Hi and welcome to the new monthly column from the Board of Finance, the elected, budget-making, tax rate setting, and overall fiscal authority of the Town of New Fairfield, including both the town government and school sides of operation. Your Board of Finance is a six-member board with three alternates. Alternates attend and participate in all meetings but can only vote when a regular member is absent and designates, or the Board elevates, an alternate to act in his/her place. No more than four members of the board and two alternates may be from the same political party. Every two years the Board of Finance, or BOF as it is known in shorthand, elects from its members a Chairman to preside over meetings and a Clerk, who in practice operates in the Chairman’s absence. Members are elected to six- year terms and alternates to two-year terms. Member terms are staggered so that not all members are replaced at the same time.
Current members of the Board of Finance include Wes Marsh (D), Jane Landers (D), Tom Edwards (R), Mike Cammarota (R), Anthony Yorio (R), and Erin Badillo (D). Alternates are Brian Shea (R), Cheryl Reedy (D), and Rick Salem (R). Members are all volunteers and are not paid for their service. Officers were re-elected in December 2017 and include Chairman Wes Marsh and Clerk Mike Cammarota. Ed Sbordone, the Town’s Finance Director, and Suzanne Kloos, the recording secretary, provide staff assistance to the BOF.
The BOF typically meets the third Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. in the Community Room at 33 Route 37 – the large space to the right as you face the Senior Center. During budget preparation time in March, the Board typically meets every week, starting with a Saturday morning public hearing and presentation for both the Town and Education budgets. All meetings of the Board of Finance are open to the public, and there is a public comment opportunity at both the beginning and the end of the meeting. Our meeting dates, minutes and now agenda packets are all posted on the Town of New Fairfield website, i.e. www.newfairfield.org. From the Home page click on Meetings, then Boards and Commissions, and finally Board of Finance to find our information. You can also contact us through a link on that page or if you’d like to e-mail us directly without going through the website, send us an e-mail at BOF@newfairfield.org.
BOF meetings are carried live on cable channel 99 for those who have Frontier and cable channel 194 for those with Charter. Our meetings are rerun on both of those channels during each month or they can be streamed live from the Town website any time that is convenient for you. The meetings typically last a couple of hours. The Selectmen are setting up a Town Facebook page on which the BOF will post information n once it gets up and running.
Over the last few years public participation and input at our meetings as well as at the annual budget public hearing has almost disappeared. Even the annual budget voter turnout has trended downward and now hovers around 10-12% of registered voters. As elected officials representing you the voters and taxpayers, we’re not quite sure what that means, especially when participation a decade or two ago was much more robust. Are we doing everything just right and your silence means we should just keep doing what we’re doing? Do you consider us beyond help and are so disgusted with how we prepare the budget that you don’t think it will make any difference if you expressed your opinion? Are you unaware that your participation can play an important role in helping the BOF determine the public’s priorities and expressing those priorities through the budget? These are the questions that we hope to answer by redoubling our efforts to reach out and engage you this year and by being as transparent and understandable as we can possibly be. Please let us know who we’re doing! E-mail us at BOF@newfairfield.org, or better yet come talk to us directly at our next meeting on Wednesday, February 21st at 7:30 p.m. in the Community Room or at the annual public hearing on the budget on Saturday, March 3rd, 9:00 a.m. in the same location. We’ll save a chair for you!