Yes to Zero%

Originally published on 4/30/2015

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the fact that on May 12th the voters of Ridgefield will be presented with a budget to approve that delivers a roadmap to a zero percent increase in the mill rate.  What did it take?

Leadership. Strong planning and fiscal management by the Board of Selectman, First Selectman Rudy Marconi, the Board of Finance and the Board of Education.  And, the continued confidence of the business sector and residents new and old which leads them to open businesses and buy homes, generating a stable tax base as well as new blood, new thinking and new opportunity.

According to Dave Ulmer, the Democrat who chairs the BOF, the pieces of a nearly $135-million town and school budget for 2015-16 were the result of trimming all spending increases requested, adding non-tax revenue from the town surplus and a decrease in the town’s debt service costs. Using surplus funds is not an issue (it was approved unanimously). The fund balance is in healthy shape, with the BOS returning to the surplus approximately $600,000 for FY 14-15 and $700,000 in FY 13-14, actions which demonstrate strong management and leadership.  Despite modest increases in some town and school items, plus additional money for roads (given the anticipated snow plowing demands and required street repairs), this budget not only provides us with the opportunity to move forward responsibly but also adjusts the fund balance to a percentage level preferred by the Board of Finance.

The town is in very good shape. We are able to hold taxes at zero percent and provide high quality education, driving our high property values and a strong local economy. We offer great quality of life for Ridgefield residents. Businesses — large and small — appreciate the fact that our corporate tax rate is 15% lower than that of neighboring Danbury (a surprise to many). Clearly the senior leadership of this town is focused upon getting it done for the benefit of the community without the disputes and infighting that plagues other towns or national decision-makers. We are doing it right.

We urge you to vote YES on the budget referendum on May 12th. It doesn’t get better than zero percent increase.  But don’t just vote YES because taxes are staying flat, vote YES because of Ridgefield’s quality of life. Vote YES because we have strong management. Vote YES for leaders who work for our mutual good. Vote YES for Ridgefield … Connecticut’s #1 Town.

Susan D. Cocco is chair of the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee, which supplies this column.