New Beginnings – 3/9/2015

Posted by Bob on March 9, 2015 under Daily Blogs | Be the First to Comment

This coming May will mark my sixth year as mayor of this great community.  Through all the ups and downs typically associated with the position, it has always been an honor to serve the only hometown I have ever known.  While I have been and always will be committed to making Naugatuck all that it can be, I have decided that it is time for me to begin the next chapter of my life.  I will not be seeking a fourth term during our municipal elections this November.  I have never been a fan of drama, and wanted to make this announcement with enough time for others to make decisions about their own future.

This is a decision that has not been made without a significant amount of thought.  Prior to the 2013 municipal elections, I stated that a third term could very well be my last.  While there are exciting initiatives which are ongoing, there will never be complete closure on all projects begun by an outgoing elected official.  I have sincerely enjoyed my time in office, but being a mayor or first selectman is a full-time, twenty-four/seven responsibility that requires a complete commitment of heart, soul and passion in all aspects of the job.  This is a commitment that I do not feel I can bring to a fourth term at this time in my life.

While I am not certain what the future holds, I am excited to begin the next chapter of my professional life.  I am confident that my skills and experience will offer interesting and challenging opportunities.  This announcement is not a farewell; there is much work to do over the next nine months.  I will remain focused on implementing the economic development opportunities that are beginning to take shape in our downtown, planning for the future of our school district and continuing to reform our local government.

It is my sincere hope that the leaders who follow will continue to work together and make decisions that will balance the demands of today with the needs of tomorrow.  I stand willing to assist those with good intentions as my schedule permits, and will remain involved in community activities.  When meeting with students and youth groups over the years, I have always stressed that public service involves much more than elected office.  Whether one walks in the front or the back of our historic Memorial Day parade is far less important than making a decision to march.  Next year I will welcome a return to the back of the parade.

 

 

Borough Board Meeting for Tonight (3/3/2015) Postponed

Posted by Bob on March 3, 2015 under Daily Blogs | Be the First to Comment

The regular meeting of the Board of Mayor and Burgesses scheduled for tonight (3/3/2015) has been postponed due to the inclement weather predicted to begin later this afternoon (3/3/2015).  We are planning to reschedule the meeting for Wednesday, March 18, 2015.

Weather Update – 2/2/2015

Posted by Bob on February 2, 2015 under Daily Blogs | Be the First to Comment

While the snow and ice are expected to end by nightfall, slippery conditions will remain throughout the night and into the morning.  Naugatuck crews and contractors will continue to plow streets and apply sand and salt to Borough roads.   Please avoid traveling if at all possible.

Residents with emergency situations should contact 911 for assistance.  Non-emergency, storm-related calls can be directed to the Department of Public Works at 203-720-7070.  Emails may be sent to publicworks@naugatuck-ct.gov .

Residents must comply with the parking ban that is in effect until further notice.  A list of exempted streets is available on the Borough’s website at www.naugatuck-ct.gov.  Any vehicles impeding access of public safety and public works vehicles will be towed.

Please ensure that all efforts are made to shovel sidewalks after the precipitation stops.  If possible, please ensure that snow is cleared from fire hydrants.

Trash and recycling collection will be delayed by one day this week.  Monday’s collection will be Tuesday, Tuesday’s collection will be Wednesday, and so forth the rest of the week.

Please feel free to contact me by cell phone (203-217-0876) or email (bob@bobmezzo.com) with any questions.

 

Blizzard Colbie Update – Tuesday (1/27/2015)

Posted by Bob on January 27, 2015 under Daily Blogs | Read the First Comment

Naugatuck crews and contractors are currently plowing Borough streets and will remain doing so throughout the afternoon and evening.  Current weather forecasts indicate that the brunt of the storm will end around Noon today (1/27/2015), but light snow will linger into the afternoon.  Blowing snow drifts and cold air will remain throughout the day.

Traveling remains dangerous on many streets and roads throughout Naugatuck.  While we expect that all Borough roads will be passable by this evening (1/27/2015), we urge all motorists to exercise the highest degree of caution while traveling.  Those driving should be on a heightened sense of awareness for pedestrians and children playing in the snow.

Please comply with all requirements of the Naugatuck parking ban.   It is critical that our plows and public safety vehicles have unimpeded access through all streets.  Police officers have already ticketed several vehicles, and have been forced to have a limited number of cars towed.  A list of exempted streets is available on the Borough’s website at www.naugatuck-ct.gov.

