Letter: Special meeting was not a pretty picture
To the Editor:
A special meeting of Town Council was called to enable Trumbull to dissolve the Trumbull-Monroe Health District. Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst noted timing was of the essence because dissolving the district at the end of the current fiscal year requires notifying Monroe by Dec. 31.
Members of the public speaking at the start of the meeting asked that the measure be tabled until the available information could be reviewed in depth. To no avail. The resolution passed. The district is, for all practical purposes, history.
The outcome was disappointing, yet the process was perhaps a harbinger. Herbst has been rumored to be eyeing a run for governor in 2018. Was his management of this a demonstration of how Governor Herbst might deal with policy proposals.
What we saw was not a pretty picture. The information was delivered to council members shortly before the meeting, not 48 hours in advance as the Town Charter mandates; it needed a strategic rationale whose benefits for Trumbull’s taxpayers go beyond the few dollars of projected savings (0.04 percent of Trumbull’s annual budget), an amount we will not even realize until well after the district has been dissolved; and the package would have benefitted from an executive summary to help readers understand the key facts.
The first selectman’s Chief of Staff Lynn Arnow opened the presentation by reading the district’s income statement, and interspersing the administration’s litany of projected savings. These “projections” called to mind a comment I often heard made by a boss I once had as a commercial lender, “I’ve never seen projections that showed a loss.”
Where was the downside scenario? This also recalls the forecast of a $6,000 Trumbull would save by adopting a four district representation system. Did we?
My eyes glazed over, and my education and work experience are in finance.
Next, we heard that the first selectman wanted to fire all the current employees to get them off the defined benefit pension plan, then rehire an unknown number into a lower cost defined contribution plan.
And I thought I heard that Trumbull would simply walk away from the office lease — no district, no lease, no obligation.
And, while I wasn’t there for the discussion, I assume that TD Bank would have to exercise its prerogatives to stay whole.
Herbst’s rationale was that he seeks “to make government smaller and smarter,” and here “to gain better budget, operational and internal control over its costs.” I didn't hear why these benefits would not be available with closer local supervision of the district's operations. And where was the strategic rationale for dissolution? What do Trumbull residents get as the added benefit of the unwinding — or if the projections prove overstated?
My takeaway was that the decision was purely cost based, and that it lacked any discussion of the district’s value or of a strategy to make its replacement fit Trumbull's needs.
Is this the way Governor Herbst will present and evaluate legislation? Is this the way we want our governor to evaluate proposed legislation?