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The Town Budget Deserves Your Support

Discusion on the Budget referendum May 15th.

Remember the Budget VOTE is tomorrow Tuesday May 15. This budget increases spending by $1.8 million, about 2.6 percent, it provides for smaller class sizes at the schools, staffing to support full day kindergarten, an additional police officer, investment in maintenance of our facilities and contributions to pay for emergency vehicles in the future.

I hope you will support the budget and Vote yes. This budget is a good balance between meeting the long term needs of our community, maintaining the quality of life we have come to expect in Brookfield, while recognizing the limited resources available to many in these hard economic times. As a result of the revaluation and this spending plan, most residents in town will see their taxes go down.

I have become aware of a flyer being distributed in town urging a No Vote on the budget. The flyer attempts to conflate many disparate issues trying to give some the impression of incompetence or lack of concern for the welfare of the town on the part of community leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. The spending plan provides efficient and effective use of town resources. I have heard no one come up with any specifics as to a better way or alternatively identify what services they would give up in order to achieve a lower spending plan. Without such specifics these people are just making noise and acting in a way that undermines the sustainability of Brookfield’s quality of life.

I should also point out; personally, I find the distribution of this flyer without any attribution as to its source unfortunate. One has to wonder if they feel strongly about their position, why they fail to stand up and identify themselves. I have no trouble with disagreements, but let’s do it in a positive why, face to face where people can weigh the facts and the credibility of those who articulate them.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Michael Gianfranceschi May 15, 2012 at 02:45 AM
howard, i was called by robo call by the superintent of schools to vote on the budget. He didn't say which way to vote, but if this was only a call to parents of students and not everyone in town i feel this is a misuse and a conflict of interest. I would be interested in learning just what is going on.
Catherine Malek May 15, 2012 at 09:49 AM
Reminding parents to vote is a misuse? Why? Michael, remember that (y)our children receive services and use resources that cost money. When budgets are defeated, taxpayers may save an additional $20 to $25 a year, but at what cost to the town and school services? Special Education federal funding has been greatly reduced, grant funding for paraprofessionals has been cut, and costs for diesel oil, heating oil, electricity and many other required resources have risen. Parents have historically had the lowest turnout at the polls, so we have had a majority of the voters deciding that our class sizes have to grow and our programs have to be cut. The superintendent is reminding parents to vote so more residents in town share the responsibility of deciding the outcome of this town. If you as a parent should choose to vote no, that is your choice, but at least he reminded you to get to the polls so you can share in the decision making process. I would like to add that many of these vote no flyers were found inside mailboxes which is illegal.
Ray DiStephan May 15, 2012 at 09:58 AM
Catherine is correct. Using the school's electronic communications to simply remind parents to vote is NOT a misuse in any way, shape or form. This occurs in nearly all other school districts. It is a public service announcement to remind people to vote... Nothing more. Catherine is also correct that placing anything in anyone's mailbox that was not sent through the US Mail is illegal. Go vote!
David Propper May 15, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Michael, I believe the goal should be 100% voter turnout. Therefore, I do not object to Get out the Vote campaigns. By their nature, these campaigns target particular audiences. If the Senior Center did robocalls to people on their service lists, would you object to that? It effectively excludes non-Seniors. I wouldn't. In fact, if they don't do them, they should (so long as it is simply a reminder to vote).
Rob Gianazza May 15, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Howard, I was not fortunate enough to receive one of these conflated flyers, and while I agree that when expressing ones opinion one should take credit for their commentary, are you really suggesting that it is untruthful? That seems to be a suppression of free speech. But while we're on the subject of truthfulness, I recall you stating that if your assessed home value went down by 20%, you would most likely have lower homeowner taxes. This I do not dispute. But what about personal property taxes? What if you are a local business owner in Brookfield? Your omission of specificity speaks volumes about truthfulness.
Howard Lasser May 15, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Rob, Your personal attack is unwarranted and unjustified. I don’t know how you get “suppression of free speech” from what I wrote but you are entitled to read into it what you will. Those who distributed the flyer without attribution are in violation of the state law regarding such matters. The law requires that in order to advocate on behalf of a referendum you must register as a Political Action Committee and you must identify your organization on your printed materials. The fact that those who distributed this flyer did not do so in my mind speaks volumes. As for the tax rate: you may recall earlier in the year I did a presentation to the Board of Selectmen which explained the changes in the distribution of tax burden. I am sorry if you were not paying attention or did not understand it. I have always indicated the tax burden will shift from residences to businesses. I also noted that while property values had declined in the Grand List, the value of personal property and motor vehicles increased. I have not focused on the tax impact of that as it makes up a small part of the overall grand list and it is complicated at the individual level by the various depreciation schedules that apply to various classes of property and the diversity of the types of personal property.
