Shelton Charter commission debates borrowing rules, term limits

Shelton City Hall.

Shelton City Hall.

Contributed photo

SHELTON — The Charter Revision Commission backs hiking the percent used in borrowing against the city budget that would trigger a referendum, but no exact increase and vote requirement has been set.

Currently, the Board of Aldermen can authorize borrowing up to 2 percent of the annual adopted city budget for capital improvements. With the present $127.6 million municipal budget, the borrowing maximum is $2.55 milliion per year. Anything higher would trigger a referendum.

Commissioners, during their remote meeting earlier this week, agreed that the percentage should be increased — the debate remains on whether it should be 3 percent or 4 percent of the total city budget. The commission is considering 3 percent with a majority vote, 4 percent with a super majority vote.

Board of Aldermen President John Anglace Jr., speaking as a private citizen, recommended increasing the amount aldermen can borrow to 3 percent.

“We use every penny of it,” said Anglace.

Increasing the trigger to 3 percent, according to Anglace, would allow the aldermen to borrow $3.8 million for capital projects to work with annually. Capital projects most frequently affect schools and grounds, road improvements, building improvements, fire apparatus and similar upgrades.

Any borrowing in excess of 3 percent would require voter approval at referendum.

“We would be locked into this annual bond limit for the next 10 years despite the fact that the cost of living is sure to escalate,” cautioned Anglace. “Perhaps you might want to consider inserting a provision or process for review after the fifth year for possible escalation of the annual bond limit if certain conditions are met.”

In other business, the commission continued debate on term limits for boards and commissions, specifically the Board of Education and Planning and Zoning Commission.

Board of Education members have two-year terms, the Planning and Zoning Commission is four years. The commissioners are seeking uniformity in the terms, but state statute may require the zoning commission remain at four-year terms.

Darlisa Ritter, a former Board of Education member, urged remaining at two-year terms for the Board of Education. Four-year terms were too long, she said.

“I feel you could have a hard time finding volunteers for this,” she said. “You are now doubling the time commitment. It may be seen as a burden, and we could lose good, qualified people.”

Don Sheehy said he backed four years, saying he felt a longer amount of time allowed board members to be held accountable for their actions … “in two years, it is too easy to hit and run.”

Commission Chair Dan Debicella, who stated he could be swayed in either direction, said four years could be more attractive.

The commission did reach agreement that Planning and Zoning Commission alternates should not be eliminated altogether. Two weeks ago, the group had a consensus that the commission should be increased to seven members with elimination of alternates.

The commission changed its decision, citing the need to have an extra individual in case a P&Z member had a conflict and could not participate in debating an application. The commission stated that ideally, each party would put up a candidate for the alternate position, meaning voters had the final say in a competitive race.