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Letter: Tighten Purse Strings: Vote 'No' on Shuffle

Spending money on the facilities Shuffle will mean higher taxes or less money elsewhere in the town budget, Deb Ice writes in her letter to the editor.

To the editor:

Recent articles about our bulging special education costs and school budget shortfalls, partly due to reduced state reimbursements, highlight how irresponsible it is to spend money on projects like the shuffle.    

When we point out this problem to those who want to spend $2.6 million to “shuffle” the education administration from one building to another, another $4.3 million to renovate town hall for our seniors (freeing up their original location for ... take a guess ... ANOTHER BUILDING PROJECT—bungalows for senior living, across the street from the middle school and athletic fields!), we hear what I refer to as “government speak.”  It goes something like this: “But this money has no impact on education spending because that is not my responsibility. All education budgeting is done by them.” (The finger is raised and points to the Board of Education building—soon to be replaced, mind you, by a building so oversized a section will have to be closed off).     

Special education is highly regulated and most costs are mandated by independent education plans that, by law, cannot be changed unless in the best interests of the child. Those expenses are therefore extremely hard to tighten. So if you spend freely in other areas—like  refurbishing buildings and shuffling government employees around, increasing debt servicing and operating expenses—then you have to tighten spending in areas that may be easier to get at but painful to live with. Or we all have to cough up more money.   

If you want to tighten other areas or cough up more money, then that is fine, vote for the shuffle and we will spend $7 million to move people around.    
If you don’t want to spend $7 million to move people around and aren’t particularly excited about yet another poorly thought-out building project (the senior “bungalows”) down the road that we all know will be shoved through every committee just like the shuffle ... Then vote NO.   

It’s that easy.   

