As part of the team which researched this issue for the Charter Revision Commission (CRC), I thought some background might be helpful.
The chairmanship of the Board of Finance (BOF) has been discussed for decades and was highlighted by many during the CRC’s 90-plus interviews. Those supporting election, expressed this achieved a more equitable balance of power and responsiveness to the community.
In canvassing similar Connecticut towns, including Avon, Darien, Fairfield, Madison, Ridgefield, Simsbury, Westport and Wilton, all maintain an elected BOF, with the Chair elected from the respective membership. In fact, a majority of towns in Connecticut have an elected BOF.
Although an elected board might offer advantages, the CRC concurred the current practice of appointing the BOF allows members to be selected for their expert financial specialty rather than for support of currently popular causes.
The commission’s recommendation that “the Board of Finance will choose its chairman from its regular members” is an effort to move toward an independent board, but in a careful, slow manner.
The first selectman would continue to participate in setting the agenda, continue to sit on the BOF ex-officio, continue to cast tie-breaking votes, and continue to spearhead the selection of the members. Importantly, the first selectman’s expertise would continue to be available at all meetings.
This recommendation was made looking to the future of our increasingly sophisticated financial world and the complicated nature of New Canaan’s growing budget. It is simply a move toward best practices.
With the hope this helps clarify the issue, respectfully,
Charter Revision Commissioner