Letter: Shelton mayor, A&T chair working to cripple board's budget input

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:

For those of you who haven’t yet done so, I highly encourage you to go to the city’s YouTube channel and watch the videos of the three Board of Apportionment and Taxation/Board of Aldermen meetings held to discuss the budget this year.

They were held on April 22 with the Board of Education, April 27 with some (but not all) of the city department heads and the vote was taken on April 29. Please know that, although an overwhelming majority of the city voted through the charter revision vote last November to retain the Board of A&T as an integral part of the budget oversight process, the mayor and the current chairman of A&T, Jay Francino-Quinn, have done their very best to cripple the ability of the Board of A&T to conduct budget hearings or to have any meaningful input into the budget process.

In our first hearing with the Board of Education, Board Chair Kathy Yolish and Superintendent of Schools Ken Saranich made it very clear that the mayor’s proposed budget did not cover the obligations made in the teacher’s contract, and that, if about $2 million additional dollars were not allocated to education, a third round of staff cuts would have to be made endangering the integrity of the Shelton educational system.

Over the last three years, the Board of Education has already cut almost 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff positions, endangering programming and reducing services to our city schoolchildren. This appeared to be something that everyone could agree on, that we could not allow this to happen again, and we needed to reallocate money to education in the city budget.

And yet, when I proposed two different scenarios for providing this money to the education budget, neither of which would have raised taxes on city residents and neither of which would have required any money to be taken away from any other department in the city, the Republican members of the Board of A&T utterly and completely refused to consider either option. They would not even debate the merits of these proposals, or explain why they planned to vote against them. Not a single question was asked by any Republican member of the Board of A&T during the budget process. If it wasn’t for the fact that Chairman Francino-Quinn was running the meetings, you would not have known that there were any Republicans on the Board, they were so completely silent.

Dear neighbor, if you have friends living in neighboring communities, you should ask them what their town budget process looks like. I predict that you will find that our neighboring communities have engaged citizens serving on their elected boards, and that there are intense reviews of the financial documents presented and meaningful questions asked. I predict that they will tell you that people in their communities do this because they care about their communities and their neighbors, and they want to make sure that when taxes are levied, those tax dollars are spent in a wise and effective way.

The people who volunteer their time to serve on these boards do so because their fellow citizens have elected them to serve as their representatives in the budget process. You don’t have time to do this work, that’s why you have voted and entrusted us to do it.

Here in Shelton, unfortunately, we have a number of people serving in this capacity for the wrong reasons. They do not intend to do the work or exercise independent judgment. They intend to simply carry water for the mayor and implement his directives. Is this what you want? I don’t believe that. Demand better, Shelton. Before it is too late.

Michelle Laubin

Board of Apportionment and Taxation, 2018-present