Letter: Shelton DTC pleased with communication, cooperation in budget process

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:

Budget building for any town or city can be a time of discussion and debate both productive and oppositional. Shelton’s budget has historically been a one-sided/one opinion view point. However, this year budget building took an interesting path and it became more communicative and collaborative rather than oppositional.

Democratic freshman Alderman Michele Bialek shared, “I was a little worried going into this year’s budget process-especially regarding the BOE budget allocation. It is historically a tense and combative experience. I am happy to say that through cooperative conversations, well planned information sharing and out of the box thinking, the end result has been very encouraging. We have agreed on a fiscal year 2022-23 Shelton budget which will acknowledge and support the unavoidable and unpredictable reality of exponentially rising Special Education costs. I felt good about voting to approve our budget.”

Democratic Board of Apportionment and Taxation member Wayne Bragg outlined the process, “A&T elected a chairperson and met several times this year to review and approve department transfers as required by charter. Those meetings have been positive and helpful in that representatives from the departments appeared before us and personally supported their transfer requests. The meetings were collegial and professionally run. This is how A&T should function.”

He did add, however, “I was disappointed in the budget process because aside from the BOE workshop there were only two additional sessions to review the remainder of all the city departments and commissions. Further, only five or six departments actually appeared, presented and supported their budget requests to A&T. Without the benefit of dialog with the departments we were unable to make meaningful adjustments to the Mayor’s budget and send that request on to the Aldermen.”

In an unprecedented move the Aldermen created a Special Education Reserve Account which will be City controlled but will be used to pay down unanticipated special education (SPED) overruns from the previous school year. SPED spending is often a moving target and is unpredictable. In the fiscal year 2021-22 school year, 91 new SPED students moved into the district after the budget building process was completed which strains education resources.

Diana Meyer, Democratic chair of the Board of Education Finance Committee, said “the reserve account is a good thing, lots of towns are doing this and it will help the school system avoid layoffs and drastic cuts. This is a good compromise and appears to show the city has trust in the financial workings of the school system.”

It is hoped that more communication, collaboration, and coexistence will continue to be developed in and among the political parties in Shelton. We must remember that all of this hard work will be erased if the Mayor does not recognize partnerships that are growing between various elected officials, city boards and departments. Wise choices are based on the input of multiple viewpoints and opinions. Important choices should and cannot be made in isolation.

Shelton Democratic Town Committee

Executive Committee