Letter: Time to allow Shelton A&T to perform its budget oversight role

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:

Now that eliminating the Board of Apportionment and Taxation (A&T) has been soundly rejected, where do we go from here?

As a former member of A&T, I would like to provide some insight. Section 7 of the Charter defines A&T’s oversight responsibilities in the annual budget-setting process as well as their duty to monitor spending throughout the year.

The budget process must begin by March 22 when A&T, along with the Board of Aldermen, receives the mayor’s proposed budget including detailed departmental revenue, expense, and headcount estimates. In turn, A&T has until May 1 to hold public workshops to evaluate the department’s estimates and decide whether to accept the mayor’s request or propose a revised budget.

The workshop information is critical for developing realistic budgets that meet the needs of all citizens. The workshops highlight spending issues that allow A&T to make sound decisions on moving monies from overfunded departments to underfunded ones.

Using this approach, A&T has tried to address the chronic underfunding of the Board of Education only to be rejected by the Board of Aldermen.

More importantly, because the BOA and mayor are unwilling to enforce department participation, numerous departments do not even attend these vital public workshops stymieing A&T’s attempt to better align resources with needed city services.

The charter also requires A&T to initiate budget transfers when any department overspends a line item in their budget. To make that adjustment, A&T must receive timely budget reports and receive explanation from the department head as to the cause. This function is the minimal level of oversight acceptable in any budget process. Yet A&T’s attempt to enforced budgetary compliance and make transfers, as required by charter, continues to be obstructed.

In addition to overspending, it is essential that A&T understand where significant underspending conditions exists. As we know, the city has a problem with unexplained surpluses. Allowing A&T to review these conditions and communicate directly with departments could explain the consequences of the persistent headcount and budget underruns. For example, we should know how chronic surpluses at the police department affect public safety.

We must allow A&T’s independent voice be heard on these issues and let them perform the oversight role for which they were elected.

Wayne Bragg

Shelton Democratic Town Committee