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Abramowitz: Town Council Run 'More Than Likely'

The Republican said he’s eager to bring his expertise in finance to the Town Council so that spending measures brought to the group are reviewed by an experienced eye.

 

Saying the Town Council needs more members with financial experience in order to control taxes in New Canaan, Roy Abramowitz said he intends to throw his hat in the ring when the caucus gets underway later this spring.

A Republican Town Committee member from 2010 to 2012, Abramowitz said he’s concerned about talk that New Canaan might pay for projects through bonding because down the road, the town would need to either pay down the bond by cash or refinance it at far higher rates.

“The interest rates are low now but you need to pay back the principal,” Abramowitz said. “So when rates go up and we’re back in the Carter years, and even if the rates are 8 percent, not 18 percent, they’re going to have to refinance indentures at an interest rate that’s 400, 500, 600 percent higher than it is today. The effect on the mill rate is going to be astronomical—exponentially higher—and our children who want to live in this town are totally doomed.”

Half of the seats on the 12-member Town Council, including four held by Republicans, are up for re-election this year, according to the Town Clerk’s office.

Though it’d be very early now formally to declare candidacy for a municipal election, Abramowitz said it’s “more than likely” he’ll run.

His comments come just two-and-a-half months after he withdrew his own name from consideration for a then-vacant seat on the council in the wake of an email distributed among Town Council members. Sent Jan. 10 by town resident Michael Farrell to Town Council Chairman Mark DeWaele and then distributed to the entire group that morning—the same day the group was voting to fill the vacant seat—the email implied that Abramowitz had misrepresented his professional credentials and background.

Neither Farrell nor DeWaele could be reached for comment.

Part of Farrell’s email reads: “Mr. Abramowitz is not listed as registered to practice as a Certified Public Accountant by the state of Connecticut, but is so listed in New York.”

In fact, Abramowitz holds both a 2012 and 2013 state-issued permit to practice public accountancy in Connecticut, according to documents he provided Patch—and the state board since it was made aware of Farrell’s email and its assertions also issued Abramowitz a Connecticut CPA license.

For Abramowitz, what’s most troubling about what transpired in January are the timing of the email's distribution (the day of the vote for a seat that had been vacated by a member who went to the state legislature) and the fact that the email was distributed to Town Council members before he had a chance to address the claims it made.

“It was just a total lack of civility, and if that’s where New Canaan’s leadership on the council is heading, then that’s not a good thing,” Abramowitz said.

Looking forward, Abramowitz said he plans to pursue a Town Council seat this year so that taxpayers don’t risk problems such as the widely discussed Lakeview Avenue Bridge project and its aftermath. Completed in 2009, the project included about $1.5 million in taxpayer funds that were not appropriated through proper channels. New Canaanites were shocked to learn that an arbitration settlement in 2011 of about $650,000 had been paid for the project from the town's capital budget without approval the Town Council itself, among other municipal bodies.

Abramowitz said he had been an outspoken critic within the RTC (at that time) of how the misappropriations were made, even though the project developed during the administration of former First Selectman Jeb Walker, a Republican.

“I do budgets, I compare budgets, budgets just like for Lakeview Avenue,” Abramowitz said. “That never would have happened when I was on the Town Council.”

“When you budget ‘X’ in legal fees and all the sudden it’s 300 percent of what you budgeted, I would have asked ‘Why is the variance so high?’ “ Abramowitz said. “I’m a forensic auditor. I repair and organize budgets. And I stand by what I believe in, even if it means standing alone.”

In this municipal election year, New Canaan voters will cast ballots for first selectman, selectmen, Town Council, treasurer, Board of Education, Board of Assessment Appeals and constables, officials say.

