Herbst: We must protect public health, mitigate cost

To the Editor:

It is unfortunate how some with purely political agendas attempt to distort facts for pure political gain. The recent letter from Trumbull partisan Roy Fuchs is devoid of fact and logic. Recently, the Trumbull Town Council overwhelmingly voted to withdraw from the Trumbull Monroe Health District. The vote needed to be taken before Dec. 31, as mandated by the Connecticut General Statutes. The Trumbull Town Council conducted an extensive cost benefit analysis. We must protect the public health of our residents while mitigating the impact to the Trumbull taxpayer.

In 2004, when the Trumbull Monroe Health District was created, Trumbull’s contribution to the district was less than $200,000. Today, our contribution is more than $300,000. About 78% of the Health District budget is dedicated to salaries and fringe benefits. For example, we currently pay $175,000 in salaries to sanitarians. Sanitarians deal primarily with septic systems. While the Town of Monroe is almost exclusively a septic community, 80% of Trumbull is on sewers. While Trumbull is on the hook for 65% of the budget for the Trumbull Monroe Health District, are we honestly receiving 65% of the benefits as articulated with the example above?

Trumbull will realize an immediate savings in the operating budget and will also realize a long term savings with the town’s contribution for post-employment benefits. Currently, health district employees participate in a state pension plan where they contribute only 2.25% towards their pensions, despite the fact that the Trumbull Monroe Health District contributes 12% to the state each year. This means that the taxpayers of Trumbull and Monroe are on the hook for the remaining 10% that is contributed to the State of Connecticut. We will realize a 5% savings on employee retirement contributions, equaling a $122,000 savings over the next ten years. How can the management of the town negotiate in good faith with other town unions requiring additional contribution for retirement and health benefits when a small group of health district employees are receiving pensions from the state with very little employee contribution?

During the course of the legislative inquiry concerning the health district, we also learned that borrowing was done by the district without the approval of the legislative bodies of both Trumbull and Monroe and meetings were not being held in accordance with the ordinances established by both Trumbull and Monroe. A health director should be able to focus on public health and protecting the public. A health director should not be expected to be a health director, finance director, personnel director and purchasing agent, all at the same time. When one employee is asked to carry out all of those responsibilities, we lose sight of the mission. Having a health department within Trumbull will allow them to focus on their responsibilities at the same time they can rely on other town departments and personnel with the expertise to help them do their job effectively.

I am confident that the newly constituted Trumbull Board of Health will work diligently in ensuring a seamless transition.

Timothy M. Herbst, first selectman of Trumbull