Category Archives: Uncategorized

New State Budget Updates

Here is an update on the status of the State Budget and its impact on Fairfield. We will be finding out more in the days, weeks and months ahead, but here is what we know today.

1. There is a Renters Rebate program for elderly and disabled persons.  This was funded, but not authorized to be spent in the recent State budget. The Senate has met and voted to authorize the funds to be spent, but towns are now required to pay for half the cost.  In Fairfield’s case, we budgeted $100,000 in revenue reimbursements from the State for this program. We now have to find $50,000 in adjustments to pay for half this program. This amounts to an unfunded mandate.

2. There is an Elderly and Disabled Homeowners Tax Credit program.  This program was NOT funded in the State budget. These tax credits have already been applied to our qualified residents’ 2017-2018 property tax bills. There doesn’t appear to be a solution coming from the State. We budgeted $414,000 in revenue reimbursements from the State for this program.  This creates another hole in our budget and is another unfunded mandate.

3. It was announced in the news media that the State is falling short on its revenue projections.  Last December when this happened, Fairfield was cut over $500,000 in municipal aid.  We are waiting for the details of the impact of this shortfall on Fairfield.

4. Lastly, the Governor is letting the media know how difficult it will be to find the budgeted savings that are included in the recently passed budget.  This could signal even more cuts to our town funding come springtime.

For all these reasons, I am taking a cautious approach. My administration continues to tightly manage costs and we are still keeping numerous capital projects on hold.

I will keep you updated as we learn more about the impact of the State’s budget and operations on our town.

Thanks for reading.

Mike

Town Budget Update

With the signing of the State Budget by the Governor, here is an update on Fairfield.

Our Town is approximately back to where we were on July 1, 2017.  We are still suffering from over $800,000 in cuts that the RTM made in the budget to funds that would have been used for infrastructure, paving and the Library.  In addition, we are still recovering from the $4 million the State cut in Fairfield Municipal Aid in the FY 2017 budget, including over $2.5 million in Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funding.

The Library is beginning to hire the replacement staff needed to restore hours which should occur in early January.

The Town will be continuing the strategic hiring freeze and will cautiously be releasing some capital projects.  We are still concerned about Municipal Aid cuts in December when the State gets updated revenue numbers for the current year.

Last December, Fairfield was cut by over $500,000.  There may be further State cuts later this fiscal year, too.  We are going to continue to tightly manage our expenses and capital projects.  We have learned that any revenue from the State is not guaranteed until we have the check in hand.

Thanks for taking time to read this important update.

Mike

Town and State Budget Update

There have been some very big steps recently in getting us to a State Budget.  The six key leaders from both parties, minus the Governor, have agreed on a budget. However, there is little documentation on what is included and, more importantly, what is not included in this budget proposal.

It will take another week for this budget to be reviewed by the rest of the members of the General Assembly. Once the vote takes place, the next step is to send it to the Governor.

It took two weeks to prepare documentation needed to present the first proposed budget which the Governor vetoed.  He has not been very open or clear on what his thoughts are or whether he will sign or veto this latest budget. The Governor was not included in recent negotiations between the leaders of both parties.

If the Governor vetoes the budget, it would go back to the Assembly where legislators may seek the required two-thirds majority to override the Governor’s veto.

We might not have a budget until after Thanksgiving and, in that case, it could then take three to four more weeks for checks to start flowing to the towns, cities and organizations that desperately need funding. This funding may not even be received by towns, cities and critical programs until after January 1, 2018.

As I explained in my last blog, my administration has taken the necessary steps to ensure the Town will continue operations despite not receiving any State funding this year. We have put a hold on capital projects and continue to have a strategic hiring freeze in place. Once Fairfield’s Mill Rate was set last Spring, we had very few options other than to cut expenses. We have done our best to minimize the impact on our residents. It is good that we started cutting costs last year so we had some additional savings or surplus to help out this year.

Thanks for taking time to read this important update.

Mike.

Impact of No State Budget on Fairfield

I expect we will see an increasing number of stories on the devastating impact of no State budget on towns and cities around Connecticut.  I just want to remind residents that my administration has been taking steps to protect Fairfield. We have had a strategic hiring freeze in place since early last spring.  We managed our expenses to generate a surplus last fiscal year.  We also have a hold on capital projects and have made adjustments to the current fiscal year budget.

All of these proactive measures have put Fairfield in a position to survive the year with no state budget if required.  These moves also provide a certain amount of financial flexibility to handle some of the new State budget proposals being discussed.

You will continue to hear about the trauma many towns are going through. We have planned ahead, anticipating the difficulties at the State level.  We started earlier than most towns. We are better prepared than most towns to navigate the challenges of the year ahead.

As always, thanks for your support.

Mike

A Budget Compromise or an Abdication of Responsibility?

The following entry was written in collaboration with Selectman Kevin Kiley.

