Letter: Focusing on the facts
To the Editor:
As Republican Town Council representatives from various districts, we would like to take this opportunity to provide additional, factual information details regarding several topics raised since at the last Town Council meeting.
On Monday, March 7, the Town Council held its regular monthly meeting where we considered and acted upon 13 resolutions. Three of those resolutions, in particular, garnered a great deal of attention. We addressed replacement of the Indian Ledge playground, funding of the town pensions to the Actuarial Required Contribution (“ARC”) levels, and granting the Senior/Community Center Committee the ability to continue their research and design of a building to the specifications and plans they ascertained could benefit the town.
With regard to the repair of the playground, the Republican members of the Town Council supported funding the replacement of the Indian Ledge playground from the start. Funding the playground repair or replacement was an item about which many of us, Republicans, on the Town Council felt strongly. The Town Council voted unanimously to provide the necessary funding for this playground. The Republican members of the Town Council never had the intention to ignore this playground as some people have erroneously suggested. Furthermore, the Town Council since Feb. 18 has approved 100% of all Board of Education capital projects requested, totaling $6,795,000 plus and $5,080,000 for Town projects — all without adding to the total bond indebtedness of the town.
Regarding the proposed Senior/Community Center, the Town Council did not have a resolution before it to approve or consider Island Brook Park as a location for the Senior/Community Center. Although many comments on social media suggested otherwise, the Town Council never authorized any building of a new Center and the Town Council has not funded the construction of a new Center. This project is still in its very preliminary stages. Additionally, the viability of such a new center is still under exploration by the Bipartisan Committee comprised of members of the community. This Committee is comprised of Democrat Town Council member, Dawn Cantafio, Republican Town Council member, Joe Pifko, Town Residents, former Democrat Town Council member Dan Marconi, Lori Hayes O’Brien, Joseph Costa, Jeannine Stauder, Richard Seaman, and Rachel Yahwak, all of whom all voted unanimously and deserve our gratitude for volunteering significant hours for the betterment of our town.
At the meeting on Monday night, the only proposed action before us, with regard to the possible new center was a vote to grant the committee funding to enable them to continue moving forward with their assigned task, including engaging residents for input, employing professionals to assist with the initial design of a proposed center, and continued feasibility studies. Although the location of the center was not before Town Council for approval, we appreciate the many residents who contacted us with concerns regarding Island Brook Park as a potential location. After additional inquiry, the committee confirmed on Monday, that the park was not a viable site for a Senior/Community Center and therefore is no longer under consideration by the Committee.
Lastly, with regard to funding of the town pensions, there was considerable discussion regarding whether properly funding to the ARC should be mandatory or discretionary. The current town budget funds 100% of the actuarially required contributions to the town pensions, as does next year’s proposed budget. The purpose of the ordinance is the common sense and fiscally responsible requirement that the ARC funding be mandatory on an annual basis annually rather than have the funding left up to the discretion of the First Selectman. By requiring full funding of the pension plans, we ensure that the town will have enough money available to pay the pensions for the employees and their families who have so faithfully served the Town of Trumbull during their careers and who rely on these payments.
Our town has made great strides in recent years with regard to strengthening our pension fund and earning an excellent bond rating. This ordinance is one more step in solidifying our financial strength and stability as we continue our steps toward achieving a AAA bond rating, thus allowing borrowing at the lowest interest rates possible available. This saves Trumbull taxpayers a lot of money and will allow us to work toward continuing to repair our infrastructure, upgrade our school buildings, and to add more projects to the annual capital plan to make Trumbull even better. It also ensures that current and future elected officials keep their promise to the hard working people who rely on these pension funds.
Additionally, any suggestion that the approval of this proposal is somehow going against the will of the citizens of Trumbull is intentionally misleading. Although this issue had initially been raised in the past as a proposed revision to the Town Charter and not successfully passed, the recently approved proposal accomplishes the goal through the form of a Town ordinance which carries a completely different threshold for potential future modifications than does a revision to the Town charter. As such, the goal of proper funding of the Town pension is accomplished while also better maintaining the flexibility of Town officials to modify the ordinance as may be needed in the future.