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Letter: Fairfield GOP Response To State Of The Town

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To The Editor:

We would like to thank Mr. Tetreau for his State of the Town Address and we wish him well in the twilight of his term. And while the First Selectman highlighted a number of notable achievements over the past year that we should all be proud of, he left out some central details.

In November, Fairfield voters went to the polls and expressed deep concern about the cost of living and taxation in Town. For the third consecutive two-year cycle, Republicans were elected as the majority party on the RTM, and voters awarded Republicans six additional seats. This was no coincidence as Fairfield Republicans fought hard over the prior term to mitigate tax increases and ran on a pledge of fiscal restraint and good government.

During the prior term, the Republican RTM majority achieved a number of successes:

• The RTM Republican caucus increased its support of seniors and those who are disabled by unanimously voting to support an expanded Senior and Disabled Tax Relief ordinance. We value our seniors and all the benefits they bring to our community. Fairfield is a diverse Town, and programs like this make us stronger and a more attractive place to live. • The RTM Republican caucus worked with the other Town bodies and community groups to ultimately drive down the tax increase to 2.3%. Originally, the First Selectman’s budget as presented had a tax increase of roughly 6.4%. The First Selectman does, however, deserve credit for subsequently working with the RTM and others to help lessen the increase. • The RTM Republican caucus led the charge to restore the Town’s contribution to Pequot Library. We believe that cost sharing between public and private entities for cultural betterment is the future of delivering such services to the public. • The RTM Republican caucus is a strong supporter of Public Safety in our schools and across Town. We are very pleased to have read the recent report from our Police Department that overall crime in most categories is trending downward. This is a testament to the quality, training and dedication of the men and women who make up our Police Department. During the last term, the RTM’s Public Health & Safety

Committee, led by a Republican chairman, was actively engaged with Public Safety sponsoring detailed tours and meetings with the Fairfield Police Department, Fairfield Fire Department and the Health Department, including a public forum to review the Town’s Emergency Response Plan a few weeks ahead of Superstorm Sandy. The RTM Republican caucus also believes that enhanced school safety is an important conversation for us to have with all community members and we welcome this important and ongoing dialogue as we move forward. • The RTM Republican caucus remains steadfast in its commitment to making prudent investments in our educational system. We supported a number of school-based improvements including funding for window replacements, PCB remediation, and safety upgrades at Osborn Hill School; the renovation and classroom addition to Riverfield School, including a new entry vestibule that enhanced security, which may be used as a model for future school renovations; and building envelope enhancements (roof and windows), cafeteria expansion, and a new science classroom addition to Fairfield Ludlowe High School. Moreover, over the prior two years, RTM Republicans supported aggregate operating budgets for our school system in excess of $300 million, further underscoring our commitment to properly funding education. And while Fairfield RTM Republicans continue to believe that the best of days lie ahead for Fairfield, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that this will be another difficult budget season. We are committed to working in a bi-partisan fashion with the First Selectman, the BOS and BOF to approve a final budget that is fiscally responsible, and one that balances the short and long-term needs of our Town while not compromising our core convictions—particularly when it comes to slowing the rate of spending across Town government.

It is our sincere hope that First Selectman Tetreau will refrain from presenting the Townspeople with a proposed budget nearly thrice the annual rate of inflation given last year’s outcry. Restraint and the drive for operational efficiencies are the order of the day and we need department heads to adhere to this message—a message that the Fairfield electorate delivered loud and clear when they voted for an expanded Republican majority on the RTM.

While the economic calamity of 2008 was painful, it forced private industry to rethink business practices. We should take note of private industry’s retooling of microeconomic policy and re-think the services Fairfield provides, their sustainability, the future needs and expectations of the taxpayer and begin to re-invent our methods of delivering these services by implementing time-proven philosophies such as Management by Objectives.

It has been said before that a government that governs least is a government that governs best. This proverbial statement still rings true today. Fairfield Republicans believe our government, in all its shapes and forms, needs to be leaner and more responsive to the people.

Several years ago voters approved a change to the Town Charter giving the First Selectman a four-year term, essentially creating a Mayor position in the form of Ken Flatto and now Mike Tetreau. While this quasi representative-counsel form of government may have been well suited to the politicians in charge at the time, its structure is not well suited for a populace that is demanding greater accountability given a growing Town budget with substantial long-term pension and healthcare obligations. As a counterbalance, it is time for a more powerful and nimble legislative body that can effectively be a “check” on the executive powers of the First Selectman.

We take our responsibilities as representatives of the people very seriously and over the coming term your RTM Republicans will strive to:

• Work toward sustainable labor agreements with Town unions that respect employees while continuing to address long-term pension and healthcare-related liabilities. • Create a 21st century government that is driven by technology. Many of the Town’s departments have begun to adopt more technology, but this needs to be a top-down initiative coming from the administration. We will work to support the necessary investments in technology that will deliver government goods and services more efficiently while driving down the Town’s long-term costs. • Adopt metrics to baseline performance. Performance metrics are critical to helping Fairfield operate more efficiently and to do more with less. Currently, such data is only available in a limited fashion across departments. The establishment of such data Town wide would not only empower department heads to make more informed decisions

going forward, but Taxpayers would have greater insight into how efficiently their hard-earned money is being spent. • Adhere to sound financial principles that properly fund our long-term financial obligations, maintain our “AAA” credit rating and only pursue bond capital projects that make sense for the longer term. • Enact budget reform. We want to fundamentally change the budget process from the bottom up. To the average voter, it seems like the Town simply takes last year’s budget, tacks on a couple of percentage points above the inflation rate and then generates a few hundred pages of spreadsheets to support the increase with no overall Town plan or questioning of underlying assumptions. This needs to change. The budget process needs to be re-thought from square one. Does the taxpayer need all of these services? Do they want them? Can and should the Town provide them? Can some services be done more efficiently through private sector sources or through non-profit partnerships? In closing we look forward to the 375th celebration of our Town’s founding and we hope you all enjoy the festivities, we wish our colleagues across the aisle a Happy New Year and we look to forward to working with them, serving our constituents and keeping Fairfield affordable for all.

Edward J. Bateson, III, Majority Leader

Michael D. Herley, Deputy Majority Leader

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