The latest State budget proposal is being touted as a compromise. The compromise is to transfer less of the State Pension costs to the Towns than originally proposed last spring. This is not a compromise. This is an attempt to pass the cost of the State’s mismanagement of the Pension program on to the Towns.

Let’s review what has transpired:

  1. The State promised all Connecticut teachers a pension.
  2. The State promised the Towns that the State would fund the Pension program.
  3. The State did not fund the Pension program as promised.
  4. The State took money from the Towns’ residents. In Fairfield’s case, taxpayers pay $200 million a year in state income tax. This money was supposed to go to fund State expenses including the Pension program.
  5. The State now does not want to manage their expenses better.
  6. The State is now asking the Towns to pay even more to cover the State’s mismanagement.
  7. Because of the State’s mismanagement, the annual cost of the Pension program is projected to increase 500% over the next 12 years.
  8. The State is refusing to make any changes to the Pension program that it cannot afford.

Our town has managed our Pension costs well. We have lowered our long-term liabilities and have a 90% funded pension.  The State did not do the same.

Fairfield taxpayers already pay the State $200 million per year in income tax. $200 million a year adds up to $1 billion over the last five years. Now the State wants the Towns to pay for its mismanagement. The annual cost for this Pension will grow 500% in the next 12 years. This will be the fastest growing line item in every Town budget. It will force towns and cities to increase property taxes every year going forward. Raising property taxes at the local level unfairly punishes low income property owners and seniors. It raises the cost of home ownership and may force people out of their homes. It raises taxes on people regardless of their ability to pay.

This proposed transfer of costs allows the State to avoid finding real solutions to its fiscal crisis.  It allows the State to avoid facing the difficulties of reining in expenses.  This is not a solution.  This is not a compromise.  This is an abdication of responsibility.

Here is a link to an article providing some more background:

https://ctmirror.org/2017/09/07/malloy-eases-cost-shift-onto-cities-and-towns-by-nearly-775m/

We will continue to fight for Fairfield and keep our community informed on this matter which is so crucial to the future of Fairfield and our State.

Thank you.

Governor Announces Municipal Aid Update

Today, the Governor gave his update on the Municipal Aid levels for each town. This is the State operating plan until a State Budget is passed. Here is a sampling for selected Towns:

Fairfield is reduced by $4 Million

Milford is reduced by $14 Million

Newtown is reduced by $7 Million

Stratford is reduced by $23 Million

West Hartford is reduced by $24 Million

Westport is reduced by $1 Million

Hartford is reduced by $55 Million

Greenwich is reduced by $500,000

Darien is reduced by $600,000

New Canaan is reduced by $500,000

Bridgeport is reduced by $31 Million

With the exception of Hartford and Bridgeport, the towns listed have been reduced to virtually zero in Municipal Aid.

In Fairfield’s case, we have been planning for a significant reduction in Aid if no State Budget was passed. We have taken actions since the start of the fiscal year on July 1st including a strategic hiring freeze and a hold on capital purchases.  I have also asked for a survey by our Department Managers of other towns’ procedures to share best practices and learn what we can do better.

The Governor’s update is disappointing, but not a surprise. We have taken the steps needed to minimize the impact on our residents and town services. I want to compliment our Department Managers for their help and creative approaches in handling the hiring freeze in each of their departments. This is not an easy adjustment to lose $4 million in revenue this far into the fiscal year.  By planning early and being proactive, we have worked together to minimize the impact on our residents.

When you look at the size of these reductions to towns across the State, you realize how important getting a State Budget passed is to everyone. Let’s work together to call on our State Assembly to pass a well-balanced state budget as soon as possible.

Thank you, Mike Tetreau

Now that budgets and Mill Rates are set for the year, let’s take a look at how Fairfield stacks up against other Fairfield County towns. Fairfield has the 6th lowest Mill Rate in Fairfield County. We come in after the big four – Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan and Westport.  Shelton also has a Mill Rate just a little lower than ours.  I have listed a selection of towns in Fairfield County and their Mill Rates below.

Fairfield has one of the lowest Mill Rates in Fairfield County and the State.

Town
Mill Rate
Greenwich11.369
Darien16.16
New Canaan16.669
Westport16.86
Shelton22.21
Fairfield25.82
Ridgefield27.21
Wilton27.7685
Weston28.91
Redding29.62
Easton33.38
Trumbull33.39
Newtown33.87
Monroe35.76
Stratford39.97
Bridgeport54.37

For Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien and Westport, their common attribute is much higher property values (see below, data current as of 8/9/2017).

Town
Median Home Value (in millions)
Greenwich2.195
New Canaan1.325
Darien1.3
Westport1.285
Fairfield0.525

The higher Average Price of a home in these towns is what drives a higher Grand List Value per capita. This means more Grand List value per resident to pay for town services.  These towns are able to spend more on Town services per resident than Fairfield does, yet have a lower Mill Rate.  Their lower Mill Rate is driven by higher home values, not by spending less.

