GOP Response: There is work to be done
I’m Tom McCarthy, Republican Majority Leader. On behalf of myself and the entire Republican caucus I would like thank our First Selectman, Mike Tetreau for sharing his perspective on the state of the town.
We have much to be proud of as citizens of Fairfield. This is a town whose people value their community and all it has to offer, from our beaches to our thriving downtown business district, from our schools and our senior center, to our town youth programs and to our ever dependable first responders.
While we share in a sense of pride and accomplishment in the progress Fairfield has made, today we must look honestly at the economic challenges which we face. While the Democrats in Hartford bear much of the responsibility for the problems facing municipalities across the state, we must all share the responsibility of addressing the challenges which lie before us in the coming years.
We know there will be deeper reductions in state funding, as well as greater financial demands originating from the town’s debt service and its contractual obligations, not to mention the vacuum left by the departure of General Electric. It would be unfair and irresponsible to simply pass along that burden to Fairfield’s tax payers.
Republican Board of Finance Chairman Tom Flynn has called upon all town department heads, including school administration and the Board of Education to review their processes and policies to find greater efficiencies.
The RTM Republican Caucus echo’s that request.
Now more than ever we need to work together to reduce spending while preserving the level of services that our citizens deserve. We call upon department heads for creative solutions that will maintain and prioritize quality service, while at the same time expending less resource.
We ask school administration and the Board of Education to rethink the how they address unfunded mandates. Where savings can be realized, we encourage them to implement appropriate change.
We value our town employees and educators and have great respect for their professionalism and dedication. We ask that they continue to partner with us in negotiating labor agreements. The rising costs of medical and post-retirement benefits have out run financial sustainability. We ask that all of our unions come to the bargaining table with open minds and help us in reducing the town’s long-term liabilities.
We would be remiss if we did not take a moment to welcome our new superintendent of schools, Toni Jones, to town. Dr. Jones, welcome, and we look forward to working with you.
Fairfield’s reputation of academic excellence is well deserved and well earned. It’s no secret that many families choose to live in Fairfield because of our schools. Our Republican caucus continues to support school technology, infrastructure, and safety improvements as well as initiatives which deliver the most resources to teachers and instructional improvement.
We are unwavering in our support for the Holland Hill School, as building expansion and renovation for that community has been long over - due.
We also support the wishes of McKinley Elementary School families to keep their neighborhood school. We are hopeful the State will see the true value in McKinley as a vibrant and successful home for its students and not seek to disrupt those families.
With regard to our Senior Citizens, Republicans have supported and will continue to support the tax relief program for them. It’s a fact that Fairfield’s tax relief program is among the most generous in the state of Connecticut, but it is also true that we are losing seniors because ever increasing taxes have made our town unaffordable for many of them. We owe it to our seniors to do our best to help them remain in Fairfield.
Lastly, spending reductions alone will get us only part way there. We have to expand economic development. Growing our commercial tax base is an area in which we are losing ground. Fairfield Metro Center is still awaiting development .The departure of General Electric is as an example of the consequences of indifference and failing to provide the business friendly eco system that our corporate citizens expect.
Smart economic development is an area which needs renewed focus, and Republicans support creative and responsible efforts to attract new business to our town and keep existing ones.
Fairfield has much to offer and there is so much which is positive, but there is work to be done. We need to address the growing perception that Fairfield is place of ever increasing taxation. We need to bring more of our spending back within our control, and we need to thoughtfully grow our commercial tax base.
Thank you and on behalf of the Republican RTM caucus I would like to wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year.