Selectmen adopt budget with a 1.3% tax increase
FAIRFIELD — With a proposed state teacher pension bill of $9 million no longer the full black cloud it once was hanging over the town, the Board of Selectmen Tuesday adopted a 2017-18 budget of $298,047,150 that calls for a 1.3 percent tax increase.
After getting word that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s pension proposal would not pass the General Assembly, First Selectman Mike Tetreau sought to restore cuts he made to the Board of Education, the Department of Public Works, and the town libraries. Without the $9 million payment to the state, the restoration of those cuts would have meant a tax increase of 2.2 percent, instead of 4.48 percent.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz offered a compromise Wednesday, March 29 on one of the stickiest points in Malloy’s budget: asking communities to gradually assume a portion of skyrocketing teacher pension costs, according to the Connecticut Mirror. Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, suggested cities and towns assume one-third of these pension costs — or possibly less — but do so in stages over the next five fiscal years. Final decision won’t be made on the pension payments for another month or two.
In Fairfield while Selectmen Chris Tymniak and Ed Bateson agreed to put back the $2 million school board cut, and funds to keep the libraries open on Sundays, they did not agree with other restorations and, in fact, made further cuts, bringing the tax increase even lower.
“Let’s hunker down for 12 months and figure out how to deal with it,” Bateson said. “There’s too many icebergs out there. I think we need to slow the ship down.”
Board of Selectmen budget action
Restored to budget
$2 million Board of Education
$32,400 Main library payroll
$29,000 Main library pay differential
$26,815 Fairfield Woods branch payroll
$16,000 Fairfield Woods branch pay differential
Cut from budget
$98,633 Main library technical services librarian
$67,516 Recreation coordinator
$179,645 Main library materials
$16,040 Fairfield Woods branch materials
$390,000 Public Works two 6-wheel dump trucks ($195,000 each)
$236,580 Public Works backhoe
$208,000 Public Works street sweeper
$1 million Public Works paving
Tetreau argued, however, that the state’s budget situation will not be getting better next year, and things taken out of the local budget this year, won’t get restored next year.
“We have the opportunity to stay on track here,” Tetreau said, trying to convince the board to give the DPW back $1 million in paving funds. “We’re taking it out this year, it’s very unlikely it’s going back in next year. The state is going to be in worse shape next year.”
Pushing off the full paving amount, the purchase of several DPW trucks, cutting the materials account at the library, as well as a position, along with a vacant position at Recreation, will only mean a higher tax increase to keep them in next year, Tetreau said.
“We have to be careful what we’re doing, and think it more than one year at a time,” the first selectman said.
Tymniak said home values in Fairfield are falling. “People are fleeing the state,” he said. “We need to keep taxes as low as possible to attract people.”
Bateson and Tymniak voted to not fund the open coordinator’s position at the Parks and Recreation Department. The position had been Anthony Calabrese’s, he is currently the acting director. Tymniak referred to it as “doing a vacancy hold” on the position, which has a $67,816 salary.
“So we’re asking Anthony to do both jobs, his old job and the job as director,” Tetreau said.
Tetreau said the balance of providing quality services and low taxes shouldn’t come to “let’s just take everything out of the town side. When we make these cuts, these are not coming back next year. I don’t see the state solving their problem in the next 12 months.