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What does the budget say about city values?

The budget dust has settled and with little public outcry the 2012-2013 budget was approved by the Board of Aldermen. For the first time in recent memory, the Aldermen approved a budget that was more than that submitted by the mayor. Lest we not be fooled, the mayor approved the additions made by the Aldermen, or the seven Republicans on the board would not have voted in favor.

The mill rate is going up but we have been assured by the mayor that most of us will see our tax bill go down because of re-evaluation. I did a quick check of what my bill should be and I guess my wife and I are the exception to the rule as ours will be going up about $200. Not a huge increase but still not a decrease.

So what am I getting for my additional $200? Well the Aldermen did add a million dollars for road repair. In the past, the city has borrowed money to repair roads while continuing to build a surplus. The sad part of this is that there is no long-term program of road repair and improvement. Might I suggest that we divide the number of miles of road that the city has and divide by 20 as that is a reasonable amount of time for a good road to last. The resulting number is the number of miles that should be repaired or replaced annually. This may be a bit ambitious but at least it is a starting point and one that can be used to measure the performance of the city department handling roads.

The Board of Education was given more than $500,000 above what the mayor had recommended. It turned out that if the mayor’s budget had been approved, the city would have been in violation of state statute and been subject to a penalty. So now, after being the mayor’s whipping post for the last half dozen year, he has finally gotten the Board of Education’s budget down to the bare minimum. What does that say about Shelton? When it comes to education we spend just enough to stay out of trouble and not a dollar more. That is certainly a great commitment to our children. Giving extra money to education to improve programs will be a phrase never used in a sentence including the City of Shelton.

The Aldermen also approved a $200,000 line item for city youth. Control of this money is held by the mayor’s office. It was the intention of the Aldermen that the mayor could use this money to help pay for the “Pay to Participate” that the Board of Education now requires of students wishing to participate in extracurricular activities. On the surface that sounds like a good idea, however, what are the criteria for being given the money? What proof do people have to provide? Will it be used only for athletics or will band members or drama club members be eligible for the money? How will privacy of information submitted to qualify for the funds are handled? The Board of Education has federal law to prevent them from revealing confidential information on students who are eligible for various forms of assistance, but there are no safe-guards on the city side. Thus, if someone wanted to know who the Mayor found in need, that list could very well have to be provided under a freedom of information request.

What is the saying about good intentions and a paved road?

David Gioiello is the chair of Shelton’s Democratic Town Committee.

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