Hines Sight / More building projects? Say it isn't so
Published 7:25 am, Thursday, October 27, 2011
There, I said. But does anyone know what the word means? Webster's Dictionary defines it as a "waiting period set by an authority" or a "suspension of activity." But in the context of our fair town, it means stop talking about all future building projects until we know if and when we can afford them.
It continues to astonish me how the town and school administration like to spend money with what seems like little, or no, regard for whether or not we -- the taxpayers -- have the means, or want, to pay. This penchant for spending is all I ever hear from residents when we get into conversations -- especially during this municipal election season -- about the direction our town is going. And the board of education, most often, is the target of their angst.
And here's why. After a cursory examination of what already has been finished and what is on the horizon, this is what I found. It's also all spelled out in the board of education's approved facilities plan, which can be found on its website, www.fairfieldschools.org, that puts the price tag at $34 million, after reimbursement by the state, for the period from 2011 to 2015.
Riverfield School upgrade at a proposed $6.2 million
Tomlinson Middle School repairs at $250,000 (which has been put on hold)
Fairfield Woods Middle School expansion, under way, at $24.4 million
Sherman School renovations at a proposed $3 million
Roof repairs for five schools at $901,467
Stratfield School makeover, completed for $17.5 million
The town administration knows how to spend too. There's the:
Penfield Pavilion reconstruction for $3.8 million (which, however, was a worthwhile project. If you have not seen the new digs yet, do so as it is beautiful)
$30-plus million we are spending on the third train station, with any revenue being generated from it nowhere in sight
I will do the math for you -- that's about $92 million. Where are we getting this money? Right, from us, the taxpayers. Some of the aforementioned is reimbursed by other government agencies. And town and school officials are quick to point out that bonding is how it gets paid. Some town or school official always will come forward and say the bonding debt is mere dollars per household every year, blah blah blah. But it adds up and it all still comes out of our pockets. There is an innocuous line in the municipal budget called "debt service," which is what the town allots each year to pay off the bonds. But no matter how you look at it -- or how officials explain it -- residents still pay for it through their real estate taxes.
So here's what I propose. A moratorium. Other communities have done it. Why can't we? We need to get a grasp on what's affordable and what's not. Where's the planning? Where's the thought? Where's the money?
So stop and think
Before we're on the brink
Of watching our tax dollars shrink.
Planning and thought
Is what we have sought
Before any new projects are bought.
What we'd like to get
Before we have more debt
Is how these bills will be met.
So let's make a pact
To take a step back
Before taxpayers get really whacked.