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POLL: Change to the Fairfield Budget Process?

Patch users and residents consider a push to modify the Town Charter.

As Election Day approaches, questions regarding town leadership are circulating – something that’s found a home on Fairfield Patch.

on a story may translate into something the rest of the town might stand behind.

One reader, who goes by the alias “,” put forth the idea Thursday of modifying the town charter to require the town hold a required, annual budget referendum – one that breaks down the budget line item by line item.

The budget for Fiscal Year 2012 (see the quick reference table below) represents a 4.58 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2011's $251,4541,113; and a mill rate increase from 19.27 mills to 22.47 – an increase of 3.2 mills.

What Creeky and a few other readers want is a budget process that involves resident participation and influence. Currently, this can happen should enough townspeople petition to hold a referendum within a specific time period following the vote to adopt the budget, but he would like to see the charter require the annual referendums.

His argument, as told to Patch:

"Fairfield is grappling with large – and often unplanned – expenditures. Cases in point:

  • and maintenance
  • A new
  • Pension shortfalls

All while many homeowners struggle with reduced income, significant losses in retirement savings, and steep losses in home value."

Connecticut towns like and are required to hold annual referendums as part of their town charters.

Fairfield held a referendum earlier this year following a petition to restore funds to the Board of Education's budget, but it .

Reader "" suggested that, rather than have a referendum ballot with a simple yes/no answer to the statement "In favor of Town Government/Board of Education Budget," each department should list its specific budget, and those allocations could be voted on, with room for suggested increases or decreases on the referendum ballot.

These ideas are in their earliest forms – Creeky termed this a "grassroots function."

Here’s a quick reference guide for the approved budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012: 

Department Amount Allocated Percentage of FY 2012 Budget General Government: Administration & General $9,876,952 3.75 General Government: Miscellaneous $3,213,424 1.22 Finance $4,445,083 1.69 Public Safety $32,588,560 12.38 Public Works $16,498,953 6.27 Health and Welfare $7,379,494 2.81 Culture and Recreation $7,594,642 2.89 Board of Education $145,680,350 55.4 Retiree Benefits $10,926,306 4.15 Debt Service $24,870,179 9.45 Total Budget $263,073,943

 

