We asked Southington Board of Finance candidates the following question:
Q) What do you see as the most important issue for the BOF over the next term? How do you plan to handle it if you are elected?
Here are their answers (Candidates are grouped in the order they will appear on the ballot):
Susan J. Zoni
A) Mill rate. Keeping the mill rate and property taxes as low as possible, while maintaining and supporting current services is my primary goal. I voted for a lower mill rate and against the higher one that was passed, as I believed it unjustly burdened taxpayers.
I worked diligently on the tax relief committee to find ways to support our most vulnerable citizens: seniors, disabled, and veterans. I will continue to question spending, support the fine education system we have, and work to grow this wonderful community in a responsible way.
A) Balancing financial needs and financial caution. The most important issue for the Board of Finance over the next term exists in a broader sense. The issue is balancing the needs of our town and exercising financial caution amist the uncertainty consistently provided by the state legislature in their determination of municipal aid-education cost sharing.
It is important that during the budget process we as a board, and really the town government as a whole, recognize the need to further invest in education and maintain essential public services, in order to continue to ensure our youth has a solid foundation, as well as uphold the standards and values that this town has always had, and have given so many families reason to either move back or relocate to Southington.
A) Purchasing the municipal building. On Election Day, we have an opportunity to decide on a referendum asking whether the town should purchase the John Weichsel municipal building for $2.9 million. Currently, the town leases the building for approximately $350,000 annually. If the vote is in favor of purchasing the building, the town will see a cost savings just after eight years.
In addition, the town is fortunate to have a healthy Fund Balance of $22 million which is greater than our required policy of approximately $16 million. If the town pays cash rather than bonding to purchase the building, there will be no effect on our future taxes. The town’s Fund Balance will continue to be substantially above the required amount. Ratings agencies consider reinvestment in the town’s infrastructure as a “smart” investment. This will strengthen Southington’s already strong balance sheet and save thousand in future lease payments.
Donald S. Rinaldi
Democratic challenger Donald S. Rinaldi did not submit a response to the question posed by The Observer.
On Friday, Oct. 4, the Observer confirmed that he has withdrawn his candidacy.
A) Impact of the state budget uncertainty on Southington. In response, proactively we must balance our tax paying base, actively drive economic development, and ensure healthy reserves, have spending level plans in place that are long term. Reactively we fund what is urgent and important by collaborating as one unified town, separating our needs from our wants.
We can’t starve infrastructure, as that is short term thinking. We cut spending where appropriate before ever raising property taxes. We remain mindful that the state will impact Southington citizens by raising taxes where they choose and potentially cutting grants to Southington.
Citizens get impacts from many angles. Simply raising local property taxes to make up any state shortfall must be the last option, not the first. I will handle Southington finances with a long term view, courage, insight and meaningful collaboration with all involved and affected.
A) Fiscal responsibility. In a bankrupt state where responsibility is only determining how many billions of new taxes are needed each budget cycle, Southington stands out as an oasis of fiscal responsibility. This will become difficult in the future. We are in a time when the state will cure its financial issues by pushing down expenditures to municipalities.
I will continue to push for the BOF taking a proactive role in our budget needs. I will also champion better revenue generation (smart commercial growth) and a portfolio management approach to our services. At the same time, I will be ever watchful for cost savings while viewing tax increases through the eyes of those who can least afford to pay. As an executive running high-tech organizations and managing multi-million dollar budgets, I have often had to deal with such challenges. I want to continue to utilize this experience for the benefit of my town.
A) Positioning for success. Like all municipalities, the Town of Southington faces increasing levels of financial uncertainty from circumstances largely beyond its control, most notably from an inability to rely on the state for clear direction related to its future support. Unlike many municipalities, however, the town is prepared to handle this uncertainty better than most, provided the Board of Finance—working in conjunction with other town boards, staff and the community—continues to work in a proactive manner with respect to all fiscal matters.
If re-elected, I will handle this issue the same way I have during my current tenure on the BOF. Rarely does there exist a perfect answer to any individual matter. What does exist is an opportunity to work hard in understanding not just the situation at hand, but how best to proceed within the overall strategy of positioning Southington for financial success and stability.
Edward S. Pocock Jr.
A) Mill rate. The most important issue for the board of finance to tackle over the next two years will be to keep our mill rate low and affordable.
Southington is a beautiful town to live in. It is imperative that we keep maintain our current infrastructure, maintain our roads and buildings. We need to keep improving our education system, while keeping a fair budget to maintain our current services. I think it is important to work with the whole board, regardless of political party and create a budget that is best for our town and residents.