â€œWhat about Prop 46â€¦(and)…kudos to the BOE!â€?
“Powers and Duties of the First Selectman and the Board of Selectmam: Responsible for supervising the affairs of the town and responsible for guiding town officers and town bodies toward accomplishing the objectives of the town’s long-range comprehensive plans. Responsible for presenting to the Board of Finance the amount, purpose and proposed method of financing projected capital expenditures, holding joint meetings at least two times a year with one or more members of all boards, commissions and agencies to coordinate the planning and action of such, reviewing the current and projected administrative and fiscal needs of the town and developing and maintaining a long-range comprehensive financial plan. Responsible for making appointments to applicable town offices. May propose to a town meeting duly called, ordinances consistent with the General Statutes and the Charter.â€? (Durham Connecticut)
Does limiting spending by Proposition 46 guarantee responsible spending? Obviously it does not. And Townâ€™s people have been talking for years about 46 being abused and misinterpreted. Wetzelâ€™s confusing and often-contradictory rants about 46 are an odd phenomenon given his current status in Town.
Prop 46 is the â€˜smoke and mirrorsâ€™ magic trick that makes people think that the Town leadership is doing what it is supposed to. The real question that has been raised at this site many times before is, â€œWhose in charge?â€? If there is any truth to the statement of powers and duties above, the answer is, â€œOur First Selectwoman and the Board of Selectmen!â€? But what role is Margaret Wholean playing in all of this? â€“ Apparently no role. The Villager repetitiously quotes Ms. Wholean each week, but nothing is said. Why doesnâ€™t she express her positions of Prop 46 and other important matters in Town? Why doesnâ€™t the Villager provide some real news and ask her for her opinion, or why doesnâ€™t she just offer her opinions and state her position anyway? It appears that her election was by default simply because the electorate had a negative opinion about Delpha Very. Thatâ€™s it – no agenda, no opinions, and no position on anything. In this leadership vacuum we are now forced to read the rants of Ernie Wetzel ad nauseum. No doubt, he smells this vacuum like a shark sensing blood.
Much confusion is being created by Wetzel’s statements and the Villagerâ€™s poor reporting. In â€˜rather loudâ€™ tirades both at this site and in the Villager, Wetzel says that the â€˜powers that beâ€™ with the help of Townâ€™s paid lawyers are looking into a â€œreinterpretation of 46â€? that would allow bonding to raise money for their â€œpet projectsâ€?. Perhaps Wetzel should name some of these pet projects. Reinterpretation of 46 may be happening â€“ but at least bonds must be approved by the Town citizenry.
The Villager further confuses the issue in a statement the Villager attributes to Wetzel that â€œ(46) does not allow (bonding).â€? The Villager article and Wetzel further confuse us by stating that Town officials want to ‘fiddle’ with Prop 46 to “reinterpret” 46 so that they can “bond” – e.g. “They want to bond to bypass Proposition 46.” Yet Prop 46 did not prevent previous bonds approved by the Town citizenry that paid for the building of the Town Hall ($10 million, yuk!), and renovations of the elementary school and the middle school ($10 million plus combined). Last year Prop 46 did not prevent the referendum on a bond issue for school buses, trucks, and re-paving the middle school parking lot, etc. This bond issue was voted down by the citizenry.
So the bonding process is irrelevant to the issue of whether or not 46 should be repealed. The true issue here is the mishandling the budgetary process by the BOF and Barbara Rich under Prop 46 (an example relating to the BOE will follow). And â€˜pet projectsâ€™ may be a problem if they cost less than $20,000 because they do not need funding based upon a bond issue voted by the citizens. However, if the first Selectman and the BOS were performing in a true leadership role as stated above, then there would be over-site on the â€˜pet project issueâ€™.
