Colleen Baldwin

Recent Articles

‘It Will Not Be Easy and It Will Not Be Pleasant’: Board of Finance Hears Passionate Calls for Fiscal Prudence, Full District Funding as Vote Nears

New Canaan must be careful as a community to have frank, detailed conversations about its financial situation and not “succumb to the tyranny of the parent,” a homeowner and mother of four children in public elementary and middle schools here told members of the Board of Finance on Tuesday. Everyone loves their kids and wants a good school district, yet this idea floating around New Canaan now that spending on the public schools somehow fuels property values is false, according to Rita Nagle. “That is simply not the economic relationship that exists,” Nagle said during a budget hearing held at Town Hall. “Property values fund taxes, which fund school spending. That is the way the relationship works. Continue Reading →

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Citing Need for Decision on Future Use, Finance Board Puts Off $50,000 Study of Former Outback Building

Saying that the town first must decide how the building will be used, members of New Canaan’s funding bodies decided last week to put off a vote on $50,000 in studies that would be needed in order to make repairs and code-compliant upgrades to the former Outback Teen Center building. It’s too early to discuss an investment in architectural and engineering plans for what some now call the ‘Town Hall Annex’ when its future use remains unclear, Board of Finance members Todd Lavieri and George Blauvelt said at the group’s regular meeting, held Tuesday at Town Hall. Town Councilman Steve Karl voiced that thought during the legislative body’s regular meeting the following night. “This is about a building and about a hardship, basically, that the town inherited—we inherited what amounts to a dilapidated barn and we need to figure out what is a post-and-beam barn that is 17 years old with two bathrooms, how much is a couple of bathrooms and a barn worth?” Karl said at the meeting, held at Town Hall. “And there is no property underneath it, because it’s the town’s property. Continue Reading →

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Board of Finance to Keep 2 Percent Budget Increase as ‘Strong Guideline’ for Town Departments

Members of the Board of Finance on Tuesday night discussed the effectiveness of an October memo instructing all departments to present their budget proposals for next fiscal year with no more than a 2 percent budget increase, especially in light of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi last week opened Board of Education budget talks with a request for a 3.5 percent increase. Finance board member Colleen Baldwin said during the group’s regular meeting that while there were discussions before the memo was sent about making the 2 percent a “hard number,” the idea was eventually scrapped “for this very reason.”

Instead, she said that the number was “put out as a starting discussion” with a strong suggestion that the budgets should be presented with “no more than 2 percent.”

But member Thomas Schulte questioned whether the departments are taking the memo seriously enough, considering the financials challenges that the both the town and the state are facing in the coming years and urged the board to bring up these concerns at department meetings. “We tried to do our best to share with them the concerns that we had,” he said at the meeting, held at Town Hall. “I think that the world is very different. It is a more expensive one for people to pay their state and local taxes [in]…and we can’t ignore that, and I think [in terms of] real world budgeting, all of the departments need to be aware of that—whether they’re halfway or all the way through creating their budgets. Continue Reading →

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‘A Lane To a Beautiful Nature Park’: Finance Officials Hear Land Trust Request for Funds To Acquire Fowler Property

Saying it would preserve unique natural habitat and expand an important open space greenway, members of a nonprofit organization dedicated to land conservation in New Canaan on Tuesday night urged town officials to help their group with the timely purchase of a 6.35-acre property. The would-be “Silvermine Fowler” preserve—a private property long owned by award-winning zoologist Jim Fowler and available to the New Canaan Land Trust right now in a $1.3 million deal—is accessible from Silvermine Road just below the intersection with Route 106. An east-west oriented parcel that climbs a wooded hill toward a natural pond, the property is contiguous to a 41-acre sanctuary that the Land Trust already owns (see map below). Among privately raised funds, pledges and grants, the New Canaan Land Trust and Trust for Public Land—a national nonprofit organization headquartered in San Francisco—already have secured all but $365,000 needed to acquire the property. At this time, the organization has first right of refusal, though the offer is to expire in the first quarter of 2017, according to Land Trust officials. Continue Reading →

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‘That Is Not Sustainable’: Finance Board Member Flags Town Spending, Scope of Saxe Proposal

New Canaan cannot sustain recent spending rates and, as the town addresses major capital needs such as at Saxe Middle School, hard decisions must be made lest the town burden taxpayers unduly or completely drain its coffers, a member of the Board of Finance said Tuesday. The educational system in New Canaan “did a fabulous job of educating my daughter and could not be more supportive,” finance board member George Blauvelt said during the group’s special meeting at Town Hall, “but we are looking at a series of really tough tradeoffs.”

“If we go forward with the Saxe program as currently proposed, then what in the town don’t we do? What will other constituents in the town—who are also residents in the town and taxpayers in the town—what don’t they get if we go forward with this?”

The comments come as a Board of Education-backed proposal to build a 2-story, 12-classroom addition at Saxe while renovating the auditorium and expanding music rooms—last estimated at about $17.1 million, though an updated figure is expected—makes its way to the finance board and other town bodies for approval. Board of Finance members stopped short of rejecting the full proposal, though more than one of them echoed Blauvelt that further study and discussion is needed—such as around enrollment projections—before funds are committed beyond renovating the Saxe auditorium (widely accepted as an absolute need). First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, who serves as the finance board’s chairman, framed the discussion as a way to share the group’s thinking with Board of Ed members—some of whom were in attendance, in addition to the superintendent of schools. Continue Reading →

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