January 22, 2020

Essex Town Budget

Letter To the Editor:

There is in Essex a seemingly fanatical fringe group who has decided to try to take issue with the present town administrators, solely for the purpose of embarrassment, and they’ve chosen to attack the town budget.

Our budget is non-partisan, put together by the Essex Board of Finance, the Republican Town Treasurer, and Essex Board of Selectmen, both Democrats and Republicans, who were united in their support of the proposed budget. They held open workshops, where anyone in the town could participate and make suggestions and propose changes; in a completely non-partisan and a very time-consuming job they came up with the budget they presented to the voters for the town of Essex. There is little room for changes without hurting the town of Essex; the Regional District 4 budget has already been approved as part of this budget, a big part, and then there’s the Elementary budget, which is already lean, and further reductions will mean reduction in the staff or other serious cuts to our children. Then there’s the town staff, which is seriously not the best paid in the state. There’s no one making six-figures who’s a town employee, administrator or staff
member . . .

You have to look at what’s been accomplished under Mr. Miller and his administration, as well as the Board of Finance, and town commissions, etc. Essex infrastructure was in a virtual state of collapse when they moved in (it’s a fact), including roads, structures, and especially the town hall. The town hall itself was totally disorganized, it’s every part seemingly totally unaware of what everyone else was doing; there was little or no cooperation or communication between departments and staff, and town commissions weren’t doing a great deal themselves.

Phil, our First Selectman, began obtaining grants and financial aid, making many, many improvements in the town’s infrastructure at little or no cost to the town, whatever. Commissions became empowered to act and set agendas contributing to the betterment of the town. The town hall building has been renovated and improved, and it now has a centralized computer system; there were adjustments made in the staff as needed. When Phil and company assumed office, there were no job descriptions for town employees, no hiring and firing policies, and no clear means of handling personnel issues and grievances. Best of all, under Phil Essex has obtained a triple-A credit rating, and we’ll lose that if we’re not careful . . .

The list of achievements and improvements done for us, the citizens of Essex, by our elected officials in the past eight years is impressive and seems almost endless; a lot of this has been a thankless task at best, and there’s no indication that any of this was done with a personal agenda in mind. None. Now this reactionary group, which represents itself as fair and even-handed, wants to do what they did in Deep River over the past few years: vote down the Essex budget, and for no other reason than they themselves do indeed have a political agenda. Look at who these folks are. Every one is a reactionary with one agenda: win at all costs. They believe in and will do whatever it takes. They don’t contribute to the process, or the town, but step in at the end and try to get naive voters to so “no”. Right now they’re lining up property owners in rest homes to vote, for instance. They’re telling people that there’s room in the budget to eliminate those very things that we depend on: snow-removal?, teachers?, town crew?, what are they thinking. And again, why didn’t they, if they really cared about the town, participate in the process? We have to have a referendum, which costs the town more money than they can save in the budget, because they want to win. No other reason. They cloak themselves in respectability, but don’t believe it.

I urge the voters in Essex to approve the town budget at our upcoming referendum. It is a very carefully assembled budget, with very minimal increases, some of which are offset by grants and other means, and, if any, only a very small raise in the mill rate, which is even now the 13th from the bottom.

Vote for the budget on June 7th. If you can’t vote between noon and 8:00 p.m., then get an absentee ballot; there’s a concerted effort afoot to again defeat this budget, and we don’t need that in Essex.


Jonathan James