NEWTOWN — The Legislative Council held a public hearing to gather feedback regarding the 2020-21 budget on Wednesday, March 18.
A phone number was provided so that members of the public could comment, although they were asked to avoid attending the meeting in person to reduce the potential spread of the coronavirus.
Chair Paul Lundquist noted a number of people participating by phone, including council members, and pointed out that the meeting was available as a live stream from the town website.
Nancy White, Butternut Ridge, disagreed with the cut of an elementary music teacher, but said she supported both the town and education budgets.
Catherine Burke, Taunton Hill Road, said she supported the original education budget as approved by the Board of Education prior to the $100,000 cut as made by the Board of Finance.
“I know my kids’ teachers have done a fabulous job,” she said, noting they had made an extra effort to make sure students were able to continue the learning experience after schools closed due to social distancing practices.
There were no further comments from the public.
Following the hearing, the council held its regular meeting.
During his report to the council, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal noted that Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed the town’s AAA rating.
Given the recent volatility in the market, Finance Director Bob Tait is monitoring the situation to ensure that the town realizes savings by refunding its bonds this month, an action planned several weeks ago.
Mr. Rosenthal continued his report by crediting the school district with successfully implementing online learning and distributing lunches and educational materials to students.
The Municipal Center is continuing to serve the public and the building is open to the public on an appointment only basis. Police have suspended what the first selectman termed white glove services, such as assisting parents with the installation of child safety seats.
He acknowledged that Edmond Town Hall has lost revenue given event cancellations but the town is in good shape regarding winter storm expenses.
Construction at the police station is continuing with some limits placed on who is on site and he said, “At the moment, it is on schedule.”
During the meeting, Mr. Lundquist noted that the committees are continuing to examine the 2020-21 municipal and education budgets and will offer their reports to the full council on April 1; they will make their final decision on the matter on April 8.
The council discussed the timing of the budget referendum, learning from Mr. Rosenthal that the governor was considering an executive order to delay the primary by 30 days, which would move the referendum date that is currently set for Tuesday, April 28.
Mr. Rosenthal said there is no way to know if the situation will be better or worse in May.
Mr. Lundquist said there is time before the governor makes a decision and the council can weight decisions such as combining the primary and budget referendum votes on one ballot.
Two days after the meeting, the governor moved Connecticut’s presidential primary to June 2.
Gov. Ned Lamont also signed an executive order on Saturday, March 21, which extends the budget adoption deadlines and suspends the in-person budget adoption requirements for municipalities.
Also during the meeting, the council considered the question of asking voters if they would approve a change to the Fairfield Hills Master Plan, which would precipitate a discussion with the Planning and Zoning Commission to perhaps allow mixed use on campus.
Mr. Rosenthal noted that he’d canceled a meeting earlier in the week, where developers would have presented possible projects at Fairfield Hills because he wanted to avoid gathering hundreds of interested residents and risking their health.
He’s asked the developers to instead create a video presentation that would specifically describe ideas for the campus, adding that concerns about the virus have prompted him to consider moving the question of whether residents would accept mixed use or housing on campus to the November ballot.
He said he would like to have a meaningful community conversation prior to the vote, adding that his focus should be on keeping residents safe and how the town can continue running in the current atmosphere.
Council member Dan Wiedemann pointed out that a vote now might reflect a smaller percentage of all voters.
Mr. Rosenthal said he would like to revisit the matter when it is known if the referendum date would be moved to May and Mr. Lundquist agreed the matter could be revisited at the council’s next meeting within a week.