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Easton Mill Rate Increase Tabled

With discomfort over position of the mill rate and level of public awareness on the issue, the Board of Finance tables the issue of increasing the Mill Rate. Voters pass a 4.1 million dollar budget, increasing taxes.

Easton’s Board of Finance met Tuesday night to do some housecleaning. Though , the financiers decided to table discussion on the mill rate.

Grace Stanczyk, Easton's comptroller, mentioned that no one from PNC was present at the meeting on Oct. 14 to discuss hiring a consultant for Saddle Ridge, therefore; the issue was not previously commented on.

“If PNC hasn’t come back since November, to me, it’s a dead horse,” said financier Andy Kechele.

“Nine-thousand [dollars] went into a fee and left in revenue of the planning zone, and $14,000 was used for Saddle Ridge changes,” Stanczyk said. “It was an agenda item that wasn’t mentioned.”

Planning and Zoning had approached Stanczyk at an earlier date, and made her aware of the fact that they would be short $1,810 out of a $20,000 fee; $9,960 was meant to be the original fee instead of having to place $24,000 in revenue, according to Stanczyk.

“When they have an unusual fee, then it is used to offset the consultants,” Kechele explained. “It’s only considered an expense in the sense that we require the developer to pay the fee."

Board member Lee Hanson stated that he was uncomfortable with the way that Kechele saw the situation.

“That’s sort of like sliding expenses,” he stated.

Stanczyk explained her reasons for the board’s actions.

“This was an agenda item in October for the board to review, but there was no comment [on] the minutes,” she said.

Special appropriation for the professional services and fees for a legal consultant of Saddle Ridge was the next item up for discussion. A $307,500 principal payment which was due in July, was discovered to be unnoted in debt service reports. Accounts that have been created in order to maintain funds for the leased property will not cover the expense.

“Due to the fact that at the time, an outside consultant was payed for, therefore; that account was largely consumed,” First Selectman Thomas Herman explained. “Fees were charged to the legal budget,” he said. “Historically that has not been the case.”

Fees charged to the Board of Finance cover four areas, according to Herrmann. The four areas are:

  • litigation services relative to lawsuits.
  • professional services in anticipation of legal services.
  • coaching, counseling, and consulting.
  • assistance towards planning and zoning (notices and agendas).

“As a community we need these types of services,” Herrmann said. “We need to send out a notice, we need to rely on council."

About $30,000 worth of services were charged to legal services.

“My understanding is it is a subcategory,” Herrmann said. “If we were to transfer those services to the budget, we would be short $18,000 to $20,000 in fees. If we reclassify the fees in the last two categories, we should be fine.”

Herman said he’d ask for the procreation of $20,000 in fees.

“We’ve got to keep in mind it’s $20,000 more than we are anticipating coming out of surplus,” Kechele said.

“We can’t re-classify it all without an appropriation,” Herrmann stated. “I am cautiously optimistic that the work we have done will apply.”

Hanson jumped in with his concerns.

“This could be a $40,000 dollar hit that we have not planned,” Hanson said. “If you don’t have an idea of where you are spending the money, you should not be asking for it. A budget is a plan, and a plan is not ‘I’m going to spend $100,000 dollars. Once you get sloppy, the game is over."

With concerns that the board would not leave enough in surplus for the coming year, and with much debate, they took no action on increasing the mill rate. They have decided to have a meeting at a later date.

Helen Keller capital project

The  capital project was then discussed. The financier needs to collect the final payment from the state of Connecticut for the project.

“[The project] needs to be audited by the state, and it could take up to two years to audit,” Stanczyk said.

According to Treasurer, John Campbell, there is still money left in the Helen Keller project that can be used towards the capital project. Broach then confirmed that two years is the maximum that it would take the state to audit the project. Broach reminded the board that an audit would accelerate the results, but it would not cause them to be instantaneous.

“We’ve waited ten years,” stated Stanczyk. “We can wait two more.”

No action was taken by the board in reference to this issue.

Plans for later dates

The lease and purchase agreement between the Prayer Center and the town will be discussed at a later date. The financiers are between a rock and a hard place with the land which the center leases from the South Park property. With only two options, extending or purchasing the land, a decision needs to be made.

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