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Fairfield FY13 Mill Rate Set at 23.37 Mills: 4% Tax Increase

The Board of Finance approved the rate at its monthly meeting on Wednesday.

The on Wednesday set the town’s mill rate for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) at 23.37 mills, which represents a 4 percent hike in taxes over the current 22.47 mill rate. The new rate will take effect July 1.

The tax rate was set following Tuesday’s . The RTM reduced the budget approved by the Board of Finance in March by just over $1 million, decreasing the proposed mill rate by 0.13 mills.  

According to Chief Fiscal Officer Paul Hiller, a taxpayer with a home assessed at $435,000 (a market value of approximately $621,500) will pay $10,165 in FY13, $391 more than the current year. The RTM’s reduction to the budget passed by the Board of Finance will save that taxpayer $57.

Before voting on the mill rate presented by Hiller, some members of the Board of Finance shared their thoughts on the $850,000 cut to the town’s contingency fund passed at Tuesday’s RTM meeting -- a move that prompted financiers present to leave the before the budget was finalized.

Rob Bellitto, vice chairman of the Board of Finance, was not present Tuesday but said that when he heard about the vote, “I shook my head and asked myself, ‘What were they thinking?’”

A lot of the funds in contingency were earmarked to cover retroactive salary increases for the five labor contracts pending with the town, Bellitto said. He added that the Board of Finance worked to address concerns that prompted Moody’s to cast a negative outlook on the town’s AAA rating -- that included the deciding how much to add to contingency.

“The RTM took that work and torpedoed it,” Bellitto said. “They could have made more cuts to the Board of Education or to the nonprofit agencies.”

Fellow member Robert Stone said he was disappointed that in the weeks the Board of Finance took to deliberate the budget line by line, there was no hint at what the RTM might move to do to address the tax rate until a week before the budget vote when the , and again Tuesday with the decrease to the contingency.

“Meeting after meeting they didn’t come, didn’t hint to what they’re going to do,” Stone said. “They’re playing Russian roulette with the town’s bond rating.”

RTM member Michael Herley, R-1, spoke during public comment and asked the board if they could look into the assessment issues and appeals plaguing his constituents.

“Given we don’t have the facts, given we don’t have the background, given [the appeals] are pending a legal process, it would not be appropriate for us to comment on that matter,” Chairman Tom Flynn said.

Stone said that, given his background in real estate, “those properties have been under assessed for years, so this is how you balance it.”

But the board members, Hiller, and First Selectman Michael Tetreau discussed the possibility of implementing a program so large tax increases could be phased in -- something Milford and Norwalk had executed, according to Hiller.

State statute dictates that such a program would have to be done on a town-wide level rather than on an individual basis, Hiller said.

RTM member Kenneth Lee, D-10, spoke before the board and said he empathized with residents looking to appeal their assessments – he said his taxes went up 24 percent -- but that “there are two different issues here: assessments, for which there is a process; and a budget that serves 60,000 residents.”

“We need to separate these two issues and give them each the respect and consideration they deserve.”