Rob Gianazza May 15, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Howard, this is not a personal attack. In fact I agreed with you about signing ones name. Call it what you like, however you take offense to anyone offering an opinion differing from your own. Perhaps sharing the whole truth is difficult for you, but it is you that attacked me, indicating that I may not be paying attention. That was rude and uncalled for, and unbecoming of an elected official. The facts are that if you lost 20% of your assessed home value you may see a decrease in your homeowners taxes, but not all taxes. You are not disputing that, but attempting to shift the focus away from that. But I guess you need to go with your strengths, and you are indeed very talented at shifting the focus.
BuckWheat May 15, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Why on earth would anyone vote to increase there taxes, seems silly to me. How about reducing costs. If this were a business, I don't think they would ask the customers to pay more, they would figure out a way to reduce costs.
John Funk May 15, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Registration Is Not Required When: • An individual expends funds or resources in support or opposition to the referendum question independently of any other person. However, financial disclosure statements concerning such expenditures are required when the individual expends in excess of $1,000 to promote the success or defeat of a referendum question. This financial disclosure statement is SEEC Form 22 entitled “Independent Expenditures Statement.” The individual must file these statements on the same filing dates applicable to financial disclosure statements filed by referenda committees. [Section 9-602(a), 9-612(d), CT General Statutes] Perhaps the flyer maker is an individual.. and has spent less than $1,000.. then registration is not required nor is their disclosure. It doesn't really matter who they are, what matters is are the facts correct or not? I reviewed the facts as presented in the flyer and don't find any that are inaccurate. That is what should be discussed. Instead of trying to make this personal by saying anyone that challenges a fact is making a personal attack. is just not right. Let's stick to discussing the facts? I agree with the flyer and feel that in this day and age..we ought to keep spending flat at best... Most families have had to cut back their spending.. not increased it year after year. Why can't government restrain their spending appetite?
Ray DiStephan May 15, 2012 at 07:21 PM
According to today's Patch http://brookfield.patch.com/articles/average-gas-prices-in-ct-drop-to-below-3-per-gallon-292e111c gas is DOWN from last year. So there is one fact that is wrong. Of course the author(s) give no time referrence when he/she/they claims that all of these things are "up", nor do they cite where they got the information. This budget is considerate of those who may be struggling as well as those who still need the services to be there. Cutting back on services like education does not seem like a very good strategy to recover from economic turmoil. Rather it seems like a good way to perpetuate it.
Howard Lasser May 15, 2012 at 07:23 PM
You are correct with regard to reporting when an individual spends funds. However, when it is a group, which the flyer clearly states this is from registration is required, at least that is my understanding. As for the substance, as I said in my blog, no one has indicated any waste in any area of the budget. Cuts will result in service reductions, fewer teachers, fewer policemen, fewer hours at the library. It is easy to say cut, it is far more difficult to say what you will do without. I have heard people suggest what others should give up. What will you give up?
Michael Gianfranceschi May 15, 2012 at 07:42 PM
I agree that 100% voter turnout is the goal. so why not do a robo call to ALL residents. after all this is a town system paid for by everyone. a more cynical person would believe that this call was placed to parents only to attempt to ensure a particular vote. And Ray just because other districts do this doesn't make it proper, perhaps instead of "following t[he leader" Brookfield can make up thier own collective mind.
John Funk May 15, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Yes.. gas prices have recently stopped climbing after a long, long trend of climbing.. wasn't gas $1.80 when Obama took office? Something like that. You're not going to convince many that gas is now cheap. Regardless ~I do now see the small print "created and funded by private citizens". Did one create it and another fund it? A subtlety of the law not worth debating and I'm no longer practising. The debate should be on the content. I don't think the question is what can I do without... it is what can government do without? Many in retirement are on fixed incomes... social security and whatever one put away in my 401k.. Not many have pensions and healthcare paid for by taxpayers. I've already cut back, no cable, no dinners out, and no vacations, no new car, no air conditioning,.. and I'm not asking for cuts.. I'm asking for no increases. ~There's a difference. The town can't possibly operate on the same amount they spent last year? I think they can. If you can't then step aside and let someone else that can. Government can find a way when forced to. By voting No.. maybe it will happen. Government needs to find more creative ways to spend my money wisely.. how about using volunteers for kids kingdom as an example.. how about thinking of new ways to do more with less? Its easy to spend others money... it takes leadership and creativity to figure out a better way. ~Thats all I have to say about that. JF
David Propper May 15, 2012 at 08:24 PM
I believe that I received it because I signed up to receive messages from the school. It is my understanding that this is where the phone number list was generated. When my kids graduate, I will take my name off the list because I don't want to receive the other messages throughout the year. The list already exists and was utilized as a public service for those whom have given their names to be contacted. I like a system which requires me to volunteer to participate. Can you imagine the uproar if school emergency announcements went out to the entire town? Then somebody would complain about receiving the calls. ...
David Propper May 15, 2012 at 08:28 PM
The bottom of the flier states "Created and funded by private citizens of no particular party or affiliation. That sounds like multiple people to me.
John Funk May 15, 2012 at 09:17 PM
