Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Budget Update from Hartford

Finally some good news! The Speaker of the House was quoted in the Hartford Courant as stating that the Teachers’ Pension Cost transfer to the towns will not happen. This definitely counts as good news. It also means that we do not have to account for that $9 million expense in our budget.  My recommendation is that we use the reduction to restore some cuts and reduce the mill rate increase.

Based on this new information I recommend:

  1. Restoring the earlier $2 million reduction to the BOE budget
  2. Restoring the $300,000 reduction to the Fairfield Public Library budget
  3. Restoring $1,000,000 to Public Works for Paving
  4. Restoring $750,000 to Public Works for Major Equipment Purchase
  5. Reducing the budget by approximately $360,000 in expense reductions – adjustments that will come up during the BOS/BOF meetings
  6. Reducing the Supplemental Contribution to Surplus by $600,000
  7. Using the balance to reduce the Mill Rate increase to 2.2 percent

In this economic climate and with the negative State cuts, this is a very solid accomplishment.

I will keep working to see what other adjustments we can make. There is still a lot more discussion to take place with the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance and the RTM. These are my recommendations that I will propose to the Board of Selectmen next week.

We still have a long way to go. We will not have final budget numbers from the State until June or later, and we still have to keep an eye on next year. The State is struggling this year. Next year doesn’t look to be any better.

We have to keep Fairfield on a solid financial foundation. We have worked hard to fund our reserves and fund our long term liabilities (pension costs). We have maintained our infrastructure and we funded our Senior Tax Relief.  We are in better shape than most towns to weather this financial storm caused by the State.

Thank you for your time,

Mike

Teachers’ Pension Costs – The Worst Part of the Governor’s Budget Proposal

The transfer of Teachers’ Pension costs from the State to the towns is the worst part of the Governor’s Budget proposal. This hurts every town and city especially seniors, low income property owners and small business owners. Let’s take a look at Fairfield.

This is a State program to pay for Teacher Pensions. It was developed by the State. It was promised by the State. It was designed by the State. As towns, we had no input.  We didn’t cause the problem. The State is solely responsible for the designing of a program that isn’t sustainable and then compounding the problem by not funding it.  The State doesn’t want to make any changes to the program. It just wants to pass the costs on to the towns. This is just plain wrong and fiscally irresponsible.

Let’s look at the facts. Let’s look at all the ways this is bad for the towns and the State.

First, the Teachers’ Pension Program is primarily funded by state income tax, a progressive tax system. Those taxpayers with the most income pay the largest share. By moving this expense to the towns, it would be funded by property tax or a regressive system. Every taxpayer pays at the same rate regardless of income.  This moves the expense to towns unfairly burdening our seniors, our lower income property owners and small businesses.  Connecticut towns already have the highest property taxes in the nation.  This cost alone will increase Fairfield taxes by 3% this year and more every year in the future. A program that makes our property taxes higher hurts everyone in the State. This is not a solution.

Second, this approach changes nothing! The Pension funding problem remains unchanged. The State is abdicating its responsibility to find a solution. This hurts our towns and cities alike. Although Fairfield may be viewed as a wealthy town, all of our residents are not wealthy. This approach unfairly burdens seniors, lower income property owners and small businesses hurting our local economy.

Third, this cost would become our fastest growing expense in the future. The current Pension plan assumes an 8% discount rate or expected rate of return on investments. This is one of the highest assumptions in the nation. The plan is also underfunded. The combination of these two conditions means this expense will grow faster than any other line item in our budget. This guarantees higher property taxes in the future for all towns.

Fourth, it was suggested by someone in the State Administration that the wealthier towns, such as Fairfield, need to have some “skin in the game” and that these towns have been receiving a “hidden subsidy” from the State. This comment is either incredibly naive or a complete misrepresentation. How can someone suggest that a town like Fairfield has no “skin in the game” when we contribute over $200 million through income tax alone to the State budget? Where does that person think the State gets its money? It is equally incredulous to suggest that Fairfield is getting a hidden subsidy when we give the State $200 million in income tax and our teachers’ pension costs are $27 million.  How does one call it a subsidy when it is our money the State is using?  Fairfield is subsidizing the State not the other way around. Simply put, this is 100% a State problem and the State needs to take responsibility to fix the problem.

