Last week was very busy for First Selectman Pat Del Monaco and me, with focus on the town budget, naming members of the new Economic Development Commission, and taking advantage of hearings in the Connecticut General Assembly on bills that could help address aquatic invasive species in Candlewood Lake as well as provide funding for trails, such as the proposed Margerie Reservoir Trail.
Budget. A large focus of our energy was on preparation for the kickoff of the Board of Finance’s consideration of the proposed 2019-2020 budget for the Town of New Fairfield. The Board of Finance’s Budget Workshop on Saturday (3/2), gave the members of that Board the first official look at our proposed budget, as well as that of the Board of Education. Both budget proposals can be found at http://www.newfairfield.org/budget-2015-16. The Board will hold meetings every Wednesday evening this month to examine more thoroughly both proposals as well as issues such as medical insurance expenses and debt service to come up with a recommended budget to place before the voters in early May.
As has been the case in recent years, one looming uncertainty for both the town and school budgets is how much grant money the State will make available or how much they may charge us back for teachers’ pensions. Between the proposed decrease of Educational Cost Sharing funds and a proposed levy to help pay for teacher pensions, Governor Lamont’s proposed budget would cost New Fairfield approximately $628,000 more than last year. First Selectman Pat Del Monaco was part of a group of town executives from the Western Connecticut Council of Government (WESTCOG) that met with Governor Lamont last week in Hartford to express our concern about the deep cut. She pointed out to him the negative effect such a large cut would have on the relatively small budget for New Fairfield.
I urge you to follow this process closely. Our proposed Town budget will determine what happens in the upcoming fiscal year with school security (School Resource Officers and additional dispatcher), much needed repairs to aging infrastructure (Sawmill Bridge), and additional Public Works resources to address tasks that need attention (for example, faster plowing, catch basin cleaning, and preventative maintenance).
Economic Development Commission. We are making progress in naming members of the new Economic Development Commission that was approved by a Town Meeting last month. The Commission has a mandate to look at the economic underpinnings of the town and make recommendations for improvements on issues such as the high rate of vacancies in the center of New Fairfield. At last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting, we appointed Greg Allen, Margaret di Tullio, Bob Allen, and Myke Fuhrman. Together, they represent a skill and knowledge base in finance, banking, real estate development, and communications that will serve our town well. We have three more appointments to make and hope the Commission will be set to kick off shortly.
Testimony on Proposed State Legislation. Last Friday (3/1), I spent the better part of the day in Hartford at the meeting of the Environment Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly. I offered testimony in support House Bill 7157, An Act Concerning Bikeway Paths, Recreational Trails and Greenways, as part of our effort to find funding for the proposed Margerie Reservoir Trail. The authority creating state funding for such trails has expired and this bill would provide roughly $3 million a year to spread among communities such as ours to help build trails. In my oral testimony, I noted that New Fairfield was part of the demand for such funding that has not been supplied and asked for the bill to be approved. We are also actively working with members of our state congressional delegation (Representatives Ken Gucker and Richard Smith and Senator Julie Kushner) to make the case for state funding for the Margerie Reservoir trail.
I also testified in support of House Bill 6637, An Act Requiring an Invasive Species Stamp for Operation of a Motorboat on the Inland Waters of the State. This bill would provide funding for action to combat invasive species such as Eurasian milfoil, zebra mussels, blue-green algae, and hydrilla on lakes such as Candlewood. The funding would come from a fee of $5 on Connecticut motorboats and $25 on out of state boats.
Listening Hours. I’d also like to remind you that I have listening hours in the New Fairfield Public Library on Mondays evenings from 6:00-7:00 and Thursday mornings from 10:00-11:00. Please come see me if you’d like to discuss any of the above – or anything else.
– Khris Hall, Selectman