Contingency fund is not a political tool

The political season has begun! With Chairman Flynn running for Selectman, the Democrats on the RTM — specifically Rep. Vergara — recently assailed the long-standing Town of Fairfield practice of putting funds in a contingency account for expenses that, as of budget time, could not be accurately estimated or, in the view of government officials, required more oversight before being allocated to Department accounts.

A contingency fund is not only allowed by State Statute, but has been utilized by the Town of Fairfield for generations. It is prudent and sound financial management. The contingency account has been routinely deployed to fund contracts not settled at budget time, department expenditures that needed more calculation/vetting, emergency expenditures, as well as investigations of issues that have arisen during a fiscal year, (i.e. the Metro Center project audit). Recently, contingency funds were deployed in the clean-up of the pile at One Rod Highway, which has cost the taxpayers in excess $800,000 and continues to climb. This issue arose under the management of the Department of Public Works (DPW), the same department Rep. Vergara wanted to release the funds to.

The Board of Finance, (a group comprised of CPA’s, Corporate Executives, Attorneys and other Business Professionals), asked for a long-term plan from the DPW before releasing additional funds for paving. The Board funded the original DPW $2 million budget request, (consistent with funds spent this fiscal year), but voted 8-0-1 to put $500,000 of additional funds into contingency pending a revised and comprehensive paving plan. The current plan was presented to the BOF in 2010.

It is not micromanagement, (as the Democrats claimed), for the BOF to expect a Town department to explain the basis upon which it plans to spend what, in the case of DPW paving program, is one of the largest non-personnel line items in our budget. A long-term plan is exactly what the taxpayers should expect from the BOF as their financial stewards.

When the motion to increase the paving budget by $700,000 failed, (giving the funds to DPW without the long- term plan), the Democratic majority on the RTM also voted unilaterally to remove $500,000 in funds from the contingency account all together - leaving no additional funding available for paving once a plan is received.

If Rep. Vergara thinks it is financially prudent to release almost three quarters of a million dollars of taxpayer money to a department without a full understanding of how the funds further the long-term goals of the program, we respectfully disagree. We also disagree with removing the funds from the contingency account so that they are not available to be released to the Department once an acceptable long-term paving plan has been reviewed by town bodies.

In this instance, partisan politics won over good government, sound fiscal management, future investment in roads and established precedence that has served our Town well.

Christopher DeWitt,

Board of Finance, on behalf of the Republican Members of the BOF