Fairfield senior advocates finances workshop Jan. 19

To the Editor:

It’s no secret that seniors pay a disproportionate share of the cost of our Town government; education costs constitute the major Budget item. For many seniors property taxes represent a greater outlay than Federal, State, and Sales tax combined. Our personal finances are dependent on keeping our seniors. Moreover, seniors have contributed to the life in Fairfield for decades and are integral to Town identity.

Last year Fairfield Senior Advocates studied the changes in after-tax income for a hypothetical senior Fairfield household. We found that their after-tax real income declined markedly over the past six years. The impending federal tax changes will affect seniors in different ways. Some will benefit from lower tax rates and an increased standard deduction. But many Fairfield seniors will face reduced tax deductions (especially a reduced deduction for State and local taxes) and a higher income tax bill.

On Jan. 19 (10 a.m. to noon) FSA will hold a workshop on senior finances at the Bigelow Center. We will discuss the State budget changes, the impact of federal tax revisions on seniors of differing incomes - plus our efforts to find better housing options for seniors.

Urb Leimkuhler

Fairfield

How much state should pay for local education unresolved

To the Editor:

Understanding a problem fully can be the first step to solving it. And sometimes understanding a problem requires going back to the beginning to see how and when it started. Alternatively, a good way to just ignore a problem is to engage in some good old political sloganeering. To me, harping on Connecticut’s “unfunded local education mandates” is nothing more than

Just that: political sloganeering designed to ignore the tough debate on how to fund local K-12 education. Connecticut’s general education policy would seem to date back to when Connecticut was still a British colony. The policy was based on two basic principles. One, that the state should compel parents and those who control children to educate them. The other, that public money, raised by taxes, could be used to pay for education. Around the same time our country gained its independence, the newly founded state of Connecticut gave the responsibility of raising taxes,to local governments. Schools were supported by local taxes augmented by rate-bills levied against students’ families. From the outset, local education was one big unfunded mandate placed on local governments by the state. And for the first 200 years nobody seemed to complain.

In 1795, the state began to send per-student education grants to the locals to supplement local tax collections. Those per-student grants lasted in the same basic form for almost 200 years, too. In1974, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the way state educational aid was distributed among towns denied students an equal educational opportunity. In response to the decision, the General Assembly enacted a complex formula for distributing aid to school districts. The formula has been extensively revised several times since, but remains controversial, if not unintelligible, including in the courts.

The issue of how much the state should pay for the local education it has mandated, and how much the locals should pay, remains unresolved. And since leaving this policy to the courts seems to be the choice of both the current governor and the legislature, I guess we will just have to wait to see what the CT Supremes find in that magic crystal ball of theirs.

Jim Brown

Fairfield