Letters to the Editor: Speak out for the Fairfield schools
To the Editor:
If you want to play a part in supporting education in Fairfield’s public schools, then you have a great opportunity to do so. On Saturday, March 24, at 9:30 a.m. in the Fairfield Ludlowe High School auditorium, the Board of Finance will host a public forum for residents to comment about the town’s proposed budget.
If history is any guide, you can count on a number of people to step up to the podium and ask the board to not approve any increases in spending on education with the all too familiar reasoning that taxes are already burdensome, too high and the town is becoming more and more unaffordable.
The cost of education is by far and away the largest expense for the town and is always in the crosshairs of many. Surely it’s an easy target … but our attention should be pointed in a different direction. There would be no argument that the connection between the desirability of a town is inextricably tied to the quality of its education system. And the more desirable a town, the higher the real estate values.
One of the more accepted ways of quantifying and comparing a town’s wealth in the state is to look at its Adjusted Equalized Grand List per Capita rating, as this is what the state looks at in calculating cost sharing of state funding to each municipality. The calculation for the rating is determined by adding the town’s property tax base and income, both on a per capita basis — the lower the AENGLC rating, the wealthier the town. Fairfield in 2014 ranked number 22 from the top. The most recent rating moved us up the ranking to number 16. So the argument that Fairfield’s taxes have been going up so much that it is driving real estate values down is fallacious.
In fact, Fairfield continues to be a highly desired town to live in, where the quality of its education plays a significant role. The proposed 2018-19 budget for education asked for a 3.1 percent increase. … Compare this request to Westport’s 4.2 percent, Easton’s 9.4 percent, Trumbull’s 5.0 percent, Norwalk’s 5.8 percent, New Canaan’s 3.5 percent and Greenwich’s 4.3 percent. Given this baseline in the surrounding area, this request can and should be characterized as modest.
Our elected officials on both the selectmen and finance boards will have the opportunity to either accept, cut or increase (we should be so lucky!) the proposed budgets. We have the opportunity on Saturday the 24th to let them know where we would like them to land. Hopefully there will be many voices present to support Fairfield’s commitment to education. A commitment without a voice runs the risk of being vanquished.