Eric friedland March 25, 2013 at 11:09 AM
The point regarding refinancing at a higher rate is incorrect. Once fixed rate municipal bonds are issued, they do not have to be refinanced. If they have a call option, which is common, then they could be refinanced, but only at the towns option and they would only exercise this option if rates were lower. Eric Friedland
J Bauer March 25, 2013 at 12:31 PM
While technically that is true, the increased debt and principal service payments ultimately require us to make a choice each year for which we have a shortfall (every year essentially). The choice is either we bond more or we raise taxes. While Roy seems to have been thinking of a more typical corporate bond structure, the point is still valid that at some future date if interest rates are much higher, raising taxes may become a more appealing alternative for our local officials.
Roy A. Abramowitz March 25, 2013 at 01:14 PM
Mr Friedland while the specifics pertaining to the call option and fixed interest rates are correct your comment is incorrect. As you know when reporting an interview comments are summarized otherwise the length of the article would be too large. What I said was that as we continue to increase the totality of bonded debt the town's obligation to amortize the state mandated principal and interest on an annual basis will increase. As of now the projected obligation of the town is between $10 and $20 million per year in the budget projections on approximately $132 million of bonded debt. My concerns are as the aggregate amount of bonded debt increases the yearly obligation increases while the town's revenues decrease. Also as current bonds mature in the future new bonded debt will bear a higher coupon rate. Again increasing the town's yearly obligation. Therefore your capsulized comment Eric is incorrect as to my analysis . Thank you for your interest.
Roy A. Abramowitz March 25, 2013 at 02:42 PM
To clarify further. I just received a call in my office from a cocerned constituent who interpreted in the article that I said there are "baloon Payments" at the maturity of the town's bond. Firstly the above article is an abridged summary analysis of a 45 minute interview. Mike Dinan did an excellent job in condensing all that was said into the allowed space. However to reiterate I never implied that there are balloon payments. What I stated was: We currently have $132 million in bonded debt on the books. The state mandates that principal be amortized each year and current interest paid. I believe that number is projected at $10 to$20 million a year. Now looking at projections if total bonded indebtedness increases to $140, $150+ million the yearly amortization obligation will increase. Add the yearly interest obligation as rates increase beginning in 2014, 2015 and thereafter (the Fed cannot pump forever without causing hyper-inflation) and the alarming possibility arises that in future years the Town may not be able to pay the required yearly amortization of principal and interest on its outstanding bonded debt. In addition add to that a mandated increase in the School budget. Also as resident's state, local and federal tax burden increases how will they pay an increased real estate burden as the mill rate increases. That is my point!!!! Again I am not implying that there are balloon payments or that my analysis is based on a maturation balloon payment.
feo mesics March 25, 2013 at 02:43 PM
1. there should definitely be term limits on membership in the Town Council! 2. Roy Abramowitz would make for a valued member of the TC. 3. He and Roger Williams would make a great team running the TC ... seemingly the only two who would do their homework and ask the tough questions. 4. most of the rest of the TC members have either been on too long and are dragging along, or have too many other interests for them to be effective as TC members.
Paul M Potenza March 25, 2013 at 02:47 PM
It is encourgaging just to see a dialogue regarding spending and debt as a result of Mr. Abnramowitz's tacit nod to running for Town Council. I think that as a member, he might even talk some sense into the other members regarding their choice of projects. There may more than a choice between bonding and taxes, and that would be to actually reduce spending so that we don't run a deficit every year. I know that would be a novel approach, but I think Mr. Abramowitz would actually lend a very capable hand to achieve that end. As an aside, I would like to know why Mr. Farrell and Mr. DeWaele chose to defame Mr. Abramowitz in such a way. I am more concerned about Mr. DeWaele, the Council Chairman, than I am about Mr. Farrell, a private citizen with apparently questionable motives. As an officiaI acting in his official capacity, I think Mr. DeWaele, should have checked the facts before attempting to sink Mr. Abramowitz's bid for a vacant seat. It would behoove all taxpayers to remember that kind of irresponsible and perhaps politically motivated behavior should Mr. DeWaele act in this way again or run for Town Coiuncil again. To force a credentialed professional to have to defend himself against false accusation and as a consequence deny the Town the expertise of a someone whose motives are solely those of a concerned taxpayer, is puerile and self serving.
Eric friedland March 25, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Municipal bond debt is structured with principal that is amortized over the life of the bond issue. Therefore, there will be no need to issue new debt to replace the bonds that mature, unless there is the need to issue bonds for a new and different project. That is different from corporate debt, which is structured with a principal bullet at maturity and often needs to be refinanced at prevailing interest rates.
