Letter from Elaine Hammers, Board of Finance Chairman

As the Chairman of the Board of Finance, I enthusiastically endorse Bill Haberlin for the Board of Finance in the Special Election on July 22nd. This is a very important election for our town.   Bill currently holds this seat and was a great asset during our last budget cycle. He brings a balanced perspective to the process taking into consideration the needs of all our residents from the youngest to the oldest.

Bill’s opponent, Lainie McHugh, recently published a letter to the editor in the June 19th issue of the Trumbull Times that included many incorrect facts. I would like to make sure that the voters have the correct information.

Ms. McHugh says she will demand transparency from the WPCA regarding financial reports and professional audit reports; call for an immediate forensic audit of the North Nichols project; and advocate for lower sewer usage fees and work to foster improved relationships with surrounding communities .

The WPCA is an enterprise fund and while the Board of Finance approves its budget annually its daily operation falls under the jurisdiction of the WPCA. Financial and professional audit reports have been done and are available on-line at www.trumbull-ct.gov.

It was Ms. McHugh’s Democrat party that awarded the bid in North Nichols and First Selectman Herbst who has worked tirelessly to clean up the mess with the sewer projects. An audit was performed on the previous sewer project and her party complained it added unnecessarily to the cost. All the lessons learned from the earlier sewer project audit have been applied to the North Nichols project and the group that performed the audit has been working with us through the North Nichols project –her party has also criticized this additional cost.

It is the job of the First Selectman to negotiate sewer usage fees, so unless Ms. McHugh has confused the Board of Finance with Office of the First Selectman, she will have no impact on this issue. The sewer rates are based on an agreement with Bridgeport which was signed by a First Selectman from her party.

Ms. McHugh says she will support increasing senior tax relief for those who need it most. Senior Tax relief and expanding senior tax relief has been championed by First Selectman Herbst, supported by the Board of Finance and voted upon by the Town Council. Nice of Ms. McHugh to jump on the Republican bandwagon regarding senior tax relief.

Ms. McHugh says she will fight for appropriate education funding so Trumbull Public schools will move forward. What she is saying is that she will raise taxes 6% to 8% on an annual basis because these are the types of increases she has publicly supported. In 2008, Ms. McHugh advocated for a budget that would have increased taxes by 11.6%. At every public hearing the Board of Finance has held since I have returned to the board, Ms. McHugh has advocated for approval of every dollar requested by the Board of Education, and then some. The Trumbull taxpayers cannot afford Ms. McHugh.

Ms. McHugh says she will correctly prioritize spending and search out efficiencies wherever possible. Bill Haberlin along with your current Board of Finance already does this and does it quite well as we have proven by the consistently low tax increases over the past five years.

Then, she went on to talk about what she won’t do…

Ms. McHugh says she will not vote to raid the General Fund to artificially lower tax rates. When the General Fund has an excess – it is your money. The only way the Board of Finance can return the money to the taxpayers (its rightful owner) is to use the excess fund balance to lower the tax rate for the following year. Not transferring the money to fund the budget means that she wants to tax you twice!!!

Ms. McHugh says she will not take money from the Police Special Agency fund to artificially lower taxes. This fund consists of the fees paid by outside agencies, like the utility companies, to have officers work traffic support at their job sites on our roadways. A portion of these fees are for administrative costs the town incurs (i.e. billing; payroll, etc.) in connection with the police special duty assignments and belongs in the town budget. It is a practice that we were doing when I first went on the Board of Finance over 25 years ago and see no reason to stop now.

As for her suggestion of using the Special Agency Fund to fund the police pension, that would only be a one-time gimmick and not a solid long term solution. We have made tremendous progress over the past five year and for the first time in over thirty years reached the ARC (actuarially recommended contribution) for the town employee pension – the largest of the town pensions. And if Bill Haberlin is on the board for the next budget cycle we should be able to do the same for the police pension. Consistent annual funding is the key to solving our pension shortfalls, not the years of zero or very low funding that occurred while the Democrats were in control and got us into mess.

Ms. McHugh says she will not vote to bond greenhouses we do not need, repairs to barns for which we have no use, nor bond operational expenses to hide our true spending increases.   I’ve looked at the bonds over the last two years and can’t find the greenhouse she is referring to. As to the barn, it is a town storage building on property we own and should take proper care of unless she would like us to create a blight situation in a residential area. We take bonding very seriously and only bond capital expenses with a 20 year life when we do a 20 year bond.

Again, I ask you to keep Bill Haberlin on the Board of Finance. Bill will work to keep your taxes low and properly fund education, support senior tax relief and the new senior center project. He will work to keep the three pillars of Trumbull strong; Sound Finances, Great Schools and Outstanding Quality of Life. Please join me in voting for Bill Haberlin for Board of Finance so we can continue the work of the past 5 years during which your tax rate increase averaged of 2%.