Op-Ed: Shelton charter revisions reduces financial oversight, increases partisanship

Lorraine Rossner, former Shelton schools assistant superintendent, chairs the Envision Shelton political action committee.

Lorraine Rossner, former Shelton schools assistant superintendent, chairs the Envision Shelton political action committee.

Brian Gioiele /Hearst Connecticut Media /

It is refreshing to work with a political action committee like Envision Shelton. We may not agree with each other regarding who should be sitting in the Oval Office but we are all committed to defeating the proposed city charter revisions.

This bipartisan group of dedicated individuals has come together for the common good of our great city. We have all chosen to step away from our established political parties to do the hard work of informing Shelton voters exactly what is at stake in the upcoming election. Nov. 3 is right around the corner and we hope our organization has informed the citizens of Shelton about the blatant power grab that the proposed city charter revisions will have on each and every resident.

The charter revisions will put too much decision-making power in one office at City Hall. No other municipality allows such centralized power in city government. Should one individual have so much control over the appointment of all city departments? Should one individual have the ability to change administrators of Planning and Zoning and Inland Wetlands? Should one individual be allowed so much influence to nominate citizens running for city government? Unfortunately, with this kind of concentration of power, wrong, inappropriate, or clandestine decisions will be made.

The Board of Apportionment and Taxation is one of the few city boards that have input in the mayor’s budget building process. Often this bipartisan board has been the only voice of reason that questions the convoluted department budgets which are presented to the mayor. It is important that more eyes rather than less can view the complicated machinations of this city’s fiscal government. Transparency is key and would give us insight on issues like; the drastic spend down of the city’s fund balance, financial reporting on the city-run bus company, as well as, a clearer picture of current and past city financial audits. Increasing the bonding limit is not building back the fund balance but increasing our credit limit without additional fiscal oversight. Clouding transparency by removing an existing city board only raises more red flags during these turbulent political times.

The Board of Education should be comprised of an elected group of individuals who have the commitment to support and understand the needs, programs, and policies of our public school system. Recently that systemic goal has been altered. If the charter revisions are instituted as presented, the BOE would become a group of elected officials encouraged to make political partisanship decisions without collegial discourse and productive discussion. This would have further disastrous impacts to the future of the Shelton public school system. Unfortunately, the BOE has been financially devastated over the past several budgetary cycles; limiting program and curriculum improvement, reducing teaching and administrative staff, hobbling technology advancement, and impacting student performance. Unfortunately, what once was a dynamic and diverse group of elected pro-education citizens willing to do a hard job, asking hard questions, and challenging city doctrine has become a different entity.

The charter revisions support the creation of a technology committee, which is not necessary to improve tech services to the school system. Theoretically, the school system would not need the formation of this committee if the BOE was funded appropriately during the budget building process. Our school system already has access to a technology department that knows and supports educational platforms that align to the state Department of Education. A tech committee’s additional layer of bureaucracy does not guarantee the timely purchase of tech hardware and software for our school system. Why place the responsibility of purchasing technology needs in the hands of an appointed committee? These individuals may not have the expertise and understanding of what the school network and infrastructure needs and what the state SBAC testing platform demands. Maybe this committee is just an inventive way to build back the incredibly archaic city network on the back of the school system? On this point alone - vote no.

The presence of Envision Shelton has popped up in and around our town with yard signs, literature drops, robocalls, text messages, and an informative website: www.EnvisionShelton.com. This grassroots initiative is asking our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and residents to vote no on the proposed city charter changes. These charter changes are not necessary or required by the state. Charter review is important, but charter revision is not mandatory. As my fellow ES members have suggested; reduced financial oversight and enhanced partisanship puts our tax dollars, home and property values, school system, and Shelton’s future at risk. Shelton residents need a voice and the suggested revisions will stifle the ability to speak out. Change is driven by important thoughts that become important action. Use your vote and vote no on suggested city charter revisions.