About-Town-Margaret-WirtenbergWhy is the upcoming Board of Finance public hearing going to be different from all of those we’ve had before? Because the rules of the budget process have changed — in the people’s favor.

Start preparing now! This is a public hearing everyone in town should care about. What is it about? It is about money and taxes. You can make a difference. It will be held at the middle school cafeteria, which is a comfortable place for a meeting of around 400 people. Do you think we’ll get that number?

The record for the quickest Board of Finance public hearing is probably slightly under a half an hour, quite a few years ago.

Members of the finance panel listen, and then at a “deliberation” public meeting that is often held the next evening (as it is this year), they either make some cuts or leave the proposed budgets intact. In some years they may increase an item or two, if memory serves.

On Wednesday, April 3, at 8 p.m. the Weston Middle School cafeteria will be the place to be. That will be your opportunity to provide the board with your thoughts on the annual budget.

The new town charter provides powers to the Board of Finance in the event part or all of the budget approved at the Annual Town Budget Meeting is rejected at referendum. Please assist the finance board by coming to their public hearing and telling them precisely what you think they should do. And why.

April 3

After the Board of Finance chairman opens the April 3 meeting, the first selectman will make her pitch for the “town side” of the budget. Including the capital budget, that represents around 20% of the total 2013-14 budget. How can we know what questions to ask about it?

Thanks to the town of Weston website, westonct.gov, everyone has access to the numbers, department by department. Take the time to look it all over! Everything is arranged by department.

You can ask about anything in the budget. You can ask for explanations from town officials or from the finance board members themselves. Increases are proposed in the town side of the budget this year. What are these for?

You might want to ask about the upcoming technical reassessment of property values. No one will come to your door this year for the reassessment. But how will it work considering that sales, while supposedly up recently in number, are still not recovered? How are house prices doing?

Will these changes make any difference in what the town spends? The answer to that is a simple “no.” So it is important to know where and how property tax burdens may shift. Might they shift straight to you?

What affects your tax bill most, of course, is the Board of Education side of the budget.

We get to vote on only its bottom line. No one wants to negatively affect the education of Weston’s youth.

As in many aspects of life, in the budget process we make decisions about what are necessities, and what are worthwhile investments. Be part of that process!

NOTE: “About Town” is also a television program. It appears on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on Cablevision Channel 88 (Public Access). Or see it at aboutweston.com. This week’s guest is Gail Lavielle, state representative from the 143rd District (Wilton, Westport, and Norwalk).

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