Letter: Fairfield RTM Did Well In Cutting Budget

  • Comments (6)
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FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- The Fairfield Daily Voice accepts signed letters to the editor. Send letters to fairfield@dailyvoice.com.

To The Editor:

Some of those who spoke at the RTM budget meeting urged that the education budget be passed as presented because it had already been approved by the boards of Education, Selectmen and Finance.

That argument reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the municipal decision-making process. Under the Town Charter, the RTM is given the final say on the budget because its members represent Fairfield’s neighborhoods.

Based on their close relationships with constituents, it is their responsibility, whatever town boards decide, to adopt a budget that they believe is in the best long-term interests of the town. Town boards assume a macro view, but the final say rests at the micro level with our RTM representatives. They best reflect the concerns and aspirations of our diverse neighborhoods. That bedrock principle of Town government assures that there is direct local input into what public services we need and can afford.

Schools are important in Fairfield. We have a critical responsibility to give children the best possible education. However, the importance of educational spending must be balanced with needs of other public services and with our ability to pay for all services. We have exceptional police and fire services in Fairfield.

Our Recreation Department provides excellent leisure opportunities, and our Department of Public Works keeps our infrastructure in great condition. Fairfield is about more than its public schools, and our RTM must balance the needs of all town services when adopting a budget funded by a level of taxation they think is reasonable.

The majority of Fairfield homes do not have children in our public schools, and so it is important that everyone who protested the small reduction in the proposed education budget understand that a healthy town requires a balance of service funding and that this balance should be achieved through an open, friendly dialogue. It is unfortunate that the RTM budget session was so contentious, including School Superintendent David Title’s lack of graciousness in response to compliments from members of the RTM. It is not, however, my intention to criticize Dr. Title: paraphrasing Shakespeare’s Mark Antony, he is an honorable man.

We must work together to assure that our tax rate is reasonable and tax dollars are spent in the fairest and most balanced way possible. The RTM’s efforts to reduce budget increases are not trivial to the average taxpayer: if we maintained the proposed rate of spending, by Fairfield’s 400th anniversary the town budget would exceed half a billion dollars, a staggering sum to be paid by our homeowners. Fiscal restraint is as critical to the future of Fairfield as its ability to continue to provide high-quality services.

I believe the agreed three per cent increase in school spending as passed by the RTM is both reasonable and prudent, and Dr. Title indicated today that all the reductions that were made in the $6 million increase he originally proposed could be absorbed with “minimal impact.”

Thank you, RTM members, for a careful, considerate job well done.

Jan R. Reber

  • 6
    Comments

Comments (6)

Schools are not the only factor that impact home values. For the majority of homebuyers, schools are not the number one factor in selecting a town in which to buy a home. A town that cannot afford to provide quality services or a town that has high taxes is less attractive to home buyers. It seems that many of the people who spoke in favor of the proposed school budget lacked a sense that Fairfield is a town that is not exclusively defined by its schools. We need a balance of expenditures on services in Fairfield to maintain the quality of life that attracts people to live here.

Jan, yes, Fairfield schools are not the only aspect of maintaining our housing values. Although I would add I know many people formerly from Norwalk and Stamford that are now Fairfield residents almost exclusively because of schools. Another aspect of quality of life in Fairfield that touches a vast cross-section of residents are our great libraries, which were cut. Are you saying the $3 the average household saves in taxes by those cuts is worth jeopardizing what maybe be the best library program in the state? These cuts and the rest were made to satisfy the Fairfield Taxpayer group, nothing more.

I agree with you about our great libraries. They are vital institutions serving many residents from the youngest to senior citizens. I use the library. I do not support cuts to the library, but I accept the RTM's decision that they were needed. I am unaware of the Fairfield Taxpayers group demanding library cuts or controlling any votes on the RTM. The Fairfield Taxpayers group advances their views on fiscal responsibility. Some citizens and some RTM members embrace those views, but I am unaware of any conspiracy that allows the group to control any votes.

I also agree with you that some people move to Fairfield for the schools. I wonder, though, if they would still come here if we had no beaches or parks, and had high crime but great schools.

Did the the RTM "do well" by refusing to inform residents of their proposed cuts at the April 28th meeting, as requested in advance by the RTM moderator? Did it "do well" by voting on cuts at 2:45 in the morning when hardly any members of public were there? Maybe most of the households do not have kids that attend public school, but I think a majority of residents depend on solid schools to maintain housing values. Good schools surely is going to keep my house values higher than the $25 I saved in taxes by slashing the school budget.

Jan,
Thank you for a well written, comprehensive letter. I couldn't agree more and I wish there was more support for this viewpoint demonstrated at the meeting. Sometimes it gets overwhelming when the public comments are skewed in one direction, but I do not think this is really representative of the population of Fairfield. Thanks to the RTM for listening and representing their constituents.
Jan Carpenter