Straight Talk about Audits; or, Why Our Tax Dollars Might Be at Risk

Recently, questions have been raised about the current Town administration’s handling of Bolton’s application to the State for reimbursement of eligible costs of the Bolton High School renovation project. This post is an attempt to give voters some information about this issue.

BHSUnfortunately, what little has been put out by the Republican leadership has been misleading at best and has done little to increase our understanding of what went wrong, what the consequences have been, or what consequences the Town might still face.

In fact, we might not have known anything about this problem if a group of concerned citizens had not shown up at the March 7, 2017, Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting to ask pointed questions of the First Selectman and the Town Administrator (read the minutes here).

When the BHS project was approved by referendum, the voters anticipated that the Town would be able to take advantage of State reimbursement funds available for school renovation. A State grant was sought and obtained to partially fund the project.

However, State funds are not paid up front—they are paid in the form of periodic progress payments to reimburse a percentage of eligible costs, with a “hold back” of 5% that is paid, if at all, after the Town makes a final submission of project costs and documentation and the State completes a final audit of the project.

Pending reimbursement by the State, the Town funded the project by borrowing some of the money and by taking some from the Town’s fund surplus or “rainy day fund.” (The administration has referred to this as the “Town borrowing from itself.”)

We should realize, however, that when money is taken from a surplus fund, the town loses interest income: Money that’s not there doesn’t generate interest, and the lowered fund balance could eventually effect our bond rating if the money is not replaced.

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Kim Miller

Please take few minutes to watch Kim Miller’s presentation at last week’s candidate forum at the Bolton Senior Center.

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Eric Bevans

On October 26, the candidates for First Selectman and the Boards of Selectmen, Education, and Finance participated in a candidate forum at the Bolton Senior Center. Our thanks to the Senior Center for hosting the event and to the residents who came out to hear from the candidates.

Here’s the talk Board of Finance candidate Eric Bevans gave. His is a newer face in town, so please take just a few minutes to get to know him better!

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Congratulations, Bessy Reyna!

This Saturday, poet, journalist, activist, and Bolton resident Bessy Reyna will be honored at a gala ceremony for the 2017 class of inductees to the Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame (IHHF). The gala takes place at CCSU in New Britain. Tickets for the event are available here.

The IHHF “Celebrates the diverse ethnic heritage of our state by honoring individuals and institutions, who exemplify the best of their immigrant heritage and have made outstanding contributions to the cultural, economic, and civic development of the state.”

Bessy was born in Cuba and raised in Panama. A former opinion columnist for the Hartford Courant and now a writer for Identidad Latina and CTLatinoNews.com, she writes about gender, ethnicity, and equality. In 2012 she was honored by the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame. She is also the recipient of numerous literary awards.

The importance of immigrants to Bolton is indisputable. Whether they be Italian, Portuguese, Latvian, Indian, Turkish, or Cuban, whether they are new arrivals to town or trace their roots here back generations, the mix of backgrounds is a key part of the vibrancy of our community and enriches us all. Congratulations to Bessy for this honor!

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Bessy Reyna (left) with John Toomey and Susan Holmes at the Bolton Democrat of the Year celebration in September 2017

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Interview with Nicole Sullivan

Today we sat down for a quick interview with Nicole Sullivan, candidate for Board of Selectmen.

Q: Of all the towns in Connecticut, why did you choose Bolton?

My family had been living in a neighboring town, in a great little neighborhood, in a great little house. But our oldest daughter was getting close to starting school, and we weren’t in love with the school system. So, I did what I do: I jumped in and did copious amounts of research!

Bolton has great schools, and it’s a great location for our commute to work. So it made our short list. When we found the neighborhood where we live now, it was a done deal! Every day I’m thankful we found Bolton. Moving here was the best decision we ever made. We love this town!

What does Bolton do right?

Bolton’s schools have a long-standing reputation for excellence. I could cite many, many statistics to back that up, but the most important thing for us is that they’ve been backed up by the very positive experience we’ve had with everyone we’ve worked with in the school system.

I love the sense of community in Bolton. There are so many great activities that make this town wonderful to live in. From the summer concerts on the green, to the Memorial Day parade and Family Day, to the recent fire department tanker dedication, to every ice cream social and town dinner. There are countless ways to join in the community here.

What could Bolton do better?

Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what is going on around town. Even the town activities I just mentioned aren’t widely advertised. If you know where to look for information, you can most of the time find it. But, even then it can be challenging to know what’s going on! The town website is often out of date, and the website design is not the easiest to navigate.

Getting information about what’s going on shouldn’t be that hard. Not for community events, and certainly not for more serious town issues!

What in your background will help you make improvements when you’re on the BOS?

In my day job at Pratt & Whitney, one of my main functions is to work as a DIVE team leader, which essentially means I lead teams working to solve big problems.