Tom March 25, 2013 at 03:20 PM
please run!
G. Eastman March 25, 2013 at 03:57 PM
RUN ROY RUN!!!
heavens sake March 25, 2013 at 04:24 PM
He is not exactly Roy Rogers ,but New Canaan could use a new Sheriff in Town with a Big and Fast gun. Roy fits that description in Spades. Also, Bob Mallozzi could use an honest and knowledgable sidekick to confront the Old Guard, with a shoot-out at the Ol' Coral, if necessary. Go for it Roy !
Local Parent March 25, 2013 at 04:32 PM
We need more dialogue on all Town Boards. Dialogue begets effective and prudent decision-making and encourages efficiencies. Mr. Abramowitz does not appear to be afraid of challenging popular or entrenched beliefs, and we need more of that.
Great Good March 25, 2013 at 05:59 PM
Lakeview? What we should be watching is the New Guard's Town Hall Building Project. All town offices were relocated without a shovel ready project and taxpayers are now paying rent monthly for the relocated office space - the meter is running.... (The old town hall is still being heated meanwhile so the pipes don't freeze.) The building project has been directed by our Selectman to come in at $12 Million in hard costs plus more in soft costs for a building that will only satisfy the current capacity needs. No consideration appears to be made for what the town's needs will be in the future. The current town hall is over 100 years old and has served the community well - we need to build a building for the next hundred years, not the next 15 years. There is no consideration of relocating the Board of Education, which pays over $200K for rental office space into the new town hall. The proposed meeting space in the new town hall, which would only have a maximum capacity of 100, is proposed to be built on the second floor of the town hall, not the main floor, because it is the cheaper solution. How does that work for the politically engaged elderly in our community? For heaven's sake, how is any of this prudent and fiscally sound decision making from this so called "New Guard?"
feo mesics March 25, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Agree... it is time for the entrenched "Republican mafia" and we, boys and girls, all know who they are. When you hear TC members saying "we know what's best for the Town, not the taxpayers") then it is time for a big change!
Great Good March 25, 2013 at 07:23 PM
Why was the email below flagged as inappropriate and deleted? Is the truth inappropriate? Lakeview? What we should be watching is the New Guard's Town Hall Building Project. All town offices were relocated without a shovel ready project and taxpayers are now paying rent monthly for the relocated office space - the meter is running.... (The old town hall is still being heated meanwhile so the pipes don't freeze.) The building project has been directed by our Selectman to come in at $12 Million in hard costs plus more in soft costs for a building that will only satisfy the current capacity needs. No consideration appears to be made for what the town's needs will be in the future. The current town hall is over 100 years old and has served the community well - we need to build a building for the next hundred years, not the next 15 years. There is no consideration of relocating the Board of Education, which pays over $200K for rental office space into the new town hall. The proposed meeting space in the new town hall, which would only have a maximum capacity of 100, is proposed to be built on the second floor of the town hall, not the main floor, because it is the cheaper solution. How does that work for the politically engaged elderly in our community? For heaven's sake, how is any of this prudent and fiscally sound decision making from this so called "New Guard?"
Glen K Dunbar March 25, 2013 at 07:41 PM
1/3 This better stay up. This has no bad words and I will be angry if I can't post my 3 lousy posts per day which I and nobody else has been limited. Now I know this town is prejudice against me As for this topic Abramowitz needs to get the finances in this town in order. Moreover, help those in need that can't fend for themself. Just found out we will loose our condo to a nursing home. So, Glen is on a real campaign now (Politely speaking of course) This town owes me and really should give what it has taken from me in my 52 miserable years of life. Need bail out like Lehmann Bros.
S Dogood March 25, 2013 at 10:03 PM
Mr. Abramowitz, It appears that most of what is written about you and interviews with you are abridge, may I suggest that you write an unabridged version and attach it to the article so we can understand the breadth and depth of what you are trying to get across. I would argue (and somewhat of splitting hairs), Mr Friedland comments are correct in context of what was provided by the Patch, but may not reflect what you wanted to get across. A question on one of your comments: “My concerns are as the aggregate amount of bonded debt increases the yearly obligation increases while the town's revenues decrease”. Do you forecast a decrease in the town’s revenue? If so when and under what circumstances?
Roy A. Abramowitz March 25, 2013 at 11:05 PM
S Dogood: Yes you are spliting hairs just as the irrelevant comment of Michael Farrell as to whether "Member" or Firm Member" is relevant. Firstly fess up and utilize your real name and not a psuedonym, maybe than we can debate as adults. Otherwise, I do not answer people hiding behing psuedonyms as it indicates lack of belief in what one says and is a cowardly methodology to attempt to dis-credit a person. A tactic utilized by an infamous architect in this town, Maybe you are him.
Jon S. March 26, 2013 at 01:51 AM