Deb Ice

Stop The Shuffle November 29, 2011 at 10:55 PM
Please visit www.StopTheShuffle.com to learn the facts behind this non-partisan, grass roots effort in Darien to put an end to the “Shuffle”
Debra Ritchie November 30, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Since this is a small town, all are "grass roots efforts". www.voteyesdarien.com is non partisan with Democrats and Republicans involved. My friends and I post using our real names. Doesn't it seems like many of the facilities transfer opponents hide behind an alias or a group name? I wonder why that is.
Vote Yes Darien November 30, 2011 at 12:56 AM
Please visit www.VoteYesDarien.com to learn the facts behind the non-partisan, grass roots effort in Darien to build a senior center and better utilize the town's facilities.
John Boulton November 30, 2011 at 01:25 AM
Ok, Deb, let's go over this again. Education is, and will be, the #1 priority for Darien, and everyone involved in the budget process has a track record of acknowledging and acting on the idea that we have a legal and moral commitment to Special Education. But, the signal we are getting from the elected Town officials is education shouldn't be the only priority. Your positioning this as a choice between Special Education parents and capital spending is an odious one at best. At worst, it holds all future Town capital projects hostage to the Board of Ed budget. I, for one, reject that idea, on the basis that we can do both. The easy path is to shout in opposition, the hard part is building something positive. If you give me a choice between elected officials who have dealt with these budget issues in the past, the majority of which are supporting this project knowing the fiscal landscape that will be ahead of us, or partisans such as yourself who are urging a No vote without alternatives to offer, I think everyone would be better served by voting YES on Dec 13.
Deb Ann November 30, 2011 at 11:26 AM
Deb Ice is my real name.
Deb Ann November 30, 2011 at 11:28 AM
"The ladies(gentlemen) doth protest too much, me thinks"
John Sini November 30, 2011 at 12:37 PM
It's clear, there is no disagreement that this town is in desperate need of a senior/community center. The question now is to how best meet that need. Like many other opponents, Mrs. Ice doesn't outline any alternatives to the approved Shuffle plan which has been vetted and passed by the BOS, BOF and RTM. Folks, the following is a link to the last needs-based proposal for a new standalone senior/community center done for for the Klein administration in 2008: www.voteyesdarien.com/More_Information_files/Darien%20Senior%20Activities%20Center%20%282007%29.pdf Note the size of the stand alone facility (18,000 square feet) is consistent with the most recent estimate put togther by Mr. Campbell. The total cost estimate of $6.35M does not include soft costs which would run at least a several hundred thousand dollars more nor the expense associated with a 4,500 sq feet build for future growth. This would bring the total square footage to 22,500 square feet. The bottom line is the cost of a stand alone project would reach over $8 million. Now you understand why the concept of a facilities transfer was pursued. You can judge for yourself if you'd like to construct a stand alone senior center for $6-8 million or endorse the already approved shuffle plan which delivers the town so much more by renovating a couple existing town owned facilities and has the chance to bring senior housing to a residential neighborhood
Deb Ann November 30, 2011 at 01:02 PM
http://stoptheshuffle.com/otheroptions/
sebastian dangerfield November 30, 2011 at 01:17 PM
wow--the new stoptheshuffle options-----lots of ummmm untruths. lots
John Sini November 30, 2011 at 02:14 PM
Mrs. Ice, Any chance you could provide us all the needs based analysis for the facilties and/or defined hard & soft cost estimates to back these "other options" up?
Deb Ann November 30, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Hey John For the purposes of disclosure and to clear up any misunderstanding--I am not involved in any detail--on the board, an officer, web site writer--with the stoptheshuffle movement. I am currently on the DTC, was involved with the Lundeen campaign and am personally opposed to the shuffle. I signed the petition, walked around the neighborhood with my husband (a life long Republican) and by myself and obtained signatures, most of which were from Republicans or Independents. My letter to the editor represents my views. My posts (Deb Ann, if I forgot to sign them. I usually do. I am not hiding on the playground, just don't put my full name on as a user on any public board. Deb is my first name, Ann is my middle) are written by me and reflect my opinion. I signed up for email notification and received an email with this link. I thought it was very well thought out, informative. I believe there is a place to post your thoughts on the site. Deb Ice
John Sini November 30, 2011 at 05:24 PM
Mrs. Ice, Thanks for the insight. I only ask is it's quite easy to throw a bunch of numbers and options out there with no real basis to back them up. When it comes to facilties planning, there typically is a "needs assessment" and architectual plans to come up with any figures. In the case of a new senior/ community center, we have two differen needs assessments completed two different experts for two different administrations. Interestingly, they both call for a new facility which requires 18,000-22,500 sq feet. That's why I'm stuggling to understand the options that are listed on the web site you mention.
John Sini December 02, 2011 at 08:49 PM
Facts can be so inconvenient at times... See this week's Darien Times article which sets the record straight that the Shuffle will NOT likely have an affect on school spending: http://www.darientimes.com/news/darien-features/local-news/5001929-how-would-shuffle-affect-school-spending-not-much.html
Deb Ann December 02, 2011 at 09:52 PM