If Fairfield doesn’t have to pay $9 million in Teachers’ Pension costs to the State, we can do the following: restore the proposed budget cuts to our schools, our library, and Public Works, and lower our projected mill rate increase. We have to come together to help fight this proposal. We need to demand a better solution from the State. We need to keep these dollars in Fairfield.

I am working with our State Delegation, joining with other Mayors and First Selectmen, supporting the efforts by CCM and personally meeting with Assembly leadership to stop this pension cost transfer. I am asking all Fairfield residents to join together in contacting our State Delegation and State Assembly leadership to demand a better solution for our town and all of Connecticut. The Governor has made his proposal. The final budget recommendation is now in the hands of the State Assembly.

Here are the key people to contact:

Thank you for your help and support, Mike.

 

Update on Fight Against State Budget Cuts to Fairfield

I wanted to let everyone know the actions I have taken since the Governor announced his proposal to cut $4.6 Million in State Aid to Fairfield. This cut includes the reduction in Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funding and the reduction in Revenue Sharing from the State Sales Tax.

 

I have taken a very proactive approach. I have been working with Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM)  – the lobbying group for towns and cities. I have been on television as a panelist on News 12′s Focus on Connecticut. CCM asked that I represent the towns throughout Fairfield County. I have been interviewed by numerous news media. I have reached out to our State Delegation. I have spoken to numerous other State Representatives and State Senators. I have reached out to other First Selectmen and Mayors. I have met with the Speaker of the House, Brendan Sharkey.  I have also requested a meeting with our State Minority Leaders to present our case and hear their perspective. I have spoken before the Sherman School PTA and have been asked to present to others. 

 

The budget proposals are currently in the hands of the General Assembly for their response and proposals. Everyone I have contacted has made it clear that there is no support for the Governor’s proposal. It will not go any further. Once the Assembly has made their recommendation and position clear, I will be reaching out to the Governor to garner his support for Fairfield and similar towns. 

 

I have been in continuous conversations with our town elected officials who serve on the Board of Education, the Board of Finance and the Representative Town Meeting (RTM). I have had conversations with my colleagues on the Board of Selectmen. 

 

I have continuously pointed out the poor process and the poor planning that led us to this situation.  I have made clear the negative impact on our town by these proposals and these last minute devastating cuts. I have also spoken out about the lack of fairness in the cuts and approach to our town.

 

I have recommended to the RTM that we delay our town vote on the budget until we have answers from the State on exactly what cuts are coming.  Everything from the State until now has been in the form of proposals but nothing is final. I have been following up with our Town Attorney to determine our options for delaying our vote and with our CFO to confirm our options and flexibility on getting out tax bills.

 

As a Town, our expenses are set. The appropriation or spending has been approved by the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance. Our budget recommendations are now before the Fairfield RTM. The RTM can lower or cut these appropriations but cannot raise or increase them.  

 

The budget I proposed at the beginning of March included a decrease from last year on the Townside and once combined with the BOE came in at just a 1% increase. One of the lowest in the last twenty years. The town tax increases over the last five years have been the lowest total increase as far back as I can find. Our tax and expense per capita are one of the lowest in Fairfield County. 

 

I hope this helps you have a better understanding of all that has been going on.  

 

General Electric and the Town of Fairfield

Let me first say that on behalf of the Town, I am in active communication with both GE and the Governor’s office and have been ever since GE’s announcement that it is considering leaving the State.

Here is what I have accomplished so far:

  1. I have been able to keep the communication flowing between GE and the State while the evaluation is proceeding. There was a lot of emotion initially. GE specifically asked that we keep the emotion and rhetoric to a minimum.
  2. I made certain Hartford understands all the ways that GE makes valuable contributions to both Fairfield and our region.
  3. I encouraged the Governor to reduce the impact on GE by making changes to the budget in the follow up “implementer bill.” These changes helped but I am not convinced they went far enough.
  4. I encouraged the State to make an as aggressive and competitive proposal as possible to convince GE to stay.
  5. I encouraged GE to listen to the State’s proposal.

The tax situation created by the recently approved State budget can only be solved by the State.  Both Democrats and Republicans at the State level share the blame for not addressing these financial issues over the past twenty years.  There is a responsibility on behalf of both parties to stop playing politics and to take seriously addressing the current tax situation.  Whether GE leaves or stays, Connecticut still has major competitive issues and our State leaders need to combine their efforts to resolve these issues.

