Op-Ed: RTC chair responds to Harmon commentary
I read John Harmon’s statements in The Shelton Herald online. I was pleased to find out he would not raise taxes in Shelton. Even a seasoned mayor and his staff and the Board of Aldermen had to recognize that raising the mill rate was necessary this fiscal year (2019-20). His claim to be clairvoyant for the 2020-21 fiscal year is truly remarkable. Especially since he has not even spent one day in the mayor’s office.
Each year, the overall budget plan for all cities is to hold the line on taxes or lower them. Which the Lauretti Administration has done successfully for 10 years in Shelton. To accurately be able to predict the next year’s expenses and income for Shelton is in my estimation absolutely impossible, Mr. Harmon.
I am also pleased to read that Mr. Harmon recognizes the successes of Shelton over the last 28 years are from the hard work and planning of the Lauretti team, its Republican administration and the Shelton RTC. In fact it seems to be the only reason he moved to Shelton.
Please don’t forget it took six years to payoff the $28-million debt Shelton was left in the hole from the last Democratic mayor and administration who left in 1991. The mess from the “slab” (fire in 1975) was still there and more than 50 downtown store fronts were also left vacant (1991).
The changes and progress in Shelton over the last 28 years came from Mayor Lauretti’s cooperation, collaboration and communication with many people and agencies not only in Shelton but in surrounding communities and in Hartford where Rep. R.O. Belden and other Republicans gave Shelton aid and assistance at the time. He continues to have success in Hartford with Reps. Perillo and McGorty and Sen. Kelly who now represent Shelton.
There are other factors which are not mentioned in the article that should be addressed. The downtown area except for the clearing and renovating of the War Memorial Park were much more time-consuming than you would imagine. The clearing of the brown sites and contaminated areas has just recently been completed. The DEEP and other agencies along with the exorbitant costs made this a very slow and arduous process.
As an example, it took staff, lawyers and sheriffs more than 12 years to track down and legally serve one uncooperative owner to even start the brownfield paperwork on that one site alone.
Although downtown has waited for redevelopment, it is now in full bloom with most of the funds coming from private investors who see and appreciate the potential in downtown Shelton. And even more great things are coming to downtown in the near future.
The Bridgeport Avenue expansion moved more quickly and was key to getting the city out of debt along with the careful fiscal management by the Lauretti team. The Bridgeport Avenue corridor was planned and designated as a commerce zone by the city officials in the 50s and 60s. Pretty good planning if you ask me.
Our SEDC, P&Z and other boards and commissions have also labored tirelessly to bring back the little city on the Housy to a more than 40,000-resident city with more than 25,000 people coming to Shelton each day to work. Six hotels now thrive where none existed for decades. Large companies have not only moved to Shelton but like BIC have purchased properties instead of renting as they did in Milford for more than 35 years. A financial commitment companies will only make if they trust the local government to be welcoming and to appreciate them, which Shelton does.
The annual budgeting process is started and completed in full view of the public. Every meeting is open to the public. There are public forums and times to comment on any budget item and each department is invited to participate in the setting of their budget.
After the budget is set, financial statements are prepared monthly for review by the aldermen and are available for public review without the need for special requests. The only segment of the financials that had been “greek” for many years were those of the BoE and that is rapidly changing with assistance from Richard Belden, the BoE financial director.
The BoE and BoA have come to a new beginning and it looks like the cooperation on both sides is coming to fruition. Already a program to purchase Chromebooks for students to use throughout the year is being funded by each board. A very good sign for things to come in education. The record is very clear that the BOA allocates over 65 to 70 percent of taxpayer money each year on the education and in addition, has bonded and and payed off some $170 million for the physical plants of new schools, along with renovations and upgrades to others. The school system and more importantly the students have not been left behind by the city.
I hope voters will see the hoax of Mr. Harmon’s vision for Shelton. It takes good, seasoned people in City Hall to move Shelton forward. Please remember that when you go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5, to vote Line B for Mayor Lauretti and the Shelton Republican team who have worked diligently to earn your trust for more than 28 years.