.

Knickerbocker "Sad" About Outcome of Defeated Town Budget

Photo contributed
Photo contributed
First selectman Matthew Knickerbocker told Patch Thursday evening that he is "extremely disappointed" and "sad" on the outcome of the Town budget vote.

"It should've passed easily but was defeated by 315 votes," he said. Knickerbocker blames low voter turnout for the outcome. "People didn't come to the polls." Voter turnout percentages were not immediately available.

Knickerbocker speculated that the possible "No Bridge, No Budget" message perpetrated on social media forums last week may have spread "misinformation." The reference made by a handful of Bethel residents was directed at the length of time it took for the Walnut Hill bridge to be completed. The bridge opened Wednesday after nearly a year of delays.

"I will say it again. No official, nobody in the Town of Bethel had any management on that project. It was a State [of CT] managed, State [of CT] project. This is a bald faced lie perpetrated over and over. That is a real shame that they're using that lie to get people to vote against [the budget]. This had nothing to do with the bridge and it hurts our Town's ability to provide services we depend on," Knickerbocker said.

It's back to the drawing board in the hands of the Board of Finace now to determine which cuts will need to take place. A Town Meeting and referendum is needed before it goes out to vote again. 

"I expect they will do very serious cutting. What people don't realize is that we'll lose the ability to pave roads," Knickerbocker lamented.

"I'm saddened. I tried to invest in infrastructure that people neglected for years. Past administration neglected roads and building maintenance."

In addition to the problems the first selectman sees with infrastructure, he said the "No" vote will cause other problems. "The tax bills can't go out on time now and the supplemental tax mailing will cost thousands," he added.

Billy Michael told the News Times earlier this week that he wants the budget increase below 2 percent. The News Times reported Michael will lobby against the new proposal. Michael could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Will Duff, a "Vote No" advocate, did not want to approve the budget due to a nearly 6% pay increase it would have given to the first selectman.

He said on his Facebook page May 13: "I am voting "No, too high" on this year's Town budget. I do not support giving a 5.9% raise to our first selectman for failing to get the bridge built. Nor will I reward our first selectman with an extra $4,700.00 a year for trying to sell our reservoirs and Bethel water supply to Aquarion Water. I am asking all my fellow citizens to join with me and "Vote No" on this year's town budget."

Knickerbocker said the Board of Finance proposed the pay increase adding, "I didn't ask for a raise and don't care that I didn't get a raise but I'm glad they want the first selectman to be paid well. To take this job for a two year term is a very risky thing to do for someone in management."

Knickerbocker added the new budget proposal would have also given the Town Clerk a raise, in addition to himself, and said: "Nobody complained that our Town Clerk [would] get a raise. This is purely political."

Bergh stated the proposed raise would not have been a personal raise based on performance. The position was surveyed as being 15% lower than other Town Clerks in area and less than assistants in Town Hall, according to Bergh.

***Knickerbocker explained that the Board of Finance proposed the salary increases for key town positions and that the Town Clerk deserves to be compensated well for her hard work.***

He added that he expects the Board of Finance will meet next week to discuss budget cuts and the new budget proposal should go out to vote at the end of June.


[UPDATE 6/12/14, 10:06 p.m.]: 2,669 registered voters came out to vote Thursday. 1,177 voted yes. 1,492 voted no.

[Correction 6/12/14 10:40 p.m.]: The original article stated Knickerbocker said Town Clerk Lisa Bergh recently received a raise, however, Bergh said she did not get a raise. Had the Town budget passed, both Knickerbocker and Bergh would have both gotten a raise. However, since the budget did not pass, neither got a raise. The article has been edited to reflect the correction.

***[Additional comments added by Matt Knickerbocker, 6/12/14, 11:53 p.m.]












Dan Gaita June 13, 2014 at 11:58 AM
As uncommon as this occurs… I agree with one main argument presented by Mr. Hillman: NOBODY working for a tax paid municipal government should ever receive a pay raise that exceeds the inflation rate. Much of the towns taxes are covered by those living off of fixed incomes that are either being held flat or increased by the cost of living (inflation) adjustment. Anyone seeking a pay raise greater than inflation is taking money out of the hands of the people that need it most. We can not demand that our employees get a raise when the tax payers themselves have not seen a raise since 2008..It smacks in the face of what a community stands for. We are better than that. Respectfully,
Don Warfield June 16, 2014 at 08:03 AM
Bill and Michael ~ Which inflation index are you using? CPI, PPI or ECI? Is there not more to be considered in developing a budget then an inflation index report?
Bill Hillman June 16, 2014 at 08:41 AM
Don, I'm very familiar with the various index meanings, including MCI ( a private index you did not mention). Municipal cost inflation is close to the PPI and usually higher than the CPI. This is as viewed by the taxpayer... what does the taxpayer have to deal with in their own life and their own budget (CPI) in terms of what THEY can afford. Comparing to what municipalities have done (spend more than taxpayers can afford) misses the point. It's all about the taxpayer's wallet.
Don Warfield June 17, 2014 at 07:18 AM
Bill, you would still make the same argument whether, whatever index you chose to use if the index rate was .025%. These indexes should serve as a guide, not an act of financial god. There is a difference between what a tax payer can pay versus what a tax wants to pay. Obviously the process went skewed with a 6% raise for Mr. Knickerbocker. I understand from which the 6% came from but I don't subscribe to the idea of looking at what other towns are paying their employees. There will be those individuals such as your self and Mr. Michaels who vote no on every budget and that is OK. Tis democracy at work. But I rather see you not be so simplistic in using an inflation index.
Bill Hillman June 17, 2014 at 08:09 AM
Agreed, "Tis democracy at work." Another vote will take place the 26th. Maybe it will pass, maybe it won't.

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