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Letter: Dems view on town finances

Updated 12:33 pm, Wednesday, January 30, 2013
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Democrats on the Westport Board of Finance stand for steady, strong fiscal leadership. It is gratifying that, once again, Moody's has maintained Westport's AAA bond rating, as it has for the previous 16 years of Democratic leadership. In 2009, in the depths of the recession, Moody's cited Westport's proactive financial management as positioning the town well to ride out the economic downturn. As other towns struggled, we kept services intact, reserves strong and debt levels manageable. The result is the enviable financial position Westport enjoys today.

We stand for reasonable tax rates. During the recession, despite a 15 percent decline in nontax revenues, the Board of Finance under Democratic leadership kept tax increases under 2 percent. Last year, we voted against a tax increase that we believed was unnecessarily high and unfairly burdened our taxpayers.

We stand for making needed infrastructure investments. We supported restoration of the road-paving budget to pre-recession levels and the prioritization of projects that maintain and improve our most valuable assets, such as the Levitt Pavilion, Longshore and our school buildings.

We stand for real pension reform that benefits taxpayers today, not 30 years from now. We welcomed the First Selectman's actions to put new non-union employees in defined contribution plans, but we are not now claiming that the pension and OPEB problems have been solved. We tell the public the truth, that despite all the rhetoric, our OPEB liability has not been reduced by a penny in the last two years. Real pension and OPEB reform must address benefits promised to current employees and can be achieved only through patient and skillful negotiation.

We stand for making government more efficient because efficiency means better services. We don't claim to have been the first to propose the consolidation of town and schools functions. But we're working to make it a reality and to identify other areas where efficiency gains are likely.

We stand for our schools. Westport Democrats have been unwaivering in our support of the schools, and we made sure during the recession that our educational programs remained adequately funded.

We stand for maintaining the colleagial working relationship that has characterized the Board of Finance for the past four years. Westport finances were strong under prior board leadership, remain strong today and will continue to be strong under future board leadership, because dedicated volunteers have put aside party differences and have worked together to make Westport a better place.

Helen Garten

Brian Stern

Janis Collins

Westport Board of Finance