To the Editor:
Litchfield has just started its budget process, which can become confusing as evidenced by the recent article in the Republican-American covering the Board of Finance meeting of March 8.
On March 8, the Board of Selectmen presented its budget for review by the BOF. No action was to be taken. Rather it was a question and answer period which would allow the BOS to fine tune its budget before the BOF finalized the Town’s budget on 4/22 for town approval.
The BOS presented a strong, “no-tax increase” budget after an essentially no increase budget last year. Kudo’s should go out to the BOS and to town employees who clearly were given sharp pencils. Particular mention may be made of the Department of Public Works which has been very efficiently managed over the past several years.
Nonetheless, based on bi-partisan conversations including both taxpayers and public officials, the following questions were raised:
1. Director of Finance. Does this need to be a full time position at the cost of $124,000? Could it be done part time in two days a week? This question was raised several years ago, before the consolidation of our school administrations, when some suggested that one finance director could handle both the town and the Board of Education. The question persists.
2. Does the tax collector require a permanent 30 hour per week staff person at a cost of $33,000 per year plus benefits? Everyone understands that at times the office needs such help and at other times it doesn’t. Can this be done on an as-needed basis at significant savings?
3. Litchfield employs two policing services: we have a state patrolman at the cost of $184,000 per year and a local patrol at the cost of $158,000. How much, if any, extra protection are we getting by having both, especially when there is a state trooper barracks in town? (There is a clear consensus that we need one.)
These are not rhetorical questions. They have persisted for several years and deserve answers. The first two questions should, hopefully, be able to be answered for this budget year. The third needs more extensive study and community discussion.
Together, these items represent potential savings of up to $250,000 per year. Every year. Questions and comments are encouraged from our taxpayers.
Chairman, Board of Finance