Time out! The Board of Ed (actually, the NC Public Schools administrators) could’ve moved into the top floor of the Police Station 15 years ago, but they said NO. They could’ve been incorporated into the renovation of the high school, but again they said NO — they insisted they needed a separate building as a “command center,” but they wanted it built in the Waveny woods, a complete folly from the word go. Before they were in their current Locust Ave offices, they were in what’s now the Schoolhouse Apartments building for years. Fact is, they’ve been out of Town Hall forever and a day, and our schools are just fine, thank you. I see no pressing need to try to cram every single department of our government into one single, enormous building where parking is already tight. The police used to be in the basement of Town Hall, and law and order didn’t go to hell in a hand basket when they moved to South Avenue. Similarly, with all the Town Planning and Zoning offices at Irwin, it's now easy to get to and easy to park at, and keeps a low level of activity in the park during business hours. I agree that the Town Hall should be a terrific building designed to accommodate as much as we can imagine about the future, but why should it have to be everything to everyone? Meeting room too small for you? Then do like we already do for rare, big meetings like caucuses — hold them at the Saxe or NCHS auditoriums. And Roy’s right - Lakeview Bridge was just bad gov’t.
Esprit de Corps March 26, 2013 at 04:27 AM
In commemoration of the recent Lincoln film and TV documentaries, it is illuminating to note the re-enactment of a "Civil War" in this thread. It looks like the Town Council season will be even more interesting with many adversarial "fireworks" to keep voters engaged and entertained.
Maya Angelou March 26, 2013 at 07:59 PM
It's always wise to have healthy discussion on local topics that affect us all. However civility and respect should rule the day. Let us hope that our town can be proud of the process and the participants. The world can be a cruel place at times, but there is no need to bring that behavior to our town. We are all neighbors at the end of the day...
feo mesics March 26, 2013 at 09:55 PM
When it comes to civility and respect, the current Town Council has a lot to learn. As an example, the way they treated resident and taxpayer Fred Chang when he questioned them a number of times about the Jeb Walker bridge fiasco clearly demonstrates how they treat someone who doesn't agree with them. Tom O'Dea (no longer on TC) was the only then member who was embarassed enough to publically apologize for the way Chang was treated. The other TC "monkeys" just sat there with their hands over they eyes, mouths and ears.
Elmcrest March 26, 2013 at 11:31 PM
I agree. I don’t know Mr. Chang, but when I watched those hearings on Ch. 79, I was ashamed of our Town Council’s current “leadership.” The TC Chair had spoken on and on, saying little, alas, emitting a huge defensive cloud of words, and then when residents like Mr. Chang *finally* got a chance to speak, Dr. DeWaele told him it had been a long meeting and it was time to wrap it up. Mr. Karl interrupted Mr. Chang several times as well. So, yes, when certain members of TC insist upon “civility," they evidently don’t extend that standard to themselves. I think New Canaanites — ALL New Canaanites — deserve better.
feo mesics March 27, 2013 at 01:14 AM
AGAIN, IT IS TIME FOR TERM LIMITS FOR ALL TOWN COUNCIL MEMBERS!!
mary parker March 30, 2013 at 04:28 AM
My daughter is friend with Roy's daughter and when I met Roy for the first time last year and had a conversation with hi about New Canaan, I didn't know he was running. After talking to him and seeing where his head is at and what he wants to help do for New Canaan, I think he would be really good for us as a council member. My vote is for Roy!!!!!!
TH March 31, 2013 at 12:18 PM
I am curious how a small town of 19,000 ended up needing $132 mn in municipal debt to begin with. Are we simply following the federal government's lead in passing the burden of debt to future generations to deal with?
Roy A. Abramowitz March 31, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Thanks for the question TH. I agree with you. If you remenber I ran and promised transparency and "Fiscal conservatism". The problem though is that only one-third of registered voters showed at the caucus. Theorectically that purports that those who put the incumbents in office, term after term voted and those in favor of change did not vote. There is no chance for change unless all who seek change and term limits VOTE instead of just talking about it. 2 years ago my opponents (the incumbents) promised transparency, fiscal conservatism, and civility. None of these promises have come to fruition. Actually out matters are worse. Look at the lack of civility. Our budget was in such disaray that a $25,000 program was cut for our youth until constituents and myself spoke up! You are correct. Greenwich with a population of 90,000 has approximately 80 million in debt. New Canaan with a population of 18,850 has approximately $132 milion in debt and projected to increase. As I stated when you assume debt the debt needs to be paid, no matter how low interest rates are. As this continues our mill rate will increase (property taxes). Higher real estate taxes will result in lower home values, they are inversely proportional. If I run I will be running against incumbants that believe spending others money is ok, just compute the budget needed, divide by the tax base and "X" is the unknown. X being your mill rate. You have a choice real "true fiscal conservatism" or more empty promises.

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