To add to the confusion Wetzel and Shultz inappropriately veer into another area in their continuous rant in the Villager accusing 196 Woodstock â€œemployeesâ€? (meaning primarily teachers) of taking â€œ1600 absences.â€? If we assume an â€œabsenceâ€? means a full day of leave, this equates to 8.16 days per employee per year of sick and personal leave. Last year I took about 8 days sick and personal leave (out of 18 available) either because I had the flu, or because I had a doctor or dentist visit. If Wetzel and Shultz had jobs, they would understand that predictably (the reason these benefits are offered) normal hardworking employees have to take some time off to deal with health and personal matters. This is especially true in the nosocomial environment of the schools.
In the Villager, Wetzel and Schultz also revealed some degree of jealousy for a certain teacher that earns $65,000 a year. This can be understood best if one compares the earnings of these two complainers with those that have to work to support their families. Fortunately, itâ€™s the BOEâ€™s responsibility to evaluate the performance of this teacher and the number of kindergarden teachers needed, not Wetzel and Shultz. This is not a Prop 46 or Town budgetary issue.
Finally, Wetzel attacks the â€œlazy electorate.â€? These lazy people are the ones that elected him to two terms as First Selectman and a third term as a selectman. Could it be that the â€œlazy electorateâ€? elects Town officials (with pay) with the hope that they will provide the expected leadership? This allows the â€˜lazy votersâ€™ to then go on and continue with their jobs to support their families while leaving the Town in the hands of responsible people.
Unfortunately Wetzel rarely visited the Town Hall in his last year as First Selectman and he was too lazy to fulfill his third term a Selectman (in the same manner as Ed Neuman). After about a month, Wetzel left the BOS and Mr. Eaffy (a â€˜republican democratâ€™) was installed as the third selectman… and as Delpha Very’s right-hand-man. The result of Wetzel’s non -involvement was the installation of a selectman who opposes everthing Wetzel has ranted about. As a direct consequence of Wetzel’s ‘lazy’ non-participation, Eaffy was subsequently elected by default for the same reason as Wholean â€“ the electorate developed a negative opinion about Ms. Very and the â€˜old guardâ€™ republicans within only one term. The electorate had no other option in my opinion.
But what about Prop 46?
The BOE for years ‘cut’ their budget as a first step before they even submited a â€˜neededâ€™ budget because they accepted the Prop 46-based figure from the BOF to develop the budget â€“ that is, they submited the budget so that it complied with the BOF guideline. This cart has been in front of the horse for many years. The BOEâ€™s job is to tell the Town and the BOF what a reasonable education is going to cost. This reasonable education must comply with federal and state mandates, legal contracts, and upkeep and maintenance. State mandated programs should have been viewed by the BOE as exempt from Prop 46. Instead the BOF fails to consider these valid exemptions through their misinterpretation of Prop 46 when providing the figure that the BOE must base its budget upon â€“ the cart before horse.
In past years the BOE has abdicated their responsibility for determining the true needs of the school system under the mute leadership of Charlie Snow (he has been in the way for years). For the first time in several decades, we have to give kudos to the BOE. This is because for the first time in a long damn time the BOE is putting forth the budget based upon real needs rather than basing their budget on the misinterpreted figure put forth by the BOF. They have put the horse back in front of the cart for the 2006-2007 budget. However, if 46 is not repealed then the BOF will be allowed to prevail with its inappropriate interpretation of Prop 46. The new members of the BOE and the reconstituted leadership – Lindsey Paul, Chairman, and Bill Loftus, Vice Chair, together with Frank Baran, Superintendent of Schools – are trying to straighten the budgetary process out so that the BOE budget correctly reflects the needs of the school system. It will be interesting to see how the BOF handles this situation.
This is why we elected them to the BOE â€“ if only the Board of Selectman could do their job and provide true leadership according to the â€œpowers and dutiesâ€? they were elected to enforce. After all, aren’t they ultimately “responsible for presenting to the Board of Finance the amount, purpose and proposed method of financing projected capital expenditures“.