Stanley Simpleton May 10, 2012 at 07:36 PM
@Michele - With all due respect, reckless and careless do not describe the actions taken by the GOP RTM members. In fact, to the contrary, it was the only responsible proposal and action taken throughout the many long hours of discussion and debate throughout the budget process. While the R's worked hard to come-up with solutions and reductions while asking difficult questions, the D's continuously defended every spending initiative presented, which happens to be their modus operendi in general. Furthermore, the RTM is comprised of "Representatives" of the general public, therefore your argument to allow further public comment is baseless. From the audience I could clearly see that the D's had no intention of making any reductions to the proposed budget and I'm sure the Republicans could see this as well. You obviously have a bone to pick with the GOP leadership and your comments sound like sour grapes because things didn't go your way. Though I wish the budget increase was smaller, I commend Mr. Sundman and the rest of the RTM who were willing to fight the good fight for the people of Fairfield. Keep up the good work in preserving our wonderful town!
Stanley Simpleton May 10, 2012 at 07:41 PM
@OneFairfield - I challenge you to substantiate this with real figures. p.s > For someone who promotes "One Fairfield" you sure do sound devisive.
maryHelen Melnick May 10, 2012 at 07:47 PM
stanley simpleton; I have been saying all along we need to redo the town charter but no one seems to hear it at all when people talk about it. i was glad the RTM worked very hard to reduce the budget and not very please when the BOF voted in the 4% budget.The BOF does not understand people here their pockets have run dry.
Fairfield native May 10, 2012 at 08:03 PM
The last thing we need is the RTM to have more power!
maryHelen Melnick May 10, 2012 at 08:07 PM
I think certain individuals have me confused with someone else.I also tink the officials here in town do not hear the voices of the residents of fairfield. their pockets have run dry.
Listen first May 10, 2012 at 09:25 PM
WHAT WORK DID THE RTM DO? Almost nothing was reduced, and they had it in their power to do so? Exactly WHAT are you commending them for?
New to Southport May 10, 2012 at 09:26 PM
I am a new homeowner and new to Fairfield. Can someone explain to me why our mill rate is so much higher than Westport. When my wife and I were looking at homes, that was a question I couldn't seem to find a satisfying answer on. Just looking for an education. Thank you.
Listen first May 10, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Their pockets have run dry? Have you walked along the Post Road restaurants on a Saturday night to see all the people out to eat?
BarBar May 10, 2012 at 10:29 PM
becker was the guy that got caught lying to the town about training records for the Southport volunteer fire dept then tried to sue the town when he got caught in his lie. That is a fact. Delete this post all you want, it is the truth.
Jim Eastwood May 10, 2012 at 10:48 PM
To All Mr Becker and others are only asking for accountabilty NOT a Cut in Services except maybe for the Sacred Cows. Yes sevral of you are correct--Increasing Taxes are driving people out of Fairfield, most especially the Commercial and Industrial tax payers--- As far as the Board of Education, and other departments, throwing money at something does not make progress. As Far as NMr Beckers concern about records, Maybe just maybe he is correct(Not only with those records) but also records of other Departments. Right on Mr Becker and District One---you are others have the right to be heard. They are like the watchman on the Titanic--"Ice Bergs dead ahead" BUT The Captain is not listening. "No Taxation without Representation"
BarBar May 10, 2012 at 10:56 PM
With all due respect Jim, what are you saying. becker didn't ask for accountability, he just got his sheep to vote a cut. No investigating on his part just cut. Those RTMs had months to go line by line. But they let the time go by and did nothing untill the 12th hour. Then they just said CUT. Wake up Jim wake up. Jim you must want to be becker running mate for the next First Selectman run. Wake up Jim
maryHelen Melnick May 11, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Dear Listen first and others: I emailed all the RTm members before the vote and asked them to consider a zero increase. I recieved many replies back with how many did ot want any increase at all and that they did hear the voices of the people. Yes I have seen people eating out here in fairfield. Have you seen all the individual who go to a food bank here to get food to help their family budget. I run a prayer commuity and do private prayer and get many request from resident to pray they make it through the month or that they do not loose their home. have you seen the commerical on television for feed america. Believe me its a reality here to in fairfield on how many families depend on a food bank to survive her in town because they do not qualify for food stamps. these are middle class families who both parents went to college to provide a better life for their family and the now have to depend on a food bank for survival. Its no joke.Just because you see people eating out does not mean everyone is surviving just nicely.I know I get prayer request for individals desperate for a miricle that's life here in fairfield. do you kow how many children go to school hungry or how many older adults are just about surviving and they were the back bone of this town who have a right to live here. by sayng did I see how many eat ot here i ntown or resturants is like judginng a book by its cover.
Creeky May 11, 2012 at 12:53 AM
New to Southport, Much more commercial real estate, higher home values, and a significantly lower student population. They aren't a fair comparison to Fairfield. It's a very different town, when it comes to revenue streams and budget burdens.
Creeky May 11, 2012 at 01:02 AM
BarBar, Have you corresponded with any of the Republican RTM members as to why they voted the way they did? How about the Democratic RTM members who also voted for the budget? Perhaps you may consider comparing the responses. Your remarks are very disparaging. I, for one, think Jim is wide awake. Have you ever noticed how many exclamation points he uses in some of his posts? Though I'm not innocent, I've never seen an attack in any of Jim's many comments. I'm not sure he deserved this.
Ffld mom May 11, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Stanley- I am not sure what meeting you were at, but I recall a proposal from Mr. Schwartz ( a Democrat) to cut money, and I know the response from the town departments to the question of what a 2 percent cut would mean showed a number of departments saying "no impact.". That is posted on the town website. I was also there when Mr. Lombardo said the golf course could make do without a new mower for another year. Did the Republicans propose making any of the "no impact cuts?" No. Did they cut the mower? Yes, but added it back in later. Are those the serious proposals you are referring to? I am a life long Republican and would love to see taxes lower and unnecessary spending cut. But I also value liberty and have a bone to pick with anyone who uses their elected power to suppress the rights and voice of the people. I also value honest and open debates. This is supposed to be a Representative Town Meeting- but how can they purport to represent our interests when they don't allow us the opportunity to express our views before they vote on a proposal? Clearly they didn't trust the public enough to allow comment, and instead imposed their "we know best" approach, and we should all have a problem with that. With all due respect, the right to public comment should never be viewed as "baseless" in a free society. And the ends should never justify the means.