iamspartacus October 14, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Creeky, you can find all that out, all these town meeting are open to the public and when not subverted by the republican rtm (who has tried many times to stop public comment) you can speak. You can also contact your elected officals and question them directly, or better yet run yourself. It just takes some effort.
iamspartacus October 14, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Ms. Bruce, this town does have crime and the fact that it is not "alot" of crime as compared to our friends just east of us should make you feel better that your public safety money is working.
Fairfield Resident October 14, 2011 at 06:40 PM
"Board of Education - 55.4%" What an F'in Joke!
R. Ludlowe October 14, 2011 at 08:43 PM
whats a camara?
R. Ludlowe October 14, 2011 at 08:44 PM
no kidding! it should be at least 60%.
Joeseph Biff October 14, 2011 at 08:53 PM
Fairfield resident, You got that right.We just spent 17 million at one school.I read in today's paper they have another school expansion project in the works for Ludlow "which could be as high as 6 million ".Nice
Creeky October 14, 2011 at 09:20 PM
When did the police department lay out the new incurred costs for the new police boat and taking over homeland security for Western Long Island Sound? When I attended the meeting on the anti-blight law, the public was overwhelmingly against it. I didn't hear almost any RTM member defend it. They voted it in. Later, I learned from numerous RTM members the ordinance was pushed by one RTM member who was trying to get his neighbor to clean up the yard (which didn't work and the RTM member moved). Now, it only serves to escalate neighborhood feuds and cost taxpayers money to enforce. I asked numerous RTM members about the ladie's softball field, when you asked them what efforts they had made to raise the money themselves, none answered. They didn't even ask before approving spending in bad times in a supposedly closed budget. Then Flatto subverted the referendum to reverse it. Information seems to be irrelevant, as it is just a good ol boy system where you back my special interest and I back yours. What about project managers? We've never had one until one was just recently added to the train station project. That is fiscal mismanagement. And what of the revaluation scam? The only RTM member I could get to speak to me on the topic is suing the town. Christine Vahey agreed the valuations were unfair but would take no action if elected. This seems a good way to limit the power of government, and encourage all, RTM, department managers, even the police, to justify their budget.
Creeky October 14, 2011 at 09:27 PM
"If members of the public want more say in the budget process, they should pay attention to the doings of their RTM members and then vote them out if they are not living up to the obligations of the job."--something to think about I just keep coming back to the valuation scam. Many will admit the valuations are unfair but none take action. And we're talking about theft of taxpayer dollars here. Perhaps if the RTM lost some power, they wouldn't be so drunk on it to be complacent about theft. I say none of them are living up to the obligations of the job. Money is the source of power, I'm suggesting giving the voters the ability to limit that power.
Creeky October 14, 2011 at 09:30 PM
JerryMcT, how are three police boats "timely and workable solutions" when the marine police lack jurisdiction on the water?
OneFairfield October 14, 2011 at 09:46 PM
The Republican controlled RTM just keeps spending!
kylie October 14, 2011 at 10:41 PM
The RTM R's fought for all the cuts and went line by line through the budgets of each department. Actually some of them were very uninformed but they weren't looking to spend, spend, spend.
Fairfield Resident October 15, 2011 at 06:00 AM
That is just rediculous!
Gerard Speno October 15, 2011 at 05:48 PM
MIss a town meeting... want more information.. Check http://fairtv.pegcentral.com Video on Demand It's all there.. from Nov 2010 to the last meeting of the Board of finance and coming soon... Fair TV live.. which will bring the BOE BOF and BOS All live and on VOD
EMTD October 17, 2011 at 02:52 AM
Bad Idea-Opens the door for lots of special interested groups to push their individual agendas.
Creeky October 17, 2011 at 01:11 PM
EMTD, I believe that is what we have now. The RTM now works exactly like Congress. You support my spending and I'll support yours. If the RTM legitimately wanted what was good for the whole town, rather than just worrying about their own districts, donors, party, and reelections, they would have stopped government in it's tracks, with a protest of inaction, when it became apparent that Flatto and Assessor Browne had subverted the revaluation process.
steve sheppard October 17, 2011 at 08:15 PM
For all....remember Fairfield had a population of 58,000 in 1980 and now we have 59,000. I can't believe we have an anti-terrorizm police boat and my local tax dollars are now going to patrolling L.I. Sound. We have to get back to the basics of our town's functions. I would say " no bonding of anything without it a town vote "
EMTD October 18, 2011 at 02:11 AM
Creeky, RTM districts are not corporate entities in the same sense as the town. It makes no sense that RTM members vote for the interests of their districts over the best interests of the town. Your position does not hold water.
Creeky October 18, 2011 at 03:07 AM
EMTD, I suppose I'm a plagiarist. This statement was said to me by an RTM member at a recent neighborhood association meeting.
Creeky October 18, 2011 at 03:14 AM
EMTD, please review my complete statement. What am I missing that allows the town government to be complicit to unfair valuation/taxation? Please note the below paragraph, including Assessor Browne's statement: "own Assessor Thomas F. Browne Jr. said Tuesday that he thinks the issue homeowners on and near Pine Creek Avenue are concerned about is mostly tied to the dramatic increase in the tax rate, which rises 16.6 percent from this fiscal year to next fiscal year. Asked if he thought property assessments on and near Pine Creek Avenue were accurate, Browne said, "There might be some room in some areas."" Source: http://fairfield.patch.com/articles/homeowners-near-water-feeling-pinch-of-revaluation
Bruce Monte, Jr. October 20, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Creeky, it sounds like you have taken a serious interest in Fairfield's budget, and that's a good thing. You've got a lot of questions, but there isn't a great mechanism in place to ensure that you get the answers. The solution seems obvious: run for RTM yourself, share your ideas with your neighbors, win the election and participate more actively in the process. Frankly, our current system would serve you much better than a referendum system: as an RTM member, you would have substantial influence over the process (1 vote in 50, plus direct access to Town officials), rather than one vote in 20,000. In any event, a line-item referendum would be a nightmare for reasons explained quite eloquently by others, including Jerry McT. One final question: why do people decide to hide behind pseudonyms in online fora, rather than being willing to be associated with their comments? - Bruce.
Bruce Monte, Jr. October 20, 2011 at 05:00 PM
@Mahatma and Fairfield Resident: As long as the number of students continues to increase, and facilities continue to age, maintenance and construction will be necessary. What alternative do you propose?
Bruce Monte, Jr. October 20, 2011 at 05:13 PM