DP.. Yes.. it could be a group.. who knows. I think a more important issue is the use of town resources to influence the referendum. This is a more serious violation. "Connecticut's election laws generally prohibit the use of public funds or resources to influence the outcome of a referendum. When public funds are spent in connection with a referendum question there must be strict adherence to the authorizing statutes set forth in Chapter 152 of the Connecticut General Statutes for the expenditure of these monies." I think it is quite easy to show that although the "how to vote" message is not directly written or spoken in the schools broadcasts.. the implied message of how to vote is clearly communicated. Implied messages are still an attempt to influence the vote. The voicemail or email doesn't need to say directly how to vote without still it is still being a very clear attempt to influence the vote. The conflict of interest is quite clear and apparent. Anyone that argues it is merely a public service announcement must think the rest of us are simply simpletons. ~We're not. JF
Ray DiStephan May 15, 2012 at 10:26 PM
We will not agree on this. But the fact of the matter is that the robo call from the school was neither illegal nor unethical by any set of voting standards that exist in our state or our town.
David Propper May 15, 2012 at 11:01 PM
John, I can promise you that I do not think of you as a simpleton. I support all legal get out the vote campaigns. If the Senior Center wanted to run a robocall reminder to their clientele, I would be fully supportive of it and not complain that it was an attempt to influence the vote.
FairQuestions May 15, 2012 at 11:49 PM
I have a child in the High School, when she graduates in 2 years, I will no longer receive the call. Is my vote less important now that my child is not in school? Does my opinion matter less? I am in a unique position for several reasons.. If calls are made as a service to the citizens of this town, they should be made to all, period.
Ray DiStephan May 16, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Budget passed by 228 votes... Thank you Brookfield!
Howard Lasser May 16, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Thanks to all for the spirited discussion. Thank you to the community for supporting the budget.
Michael Gianfranceschi May 16, 2012 at 01:03 AM
it might not be illegal but it is certainly unethical to use a town system to call only one segment of the population.Wonder why government and politicians have ahigh disapproval rating?Because they bend the rules and screw around and when we have the audacity to complain they tell us "its not illegal" B.S.
Victor Katz May 16, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Brookfield will continue to move forward! A huge thanks to everyone who made it out to the polls!
John Funk May 16, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Congratulations. I presume that another 3%+ increase will be drastically needed next year too. Why not go for 5%+... it's free money after all! lol Here are the facts to consider in the "illegal" use of town assets to influence the vote. The school DOES directly ask parents to vote "yes" for the budget, but this is often done in forums not easily discoverable by the non school public. I'd bet there are multiple instances of this happening. One example.. before the beginning of BHS's "Grease" someone in an official capacity introduced the play and asked everyone in the audience to please vote "for" the budget. The superintendent was present at this event. Watch the video tape. I was quite surprised when no opposition view was made. Then later school officials send out messages asking parents to remember to vote. The conflict of interest and misuse of town assets is plain, isn't it?. Since the messages are designed to remind only parent voters to vote.. and they were already were told how to vote... it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the conflict of interest and how this was a successful attempt to influence the voting block that would vote the way they wanted. Once the school takes a position and asks parents to vote a certain way then the use of town assets afterward to promote what they pretend is a neutral position sure seems to be violation of election law. JF
Kathie Schilling May 16, 2012 at 01:16 PM
The Town of Brookfield website recently introduced a monthly newsletter that is available to ALL residents who sign up. Going forward, this list will be used to send out reminders similar to what the school eNews does now. If you would like to participate, you can sign up at this link: http://brookfieldct.gov/Pages/index. I would also like to point out that it is not necessary to have children in the schools to sign up for school eNews. You can do so at this link: http://www.brookfield.k12.ct.us/subsite/dist/page/district-information-e-news-1312.
John Funk May 16, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Kathie: Thank you for this information... I appreciate that the town recently introduced a E-newsletter. I haven't seen it yet. Will the town also use a voice message system exactly as the school uses to remind all registered voters about an election? If not then the system remains unbalanced, unfair and therefore illegal. The school system ought to be used for school issues only, the public service of reminding voters to vote would OK if it weren't an attempt to influence the vote.. I mean the system is not used for any other general civic notification.. ie "remember to get your dog license." "Beach passes now available at Parks and rec" etc.. It seems slanted towards unfair influence when the only civic reminder outside of direct school business happens to be the one that the sender (school) has a direct and conflicting interest in.. doesn't it?
Kathie Schilling May 16, 2012 at 11:30 PM
The Town eNews will eventually function exactly like the School eNews. However, it is still in its infancy and has only a small number of subscribers, so the voice message system will probably not come online for some months. But yes, if you are signed up, you will receive notification by email and, eventually, voice message. As for the School eNews being used for non-school topics, this is actually pretty common. Some examples of School eNews civic topics are the Garden Club Plant Sale, programs at the Library for children and teens, Relay for LIfe, the Park & Rec Babysitter Training Program and the Halloween Trunk or Treat. Also, eNews sends out reminders for Municipal (and other) Elections, Public Hearings and Town Meetings, as needed.

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