GOP Viewpoint: Budget realities call for no increase

RP Democratic view web sig GOP Viewpoint

RP Democratic view web sig GOP Viewpoint / Hearst Connecticut Media

We have been attacked by a brutal enemy that we can’t see, but its effects are real.

Drive down Main Street and you’ll see the closed shops and restaurants. The governor’s order to close down our economy is flattening the coronavirus curve, but it is devastating our economic health. What does this mean for Ridgefield?

As of May 4, Ridgefield had approximately 1,100 processed unemployment claims, not counting the DOL’s backlog, and the number keeps growing. Owners of shuttered businesses have no income and many major companies have reduced employee salaries by 25 percent to 50 percent.

For the first time, many middle- and upper-income Ridgefielders are trying to figure out how to pay for their mortgages, utilities, car payments, and groceries. Eighty-two percent of Americans don’t have enough savings to last six months ( The Food Pantry is busy and the Ridgefield Responds Rent Assistance has added 170 new claims. Ridgefield’s business manager has projected a possible $13 million revenue shortfall just from July 1 to Oct. 1.

The Board of Selectmen understands the desperate situation for many of our residents and is trying to keep the town’s 2021 budget to a zero percent increase or less. By the time this article is published, we will know if they succeeded.

At the Tri-Board meeting on April 23, it was clear that some school board members, school officials, and some teachers that called in to comment, lack understanding of the current reality when pushing for a 3.96 percent budget increase! Out of the $3.8 million requested increase, $2 million is for salary increases.

Raises for teachers and highly paid administrators while so many of our friends and neighbors are struggling with little or no income? We love our teachers and value the level of expertise they bring to our children, but teachers and administrators are part of our community and should share in the effort to help us through this difficult time.

Defer raises. Professional development can be postponed this year, saving half a million dollars. Without touching class sizes or student educational offerings, savings can be found that won’t impact the quality of education.

Neighboring Wilton’s Board of Finance is looking at a zero percent to minus-ten percent budget number. Darien’s First Selectperson is recommending a zero percent increase. Ridgefield, in good times, has the lowest median income, by $70,000 yearly, of anyone in our DRG. Yet we are looking at a larger potential budget increase than any of them, including New Canaan.

The Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance and the Board of Education all have Democratic majorities and will decide what course our town will take. During this unprecedented time we hope that politics will be set aside so that compassion and understanding for those who are suffering will be our first priority.

We can’t have a business-as-usual budget increase. We can’t have a tax increase this year, and we can’t deplete our Rainy Day Fund because no one knows what next year will bring. This is the budget reality of 2020-2021.