The City is embarking on a 20-year, $1.5 billion plan to renovate or replace all of its existing schools. We will need to ensure there are adequate funds in place to construct four new schools and renovate the remaining ones. We are fortunate that the State has agreed to fund up to 80% of the costs for Westhill and up to 60% for the remaining new schools. Renovation costs are also reimbursable, but at a lower rate.
The Board of Finance needs to ensure the City is maximizing State reimbursement dollars and managing capital while waiting for reimbursement. Furthermore, we need to carefully oversee our bonding levels to preserve the City’s AAA debt rating.
I voted to approve an additional $15 million in this year's operating budget, to be used for school construction costs. This reduces future bonding and provides a cushion while we wait for State reimbursement. I also approved appropriations for the construction of the schools and will continue to exercise financial and budget oversight throughout the process.
The Board of Finance is the City’s financial watchdog, overseeing its budgets and operating performance and setting its tax rates. Our job is to ensure that we fund essential City services and improvements, while keeping taxes as low as possible for City residents and business. We also are responsible to ensure that the City maintains prudent financial controls, policies and procedures in its accounting and budget processes.
I bring uniquely valuable experience as a member of the Board of Finance. I worked in senior roles in the competitive finance industry in New York City for over 15 years. I volunteered my time as a PTO President and PT Counsel Vice President at Stamford Public Schools when my two sons were growing up here. I also worked for Mayor David Martin’s administration for over 7 years on high-priority projects including COVID testing and vaccine sites, privatizing The Smith House, and serving as interim Director of Operations. I understand finance, how Stamford’s city government works, and our community.
The City’s Charter is complex, and the impact of the proposed changes are not easy to comprehend, even for someone who is actively involved in government. I believe that rushing to put these changes on the ballot this fall, when a low voter turnout is expected, is a disservice to the residents of Stamford. The proposed changes will have a significant impact on the costs to taxpayers in the future. The description that will be on the ballot is insufficient and misleading. I would have liked to have seen each question listed individually on the ballot with comprehensive explanations of the impact. For these reasons and others, I am not in support of the ballot referendum and will be voting “No” in November.