GOP’s State of the Town: Focus on curbing spending, taxes, health-care costs
Editor’s note: Following is the response by Republican majority on the Representative Town Meeting to this week’s State of the Town address deliver by First Selectman Michael Tetreau, a Democrat:
We would like thank Mr. Tetreau for sharing his perspective on the state of the town and congratulate him on his re-election to a second term of office as our first selectman, as do we congratulate Republicans Chris Tymniak and Laurie McArdle on their election to the Board of Selectmen.
In his address, Mr. Tetreau highlighted a number of notable achievements over the past year in which we can all take pride. We Republicans accept his campaign promise of a not to exceed budget increase of 1.5 percent for the upcoming fiscal year, albeit perhaps with some degree of guarded optimism. Nevertheless, there are areas which we feel could use some additional focus.
To begin with, negotiations of the labor agreements into which the town enters have failed to bring about parity with the post-retirement and medical benefits offered by private sector employers. For the past six years the town has been playing catch up in this regard, and with inadequate success. This has left the town exposed to one of the most onerous elements of Obama care. Most often referred to as the “Cadillac Tax,” it is the penalty imposed by the affordable care act upon premium employer health-care plans. It's simply not fair that taxpayers anywhere should be left on the hook for this penalty.
We have known about, and talked about this exposure since the affordable care act was signed into law. However, to date it has not been effectively addressed. Simply stated contract negotiations have not been as effective as they need to be in this area.
We are fortunate only to the extent that U.S. Congress has voted to delay the imposition of the Cadillac Tax to the year 2020. Municipalities have, in effect, been given a second chance to avoid this penalty, and we need to take advantage of this second chance here in Fairfield. The next round of contract negotiations must manage to a number which does not trigger a tax penalty from which neither the town of Fairfield, nor town employees, derive any direct benefit.
We support our public education as a foundation for our future and one of the most attractive features of our community for anyone considering where in Connecticut they might wish to live. We have championed investment in school safety upgrades and building infrastructure improvements and will continue to do so as the town plans for the much-needed expansion and renovation of schools, such as Holland Hill.
We support the Board of Education’s initiative in adopting a long-term district improvement plan, which includes investment in technology and which brings about the most direct benefit to the classroom, the teachers and the principals who support those teachers. We look forward to Fairfield’s continued leadership among cities and towns in Connecticut as a community with a well-earned reputation superior schools and academic excellence.
A government that works for the people
The town of Fairfield needs to undertake a top-to-bottom analysis in how it approaches government. We must invest in the appropriate technologies to serve our taxpayers in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible so that we can direct our tax dollars to the most important town services. Our town, must also adopt a customer-centric model, with a focus on delivering the best town services to our taxpayers with a smile. This may well mean that some paradigms of town government will need to shift or even be eliminated, but this change is crucial if we are to create a truly 21st Century government for Fairfield.
On the matter of tax relief
In spite of our renewed focus in recent years to restructure tax relief for seniors and disabled homeowners, for many, tax increases over the long term have eclipsed tax relief. Perception in this case is reality and many seniors believe that the town expects them to give more and to have less, and the fact that fewer seniors and disabled homeowners took advantage of tax relief last year is not an encouraging sign.
We need to demonstrate our commitment to our seniors, and show them that we want them here in Fairfield, because we do. Republicans would support initiatives which would offer seniors alternative ways (e.g., service hours) by which could satisfy their tax obligation.
We welcome the newly elected members of the RTM to this esteemed body. We eagerly await the first selectman’s budget proposal for 2016-17, and we wish you all a happy and healthy new year.