Tuesday meeting on Tetreau's proposed budget postponed by looming storm
The first selectman has proposed a budget for 2015-16 that, if approved, would boost local taxes 1.64 percent and raise the tax rate from 24.4 to 24.8 mills.
First Selectman Michael Tetreau on Thursday unveiled the $291.08 million spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1 and was scheduled to present it Tuesday night to the Boards of Finance and Selectmen at a joint meeting.
However, with more snow and ice projected to start falling Tuesday afternoon, the meeting was called off and rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Board of Education administrative office on Kings Highway East.
"I am committed to maintaining Fairfield as the best value in Connecticut," Tetreau said of his proposed spending plans.
The budget proposal fully funds the Board of Education's $160.8 million request, and Tetreau said, restores funding to the town's library and paving accounts and also "provides additional support" for the Conservation and Finance departments and school nurses.
The school board's current budget is $155.7 million, and accounts for 55.28 percent of the town's total annual budget.
The town-side budget of $130 million would rise 0.77 percent over current spending.
The total municipal budget is $284.69 million for this fiscal year.
According to Tetreau, if the budget is passed with no cuts, next year's tax bill on a home with the median assessment of $350,000 would rise $140.
Among the larger budgets, the Fire Department shows a proposed increase from the current $11.5 million to $11.9 million, while the Police Department budget is reduced from this year's $13.4 million to $13.3 million.
The proposed Department of Public Works operations budget would increase from $13.7 million to $15.5 million, and the Fairfield Public Library budget would grow from the current $3.5 million to $3.8 million.
"My initial reaction to the budget proposal was to smile and think: `I really wish every year were an election year,' " Thomas Flynn, a Republican and chairman of the Board of Finance, said last week when asked to comment on the spending plan.
"My second thought was that I sincerely hope and expect that this budget proposal is not based on overly optimistic assumptions or projections," Flynn added. "We have worked, collectively, far too hard and too long to improve the town's financial stability and I would hate to put that in jeopardy. So I look forward to our budget review process."
The finance board and the selectmen will meet jointly to review the various department budgets, but will hold separate meetings for their vote. After each panel has voted, the proposal will be forwarded to the Representative Town Meeting.
Another Republican, Representative Town Meeting member Chris Tymniak, is only candidate who has formally declared his intention to run for Tetreau's seat this year. Tetreau, a Democrat, said he will announce his re-election bid when the budget process is finished in the spring.
"It's puzzling why it took Firs Selectman Tetreau three years to hear what the citizens of Fairfield have been saying," Tymniak said, "stop raising our taxes."
He said the previous three years Tetreau proposed "fiscally irresponsible budgets that had an average proposed tax increase of 4.35 percent; the largest of which was a 6.38 percent tax increase."
Tymniak gave credit to Republicans on the Board of Finance and RTM who, he said, "held the line on spending while maintaining the town's exceptional services."
He added that the fact that this is an election year does not go unnoticed. "I have to wonder if he will take a page out of Governor Malloy's book and revert to the tax and spend ways after the election, which he has proven come so easy to him."
Tymniak said Tetreau's press release tries to take credit for declining budget increases over his term in office, "even though his proposals trended the other way."