"Rudy supports tolls. Do you?"
The signs were waved by protestors Saturday by Copps Hill Plaza on Saturday, April 27.
A few days later, First Selectman Rudy Marconi defended the logic of tolling as an answer to the state’s fiscal woes.
“I absolutely do,” he said when asked about the ‘Rudy supports tolls’ signs.
“I always have and will continue to do so,” Marconi said. “When you compare the expense of tolls to the average taxpayer, relative to some of the other issues. ... I find it hard to believe that people would not pick tolls over some of the absolutely monstrous costs being pushed down to this community; I question what people are thinking about.
“When you look at tolls, you’re looking at a cost of 2.2 cents per mile for the everyday commuter who lives in Connecticut,” he said. “Forty percent of the cost of tolls, the revenue generated, will come from out-of-state vehicles, both trucks and cars.
“I ask you: What other expense or revenue of the state can we get non-Connecticut residents to pay 40 percent of the cost? There isn’t any.
“To me this is a ‘no-brainer.’ And I think those who recognize this need to stand up and be counted,” Marconi said.
Pension costs
Marconi views some of the other ideas being discussed in Hartford as potentially much more damaging to Ridgefielders’ interests.
“We are looking at the possibility of, in our town, 43 percent of the teacher pensions — current pensions — being passed down to the taxpayers in Ridgefield. This has been a cost that has, since its inception, been covered by the State of Connecticut,” he said.
“It is in the appropriations bill about to be voted on, which has huge consequences, financial consequences, for the residents of Ridgefield. And no one protests that. Really? I don’t understand it,” Marconi said.
How hard would Ridgefield be hit by the teacher pension cost state officials are talking about passing down to towns and cities?
“It starts this year at $468,000. Next year, it goes to $975,000. And in year three it goes to $1.34 million,” Marconi said.
The formula under discussion is to have town share 25 percent of the cost, with an additional tack-on for towns with higher teacher salaries, based on how much town’s average teacher salary exceeds the state average,” Marconi said.
“That is 25 percent of the actual cost, and 18 percent additional,” Marconi said, “... because we are being assessed a surcharge.
“Our average salary is $92,000 and we are 18 percent above the average, therefore we add that 18 percent to the 25 percent we’re going to have to pay. And yet, people go out and protest tolls — 40 percent of which is going to be paid by non-residents. It is, to me, mind-boggling.
“So, do I support tolls? Absolutely,” Marconi said. “But I also support some other changes that need to be made as well, organic changes in our state government.”