Two former Brookfield Board of Finance members are is looking to step up to the town's top spot.
Democrat Howard Lasser has been a Chief Financial Officer of various corporations, served a chair of the Board of Finance, was a member of the Zoning Commission and most recently on the Board of Selectman.
Tinsley is a retired corporate executive and former business owner. He's served on the Board of Finance, including some time as its chairman, and on the Board of Education. He lost a three-way race for First Selectman four years ago to Bill Davidson. He says he will listen, be responsive and to be a team player. Tinsley says one of the best sources of learning is to talk with residents about what concerns them. He says there are some complex issues in town that he would like to boil down into their simplest form to take them on.
Lasser says if he is elected as First Selectman, he wants to maintain and continue the progress that's been made in the last few years. He says his professional background will be an asset in making sure the right resources are in the right place the best value is coming from those investments. As a Selectman, Lasser says money has been put into fixing roads and infrastructure, but there a lot more to do. He cites the recent referendum for money to rebuild Kids Kingdom and Cadigan Park.
Tinsley says Brookfield is 165 of 169 municipalities on the "get to give" ratio. The ratio is revenue that goes to the state Capital compared to what comes back. He says Brookfield gets about 7 cents on the dollar.
Tinsley says there's only $116,000 of money in this year's budget for the roads, but the only way to keep up with maintenance of infrastructure without putting it on the credit card is to grow the economy. He says the town is in for a big tax increase because of the bonding.
Lasser says Brookfield's pensions are in pretty good shape. He and current First Selectman Bill Davidson created a Retirement Benefits Advisory Committee that worked to evaluate the Pension system. He says the group suggest alternatives and better ways to manage pensions. Lasser says over time, retired employees have paid 20-percent of health insurance and the town has picked up the rest of the bill. He says that's a significant liability. The benefit has been eliminated from new-hire contracts, except for police officers. He says the cost of the old commitments is a concern which he says he will continue to monitor.
Lasser says the town has been paying off bonds over the last four years, so while much more has been bonded, the town's debt is lower than when he became a Selectman four years ago.
Tinsley says the pension fund has been underfunded by about $5 million in the last four years. He says there's no funding at all for the post-employment retiree funding for health care. He says Lasser has been quoting 2014 pension plans, which take into account a lot of assumptions. What is not in the plan is the additional three police officers that have been hired and the salary increased that have been proposed.
Tinsley says the concept being considered now for the Four Corners area is like one that was discussed more than a decade ago. He says there's very little talk about undeveloped eyesores that could be developed to help pay for maintenance of the roads, the schools and the library. Tinsley says he wants to grow the commercial and industrial tax base.
Lasser says the town needs to develop its commercial base, particularly along Federal Road in the Four Corners area. He says a conceptual plan has been developed to turn that area into a pedestrian-friendly place.
Tinsley says he's met with the owner of a big property near the Four Corners that's been approved by the Zoning Commission, but there are obstacles. He says the Department of Transportation, parking and streetscape funding and design need to be resolved. Another issue is working to fix parking problems in the village business district.
A lot of work was done on school security last year. Lasser says plans were already being put in place to harden the school. The town has invested in technology that will allow for greater surveillance. Improvements have been made to reduce entry and speed up response time. The Brookfield Police Department budget was increased to add two school resource officers to the program in response to residents request. He says security is an ongoing process with the Board of Education and the Police Department to evaluate if changes are needed. Lasser says the school board reassessed the role of the High School security officer, who's primary job used to be monitoring who's parking in the parking lot. After December 14th, that changed.
Click here for a look at the open race in New Fairfield. There is also an open race in Redding. Danbury's Mayor is being challenged in November. To see sample ballots from across the region, click here.