Once the snow stops, we ask property owners to begin clearing their respective sidewalks for safe passage.  This is required by our Charter.

Residents with emergency situations should contact 911 for assistance.  Non-emergency, storm-related calls can be directed to the Department of Public Works at 203-720-7071; but please do not use this number to inquire when particular roads will be plowed.  Emails may be sent to publicworks@naugatuck-ct.gov .    Once all roads are passible, our crews and contractors will begin to widen streets and intersections.

Snow removal will take place during the overnight in Union City and Downtown Naugatuck during the next two days.

Trash and recycling collection have been pushed back one day at this point. Regular Tuesday collection will be Wednesday, Wednesday collection Thursday, and so forth for the rest of the week.  Any further changes will be announced by Public Works.

Decisions regarding school on Wednesday (1/28/2015) will be made by school officials and announced through the school messenger system accordingly.

Power outages have been minimal.  If you lose power please report directly to Connecticut Light and Power at 1-800-286-2000.

If possible, please ensure that snow is cleared from fire hydrants.

I know many of you use social media frequently to communicate.  While this blog links to Facebook, Twitter and Google +, I do not check those sites as frequently as others.  Staff will be periodically reviewing social media, but it is not the most effective way to communicate with me.  Please feel free to contact me by regular email (bob@bobmezzo.com) or my cell phone (203-217-0876).  I respectfully request that you do so with urgent matters.  Communications regarding when particular roads are being plowed often slow us down and decrease effectiveness.  Multiple communications to multiple departments focus resources on communications rather than coordinating plowing and road clearance.  As stated above, we do not prioritize by how many calls are received.  The primary contact point as listed above, is our Department of Public Works at 203-720-7071 or publicworks@naugatuck-ct.gov .

Thank you and be safe.

Blizzard Colbie Information – 1/26/2015

Posted by Bob on January 26, 2015 under Daily Blogs | 2 Comments to Read

Blizzard Colbie (a/k/a Juno) is expected to increase in intensity this evening and overnight.  While there are always variables in predicting weather, it is possible that we can expect two to three feet of snow on the high end.  Strong wind gusts are also expected.  I have declared a state of emergency effective at 12:00 Noon today (1/26/2015).  This allows Naugatuck to obtain the necessary resources to address the blizzard.

Residents should avoid traveling until the storm is over.  During the height of the storm, blizzard conditions will significantly reduce visibility and make vehicular travel almost impossible.  Local roads should only be used for emergency management personnel.

Residents should shelter in their homes until the storm is over.  Due to hazardous conditions, public safety personnel will only be responding to emergency calls during the height of the storm.  Any assistance that can be provided to a neighbor in need is greatly appreciated.  Residents with emergency situations should contact 911 for assistance.  Non-emergency, storm-related calls can be directed to the Department of Public Works at 203-720-7071, but please do not use this number to inquire when particular roads will be plowed.  Emails may be sent to publicworks@naugatuck-ct.gov .

There may be times during the height of the storm when it is not safe for drivers to plow snow.  Equipment failures are also more common when there is significant amounts of snow.  Please be assured that Borough crews and contractors will be working to clear roads and make them passible as quickly as possible.  As is our standard procedure, we prioritize main roads first, then side streets and ultimately dead-ends and cul-de-sacs.  Given the current forecast, it is reasonable to expect that many roads will not be passable for a period of time after the storm.  No one gets special treatment, and roads are not prioritized based on how many phone calls are made or emails sent.  We realize that there are residents of all ages, citizens with various medical conditions and health care workers living on many streets.  Public works and public safety officials will work around the clock to address the aftermath of the blizzard.

Please report any power outages directly to Connecticut Light and Power at 1-800-286-2000, or electronically at www.cl-p.com.  Please be prepared for extended power outages, as emergency calls and road clearance issues will be addressed before restoration efforts begin.

Residents must comply with the parking ban that is in effect until further notice.  A list of exempted streets is available on the Borough’s website at www.naugatuck-ct.gov.  Any vehicles impeding access of public safety and public works vehicles will be towed.

Naugatuck Schools will be closed on Tuesday (1/27/2015).

If possible, please ensure that snow is cleared from fire hydrants.

