Fiscal Freedom of Connecticut A historic shift in mill rate
On Monday, the Representative Town Meeting will vote on a recommendation to the Board of Estimate and Taxation to return $3 million out of the surplus of $10 million in the town’s Fund Balance, aka rainy day fund. The RTM’s Budget Oversight Committee (BOC) and Finance Committee are supporting this recommendation, as is the town comptroller. This $3-million return will directly lead to lower the mill rate for all residents in Greenwich, from 11.369 to 11.277. This reduction doesn’t seem like much but it is the first time the town has reduced the mill rate in more than 20 years, since 1996 when it was reduced 0.14 percent.
The BET’s current policy is to maintain a surplus in the general fund of 5 percent-10 percent, but the fund balance is even higher at 11 percent right now, which equates to approximately $10 million. In truth, the full $10 million should be returned to the taxpayers, but to be conservative, the recommendation is for a $3 million. Of course, Indivisible, March On and the Democrats are opposed to this recommendation and believe that the rainy day fund should be used for increased spending. The opposition believes that we should continue increasing mill rates, and your real estate taxes for remediation of the fields and to pay for unfunded pension liabilities. Both of those arguments are nonsensical.
First, the town cannot do anything for the remediation of the fields until the state and federal authorities (i.e., Environmental Protection Agency) come back with recommendations (which may be next year, but we don’t know) and should be paid for from capital expenditures and bonding procedures.
Second, as for unfunded pension liabilities, we know that this is the No. 1 reason the state of Connecticut is going bankrupt. We do not need to bankrupt our town as well and there are other measures to deal with unfunded liability issues that do not come from our rainy day fund.
They will also argue that we will lose our quality of service, but if you think about it — it is just $3 million out of a total amount of $450 million spent per year in our town. It is obvious that services will not be affected.
We have all seen our taxes increase every single year for more than 10 years. We are becoming like Westchester County and losing our competitiveness and incentives to move to Greenwich. As we already know, people are moving out of Connecticut (and Greenwich) faster than they are moving in, and we have seen our housing values continue to decrease for four years in a row with no relief in sight. This is the least the RTM could do to help out the hard-working residents of Greenwich.
Municipalities all over the state are reducing their mill rates to compensate for the mess in Hartford. Our neighbors in Darien have a lower mill rate this year, while maintaining quality services and zero-based budgeting. Westport will now be delivering for a third year in a row, flat, no mill rate increase. Is it any wonder people continue to move out of Greenwich? We need to break the cycle and reverse the trend of tax increases every single year in Greenwich.
Please call and write your RTM members today and say please vote yes to the recommendation to the BET for a $3M reduction from the Fund Balance to be returned to you, the taxpayer of Greenwich. You deserve it.
Submitted by Laura Gladstone on behalf of Fiscal Freedom of Connecticut, a Greenwich advocacy group promoting fiscally conservative policies.