Town ID’s $695,000 in Planned Capital Spending This Fiscal Year That Could Be Delayed

Saying New Canaan should consider putting off some capital spending in the near term until a clearer picture of the economy emerges, town officials last week identified nearly $700,000 earmarked for the current fiscal year that could be delayed. Prepared with input from public works and district officials as well as the first selectman, the draft list of more than 75 items total $695,000 and range from small expenditures such $29 for signage and striping up to about $63,000 for a solar project at a town building, documents show. Board of Finance Chair Todd Lavieri said the main question now facing the town is whether the spending could be delayed or deferred “until we have a little more clarity.”

“You guys control this,” Lavieri told First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Public Works Director Tiger Mann and town CFO Lunda Asmani during the finance board’s April 7 meeting, held via videoconference. “We can’t tell you what to do and how to do this. But I guess it would be our recommendation, or at least our consideration, to hold onto the spending at least for another month until we got more clarity.”

The comments came during a discussion within the finance board and no formal action has been taken on the recommendation. They also came as New Canaan and the nation grapple with a hard stop to the economy that’s seen businesses forced to slow down or shutter altogether for health reasons as unemployment claims soar.

Letter: Town Council Vote Also ‘Disheartening’ for Our Democracy

The Town Council’s vote is disheartening, not just for healthy start times but for our town’s democracy. 

Assuming everything in this article is correct, which I have no reason to doubt, the Town Council made a decision against the choice taxpayers have overwhelmingly expressed and against the best interests of children in our town, in the latter case by flouting clear supporting scientific evidence. And questioning whether to consider the support expressed through a letter-writing campaign? What leads you to such an outrageous comment? Letter-writing campaigns are a time-honored and constructive method of effecting change. 

Councilman Tom Butterworth’s articulate letter in this newsletter on April 2 identified all of the reasons why this vote should have passed—despite the fact that the Town Council had hoped it would not be left to them. And the message that you simply vote on the budget and not how it is spent is not only vacuous but dismisses the hard work done by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi and the many others who devoted time, intelligence and pragmatism to design a sensible plan to address a real health issue. 

If the budget had been sliced substantially due to the current crisis, one could understand that.

Letter: ‘Thank You’ to the Town Council for Budget Vote 

To those on the Town Council who voted not for the presence or absence of later starts—that decision is made entirely by the BOE, and roughly $1 billion of taxpayer money over 10 years is more than enough to do later starts for all kids if it is a priority—but for some semblance of fiscal restraint, thank you. You did what you thought was right for the greater good, knowing the economic environment we are in, and especially its impact on working families stretching to live in New Canaan and seniors living on fixed incomes. The affordability of New Canaan has inevitably gone way down, as our house prices have imploded, incomes are down, joblessness is up, and our tax burden moves inexorably higher in almost all years. Obviously there will be supporters and detractors of your decision. Inevitably the voices of the detractors will be louder. If the detractors are using objective data to reinforce their viewpoints, it is fair game. If the detractors have never looked at our budgets or compared them to other towns—the vast majority likely have not—there is less credibility in their views. The Connecticut unemployment figures are out and it is a sobering picture: since the virus outbreak, roughly 13% of Connecticut’s workforce is newly unemployed, with the number obviously headed higher for now. The direct and knock-on effects on New Canaan have been and will be wide-ranging, even if there is a shorter than expected resolution to the outbreak. Whether it be potential further state tax increases from Connecticut pension shortfalls (they assume a return of roughly 7% on their investments), lower revenue projections locally from shut or limited business activity and income declines on a massive scale, disruptions in the extension of credit, a rise in under-water mortgages and greater home foreclosures in the future or countless other impacts, we are just beginning to understand the enormity of the consequences now.