Unfortunately, there is a very real chance that GE will leave Connecticut or at least relocate enough of their staff to change their headquarters to another state.  Both the State tax situation and recent decisions at the Federal level are affecting GE’s future planning.  Nevertheless, on behalf of the Town, I will continue to facilitate communication between the parties and work earnestly to keep GE, an incredibly valuable corporate citizen, here in Fairfield.

Mike

Thank you to Fairfield Grace United Methodist Church

I wanted to take a moment to thank Fairfield Grace United Methodist Church for their recent decision to listen to the concerns of the neighborhood and suspend their cell tower negotiations with AT&T.  This suspension will hopefully become permanent, but it is a very good first step.   Thank you to the Church leadership and its members.  This step starts the path to rebuilding the bonds of the community.

I also want to give special thanks to the neighborhood leaders who helped organize the awareness raising efforts.   Cell tower installations don’t happen often.    There was a lot of work done by many people to research and understand the process along with the decision making criteria.  There was a lot of work done to help the Church and the neighborhood communicate.

To provide some background, despite the recent changes in State Statutes, the final say on cell tower locations rests with the State’s Siting Council.  The Town has the ability to provide feedback and object to the location as well as provide alternative site locations, but the Siting Council is the final decision maker.  The Town objected to the last cell tower installation on Wood House Road, but the Council gave its approval anyway.   If this application had proceeded, I would have continued to voice my very strong objections to the Siting Council.

This issue started with a miscommunication and misunderstanding.  The Town was never aware that AT&T approached the Church nor that any discussions had started.  It wasn’t until the neighborhood concerns were voiced on social media that this information became public.   With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, perhaps the Church could have raised the question as to whether the Town would support a tower installation within 250 feet of a school given State Law.  I clearly stated my opposition to this tower location to church leaders, the public and the press when this became public.

In addition, I held a meeting for church leaders and neighborhood representatives in my office.  The purpose of this meeting was to bring people together for a better understanding and to share concerns.  I believe this discussion helped the Church appreciate the depth of the concern in our community and led to the recent suspension of negotiations.

When I followed up with AT&T to let them know my concerns, they informed me that they had not yet selected a site.   Fairfield Grace Methodist was under consideration along with Owen Fish Park, Fairfield Warde High School, a private cemetery and Lake Mohegan.  Their goal is to fill in a gap in coverage for their network.   Their engineers are evaluating alternative sites.   There are 30 cell tower locations in Fairfield which are often located in church steeples, flag poles or on building roof tops.  Three of these locations are owned by the Town.

As the Church has said, it would help to have more clarity in our State Statutes.  I know our State Delegation has worked on recent changes to this legislation.  We will need their continued efforts to help Fairfield and all communities in the future.

Fairfield Grace United Methodist Church has chosen to be a good neighbor and a good citizen.  They deserve our thanks.  We should all come together to help maintain the quality of life in our neighborhoods.    We all need to continue work together for the best interests of Fairfield.

Thank you, Mike Tetreau – First Selectman

Fairfield is a Special Town – Thanksgiving 2013

This Thanksgiving was a very memorable holiday for me and my family. It was the first one without my Mom who passed away in June. The holiday was brightened by my brother Bill completing his tour of duty in Afghanistan and being able to join all of us at the family table. All of this combined to make Thanksgiving a meaningful time that influenced the way I experienced the holiday.
When I reflect on everything that was going on in Town, it can be overwhelming. However, wherever I looked, there was an all-embracing theme of generosity throughout our community. Fairfield really took to heart the spirit of giving and sharing with those in need.
The holiday spirit started the Monday before Thanksgiving with our local Rotary Club collecting food and canned goods for Operation Hope. The Rotarians are always there when our community is in need, and those served by Operation Hope definitely needed a boost. I can still see the photo of the empty food shelves in Operation Hope’s pantry that was published in the local news media.
On Wednesday evening, I attended a Menorah Lighting on Sherman Green. It was quite a surprise to see each of the candles waiting to be lit sitting atop a collection of canned goods. It made a rainy night less noticeable when I was told that the canned goods were destined for Operation Hope. This is another sign of the generosity in our community.
On Thanksgiving morning, I was up bright and early to eat breakfast at Chips on Black Rock Turnpike where they were holding an annual fundraiser for Operation Hope—A Pancake Breakfast— with the proceeds going to put food on the empty shelves. The smiles on everyone’s faces showed the joy in giving and sharing.
I was then off to see the Ludlowe vs. Warde Football Classic. In addition to the game, the schools jointly sponsored a food drive for Operation Hope. I was able to drop off some canned goods on the way into the game. A truck soon became filled with donations. It was cold and windy at the game, but this definitely warmed the soul. Our high school students really understood the meaning of Thanksgiving.
On Saturday, the annual Sticks for Soldiers fundraiser was held at Fairfield Ludlowe. This local lacrosse organization brought out over 800 players to help raise over $80,000 for the benefit of two soldiers and their families. These two veterans were injured during their tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a tremendous compliment to the youth of today to donate their time to raise this generous amount of money for our veterans.
Additionally on Saturday, the Fairfield Board of Selectmen and our State Delegation held a food and coat drive. The food collected went to Operation Hope and the coats were brought to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. Car after car came by Old Town Hall dropping off their donations. It was amazing how many people stopped by. Students from Wakeman Boys & Girls Club also volunteered their time to help out. Somehow it felt a lot less cold with this spirit of giving being shared.

