Op-Ed: DTC appalled at Lauretti, aldermen handling of budget

The Shelton Democratic Town Committee.

The Shelton Democratic Town Committee.

Contributed photo

We are appalled at the mishandling of the budget by Republican aldermen and Mayor Lauretti, and by the disrespectful comments the mayor made to the residents of Shelton. While other Connecticut towns find ways to move forward with proper review, the mayor and BoA have seized the pandemic as an opportunity to pretend that they cannot follow the city charter, and instead are entitled to railroad a budget. In fact, the pandemic is a time when we need more review, communication, and coordination to ensure that our city and schools are safe.

Instead of allowing public discussion of the budget, the mayor went off on a condescending rant against Shelton residents. Not one minute of the meeting was spent on any budgetary items, no discussion of spending priorities, no discussion of what a successful budget looks like during this pandemic. The mayor spent the entire time browbeating and gaslighting voters for daring to speak up and be active, engaged citizens.

The mayor’s opinion on transparency? He says, “what do these people not understand?” And then clearly revealed that he himself does not understand transparency. He implied that people simply do not understand the budget document, the budget document itself does not contain any information about why any given amount is needed in a certain line item. Publishing documents while denying discussion and review is not transparency. The mayor stated that he “allowed” the public to make comments via email and we know that many citizens did just that. It should not escape anyone’s notice that none of these public comments were entered into the public record during the meeting. Shelton’s citizens were completely locked out of the process, their voices silenced and ignored by their Republican elected officials.

The mayor’s assertion that members of the Board of A&T did not understand the budget document is a blatant lie. We invite the public to review video of the last A&T meeting where Democratic members uncovered multiple mistakes in the budget as proposed. The mayor was unable to answer some of the questions that they posed. It is obvious they understand the budget quite well. The aldermen are fully complicit for passing the budget without correcting the mistakes our A&T members revealed and instead passing the budget as the mayor proposed it, all errors intact.

The mayor and aldermen alluded to possibly giving the Board of Education more money mid-year as it comes in from the state and the CARES Act. This is not how a financially sound coperates. The BoE cannot hire teachers and create student schedules after the school year begins, and certainly cannot create a sustainable budget based on the hopes that our antagonistic mayor and aldermen will pass them a few extra dollars at some unknown point in the future. Currently, the Board of Education is facing the elimination of 31 positions, with zero improvements — no curriculum writing, no replacement of antiquated textbooks, no additional software applications, no assistance to families who are paying hundreds of dollars for their children to participate in extracurricular activities and athletics. As indicated by Mr. Anglace, we do know there is additional money coming from the state to support education costs through a $300,887 increase in our Educational Cost Sharing grant. He implied the BOE could expect to receive that money. He lied. The aldermen passed the budget without passing a single penny of that money to the BOE.

With respect to the CARES Act funding and the implication that money would be some sort of windfall to the schools, that money is mandated to be spent according to very prescriptive, Covid-19 related expenditures. It cannot simply be plugged into the budget anywhere there is a shortfall — another concept that the aldermen and mayor don’t appear to understand.

Finally, the mayor made clear that he considers himself untouchable, above the law and the will of the city residents when he declared: “I’m not threatened by anyone’s vote.” While it remains unclear how funding education would be detrimental to our seniors, the mayor engaged in one of his most reprehensible and commonly repeated tactics of trying to pit parents against seniors as an excuse to dismiss parents valid concerns about the effects of yet another year of flat funding. We are confident that any citizen who takes a fair accounting of the facts of the BoA vote and the events that led up to it will determine that Mayor Lauretti was rude, dismissive and derogatory to Shelton residents, and that the Republican aldermen utterly failed to discharge their fiscal, legal and ethical responsibilities.

Kevin Kosty, Mandy Kilmartin, Wayne Bragg, Matt McGee and Michelle Laubin are members of the Shelton Democratic Town Committee.