The legislature has been debating various ideas to allow towns to raise revenue locally through something other than property taxes. If you could ease your residents' property tax burden by adding another method of taxation, is there anything you might consider for your town?
If we have to increase taxes, obviously we would like other people to pay the bill. We are a tourist town. If we could increase the lodging and restaurant taxes minimally so as not to drive away business, I would be in favor of that. That also assumes the added taxes flow to Stonington and not the state.
Should your school district get the same amount of education funding from the state if your district's enrollment is dropping?
School enrollment is dropping across the state by and large. I expect the state to create a coherent, and objective formula for educational aid that treats all towns fairly. Right now, as we know from the extensive news coverage, the process is completely arbitrary and punitive to the most responsible towns. Until that formula is complete, I expect Stonington to continue to get its fair share which, since nothing else has changed here besides the state's fiscal felonies, means the same amount.
What's one thing most people don't know about you?
I moved to Stonington from New York City and Fairfield County because I love it here. I could have lived anywhere but the combination of the location, the natural resources and the diversity of the people grabbed us and didn't let go. Stonington felt like home from the beginning.
Are you in favor of regionalizing more services in conjunction with other nearby communities? If so, which ones?
Yes. As I say below, North Stonington is a logical candidate to start. It has always been notoriously difficult to regionalize in Connecticut. We tried to solve our sewer problems in Mystic by tying in to Groton's system but it was clear there was no appetite for that at the time so Stonington invested nearly $18 million in our own Mystic plant. Today, with Groton standing to suffer massive cuts to their state aid the outcome might have been different. Since no matter what the state budget actually turns out to be, the door to pushing the state's problems on to the towns has been opened. I am hopeful that the hardened positions of the past will soften to the mutual benefit of both towns.
With the state's ongoing budget crisis looming over the election, what are your plans for your community's budget? Is there anything you can do make your town less dependent on revenue from the state?
What is the most pressing local issue facing your community and how would you solve it (within the capacity of the office for which you are running)?
The state's disastrous financial policies are now being filtered down to the cities and towns, especially the ones such as ours, that behaved wisely and accumulated a positive fund balance over the course of years (Stonington's is among the best in the state at around 22% of expenditures). The best solution to this problem is to grow the Grand List but that takes time, luck and is not under our direct control. The next best thing is to scour the budget for duplications and inefficiencies. The Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Van Riley, and the Board of Education are doing that now. They are looking at the projected decline in student enrollment and proactively considering merging the two middle schools to provide students with an enhanced curricula and more choice for after school activities, while potentially saving taxpayers up to $1 million per year. As for myself, I would encourage our First Selectman to try to negotiate with our neighbor to the north, which has expressed its desire to tie into our sewer system. We might be able to negotiate an affordable cost for that if they agreed to send some of their high schoolers to SHS. That would be a win for both towns. Although they foreclosed on that possibility last year, this year might be different because of the state's financial misdeeds. After the elections, I think we should try again.
Why are you running for this office?
I am personally and financially invested in Stonington. I care a great deal about the very poor financial mismanagement of our state and the potential impact on our town. Because of the overwhelmingly popular charter change, this is the first time voters in Stonington can choose their Board of Finance representatives directly. The board will also expand from 6 to 7 members. I believe the charter changes were well thought out but I also think the board now has the potential to become political for the first time. I would like to continue the objective and balanced actions of past boards in a more transparent and responsive manner. I am also well qualified to serve. Before retiring from the Financial Services Industry, I accumulated 25 years of experience analyzing financial statements for the purpose of making large investments on behalf of various corporations and institutions. I have been active on town boards and commissions for 15 years, having chaired the Planning and Zoning Commission and am a 3 term member of the Water Pollution Control Authority. I understand the ripple effects the actions of the Board of Finance has across the entire town. I believe I can help Stonington navigate declining state aid, student enrollment and the relatively stagnant Grand List by objectively balancing educational and town services needs with taxpayers ability and desire to pay for them, while maintaining our excellent bond rating.
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