Taking advantage of the state's greatly-enhanced 60% percentage of reimbursement for new school construction of four schools and significant enhancement and remediation of the others, Stamford must find a way to upfront the $1.5 Billion construction cost until state reimbursement comes in. As a member of the Board of Finance, I have already approved a plan to set aside $20MM per year in our operating budget to be used as a portion of the city's construction cost. This strategy accomplishes two things. First, it allows the city to reduce its need to bond for all capital funds, thereby reducing overall interest costs. Second, this plan will not only comprehensively attack long-overdue school construction within the 25-year Connecticut higher reimbursement time frame, but will greatly reduce capital funding requirements in the future. Lastly, through its contract approval process, the finance board must exercise more fiscally responsible construction oversight while addressing essential student needs.
The Board of Finance's most important responsibility is maintaining Stamford's fiscal integrity. This includes the annual review and approval of the city's operating and capital budget; balancing municipal needs with our citizens' ability to pay for services. The board must also ensure that the city's financial reporting standards are in good order such as the timely completion of the annual audit, the commitment of responsible bonding limits of 10% or below the overall operating budget, and the more efficient use of available technology to gain the most accurate of financial data. In the final analysis, the Board of Finance is the fiscal watchdog, responsibly protecting the purse our citizens while ensuring the delivery of the services they expect. It is our goal and responsibility to keep taxes as low as reasonably possible.
Leveraging my long professional career at GE Capital where I managed global staffing and leadership development for the finance, risk management and human resources corporate functions, I believe I bring considerable experience to my 28-year tenure on the Board of Finance, where I served a Chair for two terms. I also served 8 terms on Stamford’s Board of Representatives where I was elected President by my 40 peers. I am the only person in Stamford's history to ever hold leadership positions on both fiscal boards. Specifically, I have served as fiscal chair for 14 years on the Board of Reps, current chair and trustee of the CERF pension board, and founding member of the city's investment advisory committee. As current Audit chair on the Finance board for the past two years, I was the first to identify problems and challenges in completing the past two annual audits and hold the responsible parties accountable for the delays . A third-generation Stamford native, my unique combination of financial acumen, human resources expertise, and historical knowledge make me a valuable member of the finance board.
I am very disappointed with the way in which a single question with eight multiple issues inside will appear on the November ballot. While there may be some issues with which voters might agree, there are also others that they may be against. The single referendum "super question" is set up as an "all or nothing" paradigm. Voters are being asked to either support or deny eight very different issues without the possibility of selection or choice. I think this clearly puts Stamford voters at a disadvantage since they cannot pick and choose their individual priorities in any meaningful way.
There were, in fact, proposed changes in the initial charter draft which would have negatively affected the Board of Finance's ability to function, but those changes were ultimately removed. Therefore, there are no proposed changes which would directly affect the role of the finance board.