I’ve been acting in this capacity for about ten years, and on every team I’ve been on, communication has always been an item that needs improvement. So, I have lots of experience trying to figure out who needs what information and how to get it to them. I’m confident I can translate that professional experience into improved communications at the town level.

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BOS candidate Nicole Sullivan with BOF candidates Eric Bevans and Robert DePietro.

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Interview with Mary Terhune

Mary Terhune is a candidate for Board of Assessment Appeals and for Planning and Zoning. We sat down with her for a quick interview.

Thanks for sitting down with us today, Mary. What made you interested in running for Planning and Zoning?

As a real estate appraiser for about 30 years, I have familiarity with P&Z regulations in many towns, including Bolton. I also understand the impact of regulations on developers, property owners, property values, and the environment.

And Board of Assessment Appeals?

For the past 10 years I have worked for a municipality in eastern Connecticut as the Property Appraiser, and I have also attained the assessor certification CCMA II. You could say I know “both sides of the coin” on assessment appeals. I strongly believe in every person’s right to appeal their assessment, which is the basis for their tax bill, but I also know how appeals may effect the town’s net Grand List, which is part of the formula to derive the mill rate. Fair and equitable taxation is always the goal.

Most of our candidates either have (or had) children in the Bolton schools or attended Bolton schools themselves. You and Bob DePietro might be the only exceptions. Yet you’re still supportive of the schools. Why?

It’s true. I didn’t attend Bolton schools, and I don’t have children. Some people might ask, is it really my responsibility to then support the Bolton school system with my tax dollars? After all, approximately 60% of my property and car tax goes to education. My feeling is that, absolutely yes, I have a responsibility!

America is a cooperative, and education is part of the Commons. It is in my best interest for kids in my town to be well educated and highly employable. Paying my taxes may not bring a smile to my face every year, but it does bring me satisfaction knowing I have contributed to the common good of my fellow Boltonians.

Mary&Marilee

P&Z and Board of Assessment Appeals candidate Mary Terhune (left), with fellow P&Z candidate Marilee Manning.

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Dear Neighbors

On Tuesday, the Journal Inquirer published a letter to the editor from BDTC Vice Chair Adam Teller. Here’s the originally submitted version, which was slighted edited to meet the JI’s length requirements.

Dear Neighbors,

After more than twenty years of Republican control, Bolton needs to clean up a mess in Town Hall, find innovative ways to grow the tax base, keep our tax burden reasonable, and maintain the tradition of excellence in Bolton’s schools. Want something better for Bolton? I urge you to vote for Bolton’s strong Democratic team in the November municipal elections.

Sandra Pierog is an outstanding candidate for First Selectman: a former First Selectman, longtime member of the Board, and an experienced CPA. She is joined by Kim Miller (an IT program and project manager with a master’s degree in counseling) and Nicole Sullivan (an engineer by training with experience as a project and process manager) as candidates for Board of Selectmen. Sandy and her team will bring to Town Hall a combined 60+ years of experience in problem solving, project management, planning, and process improvement—precisely the expertise we need to make town government:

  1. more careful with taxpayer money (no more sloppy project management and poor record-keeping putting $400,000+ of taxpayer dollars at risk in a pending state audit of the Town’s handling of its most recent major construction project);
  2. more responsive to citizens (no more unreturned phone calls, unkept promises, or a Town website that frustrates residents who want timely and complete information); and
  3. more transparent (you’ll know what they know, when they know it).

Board of Finance candidates Robert DePietro, Richard Tuthill, and Eric Bevans will apply their experience as managers, business people, and successful communicators to a board that has struggled to provide clear and concise explanations to taxpayers. And their expertise in overseeing large projects will help them develop needed oversight mechanisms to ensure town funds are never again put at risk.

Incumbent Board of Education candidates Christopher Davey, Katherine Gallé, and Alison Romkey are committed to preserving Bolton schools’ tradition of excellence, professionalism, strong management, and continual improvement. Chris, Kate, and Alison have been an effective force on the BOE. During their first term, the district has worked aggressively to keep healthcare increases to a minimum, added new high school courses (including new AP courses) at minimal cost to the district, updated scores of policies, launched a highly successful robotics program, implemented an effective system for communicating with parents in emergencies, won grants to assist with technology upgrades, launched a new-and-improved website, and switched to a new course management system that will save taxpayers money in the long term. And in recognition of its excellence, Bolton High School was named a National Blue Ribbon Exemplary High Performing School last year.

These Democrats have a proven record of leadership both in the schools and in the community, which makes them #BetterForBolton. For more information and detailed profiles of these impressive candidates, find us online at boltondems.com, and on November 7 vote Line A for Sandra Pierog and the Democratic team!

Sincerely,
Adam J. Teller

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