Letter: Watching town grow unaffordable
Published 10:22 am, Friday, January 25, 2013
I was three months pregnant when I moved to Fairfield in 1984. Jacky Durrell was the first selectman.
Other than the arrival of my family, some of the big events that year included: the opening of the Route 8 expressway; the creation of 84 two-acre home sites in a development called "The Ridge" on the Pepperidge Farm property; continued heated debate about ending tolls on the Connecticut Turnpike (they were finally eliminated in 1985); and President Reagan's reelection campaign speech at Old Town Hall. The Fairfield Store was in its 63rd year, and Mercurio's was still across the street.
According to a story in The New York Times in December 1985, property taxes on a $500,000 home in Fairfield -- based then on 45 percent of its value and a mill rate of 25.20 -- were $5,670.
Fairfield was a "homespun" town back then in the sense that three generations of many families lived here along with most of our teachers, librarians, the police and fire chiefs, my heating oil delivery man and many local businesses owners.
Now, 28 years later, the opposite is the case. Most municipal employees, from the first selectman to the secretaries at the Board of Education, do not own property in town and do not have to pay a Fairfield tax bill that increases every year without fail.
That $500,000 home, based on the housing-price index for Connecticut published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, now is worth about $1.2 million. Based on a 70 percent assessment and a 23.37 mill rate, taxes on it are almost $20,000. That is an annual growth rate of almost 5 percent. Inflation over the same time period has averaged less than 3 percent annually.
The fact that so many of our public employees do not pay taxes in Fairfield makes it much more difficult to explain to them why we can no longer afford all of the services that the town is providing, and to explain that higher and higher taxes are causing the breakdown of a once vibrant community.
Fairfield for Good Government