Republicans' Balanced List of Accomplishments

The last several years have been challenging for Newtown for a whole host of reasons: difficult economy, multiple hurricanes, and significant and unexpected events.  And during this time it's been very difficult to keep perspective and focus.  Republicans have risen to the challenge and had the courage to lead, to stick to our guiding principles and to balance Town priorities.  We committed to:

  • Promote a high quality of life for all citizens
  • Promote tax relief strategies
  • Support excellence in education
  • Implement sound financial practices    

As a party we have addressed each one of these areas.  Let’s review what has been accomplished over the last two years.

High Quality of Life & Tax Relief

Taxes are always an issue and that issue is growing.  Newtown’s rural and picturesque character, the characteristics that have drawn many of us here, requires homeowners to pay the majority of taxes.  Because of that rural character, there aren’t many commercial businesses to offset the tax burden. Reducing the tax burden for residential homeowners isn’t just about the size of our budget, but also, it is about attracting more commercial development to our town in a way that doesn’t affect our quality of life.

Newtown Republicans believe that the way to help homeowners and reduce the tax burden is not only to continue to be diligent about curbing budget increases year over year, but also to continue our commitment to invest in and to develop our commercial base through the improvement of our business centers.  Over the last five years, we have invested in beautiful sidewalks and lighting for Sandy Hook Center.  This has transformed the area and enhanced the shopping and dining experience.  We have also pursued and acquired state and federal grants to clean up brownfields (contaminated properties), to complete infrastructure work at Fairfield Hills and to realign the Edmond and Commerce Road intersection.  Another large step forward is the commitment we have made to bring sewers to the exit 9 area.  Republicans initiated the sewer project because we believe it is a critical component to a large area representing a tremendous opportunity for the kind of commercial development that we think is most appropriate. All of these combined initiatives lay the groundwork for commercial development and will attract businesses to our town.

Did you know the Economic Development Commission is working with the Sandy Hook business owners and a marketing consultant to better understand their target market and improve business in Sandy Hook Center well into the future? Lessons learned can then be applied to other areas around town!

We also continue to improve our passive and active recreation areas for all residents.  Many updates and projects have taken place in our town parks.  Treadwell Park has a newly renovated pool and locker room area, while Dickenson Park now has a band shell for its free summer concerts, and is undergoing a major renovation to the playground area due to prudent planning and partnering with individual private donors.  Students and families are now enjoying the benefits of illuminated athletic fields at Newtown High School.

Our balanced approach to improving every resident’s life includes the expansion of Senior Tax Relief in 2013 and the allocation of property at Fairfield Hills for the new ambulance garage.

Excellence in Education

Under Republican leadership, there has been an improvement in the allocation of resources, more clarity in communication with the general community, concentrated focus on the three prongs of education: curriculum development and renewal, instructional improvements, and evaluation and accountability of all personnel.  New initiatives for student learning are now being implemented.  The Fall of 2013 marks the first year that the school district is implementing full day kindergarten giving those children greater learning time.  Also new is the implementation of the Common Core Standards all across the district.  Finally, the district is piloting a new teacher evaluation methodology that will provide better insight in how to improve our instruction.  The Board of Education has provided greater transparency, greater accountability, and a more thorough vetting of budgets. 

Did you know that the Board of Education provided a new streamlined budget document in the Spring of 2013 to provide more depth, clarity and consistency of information?

Fiscal Responsibility

Republicans have often spoken about the importance of the Town’s fund balance.  It is used for unplanned emergencies and is one of the barometers by which rating agencies test the financial healthiness of the Town.  We have continued to make progress in increasing this balance to a level that is highly regarded by the rating agencies allowing the town to borrow money at a lower rate.

Did you know having a healthy fund balance and sticking to our fund balance policy enabled us to bridge the gap created by unexpected emergencies between the required emergency funding and grants being awarded to the Town at a later date to the tune of more than $2.5 million?

Reducing debt is another of the financial tenets that Republicans have focused on.  We continue to look for ways to accomplish projects and move forward at a lower cost.  First, we reviewed our debt service policy and lowered our future indebtedness from 10% of our operational budget to 9%.  We also continue to embrace the “Pay As You Go” policy. Park and Recreation is a perfect example of this policy wherein they save money earned from field usage fees so they are able to complete capital projects without impacting the Town’s capital improvement plan or overall taxation.  Republicans have strongly encouraged private/public partnerships which is another way we can accomplish projects at a lower cost to taxpayer – one such project is the Animal Control Center.

Another tenet is to continue to review operating expenses to find more effective and efficient ways of running the Town.  As a result of a study on operating efficiencies, this year we combined the school and town payroll system.  This allows for savings and greater clarity.  In some cases taking on the work in our departments rather than paying for an outside contractor saves a significant about of money.  One such project is the reconstruction of the Oakview Soccer field – despite some significant weather challenges! 

Did you know the cost of managing the Fairfield Hills campus was over $750,000 in fees paid to outside agencies?  Now, most of those costs are folded into regular town operations at a fraction of the expense.

 

What do Republicans Think?

We Republicans believe there have been many positive accomplishments in Newtown over the last two years and indeed many years before that.  All of the above and more despite the terrible tragedy we suffered from in December.  We feel our work is not done and would like to continue what we started.  We have been laying the groundwork for future business development, and are poised to move to the next level so Newtown will thrive.  As demonstrated in the past, we have the courage to lead, balancing the priorities of all taxpayers.