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Everything Easton (3/20/2024)

As I hope you are aware, Easton has a Special Town Meeting scheduled for Monday, March 25 at Samuel Staples Elementary School. The Town Meeting is Easton’s legislative body and a democratic tradition that has stood the test of time. The Special Town Meeting is an opportunity to ask clarifying questions about issues before the electorate. I encourage every taxpayer to research the agenda items on their own, prepare questions and vote according to their own individual preference.


In this edition of Everything Easton, I’ll detail each issue and provide some guidance as your elected representative. I often get asked about my position and I want to share my thinking with you.


There are three items on the agenda:

  • Shall the Town of Easton approve the Tax Relief for the Elderly Ordinance as recommended by the 2023 Tax Relief for the Elderly Committee?

  • Shall the Town of Easton accept the Urban Grant in the amount of $396,270 from the Department of Emergency Services & Public Protection?

  • Discussion and possible approval of a special appropriation in the amount of $600,000 from the unassigned fund balance to the Board of Education to cover the shortfall in the education budget.


Supporting information on the first two items is on the town website.


Tax Relief

Every three years, an appointed committee of Easton residents reviews the town’s senior tax relief program. This program is designed to provide financial relief to our neighbors who may be living on a fixed income or reduced income in their retirement years.


The committee reviewed the senior tax relief program in place for the prior three years and

recommended several changes to the existing ordinance. These changes are designed to make the tax relief program easier to manage and to provide additional relief to seniors most in need.


The total cost of the recommended ordinance changes is $18,900. The committee

recommends that the town budget for tax relief for 2024 an amount equal to the tax relief granted in 2023 ($169,000), plus the estimated amount for the proposed changes ($18,900), plus a small contingency ($19,000) for a total of $207,000. In the chart, you can see how this program has been implemented since 2020.


Based on the committee’s analysis and the Republican Town Committee’s commitment to supporting senior citizens in Easton, I support the ordinance changes as recommended by the committee. I also want to thank the members of the Tax Relief for the Elderly Committee for their thorough review and thoughtful deliberations.


Urban Grant

This grant will be used for the septic system replacement and parking improvements at the Easton EMS building. These updates are necessary for the overall modernization of our EMS facility. The proposed project involves the purchase of the empty lot adjacent to the EMS building (444 Sport Hill Road), the replacement of the septic system with a new upgraded system, installation of a new water supply well, relocation of a storm drainage facility and the construction of a parking area.


Reports indicate there will no adverse environmental or social impacts to any such resources, including traffic, floodplains, natural resources/wetlands, endangered species, archeological resources, historical structures, neighborhoods, utilities, parks, cemeteries, etc. Additionally, traffic safety is expected to be improved on Connecticut Route 59,

since the ambulance bays will no longer exit directly onto Sport Hill Road.


Included is a detailed breakdown of estimated costs. This information is also available on the town website.

A common question about grants has to do with reimbursement. The final reimbursement from the state for the $396,270 grant will only be made after the town submits documentation of the total project costs, which includes documentation of the municipal

share of the project. If the grantee match is larger than the state share of the grant, only one request will be accepted.


Based on the parameters, cost estimates and community need for a more modern and safe EMS facility, I support acceptance of the urban grant. I also want to thank the members of the EMS Building Committee for their continued work on this important project.


Board of Education Special Appropriation

The final issue on the agenda is whether to approve an appropriation of $600,000 from the unassigned fund balance to the Board of Education to cover the shortfall in the 2023/2024 education budget.


Our school administrators and the Easton Board of Education have been upfront about how the volatile nature of special education budgeting and staffing challenges converged this year to create a complex scenario for Easton.


Easton schools are experiencing more student referrals to special education compared with the prior year. As a result, they need additional staff. The total percentage of Easton students with IEPs (Individual Education Plans) grew from 11.4% in 2022 to 18.1% in 2023. Easton is also finding that students’ needs are greater. This means that a portion of students require more intensive services.


In addition to more students needing services, Easton schools started the current school year with several vacancies. Our administrators made efforts to fill these openings but were unsuccessful due to staff shortages across the state and competition among other school districts. As a result, Easton contracted with outside professional agencies to fill these open positions. It was a necessary approach but came at a higher cost.


The superintendent of schools and Board of Education outlined the budget situation to both the Board of Selectman and the Board of Finance, which included cost mitigation strategies

to reduce the amount of additional funds requested from the town.


I am confident in our superintendent of schools and the strategic plan he has put forward to meet the needs of all Easton students. I believe the board and our superintendent are being thoughtful and considerate in balancing education goals with taxpayer dollars.


Based on the increased needs in special education, the cost mitigation strategies that have been put into place, budget planning transparency and my commitment to Easton’s schools, I support the special appropriation.


I hope everyone will make time to study these issues and come prepared to fully participate in Monday’s Special Town Meeting. It is our right as citizens to have a voice and a vote in local decisions that directly affect us. Doing so also requires that we prioritize civil public discourse and active involvement on all matters before the Town of Easton. If you have any questions, please reach out to me or the general email for the Easton Republican Town Committee at eastonrtc@gmail.com.


Kristi Sogofsky

Easton Board of Selectmen

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