Voters in Orange easily approve town budget

New Haven Register. May23, 2018 ORANGE — The proposed $46 million annual town budget for 2018-19 passed easily at referendum Wednesday, with 217 residents voting in favor and 31 opposing the spending plan.

Voting took place at High Plains Community from noon to 8 p.m. The budget for the upcoming fiscal year represents a decrease of more than one mill for most homeowners. Three of the “yes” votes were cast by absentee ballot. Of that amount, more than $25 million will go toward elementary education. The Amity budget was approved earlier this month by referendum.

Under the spending plan, the tax rate would drop to 32 mills from 33.38 mills. First Selectman Jim Zeoli said at a recent town meeting that under the tax rate change, 58 percent of homeowners will experience a tax cut or taxes that stay the same. He said it comes at a time when some communities are being forced to increase the tax rate to cover expenses.

The budget had $900,000 in revenue added to it at the last minute to represent money the town now expects to get from an educational cost sharing grant, as it recently learned the state restored some funds. That money will go toward a science enhancement program that is part of the Next Generation Science Standards, mandated to go into effect by the end of 2020.

Published by the Orange Times November 2, 2017

As the need arises for new infrastructure projects and equipment, how should the town fund these: out of the operating budget or through bonding?

As your First Selectman, I am continuously reviewing and evaluating capital projects, including roadwork, building repairs and the replacement of town vehicles and equipment.

With the assistance of our Capital Planning subcommittee, we have created five and ten year capital improvement plans to keep Town projects advancing, as we balance the needs throughout our community. Together with our Board of Finance, we evaluate the cost and life use of a project to determine whether it should be funded through a longer-term bond, shorter-term financing or simply purchased through the operating budget.

Bonding is reserved for projects that have a lifespan of twenty-years or greater. For example, the Town recently approved bonding for renovations for the south wing of the High Plains Community Center, the pool locker rooms, and the heating, cooling and dehumidification systems. My administration maintains one of the lowest debt-to-budget ratios in the region.

Our low debt ratio and our sound fiscal policies provided the basis for S&P to maintain our AAA credit rating. This allows us to borrow money, both through bonding and short-term financing at lower interest rates, saving taxpayers money. Over the years, my administration has used short term financing, lease options or funds from our operating budget to pay for purchases like police cars, public works equipment, trucks and minor infrastructure and mechanical improvements.

These items tend to have a shorter lifespan of ss than twenty years. For these types of projects, I do not believe that bonding over a seventeen to twenty year term is appropriate. In these uncertain financial times, proper planning is more critical than ever. Our Town has over 110 miles of roads that require constant maintenance and repair; as well as public buildings that require maintenance, repair and renovation.

In the past, the Town received about $104,000 annually in State funding for road improvement. Additionally, we had an available balance of $421,000 with the State in our local capital improvement funds. As a result of the inability of Governor Malloy and the Democrat controlled legislature to establish a State budget, the annual road improvement funding and the local capital improvement funding have been cut; and, we should expect that the State will continue to eliminate capital improvement funding to our Town in the future. As a result, proper planning and strong fiscal policies are more essential than ever to keep Orange moving forward. I have been proud to serve as your First Selectman over the past twelve years.

I am proud that my team’s work over these years has strengthened our town to a point where we will weather the State’s fiscal crisis. I ask for your vote on Election Day

 

Published by the Orange Times September 21, 2017

What Is The Greatest Challenge You See Facing Orange In The Next Two Years?

Over the next two years, the greatest challenge to the residents of Orange will be the State’s fiscal crisis caused by the inability of Governor Malloy and the Democrat-controlled legislature to manage the State’s finances. The uncertainty at the State level will have long-lasting effects on many towns that could impact their school systems, town services and cause their property taxes to increase. 

Fortunately since the State’s budget crisis began, my team and I have been preparing to handle this problem. Under my leadership, working with our Board of Finance and other officials, we instituted a budget that will reduce the impact of these cuts on our schools and town services in the upcoming fiscal year. 

We are continually looking for ways to offset the impact of State budget cuts.  For example, we recently obtained an agreement for the town’s share of the surplus from the Amity prior-year budget to be refunded to us which amounts to approximately $800,000. Any future Amity surpluses may need to follow suit, as we continue to understand the impact of the mess in Hartford.

Moving forward however, continued failure by the Democratic Governor and State legislature to solve our State Budget crisis could have long-lasting impacts to our town.  I am outraged that our State government would be so irresponsible to create this problem for us.  I have and will continue to fight to maintain our AAA credit rating, our excellent schools and our quality of life.

By achieving our town’s AAA credit rating we save taxpayer money on bonding.  Just last month, I participated in a conference call with the credit agency who was considering downgrading our AAA rating because of the State’s fiscal crisis.  I immediately argued that our town should not be downgraded.  I explained that despite the State’s financial problems Orange was fiscally sound.  I highlighted our low debt ratio, our economic development, our stable tax base, and our excellent schools. They agreed that our town is well managed, and approved our AAA credit rating, the best rating a municipality can receive.

I have also been working with our town counsel and other municipal leaders to determine whether it is legal for the State to shift teacher pension obligations onto the towns.  This shift could cost us an additional $2 million dollars or more annually.  Not without a fight!  Hartford needs to learn that it cannot act irresponsibly and push its problems down on us.  We have our financial house in order!  Its time they do the same.

I have been proud to serve as your First Selectman over the past twelve years. I am proud that my team’s work over these years has strengthened our town to a point where we will weather the State’s fiscal crisis.  We must continue my team’s philosophy to do more with less.
I ask for your vote on Election Day.

 

Published by the Orange Times October 19, 2017

What Are The Most Pressing Issues Facing Seniors In Orange And What Would You Propose To Address Them?

In the coming years, one of the biggest problems that will face Orange seniors will be the increased pressure put on local property taxes because of the failure of the Democratic Governor and legislature to adopt a state budget.

Many of our seniors are on fixed incomes and want to age in place in the home where they have lived for decades. The Democrat’s failure to adopt a budget exposes Orange to over two million dollars in state budget cuts. As a result, Orange residents, including our seniors, will be left to fund this shortfall.

Based on my own experience with my parents, I have personal knowledge about the hardships facing our seniors. These include financial hardships, healthcare concerns, and a loss of independence. Protecting our seniors from the potential consequences of such uncertainties continues to be a top priority of my administration.

After I was first elected, my administration reviewed all of the available senior tax abatement programs and enhanced these programs to provide as many opportunities for senior and veteran property tax relief that the law permits. Over the last few years, my administration sought and obtained a $3 million grant to address the needed renovations to Silverbook Senior Housing. This facility provides great services to its residents and provides families with options for senior family members. We continue to explore opportunities for age restricted housing to meet the demands of an expanding aging population.

Orange remains desirable to our seniors because of the great quality of life that we all share. Programs for our seniors include elderly outreach services, transportation services, exercise programs, classes, trips and more. Maintaining strong fiscal policies will allow us to continue to improve our town’s services for all residents. We are making improvements to our community center with minimal impact on taxes.

I will continue to propose reasonable town budgets that maintain a steady tax base so that we continue to meet the needs of our entire population. I ask for your continued supported and vote on November 7th so that we can continue moving Orange forward.

Paid for by Orange Republican Town Committee, Phil Grande Sr, Treasurer