I know many of you use social media frequently to communicate.  While this blog links to Facebook, Twitter and Google +, I do not check those sites as frequently as others.  Staff will be periodically reviewing social media, but it is not the most effective way to communicate with me.  Please feel free to contact me by regular email (bob@bobmezzo.com) or my cell phone (203-217-0876).  I respectfully request that you do so with urgent matters.  Communications regarding when particular roads are being plowed often slow us down and decrease effectiveness.  Multiple communications to multiple departments focus resources on communications rather than coordinating plowing and road clearance.  As stated above, we do not prioritize by how many calls are received.  The primary contact point as listed above, is our Department of Public Works at 203-720-7071 or publicworks@naugatuck-ct.gov .

More information and updates will follow. Thank you and be safe.

Thanksgiving Trash/Recycling Collection Schedule – 11/26/2014

Posted by Bob on November 26, 2014 under Daily Blogs | Be the First to Comment

The Naugatuck Department of Public Works issued the following statement regarding the trash and recycling collection schedule for the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend:

A reminder to residents: With the impending storm predicted for Wednesday, Nov. 26, if your collection day is Wednesday, please be sure to have your carts out for collection by midnight tonight (11/25) as crews will be starting collections early to get ahead of the storm. 
Curbside Trash and Recycle collections will be delayed one day for Thursday and Friday due to the Thanksgiving Holiday, with Thursday’s collection being on Friday, and Friday’s collection on Saturday. The Public Works Office and Town Hall will be closed on Thursday and Friday 11/27 & 11/28. 
The Recycle Center will be closed on Thursday 11/27 but will be open on Saturday 11/29 from 8 AM – 2 PM.

As stated therein, please ensure to place containers curbside by midnight on the day of collection.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.  Go Greyhounds!

Revised Budget Heads to Public Hearing on Monday (8/4/2014)

Posted by Bob on August 1, 2014 under Daily Blogs | 56 Comments to Read

The Joint Boards of Mayor and Burgesses (“Joint Boards”) approved a revised budget on Thursday (7/31/2014) night to be presented at a public hearing on Monday, August 4, 2014, 6:30 PM, at City Hill Middle School (441 City Hill Street, Naugatuck,  CT  06770).  The revised budget was crafted in response to  Tuesday’s (7/29/2014) referendum which overwhelmingly rejected the previously adopted budget.

The new proposed budget is $113,814,192, down $1,426,985.00 from the originally adopted figure of $115,241,177.  The Joint Boards cut $204,206.00 from the Board of Education budget after a lengthy debate and several votes for different cuts.  Cuts totaling $1,222,779.00 were made to the municipal side of the budget.  Minor mathematical adjustments may be necessary to certain line items.  Adjustments to revenues include an increase of $300,000.00 for outstanding taxes collectible and a reduction of $1,160,664.00 in the educational cost sharing (“ECD”) revenue resulting from state Alliance District money being originally included.  If adopted in its current form, the revised budget would result in a slight drop to the of the current 44.80 mill rate to 44.68.  A house appraised at the median home value in Naugatuck (according to www.zillow.com) at 161,500.00 (assessed at 70% would be  at $113,050.00) would see an approximate $13.57 decrease in residential property taxes if the revised budget is ultimately adopted.

The revised budget can be viewed here in Microsoft Excel format.  Said document includes links that list some of the proposed changes made at the beginning of the meeting, and the actual change summary.  The revised budget can be viewed in .pdf format here.

Fireworks Celebration Changed to Sunday, July 6, 2014

Posted by Bob on July 2, 2014 under Daily Blogs | Be the First to Comment

Due to the forecast for heavy rain and possible thunderstorms on Thursday (7/3/2014) night, the Department of Public Works has announced the postponement of the annual Naugatuck Fireworks Celebration scheduled for Thursday, July 3, 2014.  All activities originally planned for Thursday (7/3/2014) will take place at the same locations and times on Sunday (7/6/2014).  The fireworks company was unable to perform the show on the original rain date of July 5, 2014, and the Borough agreed to reschedule for July 6, 2014. The previous press release contains the schedule of events, parking regulations, viewing areas and road closure information.   All information except for the dates remains accurate for Sunday (7/6/2014) night (The Borough does not know for certain which businesses listed on the original press release will be open on Sunday night).  Have a happy and safe Independence Day weekend!

