Southington Finance Members Defend Cash Proposal to Pay for Turf

Members of the Southington Board of Finance this week defended their decision to suggest paying in cash and detailed why money was taken from the Self Insurance Fund.

Residents have questioned a move by the Southington Board of Finance to approve cash funding to pay for the installation of synthetic turf at , a controversy sparked over the use over $500,000 for the town’s self insurance fund to help pay for the project.

Members of the board last week defended their decision, however, saying that the money being used from the self insurance fund is part of an 85 percent town investment into the fund and noting that using cash will help save nearly $200,000 in fees and interest over bonding the project.

“Using cash, at least for part of the project, is something that will save the town $25,000 that would otherwise have to be paid to the bond commission,” said Board of Finance member Sandra Feld. “By using cash, we have eliminated an extra $200,000 in taxpayer money that would have otherwise gone to the project.”

Garry Brumback said that in addition to the fee, the town stands to save an estimated $171,000 in interest over a 10-year period by using cash instead of bonding.

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to fund up to $920,000 in costs for the project using cash, a decision that passed by unanimous vote. Under the plan passed, $310,358 was allocated from the town’s 2011-12 contingency fund, with the remaining funding coming from a surplus in the Self Insurance fund.

Adjustments will still need to be made in order to meet the $920,000, however, as the surplus in the Self Insurance fund fell below $600,000 to end the fiscal year.

Members of the Southington Town Council still need to vote on funding for the project, which will be done at their next meeting on Aug. 13.

The Board of Finance has taken criticism for their decision, as residents have questioned why Self Insurance fund money was used in the process. It was something that led several former members of the Self Insurance committee to suggest that town officials were not considering town employees who pay into the fund.

John Leary, chairman of the Board of Finance, defended the decision, however, saying that 85 percent of the fund is paid for not by those who are paying in, but by the taxpayers themselves. Town employees are responsible for paying rates to fund the remaining 15 percent.

“It’s like going to dinner with a friend and expecting to pay $100. The friend puts in $15 and I am asked to take on the rest of the bill,” Leary said. “If we have a great time and decide to get a couple extra drinks, I would be responsible for everything over that $100.”

“If we don’t spend that $100, the $15 isn’t going to be refunded,” he said.

Leary said it has been common practice for any surplus in the Self Insurance fund to be used to help provide a reserve for the fund, as well as for one-time cash projects. The reserve fund is above 10 percent, which helped make the decision easier, he said.

Finance members backed Leary’s explanation and reinforced their decision during the Board of Finance meeting last week. Feld and Edward Pocock Jr. each said they felt it was important for the public to understand how the board came to its decision.

“When I’ve talked about the taxpayers, they want to know why we didn’t bond it,” Pocock said. “Tthe taxpayers want to know why we decided to use money. They need to know why we made the decision we did and I think this explains it.”

