Letter: Vote no on charter revision

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:

On Nov. 3, you can vote yes or no to the proposed changes to the city of Shelton’s charter. I am recommending that you vote no. Here is why.

The charter is a legal document that grants many powers to the city, the roles of the mayor and its boards and many of the financial rules on taxes, debt, bonds and the budget. To ensure the protection of our tax dollars, a robust and transparent budget process is critical and reliant upon the accuracy of its financial projections and independent oversight that monitors the city’s spending decisions. In most cities, this function is performed by a Finance Board. In Shelton, our finance board is the Board of Apportionment and Taxation (A&T).

One significant change to Shelton’s charter would be the elimination of our Board of Apportionment and Taxation. However, A&T’s oversight and monitoring functions have been part of the charter for decades and are critical to a transparent budget process.

Why would the Aldermen and Shelton’s Charter Revision Commission (CRC) want to place a $128 million revenue and expense budget all in the hands of one body with no independent checks and balances? In my opinion, based on 40 years of budgeting experience as well as two years on Apportionment and Taxation, the independent role of a Finance Board must be maintained and their duties to monitor budget performance are different than the Board of Aldermen’s (BOA) duties. Eliminating A&T removes opportunities for the public to hear spending debate and discussion that ultimately reduces accountability.

Specifically, the BOA, representing their wards, have broad legislative duties to pass ordinances, establish commissions, and set policy that protects the well-being of their citizens. They also have authority to approve the final budget, tax rate and issue debt. But the ongoing budget responsibilities of evaluating performance, revising, analyzing, reporting and managing are separate from the BOA annual approval process and should be under the control of a Finance Board, like A&T. With 41,000 citizens and a $128 million revenue and expense budget, this is not the time for less oversight, it is time for more. Keep the Board of A&T in place and let them perform the vital public service for which they were elected.

Lastly, the real problem with the charter is not A&T. It is a fundamentally flawed budget process that contains inaccurate estimates that produces unexplained surpluses. The CRC focus should have been the budget process, not removing A&T. The CRC’s emphasis should have been to improve the efficiency and quality of services delivered to the public and establishing long-term goals and community priorities while holding boards and departments responsible for outcomes and performance. The purpose of the budget process is to promote transparency and trust through regular publicly available information on spending, debt and performance.

This basic information, along with the city’s checkbook, should all be visible online.

In closing, eliminating A&T removes essential financial controls that ensure taxpayer dollars are safeguarded and that every department and board meet their fiduciary responsibilities. It is not a city's right to spend tax dollars, it is a privilege that our elected officials earn through demonstrated transparency and accountability. Vote no to the charter revision on Nov. 3.

Wayne Bragg

Shelton Democratic Town Committee member