Borough and VNA South Central Connecticut Reach Agreement – 6/17/2014

Posted by Bob on June 17, 2014 under Daily Blogs | 4 Comments to Read

The Borough of Naugatuck and the Visiting Nurse Association of South Central Connecticut, Inc. (“VNASCC”), are pleased to announce a partnership to continue the rich tradition of the Naugatuck Visiting Nurses Association (“NVNA”), and provide the highest quality, home health care services to the citizens of Naugatuck.  After months of discussions and negotiations with the parties, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses approved an agreement on Tuesday (6/17/2014), formalizing the arrangement.

VNASCC is a community-based, not-for-profit agency providing outstanding home health services to communities in South Central Connecticut.  Numerous Naugatuck citizens have already been served by VNASCC nurses in past years.  This past fall, Naugatuck resident and Naugatuck Education Foundation President Matthew Fortney was elected to the VNASCC board of directors and serves on its Finance Committee.

As many already know, the Borough has been working to transition the NVNA to another home health care provider for almost a year.  While this has been a difficult process for many local officials and employees, the economic challenges of operating a home health care agency as a municipal department have proven costly.  In addition to changes in federal and state health care laws, increased presence of large, for-profit providers has challenged the ability of municipal visiting nurses associations to compete in the marketplace.

VNASCC has a long history of incorporating local visiting nurses agencies into its organization.  Former VNAs in Milford, the lower Naugatuck Valley and East Haven were incorporated into VNASCC in years past, joining the original New Haven visiting nurses group.

Over the past few weeks, VNASCC has been meeting with NVNA staff to coordinate a smooth transition.  NVNA staff will inform all new and existing patients of the changes occurring, and the opportunity to transition their care to VNASCC.  The NVNA will continue to provide care for existing patients and solicit new patients up until August 15, 2014.   Effective October 1, 2014, VNASCC will assume the long legacy of the NVNA and occupy the current offices located at 600 Rubber Avenue.  VNASCC staff has already begun to increase its presence in the area and build relationships with the referral networks in Greater Waterbury and the Valley.

Feel free to check-out the VNA of South Central CT website at www.vnascc.org for more information about their skilled nursing and rehab home care services and specialty programs.

VNASCC intends to continue the practices of the NVNA by being an active participant in community events and outreach programs.  The Borough will contribute funds and in-kind assistance to VNASCC to maintain quality home health care services in Naugatuck, but at a substantially less cost to taxpayers.  We look forward to this new partnership and expanding the capacity of home health care services in the Borough.

Patients and/or referral sources with any questions are encouraged to contact the NVNA directly at 203-720-7095.

Naugatuck Budget Rhetoric v. Reality – 6/5/2014

Posted by Bob on June 5, 2014 under Daily Blogs | 20 Comments to Read

Please read the following regarding the Naugatuck budget recently adopted.  If you calculate the increase in taxes by 0.26 mills to one’s residential property, and then multiple the depreciated car value for those owning motor vehicles by the new mill rate (multiply 2013 car value by 0.04506), many taxpayers will notice LITTLE SUBSTANTIAL CHANGE OR EVEN A NET DECREASE IN THEIR OVERALL TAX BILL.  This even includes some of those organizing the petition drive to send the adopted budget to referendum.  

Much has been said on various social media sites since the adoption of Naugatuck’s 2014 – 2015 budget.  Once again, a group of individuals similar to the one who solicited signatures last year, are asking residents to sign petitions to force the budget to a public referendum.  While this is a valid process authorized by the Borough charter, it is important to understand the facts about the proposed budget if approached by someone asking for a signature.

The increase in the mill rate in the proposed budget is 0.26 of a mill.  To determine its impact on one’s real estate property tax bill, please link here.  Said link contains an analysis of the tax impact on each owner’s property over the past two years.  An analysis of each owner’s motor vehicle assessment can be accessed through this link.  Said values are provided to the Naugatuck Assessor by the State of Connecticut, and include depreciation of existing vehicles.  To calculate the new, motor vehicle tax, multiple the 2013 assessment by 0.04506 (which represents 45.06 mills), or use the motor vehicle calculator provided here.

The 0.26 mill rate increase is also the lowest  increase, not withstanding revaluation, in all but two of the last fifteen years.

