Letter: Taxpayers' group offers no remedies
Published 9:18 am, Wednesday, March 20, 2013
It's budget season in Fairfield and it's shaping up to be as contentious as ever. Each year new groups claiming to represent a large number of "concerned taxpayers" seems to emerge. This year's entrant is Fairfield Taxpayer, which describes itself on its web site as "A forum for all Fairfield Taxpayers who are concerned with preserving Fairfield as a desirable and affordable community for all its citizens." A noble, well-stated mission, with which few Fairfielders would argue.
Unfortunately, like similar groups before it, Fairfield Taxpayer is nothing more than a front for a few vocal individuals whose real goal is to take a hatchet to our school system and vital town services.
I attempted to engage in a meaningful discussion with Fairfield Taxpayer through their Facebook page by posing a very simple question: What town service(s) would you eliminate to reduce the budget?
The responses I received were the same vague, unproductive generalizations of old; primarily: blame the unions and cut administrators. Foolishly, I assumed that if these people were organized and motivated enough to establish a fairly elaborate web and social media presence, they must have some recommendations to put on the table. So, I pressed on, asking for concrete examples (i.e. what services would you cut, which administrators should be eliminated?) Eventually, the administrator of the Fairfield Taxpayer Facebook page responded as follows: "LOW HANGING FRUIT: How about starting with eliminating the trash collection on holidays -- like July 4 and Easter Sunday," referring to trash collection at town buildings and parks (businesses and residents in Fairfield pay for private sanitation.)
Fairfield Taxpayer insists the proposed $287 million budget needs to be cut dramatically, yet the only suggestion they have to put on the table might save a few thousand dollars at best. Seriously?
This reflects a national sentiment, revealed in a recent McClatchy-Marist Poll. When asked the general question of whether they prefer spending cuts or tax increases, Americans (of both major political parties) overwhelmingly favor spending cuts. However, when you take the question out of the abstract and ask about specific programs, people quickly change their view. One question from the national poll is particularly relevant at the local level: by 65-31 they prefer to raise taxes than cut spending on education
I suspect that the majority of Fairfielders are like those polled by McClatchy-Marist. We desire lower taxes, but not at the cost of harming programs and services we care about. So, unless Fairfield Taxpayer or other well-intentioned individuals can come to the table with palatable cuts, we must support the current budget proposal that properly funds our schools, retains vital services, and protects the programs that contribute to the quality of life that brought us here in the first place.