Letter: RTM ended tax-spend cycle
Regardless of who said what, Fairfield's $272 million 2012-13 town budget passed with 34 bipartisan votes. We broke new ground this year:
1. By voting down the initial budget proposal, the RTM did the difficult thing and stood up for our town's long-term interests. We ended automatic acceptance of year-over-year spending increases financed by continuous tax-and-debt increases. How many of us paying for town employee raises actually got raises ourselves? The so-called budget drivers, presented as "givens," (debt service, number of employees, contractual union obligations) are really the result of decisions made.
2. We refused to play the destructive game of false choices in which town residents or departments are pitted against each other. Instead we reduced the Contingency Fund increase by $850,000, leaving a $250,000 contribution with the option to replenish, if needed, from surpluses in the town's Unassigned Funds. We also trimmed a $250,000 increase from the Board of Education's $149 million budget. These relatively small changes may pave the way for more top-down cost-cutting next year.
3. We protected Fairfield's Aaa credit rating. Did anyone actually read Moody's May 3 report on its rating upgrade for Fairfield from Negative to Stable Outlook? In its rationale, Moody's cites improving reserves in Fairfield's General and Internal Service (insurance) funds, noting that the upgrade was also "due in part to Moody's determination that Fairfield has no indirect linkages to the weakened credit profile of the U.S. government." The Contingency Fund is never mentioned. Under "What Could Make the Rating Go Down," Moody's lists "deterioration of the town's tax base and demographic profile." Though the numbers keep changing, from Mr. Hiller's briefings we learned that our current taxable Grand List is down to $10.9 billion -- considerably lower than the $14.8 billion cited in Moody's report and the $16.4 billion Grand List in 2010, when we were downgraded. There is an additional $8.1 million loss adjusted by the assessor's office due to settled assessment lawsuits, and another $400 million in disputed property assessments which will likely reduce our tax base further.
RTM, District 9