Promises Still Matter

Two years ago Republicans posed the question, “Where do we go from here?”  We had been through some difficult times and have still managed to maintain a high quality of life for all citizens, support excellence in education, and promote tax relief strategies using sound financial practices.  Moving forward after the 2013 elections, Republicans developed 7 primary goals:

  • Continued Residential Tax Relief
  • Address Newtown’s Changing Demographics
  • Address Continued Decline in School Enrollment
  • Support School Security
  • Support New Superintendent Search
  • School Budget Development
  • Charter Revision

In the last 2 years, Newtown taxpayers have begun to benefit from a collective long-term effort to reduce taxes.  Republicans have accomplished this by doing a number of things including the long and ongoing efforts of improving our bond rating in the worst economic times since the 1920’s and broadening our overall tax base.  We have invested in our infrastructure, improved our land use policies and that has had a positive impact in adding to our commercial tax base increasing our Grand List by $580,000. The commercial tax base is expected to continue to expand and contribute an even greater portion of revenue to the Town going forward.  Using our disciplined fiscal policies, we have saved over $254,000 in debt service due to our improved bond rating and collected over $100,000 in delinquent taxes. 

Republicans promised to revisit the subject of senior tax relief as our second goal.  We believe in supporting Newtown's seniors so that they can remain in Newtown.  As forecasted many years ago, Newtown has been experiencing a change in our demographics and seniors are the largest growing population in Town.  We expanded the senior tax relief program to include more of our most needy seniors and increase the amount of money applied to the program to over $1.5 million.  Out of 3090 seniors who live in Newtown, 714 applied for and are receiving tax relief.  It is now currently one of the most favorable senior tax relief programs in the state.

Republicans continue to believe having a public discussion about closing a school is necessary. To date, school enrollment has decreased well over 1000 students since the 2006-07 school year. While the time was not right to close a school in the last two years, we supported actions to reduce overhead commensurate with the declining enrollment by reducing buses, supporting early retirement for eligible staff members, and reducing headcount, according to the Board of Education guidelines.  All of these efforts help to minimize taxes while not affecting educational programs.

School security is a topic that has been very much in the forefront of many school-aged parents.  As the Town boards struggled to figure out how to pay for the enhanced presence of security in Newtown’s schools, the Republican led Board of Finance took a leadership role in the middle of the budget cycle.  The Board of Selectman came to the table with a combination of grants and Town funds while the Board of Finance provided a means to provide grant funds for in-town private schools. With the funding in place, school security officers were installed in each of our schools and at some private schools.  Republicans recognized it was a priority and were able to pull together the required funding to bring school security up to the appropriate level.

A major hurdle facing the Board of Education was to find a new superintendent to lead our school district.  Qualifications for the Superintendent were developed with input not only from the Board of Education but also from the various constituents in Town through many focus groups.  After an exhaustive search, the Republican led Board of Education hired Dr. Joseph Erardi. Dr. Erardi has led the district with compassion and integrity.  He has been an effective communicator and is creating a road of stability allowing the district to begin rebuilding the trust in our education system.

With Dr. Erardi at the helm and with the support of the Republican led Board of Education, the school budget development has become a significantly more transparent process.  The breadth and depth of the information provided leads to a better understanding of the school district operating budget for other Town boards and taxpayers.  This transparency has led to a savings of $256,000 in combining health care with the Town, a savings of $124,000 in bussing and a savings of $50,000 in diesel fuel. Even with the very modest increase in last school budget, new initiatives were added to support special education in the unified theater program, athletics, a new health clinic which will address mental health issues at the Middle School as well as a new world language initiative in our full day kindergarten program.   Finally, the Republican led Board of Finance worked in conjunction with the Board of Education to develop a new policy to allow unused educational funds to be saved year over year.  This new policy will help to defray future expenses by saving for large projects as is done on the Municipal side.  

The final goal for Republicans was to initiate a Charter Revision process with the goal of making the charter more consistent, readable and understandable.  The Legislative Council appointed a commission in November of 2014 – three years before it was necessary by state law.  The commission is made up of Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliated members of the community. To date they have held 55 public meetings since July 1st 2014 and have revised the majority of the language to provide the clarity that the Republican led Legislative Council was looking for.   The resulting changes will improve the application of the Charter and be on the November 2016 ballot.

What Do Republicans Think?

We Republicans continue to work hard for all of Newtown.  We continue to develop a vision and follow through on our campaign promises.  We believe all of our citizens matter and that public input is necessary to build a future for our community we will all be proud of.