Happy New Year Suffield! To-date, the Town is one month into 2020 with one Town Meeting and referendum already completed, and departments and the schools knee-deep in budget season.
Each spring at the Public Hearing and Town Budget Meeting, we receive valuable feedback from residents. Unfortunately, at that point, it’s often too late to fully consider recommendations. With that in mind, I remind residents that NOW is the time to participate in budget discussions.
My chief budget priorities:
1. Work with our school partners under the leadership of Superintendent Tim Van Tasel to effect shared facilities management combining Highway, Public Works and School Facilities. The benefit: shared resources, clear responsibilities, and cleaner and proactive preventative maintenance of town-wide facilities.
2. Over the years, I have diligently sought to streamline functions, reduce expenses and enhance customer service. I view every employment vacancy as an opportunity to reorganize and improve efficiency, eliminating positions when practicable. Now, however, is the time to build in succession planning. Several seasoned town employees are nearing retirement. To assure smooth transitions, preserve institutional knowledge and maintain service levels, we need to focus on recruiting the right people for some key town roles.
3. Implement some recommendations from the Police Department Management Operational Study.
The Advisory Commission on Capital Expenditures (ACCE) kicks-off the process by evaluating capital needs/priorities for upcoming years. Among important capital considerations for 2020-21: much needed renovations to Suffield Middle School, a town/ BOE-wide facilities needs study, McAlister brick repointing and Police Department – HVAC replacement.
In collaboration with the schools, we plan to hire a consultant to perform a town-BOE wide facilities master plan. This will help to strategize capital expenditures based on needs and manage debt service over the next decade.
A sound budget requires input by many: Town departments and related boards; Board of Education (BOE); ACCE; Boards of Selectmen (BOS) & Finance (BOF); and YOU, the taxpayer. Each board meeting is public and guarantees your participation through public comment. Board members may be contacted outside of meetings as well.
Timeline (see Town website for all meeting dates):
December – January
- Department/Commission budget requests submitted
January – February
- ACCE considers departmental capital requests
- Have a suggestion about a BIG project? Attend the ACCE meetings!
- First Selectman (FS) & Finance Director review budgets with Department Heads
- Selectmen invited being mindful to avoid quorums
- BOS reviews and approves General Government Operations Budget (GGOB)
End of February
- FS presents GGOB to BOF
March – April
- BOF reviews department budgets on weekly basis
- Recommendations sent back to BOE
- This is a good time to attend meetings, offer public comment!
End of March
- BOS approves capital budget and refers to BOF and Capital Budget Hearing
April 29, 2020
- Town Budget presented to residents for feedback
- Last chance to add your thoughts!
- BOF approves Town Budget and refers it to the Town Budget Meeting
May 13, 2020
Town Budget Meeting
- Budget can be voted down if residents don’t approve
From beginning to end, the budget cycle accounts for nearly half the year, providing ample opportunity for citizen involvement. Volunteer board members, most notably ACCE, BOF and BOE, attend meetings on a weekly basis in order to create a Town Budget that strives to keep taxes down while delivering key services that ensure the education, safety and well-being of our community. I am grateful for their dedication, partnership and service.
I encourage all Suffield residents to participate in this process to ensure our budget ultimately reflects what the entire community values.