Editor’s note: The Easton Courier asked candidates to submit a profile and a statement discussing three top issues facing Easton and how the candidate will help address them. Michael Gutowski, Democratic candidate for Board of Finance, submitted the following response.
I have three decades of accounting leadership experience. I served in the roles of Chief Financial Officer, Controller, and Director of Finance for several companies. I have prepared Income Statement and Balance Sheet budgets for large and small companies. I currently serve as an alternate on the Board of Finance in Easton. I also serve on the EMS Planning and Building Committee in Easton.
I have always been involved in my community from the time I graduated from Fordham University. I volunteered and served in leadership roles with Swim Across the Sound; I have served my town where I grew up in Trumbull as an Emergency Medical Technician and Dispatcher; and I volunteer and serve as a catechetical leader in my church. Community has always been and will always remain a strong pillar in my character and who I am as a person and neighbor.
The single most pressing issue facing the Board of Finance is protecting the assets of our community. An asset is something that holds value. The most important assets in our community, besides the people that live here, are our open spaces; our farms; our town buildings, roads, fields; our schools; and services for our seniors and neighbors. I would like to see Capital Budgets set aside from operating budgets to preserve these things. Specifically, road resurfacing should not be part of an operating budget. Large maintenance items need to be properly accounted for so there are fewer spikes or unpredictable items that cause the tax rates to fluctuate and the town to borrow funds to pay for something that was not considered in the budget.
Solid thoughtful strategic planning could avoid dipping into our rainy-day fund as a part of normal operating procedures. Items need to be specifically identified, such as a “Roof for Helen Keller Middle School” rather than “Contingency” or “Undesignated Fund Balance.” Certainly, there is a need for these two-line items, however, we as a community need to be more proactive and less reactive to the pressures of unplanned expenditures or deferred maintenance that has been neglected.
If elected to the Board of Finance I would bring a proactive focus on process improvement and internal controls. Every organization I’ve worked with has needed some help in these areas. My goal would be to document existing processes, evaluate and automate what can be improved, and strengthen internal controls. Are we using our information systems the right way and maximizing their performance? Are other town officials getting timely information that simplifies the budgeting process? Through this process, I hope to bring cost savings and efficiencies to Easton neighbors and provide quality, integrity, the highest standard of ethics, and a sense of pride in Easton government by coordinating with the Board of Selectman, the Town Treasurer and other department heads.
My philosophy is “Your Life is Your Responsibility.” This includes being kind, thoughtful, charitable, empathetic, helpful, and honest. The more you put into life, the more you get back. This is why I am passionate about what I do. As an accountant helping business owners. As a neighbor helping another neighbor, as a stranger helping another person. Life is not about you, but what impact you have on the people around you.
The most important part of my life is my family. My wife Clare, daughter Catie, son Drew, and my dog Willow have been a part of the Easton family for the past eight years. In awe of my daughter’s Irish Step Dancing and debating skills and my son’s ability to do amazing plays on the baseball diamonds and basketball courts; it has truly been astonishing to be a part of this community. Having met and spoken with so many great individuals this year in town, it would truly be an honor to advocate for you, my neighbors, as part of the Board of Finance.