FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The Fairfield Daily Voice accepts signed, original letters to the editor. Send letters to Fairfield@dailyvoice.com.
It has been a month since my initial budget proposal was presented. There has been a lot of discussion since. I thought it would be a good idea to give everyone an update on where we stand.
The original budget calls for a 6.4 percent increase in taxes. I agree with those that have voiced concern that this is too high. I am committed to getting this increase in a more reasonable range. I am committed to addressing the elements that cause our taxes to increase both this year and in the future. There is no easy fix. Reducing this tax trend will take both hard work and time. It can’t be completed in one year.
No one wants to pay more in taxes. This increase is not due to lots of new programs being initiated. It is really paying for increases in the services and programs we already provide. It is paying for our existing commitments.
We are also paying for some past decisions to put off or delay costs. We have moved paving costs to the operating budget. This is part of a plan to bond less. This move costs us less in the long run. We also have added funding to replenish our surplus or savings. This is money we used over the last 10 years to fund our operating budgets over and above the tax revenues that were collected. This practice has been stopped.
We need to get through this year. Our commitments and expenses are more manageable starting next year. I have been working hard with our Finance Department and the school system to continue to look for ways to reduce this increase. We are working hard to find ways to lower the expense “drivers” that led to this increase. We do see these expense drivers slowing in future years and this is what helps us see next year’s increase as lower than this year’s.
For this year, our goal is to minimize this tax increase and minimize the need to cut services. In a real sense, our town identity is defined by the services we provide. We all made a choice to live here because of the services our town provides Fairfield is not some other town. This is our town. This is Fairfield.
There have been some very positive trends since this budget was prepared in December. We are seeing some very positive improvements that will help us in this budget. In addition, the town and the school system went out to bid on new medical providers to obtain additional cost savings. It appears that the new proposals will allow for some significant savings. Once we have these revised projections, we can then make proposals on what other adjustments need to be made.
Our town does provide a wide range of amenities, services and programs to our residents. This includes both the town and our school system. These services really define who we are as a town by what we offer our residents. We need everyone to be involved in this discussion. Once we are done making adjustments to these overall costs, the next step is to evaluate the services and programs we offer.
When we discuss lowering expenses, we really mean lowering services. Since we really didn’t add services, this discussion is about what services we now have that we are willing to give up. This makes the discussion really about who we are as a town, what services do we want to provide and how much do we want to pay. Again, this year more than any other is about how do we define our town.
In the midst of this discussion, let’s not lose sight of the fact that included in this budget is a very significant increase in our Senior and Disabled Tax Relief program. We are making major strides in taking care of those who are most vulnerable in our town. We are also fully funding our pension and retiree medical fund commitments. We are continuing to meet our long term obligations – unlike some other towns in our state.
Once the final numbers are in, the Board of Selectmen will make our adjustments on April 1. The Board of Finance will add in the adjustments they have deliberated over. The Budget then goes on to the RTM. This body takes the next month to review and discuss any additional changes with their vote coming the first Monday in May on our final budget. I do want to thank the leadership of the RTM for reaching out early on to start discussions on the budget.
When all is said and done, there will be substantial changes to the original budget proposal. Don’t let those changes happen without you.