Fairfield residents urge town to stand up to Hartford on budget
Updated 11:59 am, Thursday, March 23, 2017
FAIRFIELD — Parents said families won’t move to town if the school system budget is slashed. Seniors said they won’t be staying if taxes go up 4.48 percent.
But one thing both groups seemed to support at Saturday’s public hearing on the proposed $308 million budget is standing up to lawmakers and just saying “no” to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s spending plan that not only cuts revenue, but bills the town $9 million for the underfunded, state-managed teacher pension plan.
“It’s time to stand up and say we’re not going to do it,” Sasco Hill Road resident Jeff Rubin said, at the annual finance board-sponsored hearing. That statement drew loud cheers and applause from the audience that filled the auditorium at Fairfield Ludlowe High School March 18.
Peter Stovell, a Greenfield Hill Road resident, said the town needs to innovate and change how it spends its money. “People have the opportunity to pick where they live and where they pay their taxes,” Stovell said. “Fairfield has to get control of its spending ... tax at the rate of inflation with your tax increase.”
The budget proposed by First Selectman Mike Tetreau, which is now before the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance, takes into account the $14 million impact of Malloy’s budget. The state legislature won’t adopt a final state budget until sometime in June after the town acts on its own budget. Without the $9 million pension payment, Tetreau said the tax increase would be less than 1.5 percent.
Some at the hearing urged the town to follow the lead of Westport and Greenwich and assume there will be major changes in the Malloy budget. Don’t, they said, budget for the $9 million pension payment. Fairfield’s state delegation have said they do not support Malloy’s proposal.
“I accept that my taxes may increase so the quality of our school system is maintained,” said Lockwood Road resident Shannon Joerchel. “My family moved here, and specifically to Fairfield and our neighborhood, because of the school system.”
Margaret Horton said she and her husband put themselves into debt to move from Bridgeport to Fairfield, largely because of the school system. Her son, she said, just had his kindergarten registration appointment. “This budget cut is bad for business,” the Longdean Road resident said, and will ultimately hurt the town’s economy.
“Once we’re here, we make great contributions to the town,” Horton added.
But Sasco Hill Road resident Bud Morten said home values in town are dropping. “Real home values cannot rise unless more people want to move in, than move out,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before everything we have in Fairfield will be destroyed.”
“When a senior decides to leave Fairfield, it’s a real blow to the town,” said Gordon MacKenzie, who identified himself as a member Fairfield Senior Advocates. “For every three people that move out of town,” he said, “they are replaced by immigrants from another country who generally have a lower income.”
Single mom and Fairfield Beahch Road resident Sue Cronin said paying her taxes and flood insurance “has been tough, but it’s been great. I think we should band together and take this whole message back to Hartford. This is a town of 60,000 people, let’s put together a shield and say ‘No.’”
Several Fairfield school teachers, who also live in town, made their voices heard at the hearing.
Speech pathologist Libby Kennedy said this was the dream, to live and work in Fairfield.
“If these things get cut, it won’t be the same wonderful Fairfield we know,” she said. “I won’t sit across from a parent and tell them I won’t give their kid the services they need because of budget cuts. I won’t.”