Go get a balloon. Put a hose inside the lip. Turn the water on. When it is full? Draw four squares. Poke holes in them. Lets keep the rate the water enters the balloon the same. OK, now make one hole bigger than the others. The balloon will start to shrink, unless you make other holes smaller, or increase the rate at which the water enters. This is a metaphor for what is called cash flow analysis. It's what businesses have to do to keep afloat during this economic crisis. Susan Schultz does a very good job for you guys. But, well, it's all government speak. This is where moderate Dems like me and moderate Republicans (like most of this town) come together. We are sick of government speak. We are sick of the spending. We are all tightening our belts. You have to do it too. Get used to it.
John Sini December 02, 2011 at 11:19 PM
I didn't realize ballons had a Board of Finance and RTM to balance, regulate and manage the inflows and outflows.
sebastian dangerfield December 02, 2011 at 11:36 PM
hahahaha democrats---the new fiscal watchdogs On this one issue. But if they see a 5 mio dollar building they can house people from other towns in, then--money is no object. Tired of spending---hahaha--- on one issue and only one issue. For the 14th time--where were you 12 months ago when the 18 mio (yeah 18!!) got approved. IM sorry to say, but credibilty comes with honesty. Not just a smokescreen and a balloon ?
James Palen December 03, 2011 at 04:16 AM
A balloon to describe cashflow analysis? Really. Let's introduce another another concept in corporate finance, that of depreciation. An asset, not maintained, continues to depreciate and needs to be replaced. Municipalities do not depreciate their assets, but instead maintain them or rebuild them and bond the cost over a period generally less than their useful life. The project invests approximate $4mm in a new Senior Center (the can also be used by the rest of the community) and $2.6mm in a new facility for the Board of Education. Are there any local real estate professionals that can give us an indication of what it would cost to rent space for the Board of Education per year?
Susan December 05, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Since 1994 Darien has renovated or built new every school in town. When Tokeneke was built at a cost of $22million, not a whisper was heard about taking money from education,( Operating and capital are different budget items) The $16 million police building isn't even finished and no one thought a referendum was needed. So what is the point of the shuffle opponents? 35 Leroy was purchased because the town had been accused of not buying property for town use. For the last 30 years when large pieces of property became available the town did not step up to the plate, and when that same property was purchased by developers residents cried because there was not enough municipal or recreation space. The town paid 4.3million for two plus acres because the town needed the space and the building was modern. Now someone wants to sell it to a developer? Or worse, tear it down? That is financially irresponsible. There is a waiting list for affordable senior housing at the Old Town Hall site. Our town determined that for the efficacy of the community it was important to keep seniors here. After all, they raised their families contributed to the town and still pay for the schools even when their children are grown. So what is really the issue here? Surely not $6.9 million for a senior center and Board of Education space? That project is long overdue. Six years of study and not one plan provided as many options for the cost.
Deb Ann December 05, 2011 at 02:14 PM
Susan, I will respond to the present part of your discussion, but I see no point in pulling up past decisions as proof of why this mistake is OK. It feels like a distraction. Who cares what we did in the past. We need to discuss what we are doing here. Now. Yes, senior affordable housing is needed. What better place than Leroy? In fact it would be a great location for both senior luxury living as well as affordable. A certain percentage of any project would have to be set aside for affordable. Even if the building started prior to expiration of the moratorium, town zoning requires 12% set aside for affordable. Why not have luxury senior apartments with a set aside for affordable for seniors? The purchase of Leroy was a way to use our AAA low cost of capital to finance the new library. The intent was to finance the new library. They planned on using it for housing. The lease was cancelled. The cancellation caused this delay. The town needed the space because they needed affordable housing. No one wanted a municipal building for administrators. The real fear about Leroy is the fact that it is SUCH a great place for housing. Much better than Edgerton. Lets all get honest here. THAT is the fear. That certain types, even a handful, could slip in there. Most would be seniors. But I think even five families terrify certain people here.
sebastian dangerfield December 05, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Deb, I'm not sure if your post is meant to be a joke, or if it's simply a reflection of an inability to have an honest discussion. "Susan your analysis of the past I won't address. I want to only keep it in the present. The cancellation of the lease ( in the past) is the reason for delay. The intended purpose ( the past) was for housing." How about saying, Susan I don't want to go over the past, when it doesn't suit my purpose. The past you speak about hurts my cause, so I'll label it a distraction and talk about the elements of the past that suit me." At least then your rebuttal won't be disingenuous.
sebastian dangerfield December 05, 2011 at 02:49 PM
And then of course the requisite race card, to help the cause. At least deb is bringing the issue to what it's really about. Nothing about fiscal austerity. It's simply about ah at 35 Leroy. Deb fails to mention why 35 Leroy is a better place than edgerton. But playing the race card "that certain types" could slip in there. Yuck. Deb, edgarton and 35 Leroy are both close to public transportation ( even though the democrats budget in 2 cars for property tax purposes to make it look like the town will make money)... Both are near shopping. Both near 95. Edgarton is closer to schools, but Leroy is closer to the movie theater. Is that what makes it better?