  • 2000 – 2001:   55.60 mills
  • 2001 – 2002:  32.60 mills; REVALUATION – decrease of 23 mills (if no revaluation, decrease of 1.1 mills)
  • 2002 – 2003:  35.50 mills; increase of 2.90 mills
  • 2003 – 2004:  33.00 mills; REVALUATION – decrease of 2.50 mills (if no revaluation, increase of 3.1 mills)
  • 2004 – 2005:  35.40 mills: increase of 2.40 mills
  • 2005 – 2006:  37.10 mills, increase of 1.70 mills
  • 2006 – 2007:  38.80 mills, increase of 1.70 mills
  • 2007 – 2008;  41.30 mills; increase of 2.50 mills
  • 2008 – 2009:  31.52 mills; REVALUATION – decrease of 9.78 mills (if no revaluation, increase of 3.69 mills)
  • 2009 – 2010:  31.52 mills; No Increase
  • 2010 – 2011:  32.02 mills; increase of 0.50 mill
  • 2011 – 2012:  33.20 mills; increase of 1.18 mills
  • 2012 – 2013:  33.55 mills; increase of 0.35 mill
  • 2013 – 2014:  44.80 mills; REVALUATION – increase of 11.25 mills (if no revaluation, increase of 0.93 mill)
  • 2014 – 2015:  45.06 mills; increase of 0.26 mill (adopted, subject to referendum)

While revaluation skews the mill rate, the information above includes what the mill rate adjustment would be on an annual basis if there was no revaluation.  Only the 2009-2010 budget, which was approved with no increase in the mill rate; and the 2001 – 2002 revaluation year budget; contain lower mill rate increases than the adopted budget of this year, without regard for revaluation.

Spending in the adopted 2014 – 2015 budget did increase by 3.9% or $4,333,754.00; but revenue from sources other than taxes collectible increased by 8.3%.  This was largely due to increases in state aid, fund balance revenue (for capital projects) and use of the Borough’s health care reserve to offset increases in health benefits. Approximately $4.4 million of the increase in spending is attributable to the increase in employee health care costs (approximately $3.3 million dollars for both municipal and board of education employees), federally mandated upgrades to Naugatuck sewer treatment facility ($800,000.00) and a repair to an existing sewer line ($345,000.00).

All this represents an increase in the mill rate of .26 mills, or 0.5%.   A mill represents one dollar for every thousand dollars of taxable property.   The median home value in Naugatuck according to www.zillow.com is $159,800.00.  The increase in taxes for such a home (assessed value at 70% percent of appraised value = $111,860.00) would be $29.08.

There is a lot of information listed above.  One can only wonder how much of it gets explained to someone whose signature is requested on a petition form.  It will also be interesting to know, once petition signatures are submitted, how many of those signing the petition will actually experience no substantial impact to their overall tax bills, or even a tax decrease, when car depreciation is calculated.

Certainly petition organizers point to Naugatuck’s mill rate, which currently ranks as one of the highest in the state.  What that means, however, is also not as simple.  A mill itself is only a multiplier of value.  Naugatuck’s mill rate was never below 55.60 in the entire decade of the 1990′s.  In fact, the mill rate was never lower than 39.7 from 1969 – 1970 through the 1999 – 2000 fiscal year.   Such figures mean little, however, without the context of the actual effect of taxes as a result of the mill rate.  The lowest mill rate the Borough had in recent history was the 31.52 mills in 2008 – 2009, and again in 2009 – 2010.  At that time, homes were valued with 2007 assessments.  I do not recall people being content then about taxes, as some were paying more amounts than today due to higher values.  Naugatuck lost about 26% of its residential property value after the 2012 revaluation.  If one looks at the analysis of tax impact by owner listed on the Borough website, one will find many homeowners who are paying less for real estate taxes than two years ago.

Pointing to mill rates in other communities is a common theme that has been used lately.  Once again, however, we need to know a little about comparative home values.  The median home value in Naugatuck according to www.zillow.com is $159,800.00.  At 44.80 mills the tax would be $5,011.33 ($159,800.00 x 70% assessed value).  At 45.06 the tax would be $5,040.41.  The median home value on a house in Fairfield is listed on the same site is listed as $497,600.00.  The assessed value (70%)  of that would be $348,320.00.  The taxes on such a home in Fairfield would be about $8,335.30 ($348,320.00 x .02393 mill rate).  To be fair, I will use Shelton, which has been referenced by some petition supporters.  The median home value is $288,200.00.  At a mill rate of 22.31 mills, the tax on such a home would be lower than in Naugatuck.  Such a home in Shelton at its current mill rate would be $4,500.82 ($288,200.00 * .7 * 0.02231).  While this is in fact lower than Naugatuck, it is not lower proportionate to the difference in the mill rate.

Some of the petition organizers have advocated for additional decreases in spending in the adopted budget.  Let us first consider what has already been removed from the budget.

