Letter: Laubin points out where Shelton bus company director 'got it wrong'

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Contributed photo

To the Editor:

At the Board of Apportionment and Taxation (A&T) budget hearing on April 27, 2021, Ken Nappi, director of the Shelton Student Transportation System, took the position that he could not answer questions from the Board of A&T about the expenditures made during the last year for personnel, salaries, number of people employed and in what positions, because doing so would cause the Shelton city department to lose its competitive advantage in the bidding process when the transportation contract comes up for bid after the 2021-22 school year.

Mr. Nappi said numerous times that it was like “hiring a painting contractor,” and said that I should understand that analogy because when you hire a contractor, you only get the contract price for the job, and you don’t get the information about how many painters they are going to hire, or what the painters are going to be paid.

Here is why that analogy doesn’t work — We, the City of Shelton, are the contractor here, not the person hiring the contractor. It’s our bus company. We need to know who works for it, how many workers we employ, what they positions are, what we are paying them and what other expenses we are incurring in running the company.

The City of Shelton fought, insisted and sued the Board of Education for the right to establish a new city department to run the bus company. They won that right and established the new department. So now that department exists, but the city budget does not contain any line items to shed any light on any of those questions.

We have one line item that shows that the city can spend up to $3.15 million on providing bus transportation. We know that we have spent far less against that total each year during the first two years of the contract, but that is likely due to COVID closures and the fact that the city laid off the staff and did not run the buses while students were on remote instruction for many months.

Instead of continuing to pay the workers during the COVID closure as required by the governor’s executive orders so that the workers would be there and be ready to drive the buses when the schools opened up again, they laid off the workers and they collected unemployment instead.

The city may want to hide its true expenditures from the Board of Education so that it can justify continuing to charge the Board of Education $3.15 million per year, or whatever number it bids for the job next year, but as it pertains to the city budget and oversight of that budget by the city itself, including the Board of A&T, we need to have the budget back-up materials and information for that bus department, the same way we have that information for every other city department.

So, Mr. Nappi, your analogy doesn’t hold water. Your bus company is a public city department, not a private contractor. Stop trying to hide information on your expenses from the city taxpayers. We need to know what money is being spent where, and why. After all, it’s our money.

Michelle Laubin

Board of Apportionment and Taxation