Creeky May 11, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Michele, I can see you are very frustrated. David Becker responds to emails (as do, in my experience, Mike Tetreau, and all of the other RTM members in my district, as well as many outside, though my emails are generally far less acrimonious than many of my posts, which may help). It's obvious you think things out. Why not do so with more information. I wish to encourage you to consider emailing David Becker, and asking him about the rationale for his actions, as well as apprising him directly of your desire for public comment. He does read these posts. But really, please do get his side, from him, as well as that of any other elected official. Here is a link to most of their email addresses: http://www.fairfieldct.org/electedofficials.htm
James P May 11, 2012 at 02:27 AM
One cannot evaluate Title's performance and Karen Ronald's based on the fact that they have advanced degrees. Who cares about that? Lots of unemployed people have advanced degrees. A talented administrator is one who can "do more with less." However, these town employees seem to do "less with more". Ms. Ronald had budgeted well over $ 100,000 for straight salary increases - she wasn't buying books for reading, but rather increasing her staff's salaries. Regarding Title - the administrators and their salaries are ever-increasing; and the BOE budget has increased over $100 million since 2002. This blood-money from taxpayers is not for reading books or classroom education - these are bloated budgets used to pad their salaries. I'm sure there are many talented people with advanced degrees who would be happy to be underpaid like Ms. Ronald at $ 110,000 plus and Mr. Title at $ 300,000 plus.
Creeky May 11, 2012 at 02:30 AM
New to Southport, I'm reposting as a direct reply to your post, so you'll get an email alerting you. Much more commercial real estate, higher home values, and a significantly lower student population. They aren't a fair comparison to Fairfield. It's a very different town, when it comes to revenue streams and budget burdens.
New to Southport May 11, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Thank you Creeky
Joeseph Biff May 11, 2012 at 12:06 PM
If what James P is saying is true,then Ms. Ronald along with her pay increases for staff members is shameful.The poor thing,I hope she can manage to survive on $110,000 a year.Makes your blood boil.These people "at the top" should be setting an example of how to keep costs down in a time when so many are struggling to make ends meet and trimming their own budgets.But no.......................they just want more,more,more.How selfish can you get? I hope you read this Ms.Ronald and that you consider just how selfish you and the others who excepted these pay raises are.James P.,don't forget the $25,000 the town gave Mr.Turtle when he was first hired for "moving expenses",plus other goodies and perks .Nice work if you can get I believe sums it all up.
Osborn Hiller May 11, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I'll tell you how you can get more selfish: Having a Harbor Road or Sasco Hill address but yet somehow "can no longer afford" to pay for education, conveniently once your kids are no longer in the school system.
FFLDRESIDENT May 11, 2012 at 05:24 PM
A 4% increase is a 4% increase, whether your address is Harbor Road or Osborn Hill Rd. But that 4% will cost a lot more on Harbor Road than Osborn Hill.
Fairfield native May 11, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Who is Karen Ronald?
Anthony Buglino May 12, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Terrible forum to single out a single department head who you probably have personal issue with...the problem is that you and many other anonymous posters have not a clue about personnel. Why don't you question why Tetreau quietly gave himself a raise? Maybe you should should divert your uninformed attention to the Tax Collector at $103,000, or or the Human Resources Director at over $110,000 who is ultimately responsible for bloated workmen's compensation, health and other insurance costs because she is not doing her job of vetting the most cost effective resources for the town? Are you a disgruntled Fairfielder hiding behind a fake name.
Anthony Buglino May 12, 2012 at 12:54 AM
If you had a clue what you were talking about you would know that the supposed surplus in the library budget and many other departments is due to positions left vacant - union negotiated positions that the first selectman has chosen to leave unfilled thus understaffing departments - this is not a new budget line it has been in the budget for years as many positions left unfilled by the selective hiring freeze.
Steven David May 13, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I just wish all of the elected members of the RTM would get up and voice their opinion like members of district one. I have been to meetings most just sit back and roll their eyes. You have been elected to represent us. Let’s hear what you got to say. There was no reason why every department could not be cut by 5%. Contracts need to be renegotiated. RTM members represent the people who voted for them not the unions. Department heads must also keep in mind that they work for the town. Board of Ed budget keeps going up and up. We taxed by where our homes are in town, maybe we should tax on how many kids you have in the school system.
Steven David May 13, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Mr. Buglino, I don’t give a rats a&* what “similar communities” pay their Superintendent of Schools. Let him go work there. If he is so smart he should be able to do the same job with 5% less in his budget.
Osborn Hiller May 14, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Yeah, that's what we need: More RTM Reps like those in District 1 who blah blah blah about assessments from two years ago during important budget meetings. And we should just make all our schools charge full tuition, that would really save tax payers money!
something to think about May 14, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Mr. David, with all due respect, we are not "taxed by where our homes are in town." Everyone in town pays the same mill rate multiplied by the assessed value (70% of the appraised value) of our homes (whether those are correct is another topic). The value of your home may be greater than an identical home in a "less desirable" area in town, but we all pay the same mill rate. Contracts are negotiated every 2-3 years by the First Selectman or by the BOE and then they are ratified by the RTM. If the town and the unions can't come to an agreement, the negotiations go to binding arbitration. i don't think it's possible to renegotiate the current contracts without the unions taking the town to court.
Isheet Mihpants August 01, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Cut the automatic salary increases for ALL town employees. Dissolve the pension plan into a matching 401k like some lucky folks in the private sector get. NO RAISES until the economy bounces back a little. It's just NOT FAIR!

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