  • Education:  27 teachers accepted an early retirement incentive package (“ERIP”).  The total reduction in force (“RIF”) for educators is 14.5 positions.  Another 5.5 support positions are not being filled.
  • Public Works:  In addition to 3 vacant positions, 8 employees took an ERIP.  2 of those positions will not be filled as the sanitation operation was privatized.  The Borough has the option not to fill the 6 remaining positions during the 2014 – 2015 fiscal year so that it can absorb the retirement payouts.
  • Visiting Nurses Association (“NVNA”) and Youth and Family Services (“NYFS”):  Both agencies are transitioning to other providers with will reduce staff costs moving forward.
  • Fire:  2 positions were budgeted to be left vacant after retirement.
  • Police:  No new positions.
  • Consolidation of senior bus services.
  • All the capital purchases were offset by revenue additions.  If the capital purchases are eliminated from the budget, the corresponding revenue would likely be returned to the Borough’s fund balance, yielding no effect on the tax rate.

I can not speak for others that supported the aforementioned cuts, but personally I did so with reservations.  We are all aware that times are hard and that taxpayers have been stretched to their limits in many cases, but thinking that such cuts will not effect the quality of life in our community is naive.  NVNA and NYFS have served the Borough honorably and professionally for many years.  While no public works employee will lose his job, we have never had private sanitation collection before.  The demands on public safety continue to grow, but we struggle to invest in necessary resources.  The collective years of teaching experience lost to retirement is staggering.  We are elected or appointed to make hard decisions, and I can honestly say after my ninth budget over the years that very few of the choices are easy.  Everyone wants to reduce costs and eliminate services, but the problems is that it is difficult to agree on which ones to cut.  Budget hearings over the years have been filled with suggestions to “cut, cut, cut”, but “do not cut “fill in the blank” service”.  I pray that the cuts we have already made do not further tear apart the social fabric of our community.  While we have indeed enacted change in the name of government efficiency and reduced costs, only time will tell if our actions prove detrimental to our community.

What we have not heard from the organizers of the petition drive is exactly what additional items should be cut or what, if any, revenue enhancements should be made. Burgess Catherine Ernsky stated “I made sure to voice my opinion and suggestions on further decreasing the borough budget, which includes the Educational Board budget at our meetings. There seemed to be little support for doing this further. I was frustrated and disappointed and I will continue to push for further savings.” Facebook, June 1, 2014.  I do recall Burgess Ernsky, for whom I have a great deal of respect, asking questions and voting against various budgets; but I do not recall any specific proposals that would have had any meaningful impact on reducing the mill rate.  Others voted against different departmental budgets as well, but there were no concrete proposals presented at the adoption meeting to reduce the budget to any significant degree.

One could argue that cuts could have been made to the Board of Education (“BoE”) budget.  That is certainly a large portion of our local budget.  What is different then in years past, however, is that every line item in the BoE budget is presented to the Joint Boards and we share a variety of levels of service.  While state law allows the BoE to spend its allotted money without any input from municipal government, the institutions of cooperation in Naugatuck have changed drastically.  If Joint Board members who are now participating in the petition drive believe more cuts should be made to education, there is some level of duty to at least indicate what educational services should be cut.

State Representative Rosa Rebimbas stated “I am disappointed at the local budget, and even more disappointed at the members who voted for it. I commend the members who had the courage to ask questions, were willing to propose ideas, and voted no where necessary. We can not continue to live this way in Naugatuck.”  Facebook, May 30, 2014.  One would think that someone in Representative Rebimbas’ position would be willing to offer some specifics about exactly with what she is disappointed.

When pressed exactly what Representative Rebimbas believes should be cut in the same social media forum, her response was “A thorough response as to exactly where is not something that can be typed in a facebook post. However, I can assure you that I have met with several members and they have my notes.“  Facebook, June 1, 2014.  I recall none of Representative Rebimbas’ notes being presented at any of the budget hearings or meetings, and no one else presented anything in writing suggesting additional cuts for debate.  I certainly do not expect Representative Rebimbas to present detailed budget proposals through social media conversations, but there was ample opportunity to propose meaningful suggestions for debate throughout the many long months of budget hearings, the public hearing and the eventual adoption meeting.

