Letters to the Editor: Comparing mill rates and growing Fairfield’s grand list
Published 12:26 pm, Friday, July 28, 2017
I was asked by a resident to explain why Westport has a lower mill rate than Fairfield. What is Westport doing differently?
I have looked at mill rate comparisons for a number of towns. Fairfield has the sixth lowest in Fairfield County. Only a few towns have a lower one — Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Westport and Shelton.
Let’s take a look at Westport. Twenty years ago, Westport and Fairfield had comparable mill rates. In the last two decades, Fairfield’s has stayed in the 25 mill range. Westport has dropped its mill rate to 16 in the same time period.
I reviewed expense growth over the same time period. Fairfield’s total expenses grew less than Westport's. In fact, our expense per capita is much lower than Westport’s and many surrounding towns. This is a good measure of our efficiency in delivering town services.
What has changed and allowed Westport to lower their mill rate is the growth of its grand list. our grand list was $4 billion in 1998. Westport’s totaled $3 billion. We exceeded Westport’s total by 33 percent.
Today, the totals are different. Fairfield’s grand list has grown to $10.8 billion. Westport’s grand list has grown even more and now exceeds ours at $11.2 billion. This is what has allowed Westport to spend more and lower its mill rate.
This by no means is to suggest that we cannot make improvements and lower costs. We are going out reviewing other towns to look for best practices. We are committed to continuous improvement.
It does suggest that we need to look at ways to grow our Grand List. It is the one common attribute of each of the towns that have a lower mill rate.
First Selectman Michael C. Tetreau