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E. Taylor July 30, 2012 at 10:50 AM
See how easy it is to spend taxpayer dollars !! What happened to the $40.000 the BOE was asked to contribute,OH YA THEY SAID NO!
Arthur Cyr July 30, 2012 at 12:35 PM
The short answer is that buy using this excessive reserve, the Town is saving $25,000 this year by not paying a bonding cost, and another $200,000 over the next 10 years in interest not paid. And I believe there was also an adjustment made to the track replacement costs that saved lots of money. The Board of Finance seems to have good explanations how they allocate taxpayer funds.
Mark E. Malasics July 30, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Does anyone proof-read before they hit the button?
Pensive July 30, 2012 at 01:12 PM
One might wonder with all those surplus dollars lying around; why wasn't a property tax increase avoided.
Arthur Cyr July 30, 2012 at 01:12 PM
No, I usually let the spell checker alert me. That's why "BUY" gets past when I meant BY. But compared to the three articles done by professional reporters in the Record-Journal in the past two weeks that had actual big FACTUAL errors, you should be able to accept these minor typos.
Val Guarino July 30, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I think it is odd that at budget time we were talking about laying off teachers and all of a sudden we can find money for football field turf. This business of shifting money from other accounts should not be allowed. When you are budgeting you are estimating what you expect to spend on each particular item. If you overestimate then you generate a surplus, underestimate and you use contingency funds. If accounts are going to be used as a slush fund to finance pet projects we need more oversight.
Arthur Cyr July 30, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Hmmmm. Go on-line to the BOF agenda for the months of April, May, June & July. Two pages of transfers from one account to another. Every month. And the Board of Ed "manages" to move probably five times that amount at the same time every year. standard business practices in every town & city.
John Moise July 30, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Although Mr. Leary has reasoned out how the town saves money by paying cash could he reason out bonding Self insurance cost when needed in the near future. As past chairman of the self insurance committee we were trying to tailor a policy for emergency expenditures not wants over needs. It is too bad that this money was not spent in other ways such as town roads or some roof repairs on Town Buildings. The teachers, custodians, nurses, town employees and paraprofessionals are going to have a field day during negotiations when the town and BOE tries to increase employee insurance rates when going for a new contract. Then there are the retirees who could have used a little relief as well. In the end the BOF is robbing Peter to pay Paul. The trend on self insurance claims is swinging to the negative and soon enough the Self Insurance Committee is going to either raise rates or ask the Town Council for money (which they will not be able to bond) to bail out the self insurance committee. Mr. Leary, only one other time has the town taken money from the self insurance fund and that was for an emergency. You make it seem as it happens all the time. Hopefully the Southington Town Council will be wiser then the BOF and bond the turf and save the cash for real emergencies.
Lucy July 30, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Well, it's done and over...but I hope the tragic and catastrophic illnesses that have befallen my co-workers which have put the company I work for in an off the charts actuarial pool, leaving everyone scrambling to find less expensive insurance, doesn't happen here. No offense, when you rob Peter, you just wind up paying Paul. Mr. Leary, thanks for your tutorials but stop insulting my intelligence, I fully understand the complexities of local, state and federal budgeting and bonding.
John Moise July 30, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Actually Lucy it is not done and over. The Town Council can choose to bond the turf project unless of course they want to put another future deficit at the hands of the next Town Council. They are already batting 1000 after North Center which was 9 months overdue. Ever look at the cost of that $1 project?
Lucy July 30, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Well, I certainly don't fault departments for attempting to operate within the guidelines of their budgets. I for one could live with out another winter like the state and town sustained two years ago and last year's double whammy. Personally, I have researched transfer policies in area towns, Southington requires BOF permission to transfer w/in a department's budget in all 4 quarters, other towns, within permissible guidelines, allow modest transfers for unforeseen expenditures i.e. 30 inches of snow. Personally, I'd prefer to have emergency responders allowed to do their jobs with the oversight but not hinderance of men and women who have never put a fire out, responded to a medical emergency or who made sure I was not stuck in my house during a weather emergency...just saying thank you to the men and women that respond to our emergencies.
Tony Casale July 31, 2012 at 01:11 AM
There is certainly no hinderance to first responders in any situation that I can think of, when it comes to emergencies we respond first and worry about it later, it is then the responsibility of the administration to curb the day to day WANTS not NEEDS to address buget shortfalls. Lets not forget we approved an option to bond this project as well, also the minority on the BOF proposed a cash payment from 2012/2013 budget reductions that was not well received. The ONLY reason we agreed to the cash payment was to save taxpayer dollars. Would I have liked to see the money used elsewhere or stay put, yes. Damned if I do damned if I don't...just trying to do my best Tony Casale Southington Board of Finance Taxpayer Self Insurance Contributor
Lucy July 31, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Let's not forget, the council can over ride a decision of the board of finance. The current system in my opinion is obsolete. Personally, I am waiting for a council that rises to the challenge and engages the board in a discussion not this 'stay in your sand box, don't play in mine" mentality. I think it is good to challenge, wonder, disagree and compromise. I am not uniformed, I think everyone is sincere, what I object to is being lectured to telling me I have not done my research. Say what you will about a pundit or two, when they have issue about what I post, it is not relative to my research, thanks guys.
Lucy July 31, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Mr. Moise you are as right as rain...but these choices are not mine, these choices and decisions are being made by elected officials. I think Southington and it's elected and appointed officials can do better. Our infrastructure is ailing, some of our schools are limping along, threadbare departments, etc., etc., etc., let's start to cooperate, put partisan politics aside, move forward in a positive way. At the end of the day, I think everyone wants Southington to move forward in the best way.
Ann G July 31, 2012 at 09:54 AM
How childish to say this, Mr. Cyr? Being called up short on a minor error and then, instead of just apologizing and leaving it at that, you point to the failings of others to minimize your error. "But, mommy, Bobby does it and he's even older." You are a big, fat baby. Shame on you.
Carl July 31, 2012 at 10:09 AM
1) Do you agree with the town's decision to pay for the turf project using cash? I agree that we should always pay cash rather than borrow for small projects. But this is a million dollar project and should be paid over time. Taking money that was ear-marked for some emergency use is completely WRONG. 2) Would you prefer bonding? Yes. This is a large project, was conceived to be funded out of taxpayer dollars paying long-term debt service. Furthermore, to pay cash for this, when there are so many other "cash" needs in Town, is like buying a house for cash when you barely are feeding your family. It makes no sense but for the fact that you want to cover-up the excessive cost that would otherwise be pulled from taxpayer pockets -- now; better to dip into the saving account, right? WRONG! 3) Is there another method, such as advertising and donations, that you would like to see? There are few other methods: you pay for it out of current tax receipts or abscond with those from the past. I will say that the sports complex that was so vocal in the decision-making process seems to have scuttled into the sewer in terms of coming up with contributions. Also, since the BoE (High School) stands to benefit from this, they, too, ought to pony up substantially; perhaps even cut salary funding like the Fire Department had to. This "cash" decision is wrong-headed politics.


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