Friday, March 25, 2016

Open Letter To The South Fire District Board Of Fire Commissioners


Dear Commissioners,

The regular monthly meeting of the South Fire District Board Of Fire Commissioners scheduled for February 8,2016 was cancelled due to weather. Unfortunately and as the meeting notice included setting dates for the critical district budget review workshops, time has pass. This meeting, which would have provided the public ample lead time to best research, understand and participate in the district proposed 2016-17 budget discussions, was not rescheduled.

Again, at the March 14,2016 regular monthly meeting and with some five weeks of opportunity having passed, the board chose to allow another two weeks to slip away and hastily scheduled workshops for the  5th, 11th and 13th of April 2016 at 6 pm, a difficult time for working families to attend. Overall, this action seriously crams the entire process, with only a few days between workshops to review the various proposed budget drafts. Additionally, the entire budget is now scheduled to be finalized only thirteen business days prior to the actual district budget vote of Tuesday, May 3,2016.

Certainly, it seems that the board could do better on behalf of the heavily fire-taxed residents and small businesses of the district. Over the past recent years taxpayers have realized increased district taxes, driven via new spending and built-in program elements that are escalating. The current 2015-16 budget in excess of $5 million remains very concerning, including an all time high mill rate of 4.468. Such taxpayer angst was evident when the current budget passed by only 63 votes.

This rushed approach certainly short changes the district taxpayers. Given such, its seems that the board would agree that its critical that any draft proposed budget for 2016-17 be made available both in hard copy and posted on-line well in advance of each of the scheduled workshops. Detail associated with line item spending should also be available.  This would assure full disclosure while representing a positive first step with advancing the public interest relative to the district budget process.

Our State and City are facing some of the most challenging fiscal times. Responsibly and to deal with such spending reduction options, both are acting well in advance so as to best prepared to deal with some very difficult operational and program support decisions.

The South Fire District tax payers are encouraged to attend the identified South Fire District budget workshops, to best protect their interest.

Given the existing South Fire District budgets of recent years, a reduced or zero increase budget is certainly achievable. In the best interest of district taxpayers and knowing of the excellent services provided by the district firefighters, it seems that the South Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners can demonstrate responsible fiscal stewardship by delivering such.

Dan Penney
Middletown, CT 06457

Editor: Thanks for the input, Dan.

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