To the Editor:

New Milford voters face their first proposed Charter Revisions in 12 years. Many may not be aware that our Town must form a Charter Revision Commission at least once every five years.

Knowing that two previous administrations let this fundamental task slide, the new mayor and Town Council properly placed this among New Milford’s highest priorities.

The commission included former Mayor Liba Fuhrman, Attorney Ken Taylor, Board of Finance member Joe DeGregorio, former Assistant Superintendent Tom Mulvihill, Lisa Agee, Gerard Bianchi, Michelle Gentile, Pete Helmus, Diane Klaif, and me.

Town Attorney Matt Grimes served as procedural advisor and clerk.

The commission reflected diverse perspectives and experiences, which helped ensure a smooth, thorough process. All members love New Milford and the town meeting form of government, where the big decisions are made by you. Realizing our structure works well, we sought ways to make it the best it could be.

After being formed, the commission conducted research.

This started with several items referred by the Town Council. Second, data was gathered, compared and analyzed from a variety of resources. Third, and most important, the Commission collected input from current boards, commissions, and departments, and citizens.

In addition, to two public hearings, the commission held public comment at all meetings and obtained feedback in writing.

On behalf of the commission, I thank those who participated with their ideas and suggestions. Much of what was brought to the table is reflected in the final proposal that goes to vote with next month’s state election.

The commission had three guiding principles: is there compelling reason to change? Will change benefit New Milford? What are the potential long-term consequences?

The recommended changes were unanimously approved by the commission and subsequently by a bipartisan Town Council.

The proposed Charter Revisions make New Milford’s Charter clearer and less subject to interpretation.

The proposed changes put more checks and balances in place to preserve our current structure, but improve that structure with boldly defined responsibilities.

Finally, the changes seek to enhance the authority of New Milford citizens, vital to helping our town succeed.

The proposals include:

+Reference to CT Freedom of Information requirements with respect to elected and appointed boards/commissions - protecting the public’s right to know and giving guidance to those volunteers who serve.

+All appointed boards will have a four-year term with a consistent start date.

+The Director of Finance’s actions over large investments will require advice and consent of our elected Board of Finance.

+Cleaning the Town Meeting section of the Charter so supplemental spending over $360,000 must come before all New Milford voters

+Mandating New Milford has and maintains a Code of Ethics, which must be examined at least once every five years.

+No longer will a Mayor and Town Council leaving office be positioned to stack appointed boards in the last weeks of their term(s).

+If one side (town or school) of the budget passes at referendum, the side that passes will not be subject to further revisions in subsequent referendums.

+All voters will be asked advisory questions at every budget referendum - whether each (town or school) portion of the proposal is “too high”, “too low” or “adequate”.

These proposals will benefit New Milford citizens for years to come.

I’m appreciative of the time, talent, and treasure of the commission members and ask that you join all of us in voting “yes” for Question 3 on Nov. 6.

Paul Szymanski


New Milford Charter Revision Commission