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Budget, Changes Dominate "Meet the Candidates Night"

The public was concerned with matters of finance, while many candidates spoke of necessary changes that must come to town.

While many of the questions submitted to candidates during Monday night's "Meet the Candidates" event were concerned with the town's fiscal management, several candidates, particularly those on the Republican side of the table, took the opportunity to call for a change in the way things are done in town.

As expected, no candidates entertained the prospect of change like those seeking a seat in public office for the first time.

Republican candidate for Town Council Lisa Boccia addressed the audience in Town Hall Council Chambers, expressing her frustration with the council's priorities, saying that she has witnessed Windsor residents who used to write checks to support the Windsor Food and Fuel Banks begin to use those services because they have fallen on hard times.

"Then I sit in town council meetings and hear concerns about the death penalty and distributing gold fish at the Shad Derby. And then I say "Enough. It's time we had a change,'" she said.

Seated on an incumbent-heavy candidate slate, Boccia, who is new to the political arena, but not public service (she is current chair of the Human Rights Council and treasurer of the Windsor Community Service Council), is one of two new council candidates — the other being democratic candidate Jody Terranova, who could potentially fill a vacancy left by Town Council member Mathew Marci, who is not seeking re-election.

Republican candidate for Board of Education Kristin Ingram (currently seated as the replacement for former member David Gay) also called for change, but particularly with regard to the district's accountability for student achievement.

"It one of our recent meetings, the administration sat in front of us and said 'While our scores are below the state's and below our goals, if we can just get one or two more students over the hurdle, then we'll be at goal.' I think that that attitude is part of the problem in Windsor," she said.

"It's not about getting one or two more students above the line. It's about getting all of our students to the place that they need to be so that when they leave the Windsor school system they can be productive members of society, and can contribute to whatever community they end up in..."

Education, in the larger conversation Monday, was addressed as a practical element of the services provided to Windsor residents — services that many candidates agreed have suffered, or have the potential to suffer, in tough economic times.

Tantamount to the deliver of services and maintenance of quality of life in town, democratic town council candidate and current Deputy Mayor Al Simon, said during his opening comments, is the town's ability to retain its employees.

As it has become increasingly difficult for towns to manage budgets, keep taxes low and deliver the quality of services residents have come to expect, he explained, it is important to recognize that town employees are responsible for delivering those services, and "if we lose those people, we lose our services."

Republican candidate and current council member Aaron Jubrey challenged democrats' approach to services with regard to taxes, saying in his opening comments that while he feels "the democrats have done a pretty good job of running this town for 20 years, but I feel we can do better."

"The majority party is not looking to reduce spending...," said Jubrey. "I think they look for increases that they can live with. They willingly accept that taxes are going to go up, and [ask] 'How can we accept that (taxes) are going to go up, and not make them go up to far so that people are not upset with us?'"

With regard to taxes, the town council, Simon said, has directed Town Manager Peter Souza and his staff "by the majority of the council to preserve town services."

"So we understand that spending, [to preserve town services], is required," he said. "At the same time, we've also made it clear that tax increases need to be restrained."

Over the next fiscal year, spending cuts are expected to be increasingly difficult to come by, particularly as Windsor Public Schools will operate without $600,000 in federal jobs money.

The district did, however, recently reported unexpended funds in the amount of roughly $400,000 from the previous fiscal year, and anticipate a savings of at least $300,000 in 2012-13, when Wolcott Early Childhood Center is closed and the school reorganization is completed.

Over the next two years, the town council will also be faced with decision regarding the (which is projected to increase Windsor's population by 7,000 over the next 14 to 20 years), the closing of the landfill, the development of Windsor Center and .

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