John Sini December 05, 2011 at 02:57 PM
At least, Mrs. Ice is now admitting her true intentions in this referendum -- her desire to create affordable housing at Leroy Ave. Now I feel like we all can have an honest debate. However, Mrs. Ice's claims ar ea bit skewed. There was NOT a signed lease for 35 Leroy, just an Option to Lease that was unilaterally pursued by the BOS led by Mrs. Klein. It's important to remember, the BOF, RTM, or P&Z did NOT sign off on a plan for affordable housing at 35 Leroy -- only the BOS. It is a fact 35 Leroy was purchased for municipal use. It is also a fact that the RTM specifically removed the use for affordable housing from its final approval of the purchase, with that municipal use to be determined at a later date.
Deb Ann December 05, 2011 at 03:35 PM
I was addressing the Susan's post who discussed original intent. I understand what the current BOS desperately wants to do. We are having a referendum on that.
Deb Ann December 05, 2011 at 03:42 PM
luca, I'd be glad to read your posts, but first disclosure. where do you reside and where do you pay taxes. Thank you
Deb Ann December 05, 2011 at 03:57 PM
John, The question was the intent. Ok, OPTION TO lease was cancelled. The BOS's intent was to use it for affordable housing. What in the world are you getting at? True intentions? A conspiracy to, what? (I deleted the rest as my new letter to the editor addresses this more accurately. )
John Sini December 05, 2011 at 04:19 PM
Deb, things have changed since 2008 -- we have a moratorium, additional affordable housing units, an approved project at Allen O'Neill, new private affordable units on the horizon. We also had a couple elections that have delivered a couple new BOS, which have different policy priorities than the Klein adminsitration. Just because one admin had a unilateral plan to pursue something, doesn't mean subsequent administrations need to follow that plan. That's what elections are for!
sebastian dangerfield December 05, 2011 at 05:22 PM
Deb Ann I own 2 properties and a business in Darien. I have resided in Ridgfield for the past 10 years. Now that we have that straightened out, and I have cleared up my payment of taxes, and my concern for the issues, are you really going to try to make this about honesty or validity of who gets to weigh in? I pay more taxes than you do, Deb, so , does that make my points more valid, less valid or sort of irrelvant. Do shuffle people ever stay on point? Or do you need to find tangents to attack, becuse the basic argument you cant win? Now the real questions, and since I answered yours, I d appreciate finally an answer to mine. If costs are a concern, why did you not try to block the police station. (my concept is beause the real issue here is AH at 35 leroy--not costs--am I right? Be honest). If you think that education is impaired by capital projects, can you point to any one of the current or past capital projects which you can demonstrate compromised our quality of education? To latch onto mr sini's point, if the klein administration thought that 20ish thousand sq feet is appropriate for a senior center, why didnt you question the size then? And in fact why are current opponents in favor of the Klein vision in the past? I know you say you dont want to talk about the past, but thats pretty weak--because to me, its definitely about intentions here--and from what I can see, your side is not honest about the intentions.
Deb Ann December 05, 2011 at 10:41 PM
Luca, While you don't live here, it seems you do pay taxes, so yes you have every right to voice an opinion on how your taxes are spent. As to your posts? The anger, vitriole and almost obsessive desire to personally attack anyone who voices an opinion different from yours interferes with listening to your writing voice. It appears to scream attacks first, logic and reasoning second. When my kids were small, they would yell, and I walked away. It is a waste of time to try to reason with a temper tantrum. I personally feel Leroy could be marketed in many ways. Commercial zoning. Great commercial property. Luxury senior living. etc...Lots of ways. My post and letter was about fear, not race. Fear of the unknown, which can include what a person may imagine. Fear interferes with reasoning. And it usually escalates. Or in my experience I have seen it escalate. We will all vote and whatever the vote is we will all support. Jayme is providing time for a fair vote. Good for her. We will see what the town wants. In the mean time, herbal tea does wonders.
sebastian dangerfield December 06, 2011 at 04:16 AM
Ahh thanks. herbal tea. You see Deb, its that passive aggressive stuff that you think works. Ok , lets go with it. Ill drink herbal tea. aHH much better. But I guess my now calm frustration still exists. Because you asked me a question and I answered in as clear a manner as I could. But I asked you about why you didnt oppose the police station. If you think education is going to be compromised in darien because of this capital project, do you think past capital projects have also impacted our boe budget, and could you provide any supporting evidence. and with respect to the size of the senior center that the anti shuffle crowd thinks is wrong--why do you think these same people were supportive of mrs. kleins proposal for a similarly sized senior center? Has everyone (campbell, stevenson, and klein) all been wrong? That would strike me as odd, given the fact that the anti shuffle people have done no studies and provided no credible alternative. Dont you think that 3 separate administrations who have each studied the issue and all arrived at same conclusion should be listened to a with a bit more credibility than a 'grass roots effort ' that has done no homework? Thanks deb You will notice that my level of 'vitriole' will ebb with just a couple of answers rather than tea. I am disheartened that you play the race card, and then claim you didnt. But, hey, your tea drinking suggestion I will listen to.

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