We asked Southington Board of Finance candidates the following question:
- Q) What do you see as the most important issue for the Board of Finance over the next term? How will you handle it if you are elected?
Here are their answers (Candidates are grouped in the order they will appear on the ballot):
MEET THE DEMOCRATS
A) State budget. As a member of the Board of Finance, my primary concern is the unresolved issue with the state budget. The current talks at the state level regarding its budget could have a major financial impact to the Town of Southington’s current and future budgets.
The governor has discussed reducing the amount of grant money Southington receives, reducing state funding to our Board of Education and requiring Southington to pay for a portion of our teachers’ pensions. Any changes at the state level will affect how we manage our budget.
We on the BOF considered these issues during our budget negotiations and agreed to set aside approximately $3 million in a contingency account for any future events that may impact Southington’s budget.
We feel prepared to deal with this issue and I am pleased that BOF members, both Democratic and Republican, have worked well together to maintain a fiscally responsible budget.
A) State budget. The most important issue faced by the Board of Finance is balance. Our budget must be balanced with careful consideration of the mill rate along with the needs and wants of the community.
This becomes more difficult as the state’s budget continues to fluxuate. My goal is to serve Southington yet maintain our standards and keep taxes low. To do this, I will do my best to observe what is happening in the community, reserve judgement until adequate knowledge is received and interpreted, work to preserve financial stability, and conserve resources.
This approach will yield what the public deserves: responsible representative government.
A) Debt management. The town has been growing, but growth brings challenges. Our investments, including new schools, senior center, land acquisition, and commercial developments along Queen and West Streets, have led us to take on a lot of debt. Managing this debt, along with planning for less stable support from the state, are the most critical issues we will have to manage.
Southington has a lot going for it, but financially we can do better. Our mill rate has gone up significantly since 2008; given our debt load, it will likely have to be raised again. We need better fiscal responsibility to manage our limited resources. We also have to be more transparent in how we govern.
Residents have a right to weigh in on the financial health of the town. I will advocate for better, more thoughtful investments, and be a strong advocate for Southington to our state representatives.
A) State budget. The state budget will have a major impact on Southington town services and Board of Education. While the Board of Finance has positioned itself well financially in a bipartisan way, we will have to be vigilant with future spending.
My goal will be to ensure town services do not decline. We must prioritize to ensure police and fire stay intact to keep our residents safe. We will work closely with the BOE, so education will not deteriorate for the students.
With Kevin Beaudoin, Dagmara Scalice, Susan Zoni, and John Moise working together, we have the experience to get through difficult financial times. We look forward to working in a bipartisan way as we have during the past two years to overcome the financial obstacles we may face during the next two years and beyond.
I will continue to listen, be open and transparent with the Southington residents with my decisions.
MEET THE REPUBLICANS
Edward Pocock Jr.
A) State budget. The State of Connecticut is a financial circus. Unfortunately, the messy Connecticut financial circus tent is now on its way to Southington, and the show is going to be nothing we want to experience.
I have seen nothing like this in my lifetime. How do we approach this crisis? I believe we shine best when we operate as a team to tackle big issues—something every member of this current Board of Finance has exhibited. I have been proud to be part of this outstanding BOF team.
We will emerge from this crisis stronger and I stand ready to do my part. I kindly ask for your vote on Election Day. Thank you.
A) State budget. The biggest issue facing the board is the proposed action at the state level, which will impact our funding significantly. This comes at a time when taxpayers have been hit the last few years with serious state tax increases, and we cannot afford to burden them any more.
Despite the financial challenges, we have to continue to maintain and improve our essential services.
To address this issue I will challenge all traditional ways of funding, even those that have been successful in the past, while insisting on more creative ways to deliver services, such as through technology. In addition, I will work diligently to scrutinize and challenge all expenditures to develop savings.
As a business executive leading high-tech organizations, and managing multi-million dollar budgets, I have often had to deal with financial challenges or accomplishing difficult goals. I want to utilize this experience for the benefit of my town.
A) State budget. The biggest issue facing the Board of Finance this upcoming term is one born from Connecticut state budget deficits that significantly impact Southington’s ability to move forward. That issue is a need for genuine collaboration. The need for collaboration is important always, but never more so than right now.
Like all municipalities, Southington is reliant on state grants to fund a significant portion of the budget. Most agree uncertainty at the state level will be the norm—not the exception—as we head into the future. Where does that leave Southington?
It leaves us squarely here: Elected officials from all boards, as well as leaders from the Town Council and Board of Education, need to collaboratively chart a path of certainty for Southington in the midst of ongoing uncertainty at the state. The BOF needs to lead this effort, and I look forward to playing a part if reelected.
A) State budget. Being a financially healthy town in an unhealthy state is the biggest issue facing the Board of Finance and the Southington As the state deals with a multi-billion dollar deficit they have two obvious short term options: to cut spending or raise taxes.
There is however a nasty third option and that is to cut grants to healthy municipalities which in turn will force them to cut local services, raise local taxes or a combination of both.
If the state cuts $21 million grants to Southington that equates to over a $5 million increase in local taxes or approximately $900 annual tax increase on a $250,000 average home. In response, I would drive an effort to work collaboratively to prioritize the town services and service levels we must maintain and then develop the most responsible plan to fund Southington.
Everything would remain on the table for consideration.