Town Council Ken Campbell Q&A
Q: The Town Council was recently taken by surprise regarding the arbitration award from the Lakeview Avenue Bridge litigation. As a Town Council member, what would you do individually to prevent something like that from happening again?
A: Matters involving litigation are not generally discussed in public meetings. Litigation is one of the four subject matters for which executive session is called. Therefore, I don't think that there is much an individual councilman can do to avoid a repetition of the Lakeview Avenue bridge incident.
Collectively, my answer would be very different. There have been several suggestions made to the Town Council's Lakeview Avenue Bridge Litigation subcommittee. I think the suggestions First Selectman Walker made to the committee last week are good ones. Clearly, communication needs to be improved. There needs to be a common meeting involving the boards of selectmen and finance and the Town Council to discuss the litigation. Regular updates on the status or progress of the action should be required. And those bodies need to be involved in the decision-making as to whether or not to proceed with the action.
Q: A few months ago, when dealing with road paving and sidewalks, Town Council had a discussion regarding bonding versus budgeting. When do you feel it is appropriate to borrow money and when is it appropriate to place it in the budget?
A: Bonding is a financing tool that is appropriate to apply to purchases of long-lived assets such as buildings or their construction, road repair and purchases of other long-term assets. These kinds of expenses are usually quite large and the bonding spreads their costs over a long period of time, thereby allowing the payment to be made over a long period of time, like your mortgage.
Other expenses, such as relatively minor repairs or purchases of less expensive items should be included in the annual budgets.
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The decision of how to pay for things is an important one. For example, there was $375,000 added to our current budget for Public Works. That resulted in an additional almost half a percentage point to the budget increase. So the decision to expense items in the current budget will have a greater immediate impact on the mill rate.
Our propensity to bond has been very conservative. We have reduced the principal we owe by some $19 million over the last four years and we have refinanced our debt to take advantage of today's low interest rates, saving millions in interest costs. So New Canaan's fiscal health is very good.