When you look at the last twenty years, these towns haven’t managed their expenses better than Fairfield. They are not more efficient in providing town services. In fact, their town expenses as a percentage of total budget have increased more than ours.  Those towns are experiencing the benefit of growing their Grand List values more than our town.

It is clear that Fairfield needs to focus on growing our Grand List–the list of all taxable property in Town including Residential property, Commercial property, Motor Vehicles and Personal property. This is the best possible way to minimize tax rate increases and maintain our quality of life.

We must set a goal of strategic growth that will meet our town’s needs today and in the future while maintaining our Town’s character and charm.

Thank you for taking the time to read this perspective,

Mike

Comparing Mill Rates and Growing Fairfield’s Grand List

I was asked by a resident to explain why Westport has a lower Mill Rate than Fairfield. What is Westport doing differently?

I have looked at Mill Rate comparisons for a number of towns. Fairfield has the 6th lowest in Fairfield County. Only a few towns have a lower one….Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Westport and Shelton.

Let’s take a look at Westport.  Twenty years ago, Westport and Fairfield had comparable Mill Rates. In the last two decades, Fairfield’s has stayed in the 25 Mill range.  Westport has dropped its Mill Rate to 16 in the same time period.

I reviewed expense growth over the same time period. Fairfield’s total expenses grew less than Westport’s.  In fact, our Expense per Capita is much lower than Westport’s and many surrounding towns.  This is a good measure of our efficiency in delivering town services.

What has changed and allowed Westport to lower their Mill Rate is the growth of its Grand List. Our Grand List was $4 Billion in 1998.  Westport’s totaled $3 Billion.  We exceeded Westport’s total by 33%.

Today, the totals are different.  Fairfield’s Grand List has grown to $10.8 Billion.  Westport’s Grand List has grown even more and now exceeds ours at $11.2 Billion.  This is what has allowed Westport to spend more and lower its Mill Rate.

This by no means is to suggest that we cannot make improvements and lower costs.  We are going out reviewing other towns to look for best practices.  We are committed to continuous improvement.

It does suggest that we need to look at ways to grow our Grand List.  It is the one common attribute of each of the towns that have a lower Mill Rate.

Thank you, Mike

Town Budget Update as of June 27, 2017

Even though our Town has voted on a budget, set a Mill Rate and is sending out tax bills, Fairfield’s budget is not final. We are waiting on the State to approve its budget. We currently have $5 million in State Aid in our budget. When the State budget is finalized, we are expecting to see a reduction in this funding and must then adjust our budget accordingly.

Since the RTM has voted on the budget and the Mill Rate has been set, the Town is limited in the adjustments we can make. The Board of Education budget is 65% of our overall budget and cannot be adjusted without agreement from the Board of Education.
Debt Service is 10% of our budget and has to be paid. We are committed to making our Pension Fund and OPEB Retirement Fund payments. This totals about 80% of our budget that cannot be adjusted at this point.

The remaining 20% of the Town budget is about $60 million and includes Police, Fire, Public Works, the Library, and Parks & Recreation as well as a number of smaller departments. Finding significant cuts or reductions in these departments presents a real problem and will most likely mean reductions in Town services.

In Fairfield, we are doing our best to prepare for the unknown. We have instituted a hiring freeze and put a hold on capital purchases as well as other measures. Our goal is to provide the maximum financial flexibility to deal with the expected cuts. We are doing our best to avoid significant cuts in Town services. However, everyone should be ready for some changes if the State makes dramatic cuts to our funding.

I will keep you updated as changes come down from the State.

Thank you,
Mike

The RTM Budget Vote Weakens Fairfield

The recent RTM budget vote by the Republican majority weakens our town. Our 5-year average tax increase is the lowest in twenty years. We have strengthened our town’s financial foundation and improved services. In fact for the prior two years (Fiscal 2016 and Fiscal 2017), the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance and the RTM agreed with my budget recommendations and made virtually no changes. This year is different.

The Budget voted on by the RTM Republicans is not sustainable and hurts our town. The State has proposed major reductions to Municipal Aid. The answer is not cutting essential maintenance that will cost more in the long run.

My final budget recommendation provided for full Education funding, essential infrastructure maintenance and full Library support. The Republicans on the Board of Selectmen did not support these recommendations. The Board of Finance in bi-partisan fashion agreed with my recommendations and restored this funding. I want to thank the BOF for their leadership. It takes real leaders to make the tough decisions. However, the RTM Republicans ignored the advice and wisdom of the BOF.

The RTM Republicans voted to cut this funding – leaving the town without essential maintenance or a well-funded Library. They voted to leave the town totally exposed to future State cuts in municipal aid. The RTM budget is not sustainable. It leads to a less well maintained Fairfield, a less safe Fairfield, and a less desirable Fairfield. These cuts literally lead to a future paved with pot holes. While these cuts saved the Median taxpayer $31 this year, they will cost each taxpayer much more in the long run. This budget gives us less value for our tax dollars.

It is not over yet. When the State finalizes their cuts to our town, we will see and feel the real price of this ill-advised budget vote.