Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Capital Budget '10/11: not in the budget

It appears that the $1,000,000 for open space will not be in the budget. That's fine with me. There's about $1,100,000 in the open space fund already available. And if a large, desirable piece of land -- worth more than that -- becomes available, the Council could call for a special referendum. This doesn't appear to be a contentious issue. I'm fine with this.

With a price tag of $1,005,000, the replacement for the FDs snorkel truck appears to be getting yanked from Year Two of the five-year budget. As for me, I'm not entirely comfortable with this and would vote against the five-year budget (if I was there next week, but I won't be). My view is that we're not even spending money... and we have lots of so-called "placeholders" in the budget... so why remove this? I disagree with David Schrumm on this and would leave it... or maybe push it out a few years... but not remove it. The TM made a personal request that the Budget Chair sit down with him to further discuss the merits of this FD proposal.

$250,000 for Smartboards was removed from the capital budget. I agree with this and note that although last year's budget included Smartboards, the money never got spent at the direction of the Democratic majority. So although this may be a contentious issue during the vote, I don't feel it would be entirely credible.

And the last major contentious item to be removed from the TMs capital budget proposal was the turf for $825,000... or $0. That number depends on the person with whom you're speaking. I agree that it's entirely likely that the initial cost would be covered with no property tax dollars. But considering that a Nobel-winning economist, Paul Krugman, is describing our current situation as a depression... I'm just not comfortable expanding recreational services* and increasing our not-so-distant future costs at this time.

Furthermore, I'm not particularly comfortable with the process-to-date. Although the BOE has officially approved the turf's initial costs, they haven't signed off on the recurring costs. And while the turf committee suggested raising the price of ticket sales, I don't see what authority they have in this situation... presumably either the Sptd or BOE would approve fees. And that discussion should happen as many voters would have to pay the increased fee. But whether or not that happens is IMO putting form over substance. The BOE approved the turf and the Council will ultimately accept that as "law."

Last, but not least, I came to the conclusion tonight that some proponents of the turf are more concerned with getting turf than with having additional field time. That doesn't make any sense to me. It troubles me.

But my bottom line is that I'm not convinced we should be expanding recreational services and increasing costs right now. Regardless, this may come to a Council vote of some sort in the near future as Chairman Slocum informed us during tonight's meeting.

Tim White

* It has been stated numerous times that we could increase the use of the field from 30 to 300 times per year. That's increasing, not maintaining, recreational services.


Anonymous said...

If it does come to a council vote, what is our prediction?
Will the vote include recurring costs??
That would have to be a referendu since it is over $400K to replcae.

Anonymous said...

It is unbelievable to hear our own school superintendent, Dr. Florio, state that Cheshire "should have a turf field,” and that it shouldn't take a group of private citizens to raise funds for it to become a reality.

So, he feels that the tax payers of this town, which he isn't one of, should foot the bill.
How about this, we take $40,000 a year off his salary to cover the replacement.

I appreciated Tony asking Bob Behrer why is had to be done in 12 months, but does Bob have a screw loose or something? He blames the current field for causing a kid to sprain his ankle. Tony---did you just laugh at that ridiculous statement?

Unbelievable to hear the arrogance in these pro-turf people.

Tony Perugini said...

"Unbelievable to hear the arrogance in these pro-turf people."

Arrogance? I don't think so but then again I have the pleasure of working with these folks so I understand what's behind the statements and I don't think it's arrogance. This project, along with many initiatives in the BOE, can be emotional for some.

Bob and Gerry did touch upon an important point which I believe was lost in the meeting Thursday night. Bob made a valid comment which centered around the fact that the turf committee has been working on this for 2 years now. They've initiated fund raising, they've gotten estimates, hired an engineer, discussed and offered up funding options for the field. They basically completed everything that was asked of them to date.

Meanwhile, and this is the point that I think was lost Thurs night, the BOE has not committed to the project. Despite the committee's efforts over 2 years, the BOE has not questioned the project, discussed funding/planning options or accepted public input on the matter.

So...I believe the BOE has lagged behind the Turf Committee at this point in time. And if the Turf Committee has the answers to my questions (as well as others
questions) then why hasn't the BOE discussed them by now?

I think what we're seeing is a symptom of what happens when an advisory-committee has no direct oversight. If it had oversight by the BOE (I believe it doesn't) then (a.) it's meeting schedule would be on our BOE Agendas every month...(b.)we would've had the committee come before the BOE at least a few times over the last 9 months (Thurs night was the 1st committee appearance/update since before last year's election) and (c.) we (BOE) would be further along than we are now on a yeah/nay on owning this project and how to fund it's life-cycle costs.

I can't help but feel that the BOE is failing the turf committee by not acting on turf. But then again...I still don't know if the BOE has any oversight of this committee. Yes, I know it sounds embarrassing coming from a BOE member but folks...nobody has been able to answer this basic question for me.

It may appear to be arrogance to some regarding the statements made Thurs night but I see frustration more than arrogance.

The good news is that the BOE Planning Committee is meeting next week to discuss the following items:

1. Turf Field and Track Replacement – Stantec Design and Cost Estimates

2. Sports Locker Room Renovations

3. Overview of District-Wide Technology Initiatives

4. Proposed Schedule of 2010-2011 Planning Meetings

I'll post the meeting date/time/location as soon it's scheduled, hopefully tomorrow.

- Tony Perugini

Anonymous said...

Definition: arogance - overbearing pride evidenced by a superior manner toward inferiors
In all due respect, it is arrogance when a superintendent doesn't feel private citizens should raise money for a field.
It is arrogance when they request a grant without many of the TC members even knowing about it.
It is arrogance when they feel it it something that this town should support in a down economy.
The BOE could be at fault, but so is the TC. This committee wasn't given any guidance. They should have been told the questions you had at the beginning of the process and then they would have time to give answers. Now, they are scrambling.
Has anyone talked with other towns that have artifical turf to see what their actual maintenance costs are, how the fields are wearing, and if they made the right decision?
The BOE has members who are either for or against, but have they done their due diligence? Same with the Turf Committee and the TC. It doesn't take much to call towns like Guilford and West Haven.

Sorry Tony, but I did feel some of the comments were out arrogance. Especially Florios.

tim white said...

They've initiated fund raising, they've gotten estimates, hired an engineer, discussed and offered up funding options for the field. They basically completed everything that was asked of them to date.

1) initiated fundraising
2) gotten estimates
3) hired an engineer
4) funding option...

All relevant points. Thank you Tony.

Who asked for each item? Were there votes by Town bodies -- Council and / or BOE?

Breachway said...

The TC needs to take some heat for putting out that ridiculous challenge to raise 850K....the amount of work they have done shouldn't be taken into needs to be a financial decision. People put a lot of time into the pool too

Anonymous said...

Town government is so marvelous in its current mission creep mode. How has the town BOE taken it upon itself to get involved with potentially providing a school athletic field which would be used for hundreds of fee based activities a year which are not associated directly with their education mission? How is it that past and present town councils just kind of looked the other way as plans for a high school athletic field just grew and grew to the point reached during this budget cycle?

And that whining about how committees of wannabe politician residents have worked hard for free for years planning and planning so now it the time to get it done.

It is time for the town council to reassert its authority if its authority hasn't been eliminated by some vague statute or regulation. Time to force our BOE back to its one and only real mission, the cost effective quality education of children living in this town. Special playing fields limited to few scholar athletes and ridiculously expensive swimming pools don't need to be in the mix of responsibilities taken on by the likes of our superintendent and the BOE.