input from our community members and committees to develop a strategic vision of who we want to be and how we’re going to get there. Expenses incurred due to aging equipment and HVAC systems should be anticipated and planned for — not ignored until our roads can’t be plowed and our local libraries are forced to close. Planned development that balances new housing, new businesses, parking spaces, and the preservation of wetlands and open spaces, should be designed and planned for, rather than simply selling off open plots of land and leaving its fate to the highest bidder. Budgets that anticipate growth, set goals, and forecast revenue and expenses should be developed in alignment with that vision, as should any future revisions to the City Charter.

How can you make any proposed improvements yet keep taxes at the stable level they are at present? We currently have a mayor who routinely pads our city department budgets in order to have money that is returned to the city’s general fund every year. We have given nearly $800,000 to one law firm over the past six years, for fees related primarily to ridiculous and avoidable lawsuits. We don’t have an employee at City Hall with grant-writing skills or with the responsibility to seek out and apply for all available state and federal grant funding that could benefit in this town. As taxpayers, we’re already paying enough money. The challenge is electing officials with the will to take another look at *how* we’re spending the money we already have. For example, it’s a little-known fact that the Board of Education is the only department that submits a zero-based budget to the city every year. During the 2019-2020 budget season alone, we spent more than 80 hours reviewing line items and finding creative ways to spend the money we were allotted. Mayor Lauretti has said “I could do this [city] budget in my sleep…” and I’m pretty sure he does. Unfortunately, we also have a Board of Aldermen who are more interested in being Lauretti’s “yes” men (and women), than in having any discussion about how to more effectively spend the hard-earned dollars we entrust them with every year. As Alderman, I will fight to have those long overdue conversations and to explore ways to more effectively use our tax dollars to continue strengthening and improving this community.

Thoughts on BOE spending, city-run bus company? Do you agree with the spending levels set forth in the past for the BOE, and is running a bus company (and the costs associated) worth it to the city? I am all for saving money. A penny saved is a penny earned, no question. But what we are currently doing isn’t saving, it’s sacrificing. The BOE has had to cut nearly 50 staff positions over the last four years. We’ve reinstituted pay to participate. We’ve traded savings, that are questionable at best, for efficient, dependable bus service. There is a better way to maintain our low tax rate in this town than asking our students and our families to shoulder the burden — we just need leadership that is willing to do so.

As far as the question of costs to run the bus company, that is something that still remains a mystery. When the City sued the BOE for control of transportation, the court ordered a flat yearly payment of $3.1 million. That is the amount of money that the BOE pays to the City. During the last budget season, Board of A&T member, Michelle Laubin, asked our Aldermen and our Finance Director for an accounting what the transportation company is costing taxpayers. Their insistent response? $3.1 million. Their reasoning? Because that’s what the court ordered. They demonstrated that they literally do not understand the difference between cost and revenue, which should be a serious red flag to every Shelton resident. Furthermore, when asked for line item expenditures related to running the bus co., they claimed that there wasn’t any such documentation. No information at all about how much is being spent on licensing, bus maintenance, driver salaries, administrative costs ... nothing. It sounds almost hard to believe, but I’d encourage every person reading this to log onto the city’s website and watch that meeting for themselves. It’s pretty eye-opening.