In First Selectman Tim Herbst’s seventh State of the Town address Thursday, March 31, there was a sense of accomplishment and there was confidence for the future.
In partnership with the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, The Trumbull Chamber of Commerce hosted the address at Tashua Knolls Golf Course. The event was sponsored by the Aquarion Water Company.
Herbst started out by looking beyond party affiliation and acknowledging the effort and dedication of his appointed administration — Republican and Democrat alike — and proclaiming how proud he was of a job well done.
The first selectman proclaimed that through their collective efforts, Trumbull is growing stronger everyday.
“With the dysfunctionality in Washington and Hartford, now more than ever, local government is where the buck stops. We can’t shuffle our challenges on to someone else,” said Herbst. “With a growing economy and a nationally recognized school system, Trumbull is being quickly recognized as the community of choice in Connecticut.”
From there, Herbst dove into the more salient points of the afternoon: tax relief and pension reform, education, and economic growth.
Tax relief, pension reform
“In the budget I have proposed for fiscal year 2016-2017, for the second time in seven years we have reduced taxes,” the first selectman told the room.
He continued by explaining that due in large part to the stable tax rate, he has been able to improve many of the town’s municipal services.
He also announced that Trumbull had doubled senior tax relief.
Herbst highlighted that his administration has fully funded Trumbull’s annual required pension contributions for the first time in almost 30 years.
“How has this been done?,” he asked rhetorically. “We have cut out mountains of waste, inefficiency and duplication by reorganizing six town departments.
“The employee headcount is at a ten year low,” Herbst added. “With spending restraint and an economy that has grown every year, we have increased revenue enough to improve services while containing costs.”
Due to the six-year growth of pension funding — growing from 27% to now being fully funded — Trumbull has been able to invest an additional $40.8 million dollars into the pension fund over the last seven budgets, the first selectman told the room.
Herbst added that his administration has accomplished all of this without large tax increases.
Herbst acknowledged that Trumbull’s education was on the rise.
Funding for Trumbull’s public education has seen an increase each year under the Herbst administration.The funding has not gone to waste, as over the last two years six out of ten of Trumbull’s public schools have been recognized as schools of distinction by the Connecticut State Department of Education – an award presented to schools in the top ten percent of the entire State of Connecticut.
Hoping to continue the strong academic performance, Herbst reported that the budget he proposed fully funds the budget requested by Dr. Cialfi this year.
“This budget funds improvements in curriculum, professional development and internal assessments that strengthen overall performance. For our students, this budget advances digital learning through technology intervention specialists, and makes additional investments in math, science and mental health,” said Herbst.
In today’s world education and technology go hand in hand. In a quest to ensure Trumbull students are on the forefront of technological advancements, Herbst announced that with the reorganizing of the Board of Education and Facilities Department, Trumbull has begun the process of modernizing each school to ensure each building is 21st century ready.
“Through performance based contracting, we are making our buildings more energy efficient while reducing our energy costs,” said Herbst
In a joint effort with Police Chief Michael Lombardo, Herbst recommended a resource officer program in both middle schools as well as Trumbull High School to help insure the protection of Trumbull’s children.
Herbst highlighted in his speech that Trumbull has seen substantial economic growth.
In 2016, the first selectman said that the town will welcome eight new restaurants, which will continue to increase the town’s Commercial Grand List — up an impressive 9.5% in 2015 since Herbst first took office.
“In 2009, our Commercial Grand List, as a percent of our total Grand List, was 14.1%,” said Herbst. “Today, it is 22.3% and climbing.”
Trumbull’s top official thanked his administration for rigorously working to achieve responsible growth and development — all of which is evident in the landscape of the current Trumbull business scene, he said.
“Two years ago, Trumbull received an upgrade to our credit rating due in large measure to the pension reform and debt reform we have championed since 2009,” he told the room. “We are now within striking distance of achieving a AAA credit rating.”
According to Herbst, a AAA credit rating will be a useful tool in borrowing money to afford future capital investments.
“The only way we will be able to address and afford these capital upgrades is to guarantee that we have the capacity to borrow to make these capital investments,” he said.
“If we achieve a Triple AAA credit rating before that time, we will borrow money at a lower interest rate, representing millions of dollars of savings to the Trumbull taxpayers,” the first selectman added.
Governing for all
Towards the end of his speech, Herbst addressed the crucial issue of the proposed community center.
In a culmination of what has taken years to accomplish, Herbst pressed the issue one last time, further endorsing his project and calling for unity within the community.
“I will not allow politics to subvert this good and noble goal, and I will not allow this process to pit seniors against parents with school aged children,” he said. “We are one community of shared values, young and old alike and we should be committed to being one community that works for the betterment of all our citizens.”
Herbst named Police Chief Michael Lombardo as one of the 2016 recipients of the Clarence Heimann Leadership Award.
He told the room that Lombardo was presented this year’s award for his diligent execution of an ambitious town agenda.
“Since taking command, he has reduced overtime costs, realigned command staff to better protect the public, developed a bike patrol program and made the commitment to equip officers with body cameras,” said Herbst.
As a member of the first selectman’s Drug Prevention Task Force, Chief Lombardo has spearheaded the assault on our region’s growing drug epidemic.
Accepting the award on the chief’s behalf was Deputy Chief Glenn Byrnes.
The second Clarence Heimann Leadership Award was presented to all the first responders who helped to save the lives of Town Clerk Suzanne Burr Monaco and her husband Domenic.
On Feb. 3, a 24-year-old driver Hunter Kay traveling southbound on Churchill Road when his vehicle crossed over the double yellow line and struck a northbound vehicle, which was driven by Burr Monaco.
Trumbull EMS Chief Joe Laucella and his crew rushed to the scene and, through their efforts, were able to safely extract the town clerk and her husband from their car and expedite them to the hospital.
“That night when I went to the emergency room with Chief Laucella, I saw the best of our police officers, firefighters and emergency medical responders. They make me so incredibly proud to lead this community,” said Herbst.
The first selectman ended the afternoon on a personal and proud anecdote.
Herbst said he was honored that one of the area’s most innovative and revolutionary cancer treatment centers — The Simlow Cancer Hospital Care Center on Park Avenue — is located in Trumbull.
“I am grateful for the care that the doctors at this center, specifically Dr. Jerry Malfatto, provided to my late grandmother, Mary Zamary,” he said. “In June of 2014, they didn’t think she would be able to leave the hospital and because of your good work, we were blessed to have her with us for another two years.”
The last two Clarance Heimann Leadership awards were proudly given to Dr. Jerry Malfatto and Dr. Guido Napolitano — both of whom are Trumbull residents.
President of Bridgeport Hospital, Bill Jennings, accepted the award on their behalf.