Not one person on any board enjoys being part of a tax increase.  There are  hard-working community servants, both Republicans and Democrats, who serve on the Finance Board and Board of Mayor and Burgesses each year and formulate the annual budget under difficult circumstances in a non-partisan manner.  After numerous long hours, deliberation and debate, the Joint Boards has approved the 2014 – 2015 budget with one of the lowest mill rate increases possible without actually being flat.  Consider the following adjustments to the mill rate in surrounding towns:

  • NAUGATUCK:  increase of 0.26 mill
  • Ansonia:  decrease of 0.73 mill (used savings account revenue)
  • Beacon Falls:  increase of 0.6 mill
  • Derby:  increase of 0.44 mill
  • Oxford:  increase of 0.9 mill
  • Prospect:  increase of 0.9 mill
  • Seymour:  increase of 0.81 mill
  • Shelton:  no increase / flat mill rate
  • Waterbury:  increase of 1.24 mills (after hearing/pending adoption)
  • Wolcott:  increase of 1.25 mills

Unfortunately, the budget petition referendum drive this year has a strong dose of politics at its core.  It is no coincidence that many of the leaders of the petition drive were also the strongest backers of the 2013 Republican mayoral candidate.  At a time when Naugatuck truly needed a healthy debate about taxes, government reform and our local economy; we were left with one of the most dysfunctional campaigns in recent history.  I welcomed the opportunity to debate the issues and engage more residents in the process.  Campaigns and debate strengthen our democracy, provide information to residents and force us to move beyond simple soundbites.  Unfortunately Naugatuck missed that opportunity.  The politics practiced at the last election by many of those now circulating budget referendum petitions proved extremely detrimental to the last mayoral campaign for which they were involved and the party they represent.  Notwithstanding the damage done to the reputation of our community, “Common Sense” would dictate the quick and complete discard of those tactics; not a re-implementation into Naugatuck’s difficult and complex budgetary process.  Some of the same people responsible for that debacle are now asking residents outside supermarkets to force the budget to referendum without offering any information or context, many of whom might actually be paying little more or even less in overall taxes this year as a result of car depreciation.  Maybe this will have positive results as it will force more residents to actually consider more complex questions than simply “Do you want to pay lower taxes?”.  I have not heard from many people who say no to that question.

After the referendum date is set, we will then undoubtedly hear from the petition organizers how people who support the budget will stay home so that the vote will not qualify with 15% percent requirement.  The Charter specifies a minimum percentage for a reason.  Changing a local charter is a hard and time consuming process that does not happen without a lot of debate and deliberation.  In 2012, voters had the opportunity to make a benign change to make the referendum process easier:  reducing the number of petition signatures for a second and third referendum.   This measure was rejected by voters.  I suggest we consider the possibility that there is a healthy segment our community that believes that the referendum process is dominated by those use it for political gain rather than real budgetary reform.  While such citizens may not choose to publicize their every thought on social media, some may choose to express their opinion by exercising or not exercising their right to vote.

I believe I have voted in all the budget referendums Naugatuck has had, and am certain I will do so again this year.  Personally I feel an obligation to vote as the mayor of this community, even if I question the wisdom and logic behind the referendum process.  That does not mean that others are not entitled to disagree.  The privilege to vote, or not vote, is sacred in this Country; something that has been secured by the men and women of our armed forces who have risked their lives and in many cases died to protect it.  This is not North Korea or some other place that forces its citizens to vote whether or not they choose to do so.  Just because someone waives a Gadsden flag and tells everyone how big of a Patriot he or she is does not mean his or her voting privilege is more important than any other citizen.  Citizens have a right to make an informed decision and cast their respective vote, or not, based upon their respective beliefs and judgments.

Naugatuck cannot afford this politics over people approach any longer.   Throughout my tenure as Mayor I have put great efforts into making my actions and beliefs and those of my administration transparent and accountable.  I have acted openly and required those around me to do the same; and presented both good and bad news with equal candidness and responsibility.  I will continue to do so.   For a community to move forward, we must be able to determine fact from fiction through open dialog and informed debate. Individuals or groups making grand statements offering nothing in support should be considered just that: nothing.  Naugatuck deserves better.  

I would urge any resident concerned about the adopted budget and its corresponding tax implications on their personal finances to contact me directly by email (bob@bobmezzo.com ) or on my cell phone (203-217-0876) for more information.  Taxpayers may also contact the Naugatuck Tax Collector’s Office at 203-720-7051, or email Tax Collector Jim Goggin directly at jgoggin@naugatuck-ct.gov, to learn the exact amount of their new tax bill.

 

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