First Selectman Mike Tetreau made his annual State of the Town Address on Monday, Jan. 28 at the Representative Town Meeting.
He spoke about the challenges posed by Storm Sandy and the wonderful way in which Fairfield’s people, public employees in all town departments, local colleges and local businesses responded to them. He also spoke about the Sandy Hook tragedy and school security, gun control, energy conservation, seniors, state grants, parks & recreation, arts & culture, communication, and finances.
With regard to spending and taxes, he said the following:
We identified “key drivers” for our tax increases. These represent the multi-year commitments that “drive” our tax increases. We are faced with many of the same drivers again. With our continued focus and management on these expenses, they will have less of an impact after this year. This is the beginning of getting our year to year tax growth under control.
In his summation, he also said:
We are working on getting our taxes under control and managing our investments. This is and will be a major focus of this administration.
Fairfield Taxpayer applauds the First Selectman’s acknowledgement that we must get our taxes under control.
Fairfield Taxpayer regrets that the First Selectman would have us believe that tax increases are “driven” by external forces like Mother Nature that are largely beyond anyone’s control rather than by the decisions made in Town Hall by him and our other elected representatives.
Fairfield Taxpayer also regrets the absence in the First Selectman’s remarks of any reference to:
- the seriousness of our current tax problem – for example, someone moving from Westport, Darien or Greenwich to a home of comparable value in Fairfield will pay 30%, 84% and 125%, respectively, more in property taxes -- and thus the need for a 2014 budget with no increase or a decline in spending
- the need for a long-term strategic plan for the town that, among other things, addresses the need for more non-residential commercial development in order to ease the burden on residential property owners;
- the need for a breakdown of the town and education budgets by service so that the people and their elected representatives can make informed decisions about which services they want and can afford from their government;
- the need to change all public employee benefits to be competitive with, rather than superior to, those in the private sector; and
- The critical need for strong leadership from the First Selectman’s office on the issue of affordability.
Strong leadership does not mean making excuses for bad outcomes and offering assurances that future outcomes will be better as long as there are no new challenges that provide new excuses.
Strong leadership means taking personal responsibility for making the tough choices and decisions that produce good outcomes despite all the challenges that could have and should have been foreseen, and better outcomes in the face of truly unforeseeable problems.