Kevin Keenan (D): Efficient Budgeting and Stewardship of Infrastructure

Town Tribune Article,  October 12, 2017. In our campaign for Selectman and First Selectman of Sherman, Don Lowe and I have adopted an approach that states we will pursue, among other things: (1) Better and more efficient budgeting, and (2) Proper stewardship of facilities and infrastructure. Achievement of these goals is more of a necessity now than ever before because of Hartford’s inability to pass a state budget. Imagine a budget without state funding – The Town of Sherman will be on its own.

In Sherman the Board of Selectman acts as the Board of Finance. So in addition to the general budget requirements (e.g. salaries, insurance, debt service) the heads of certain departments and the Board of Education present their budget requests to the Board of Selectman. The BOS reviews, alters and eventually recommends the budget for a Town meeting. The citizens and taxpayers of Sherman ultimately approve the budget based on the review of our Board of Selectman. The First Selectman, as the chief executive officer, must be aware of what is needed for the town to operate efficiently, achieving this through regular communication with the people who make Sherman run.

With that said, consider that the Board of Education returned (i.e. surplus) close to $400,000 from the 2016 -2017 budget year. The previous year, 2015-2016, close to $300,000 was returned to the town. This surplus money goes into the town’s general fund, which can then be diverted into other accounts, usually upon recommendation of the Town Treasurer. The money can be used for capital non-recurring expenses. Incidentally this is a reason for the upcoming October 21 Town meeting. It is nice to have this money on hand considering the state budget situation, but is it efficient? Transparent?

The second part of our platform (proper stewardship of facilities and infrastructure) is intimately involved with the first part (better and more efficient governing) because as we all know smart management of facilities protects us-the taxpayers-from careless overspending. Two small capital projects have been completed in the town in the last six years. But have they been pursued efficiently? In my business when I am asked to bid on a project I make my best effort to estimate the cost of labor and material to produce a price, attain the job, and make a profit. That is the nature of business.

Why not run the Town of Sherman as a business? Well there are things in the public sector that do not apply to the private sector, like open bidding. Generally any project or service rendered to the Town must be advertised so everyone has an opportunity to provide a price. Is it efficient? No not necessarily. It takes time, you do not know who is bidding or their quality of work. It is better to go with a vendor you have used before because you know what to expect. The upside to open bidding is you can get a better sense of what the job is worth. or an answer to the question “Am I about to spend taxpayers dollars the best way possible?”

Another reason for the October 21 town meeting is a request from the Board of Selectman to appropriate $32,000 from the capital non-recurring fund for the Fox Run detention basin. This situation dates back to the previous administration and involves upgrading/renovating a detention basin on a town-owned road that is presumably silting in a Candlewood Lake cove. Perhaps some additional research should have done for the Town’s benefit but that is “water under the bridge.” What you can take issue with is that since this “problem” came up. three engineers have reviewed the plan-most recently our newly hired engineer. The grant from the State of Connecticut to renovate the basin was $60,000. The recently received low bid to do the work was $67,000. The town is being asked to spend an additional $32,000, of which $25,000 amounts to unbudgeted engineering costs. Is that efficient?

I have a construction and planning background both of which will serve the Town; Don Lowe has the leadership capabilities. The Town of Sherman has employees and a plethora of citizens who are capable of initiating and monitoring a project. Together, we can produce the efficiencies that will make Sherman an even better place to live.