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Trumbull Finance Board Member: The Necessity of Bonding

Cindy Penkoff is an alternate on the Board of Finance.

There are a few people in this town that would have you believe that the current bonding issued over the last 2 years was done to give an artificial tax increase. Some think that all the things we have had to bond for should have been in the operating budget. This may be true under normal circumstances, but these are not normal circumstances and there is still more to be done. Bonding when done in a responsible manner can be the best way to handle large expenses that have been ignored and accumulated over a period of time and as long as they survive the life of the bond, with rates being what they are, are a smart choice for the town and its taxpayers.

For many years Trumbull had a 5 year plan, that every year got taken off the shelf, the dust blown off of it, updated with more wish list items and put back on the shelf. Well here is the reality check. You can only ignore the inevitable for so long. And that is what happened. It was ignored to the point that not only did something have to be done but everything had to be done; hence the bonding.

Had those serving the town in the past not ignored the roads for so long, had te BOE not made other things a priority over technology, had equipment been replaced on a rotating basis before it became dangerous to the employees, we would not be in the situation we are in. Apparently there were different priorities.

We built a new elementary school 10 years ago and a new preschool several years later and then proceeded to ignore the other 5 elementary and 2 middle schools in town ALL in desperate need of upgrades. Instead we did a $66 million renovation of the HS that still looks like a prison and continued to ignore the other schools with no plan in the near future to rectify that situation. Instead it was decided to ram through a phase 4 sewer project without reworking the numbers and making sure that it could be done within the original budget, and done right, ALL the time knowing there were issues with Phase 3.

Instead we bought up property in town and built a new building to expand town hall because we chose to grow government and municipal employees. Because of the poor decision making that has occurred and an obvious different set of priorities, the town’s biggest and most expensive needs were ignored.

Now, with all that being said, should the taxpayers be hit with a huge increase in their taxes to fix what has been ignored; what they thought was being taken care of? During a still stagnant and difficult economic period should we tell them it has to be done so here’s the bill? I don’t think so. For those that may be able to afford such things I say good for you, but the majority of this town does not have that luxury. We have had nearly 200 foreclosures in our little town and from what I see, there are many more to come. We have a large population of seniors in our town, a majority living on a fixed income and based on the numerous doors I have knocked on over the last 2 elections, many young families that live week to week.

So some may not like the road Trumbull took to rectify the problems that were ignored, but that does not mean it was not the right road to take for the residents of this town. They are after all, the people we have all promised to look out for.

Disclaimer: These are my views and may not be shared by other members of the Board of Finance or Town Committee.

Cindy Penkoff

Kristy Waizenegger April 29, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Well thanks Tom but my comment above was not directed at you specifically. I'm perplexed by your comments but not surprised. It would seem to me that if there was any plan to use the surplus money for technology, there would be no need to request money in the new budget for technology, certainly not the amount that was requested. Anyway, what do I know, right? Have a good night everyone!
Patty Sheehan April 29, 2013 at 01:26 AM
Mr.Kelly's comments and factual data supporting them are quite clear to me. I'm not sure why they are unclear to folks who are far more politically connected than I am. Ahh...an election year...always entertaining to read peoples' opinions that are "their own and no one else's". Still doesn't make sense to me to bond items for the long term that we will only have for the short term.
Kathleen McGannon April 29, 2013 at 01:57 AM
MAC, The original plan was to have Frenchtown School contain the preschool. However, Mr. Iassogna constantly stated that we needed a "school and a half" to hold all the programs. Frenchtown was built to the original specifications. My complaint was that it was built for the day it was designed--not for what probably would happen 3 years down the road when it would open. And that is exactly what happened. The population grew rapidly, meaning Frenchtown needed the preschool space for regular classroom space. Neither Ray Baldwin, nor Ken Halaby, changed the design of the school. Circumstances changed the design of the school. Mr. Kelly has given you the increase in numbers for those years. Redistricting had to be done. It was an ugly time in Trumbull! But when all was said and done, when Frenchtown opened, there was no way to fit the pre-school into that building. Another option needed to be found. The preschool, built at Middlebrooks, was the "half a school" that Mr. Iassogna kept saying was needed. Perhaps if a full second story had been planned at Frenchtown from the beginning, it would have helped accommodate the preschool. But it wasn't designed that way. Smaller school were seen as safer, open sight lines were important, etc. Frenchtown was originally designed to hold the preschool and just couldn't by the time it opened.
Kathleen McGannon April 29, 2013 at 01:57 AM
cont. The only "fault" was not predicting the rapid growth that would occur in the school population from the original design stage to completion of Frenchtown. The same thing occurred at the new preschool as well. By the time it was built, it needed to be made larger. "If you build it, they will come.: And they did!
Scot Kerr April 29, 2013 at 03:28 AM
Kristy - We can't all agree that the nature of BOE budget lacks transparency. The budget is developed in full public view with the input of all interested parties; the BOE finances are reported in detail on a monthly basis by the business manager; account transfers are done as a matter of the public record. The school system's finances couldn't be more transparent, and that's a credit to all who helped fix the problems Kathleen McGannon explains above. Unfortunately, the use of the 1% holdover has complicated matters, but it seemed necessary last year when we were implementing a massive new program in full-day Kindergarten. While the BOE finances may not always be as straightforward or predictable as we'd all like, you can't say they are not transparent.

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