Is Newtown Really Broken?

We Republicans believe its “Nicer in Newtown” despite what the Independent Party of Newtown (IPN) would have us believe. Republicans have worked very hard to ensure government runs effectively, engages the public and plans for and addresses Newtown’s needs. But that’s not what we are told by the IPN. They claim that the system is broken and have outlined their perspective in a platform called the “Declaration of Independents”. Let’s compare IPN’s “Declaration of Independents” to the facts:

 

We’ll start with IPN’s “Declaration’s” first tenet:

“Better Government” by creating a long range strategic plan, review of the Fairfield Hills Master Plan, restore educational excellence, encourage public participation, focus on smart land acquisition by acquiring open space and increasing passive recreation potential.  Well, I don’t know about you, but who doesn’t want better government or excellence in education? 

Did you know that all of these things are already in process?


The Town has already accumulated many of the building blocks for a long-range strategic plan. A Long Range Planning Committee was created three years ago. The Town maintains a comprehensive Plan of Conservation and Development that is updated periodically. Studies have been performed for the Town by Planimetrics…a firm specializing in municipal growth and build out. The report was initiated by the Board of Finance with participation by the Legislative Council, and presented to the Town.

Did you know that the study showed a fastest growing demographic was seniors, growing at more than two times the next fastest growing group not the school-age population?


As for encouraging public participation, ALL public meetings have public participation as a standard item on their agendas.


What do Republicans think?

Republicans have continually supported open space acquisition by approving and spending $2 million dollars a year for the last six years to buy open space.  The reason is simple.  It improves the overall quality of life and prohibits further development.

Did you know that IPN members of the Council made motions to remove open space funding in the last budget cycle despite the fact that open space is one of their tenets?


Republicans will build on the data the Town has already collected from firms like Planimetrics to plan for municipal and educational needs. Guided by public input, we will continue to collaborate with all boards and commissions in Town to incorporate the information to form a vision for Newtown’s future.  Newtown Republicans have laid out positions on improving government at:  http://www.newtownrepublicans.org/


The second tenet is “True Fiscal Responsibility”.  IPN’s focus is to “encourage tax stability, lessen the reliance on property taxes, communicate to the Town how its tax dollars are being spent and change the method of prioritizing capital projects by inserting the council at the beginning of the process.” Once again…. who wouldn’t want tax stability? But the reality of these issues in Newtown is quite clear. One mil of tax revenue is almost 4 million dollars today. 

Did you know that we would need to build more than 20 Sand Hill Plaza’s to produce this one mil in taxes?


Now, Republicans are all for tax relief, but we need to be very careful what we wish for and its effects on our quality of life. We believe Newtown is a wonderful place. After all, that’s why we all live here.  However, we need to be careful how we plan for commercial development to help offset property taxes.  Capital projects need to be managed on a town-wide basis starting with the qualified Town employee, from the bottom up not with a politician.

Did you know the IPN has tried to insert themselves at the beginning of this process?


The Town has a great resource in its accomplished employees. These are the people who are on the ground level. Republicans want to capitalize on this resource and empower them to help plan for Newtown’s future. That’s exactly what happens now through the Town’s capital improvement process. Ask yourself, who knows how to run a police force better… the Police Chief or a Legislative Council member?  Who knows the state’s school building requirements or the school district’s capital requirements best?  A Superintendent or a Legislative Council member?


Regarding fiscal responsibility, the Republican mantra is fiscal responsibility.

Did you know Newtown has received two ratings upgrades and multiple positive reports from the municipal ratings agency, Moody’s, in the last 8 years saving the Town millions? 

Did you know current Town planning and its “Strong fiscal management,” as noted in many recent Moody’s report, has provided for over 95% of all capital project requested, in the time frame requested and in the priority requested?

Now that sounds pretty good to us. Sure it can be improved, and we Republicans want to continue to improve upon the process we’ve authored and put in place.


Prudent fiscal responsibility dictates establishing and protecting a reserve account for exigent circumstances.  The Board of Finance and majority of the Legislative Council supported not using this reserve account during the last budget cycle.

Did you know that Moody’s specifically mentioned that using the Town’s reserves to fund operations is a detrimental idea and was the reason for towns like Monroe and Trumbull being downgraded or being placed on warning status for a possible downgrade? 

Did you know that an IPN council member distributed an email during the budget process advocating using the reserves in an effort to put more dollars to the education side of the budget? Furthermore, the IPN member, in council budget deliberations, motioned to take money from surplus and spend it?


The third tenet is “Meaningful Revenue Development” by “creating a plan to bring revenue to the community, use Edmond Town Hall as a regional cultural arts center and create a strong organization to oversee development and issues in the community, including Fairfield Hills.” We Republicans believe that any revenue would help, but we need to ask “What kind of revenue?” and “What’s already in place?” Let’s look at the three pieces individually.


The first part is to “create a comprehensive plan to bring new revenue into the community, including tourism programs that make use of the Town’s rural and historic character and agricultural business.”  Currently in place and critical to forming a plan for this next phase in our community is the Planimetrics study showing our build out capacity, where we can expect growth in Town and where the municipal demands will be felt the most. This data provides the Town with a window into the future and the basis for forming a vision.


The second part is “Use Edmond Town Hall as a regional Center of Cultural Arts”. The Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers has been planning new community uses for Edmond Town Hall. 

Did you know the Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers recently joined forces with the Radio Town Players for several highly successful evenings of music?  Don’t forget the highly successful movie theatre and the newly renovated kitchen that host many events including the annual pancake breakfast for the Rotary Club.


The third piece is to “Create one strong organization to oversee the development of business issues for our community, including Fairfield Hills.” The board responsible for overseeing Fairfield Hills is the Board of Selectmen in concert with other boards like Planning and Zoning and the Fairfield Hills Authority. 

Did you know the Town has a Land Use agency and an Economic Development Commission?

Did you know the Town currently has a department of Economic and Community Development Office whose function is to plan and develop the Town’s commercial assets? 

This office has been cultivating economic development in Town for many years, working with the Fairfield Hills Authority to attract business to the campus and is constantly applying for and managing millions of dollars in grants. But there is an odd discrepancy here. 

Did you know that IPN’s “declaration” includes tax stability and economic development to offset taxes, yet an IPN council member motioned to reduce funding to the Economic Development Commission?


What do Republicans Think?

There are many similarities among the various parties as to what they want to accomplish.  Strong leadership, starting with the First Selectman, is the difference.  Republican leadership will form a collaborative vision that is fact based and data driven with the help of town employees and public input.