State of the Town: Tetreau lauds record, but GOP finds fault
Updated 10:22 am, Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Midway through his four-year term as first selectman, Michael Tetreau looked back on the last two years in his State of the Town address at Monday's Representative Town Meeting, highlighting what he feels are the most significant accomplishments during his tenure.
"As first selectman, it is my intention to serve all the people of our town, from the students who need a safe environment for an excellent education, to the seniors on fixed incomes who wish to stay here, to the taxpayers who want quality service and reasonable taxes," Tetreau said. "I am committed to keeping Fairfield as the best value in our state for residents and businesses."
Tetreau called the town's economy vibrant, lauding Fairfield as a destination for arts, culture and restaurants, and praised the work of the public works, police, and fire departments, among others, responding to severe storms, both winter and summer, that hit town over the last few years.
The public school system, he said, is the reason his father moved the Tetreaus to town 60 years ago. "It is one of the primary reasons our homes maintain and grow in value over the years," Tetreau said. "We have made education a top priority with 55 to 60 percent of our annual budget going just to that purpose."
Fairfield, he said, has made strides in energy conservation and sustainability, taking steps such as installing LED lights along the Post Road and at the Southport and downtown train stations, improving technology to control electric use in town buildings, creating microgrids to power municipal facilities, and approving the installation of photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power.
The town has continued to improve its financial status, Tetreau said, by upgrading reporting and financial controls on pensions, identifying the key "drivers" of the municipal budget and providing more tax relief for senior citizens.
Tetreau said the town will look to improve security at town and school buildings, work to enhance opportunities for seniors and manage town expenses and investments. In addition, he said, the town will continue to work to improve flood mitigation and resiliency in the beach area.
Republicans see a different record
And while the RTM and the audience gave Tetreau a standing ovation at the end of his 16-page speech, Republicans had a response ready, delivered by Ed Bateson, R-3, the RTM's majority leader. The GOP has controlled most elected town boards and commissions during the Tetreau administration.
In his remarks, Bateson said the GOP wishes Tetreau well "in the twilight of his term," and listed what he called the Republicans' record of achievement, including expanding senior tax relief, cutting the 2013-14 budget increase down to 2.3 percent, being strong supporters of school safety and leading the charge to restore town funding to the Pequot Library. However, it was a Republican, -- Robert Belitto Jr., then vice chairman of the Board of Finance -- who proposed the controversial cut in funding to the library, which was then endorsed by the board although a majority of its Republicans did not support the cut. The RTM later overrode the finance vote and restored the library funding.
Acknowledging it would be another difficult season in preparing the 2014-15 budget, Bateson said, "We are committed to working in a bipartisan fashion with the first selectman, the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance to approve a final budget that is fiscally responsible, and one that balances the short and long-term needs of our town, while not compromising our core convictions -- especially when it comes to slowing the rate of spending across town government."
Bateson said it is the RTM Republicans' "sincere hope" that Tetreau will "refrain from presenting the townspeople with a proposed budget nearly thrice the annual rate of inflation."
The four-year first selectman term, the GOP leader added, is "not well suited for a populace that is demanding greater accountability given a growing town budget with substantial long-term pension and health-care obligations. As a counterbalance, it is time for a more powerful and nimble legislative body that can effectively be a check on the executive powers of the first selectman."