All of this reminded me why our community is such a special place. Fairfield really came together to help those in need, giving our neighbors food and coats and the comfort of knowing we stand behind those who need our help. I just wanted to take the time to say thank you to all who helped make this a very special Thanksgiving for our Town.

Mike

The British are Coming! Just in time for our 375th Anniversary Celebration.

Thanks for Jeanne Harrison for lending her artistic talents and patriotic vision to our Town’s 375th Birthday celebration.  Ms. Harrison is leading the recreation of the Fire Hydrant Brigade of Colonial Soldiers to keep Fairfield safe and secure from British invasion.

Between now and January 2014 – the start of our birthday celebration – you will notice more and more fire hydrants around town donning historic costumes to recognize our history and heritage. Part of what makes Fairfield special is our place in the nation’s formation and development. Our ancestors and relatives were there when it all began. We helped get the ball rolling.

This is just the start, we have a lot planned for the 375th so stay tuned.

Again, special thanks to Ms. Harrison and her team of artists decorating our town.

 

PS – thanks also to Aquarion Co for allowing us to paint their fire hydrants and to our Fire Dept for making sure we do it in a safe manner.

 

Fairfield – First in Flight!

Move over Wright Brothers and Kitty Hawk, Fairfield is the location of the First Airplane Flight thanks to Gustave Whitehead. Mr. Whitehead took off in Fairfield on August 17, 1901 – a full two years before the Wright Brothers.

There is a lot more to this story. John Brown who did a huge amount of research to bring this to light is going to be speaking at the Fairfield Museum this week. Bring your own brown bag lunch and join us at the Fairifeld Museum from 12noon to 1pm on Tuesday, August, 13th. Mr. Brown will provide the critical details from his research that led to Jane’s Aircraft – the internationally recognized expert – to recognize Mr. Whitehead as the real First in Flight pioneer.

This is a historic moment in Fairfield’s history and comes just in time for our 375th Birthday celebration next year. What a great gift!

See you at lunch on Tuesday.

PS –  if you plan to attend, please RSVP to 203-259-1598

DOT to expand Salt Storage Shed – Neighbors Concerned

The State Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced plans to renovate and expand their current Salt Storage Shed located next to Exit 46 on the Merritt Parkway. This announcement created a number of concerns in the local neighborhood. DOT held a public information session on July 15th. However, many neighbors could not attend the session. In addition, not all the plans and information were finalized by this session so that left the neighbors with more questions than answers.

In meeting with the neighbors, we identified several priorities to help resolve the concerns. First, we needed the DOT project comment period extended. The meeting on July 15th allowed just two weeks for comments ending on July 31st. Second, we needed more information for DOT on exactly what was planned. The neighborhood had questions including: why was the expansion taking place here? Why was the shed going to be 35 ft high? What type of landscaping and barriers would be provided? Would the use of this facility be expanding resulting in more traffic? What were the plans for this location in the future? All these questions and more needed to be addressed. Third, since there was so much missing information, we needed another public information session to provide answers.

I was able to follow up with DOT and help address all three major concerns. The public comment period was extended till September 3rd. A second public information session will be help on August 19th at the Board of Education Conference Room. This meeting will take place at 6:30 pm. DOT will provide additional information at this session to help address the neighbors’ concerns.

I want to thank DOT for listening to our communities concerns and need for more information. While this is a DOT project on DOT land, we appreciate the time the State is taking to help inform and educate our community. If you would like more information, please take time to visit our town web site at www.fairfieldct.org or our town facebook page.