Thanks, Jerry -- well put. I don't think you're suggesting that the current system is perfect; merely that it beats the heck out of the proposed alternative. And I agree wholeheartedly with that. Just to clarify my position (which I suspect aligns with yours, though I would not pretend to put words in your mouth): I would never suggest that the citizens of Fairfield lack intelligence or the ability to comprehend the budget. Instead, we have a lot of residents who have very busy lives, and who may not have the time (or interest) to delve into the details and the nuances of a $260 MM budget. And they shouldn't have to do so. Their obligation is to vote to put qualified individuals on the RTM -- individuals who will voluntarily take on the responsibility of examining and understanding our Town budget and influencing it on behalf of their constituents. It is pollyanna to believe that the majority of our citizens will take the time and make the effort to formulate a rational and realistic opinion on each line item of the Town budget. I say, let's find qualified candidates and let our representative democracy do its work! - Bruce.
Creeky October 20, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Bruce, I've had an interest for quite some time. I do not actually believe the annual budget referendum approach would at all be expedient, or necessarily the best approach, as I grew up in a town that had it, and have been witness to it's less desirable effects. The motivation for me to move in this direction is that the revaluation left me utterly convinced that our local government is corrupt. I fail to see how any honest person could believe that overvaluing a small number of properties to increase revenue is anything but theft. I fail to see how any honest elected official would be unwilling to take action. But, here we are. We aren't talking about a few properties overvalued in a statistical error. A particular neighborhood (a few streets) was targeted. The appraisal company used previosly was let go, in favor of a small, local firm, headed by a crony of Flatto. Not the appraisal firm, the Assessor, or the Board of Appeals would justify their findings. If you graph the assessed value, per acre of land (eliminating buildings), of Old Dam Road, then eliminate each property that lacks frontage on the creek, you'll note that the assessed value of the land varies over 1800%. No kidding. The data is available to all on the vision appraisal site. Continued...
Creeky October 20, 2011 at 07:02 PM
So, by not taking action, and in fact, by Tetreau electing to use taxpayer dollars to pay Saxl, to fight the lawsuits (more coming next year by the way) of the property owners, how can I not assume that either Tetreau believes that the land of a small, non-conforming, undevelopable lot has over 18 times the value of a large developable lot, or, he just doesn't care that some residents are the victim of theft, as it's too small of a group to affect his likelihood of election to office? We can't pretend he doesn't know. There are residents holding signs, at the back of the RTM meetings, in protest. He has had to defend his decision to keep Saxl on, to Jim Walsh of the RTM/BoF, after supposedly requesting and accepting his resignation. The upside of the annual referendum process, as I've witnessed, inarguably keeps spending down and significantly limits the size of government. In my opinion, a government that doesn't have the time to consider that, regardless of intention, is stealing from it's residents but, has the time to consider purchasing a lighthouse, may have grown a bit large, and far to comfortable with its authority.
Creeky October 20, 2011 at 07:03 PM
Bruce, Per your note on aliases, I can only speak for myself. I don't have a 9-5. I'm self-employed, earning my living mostly between Milford and Greenwich, with a significant portion of my customers right here in Fairfield. By using an alias, it's easier for me to post controversial opinions without significant impact to my business. I haven't made much effort to keep secret my identity. It isn't that hard to figure out who I am. And anyone could write and ask, msoclr @ yahoo.com (remove spaces). But, why is my actual identity relevant? I'm a Fairfield taxpayer, homeowner, small business owner, have lived here over 10 years (always as a homeowner and taxpayer). I've no children yet, and do not commute via the train station. There is far more information, from which to gain an idea of my perspective, than my actual name would ever provide.
Jerry McTigue October 20, 2011 at 07:05 PM
Thanks for your comments, Bruce. Just to be clear, I never suggested that the citizens of Fairfield "lack intelligence or the ability to comprehend the budget." In fact, I never used any form of the word "intelligence" at all. The word I used is "informed" which is quite different in meaning. What I stated was, the people of Fairfield are little-informed, or in some cases nil-informed, when it comes to the town's budget. Like you, I agree that most people's lives are too busy to get up to speed with the myriad details of the budgetary process and thus rely on their elected officials to do so.
Creeky October 20, 2011 at 07:16 PM
Bruce, Have you considered why the number of students increases without a significant increase in population? It's because the number of households is increasing. That is not because the number of building lots is increasing. It is because of the increase in the number of condominiums, of various definition, is increasing. If you review the zoning regulations, and I'm not certain I've got this just right, you cannot build a duplex in Fairfield, and condominiums can only be built in a particular zone. But, if you have over four units, and make some low-income housing, and hire the right attorney, Wa La, approval. But, less than four units, and again, the right attorney before the ZBA, suddenly the duplex you couldn't build is a condo you can. Bad luck for your neighbors, who see their value reduced by a change in bias from single family homes to multi-family. Bad luck for the homeowners who pay more for their homes and pay more in taxes to support a growing school system. Good luck for a government that collects fees for building, zoning, wetlands, et cetera, in excess of cost of service (government for profit and a monopoly). Bad luck for taxpayers when the market builds less homes, the spending platform already exists, and the revenue shortfall must be made up in increased taxes.
Creeky October 20, 2011 at 07:31 PM
Bruce et al, Apologies, I read my graph to quickly. 18 times, or 1800% is the lot size variation, the variation in value per acre is closer to 13 times, or 1300%. Very, very sorry. I didn't intend an exaggeration. And really, with these numbers, who needs it?
Eleanor Bruce October 20, 2011 at 07:45 PM
I would like to tell to the town Of Fairfield ...TAKE CARE OF OUR TAX MONEY..If you dont know ..let me tell you.. I buy less groceries, I am behind on my bills..I work on call..the job that I have calls me when somebody calls in sick..SO I WAS FORCED TO CUT MY SPENDINGS AND YOU SHOULD DO TOO...
Bruce Monte, Jr. October 20, 2011 at 09:31 PM
Jerry, my apologies if my comments could have been interpreted to suggest that you were implying that Fairfielders were lacking in intelligence or comprehension. I certainly didn't intend anything of the sort -- your comments were very clear, and not at all disparaging. I was speaking only for myself, making sure that readers didn't think that I thought ill of my fellow Fairfielders.

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