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Letter: 'Us vs. them' RTM rhetoric

On May 5, Fairfield's RTM voted to approve the town budget for 2014-15, and as they say, "It's all over but the shouting" -- or but for the letter writing.

There are differing opinions on balancing what the town feels it needs against what it would like to pay for, but I was disappointed by the divisive tone that I saw in letters written by some members of the RTM. While I would agree that members of both parties hold certain philosophical beliefs in common and that there is sharp contrast on the matter of spending, nevertheless, decisions made by 50 individuals often traverse party lines.

The "us versus them" rhetoric that I saw in letters written by certain representatives was especially troubling in view of the fact that, as a group, the way in which RTM Democrats have chosen to address the matter of affordability is by not addressing it at all. Their two "talking points" have been that the budget ought to be approved "as is" by the RTM without any changes beyond those made by the other boards, and that the Republicans' only justification for making budget reductions is to slow the rate of tax increases.

To the first point I would note that affordability is not the primary focus of the Board of Finance. The BOF looks to insure that the sum total of town services and obligations are responsibly funded, it falls upon the RTM to identify things which we as a town can no longer afford to do. On the second point, I must concede that those who charge that RTM Republicans make budget reductions in order to slow tax increases do indeed have an uncanny grasp of the obvious.

These talking points are by no means new; they are recurring themes which we hear each and every budget cycle. Just as each and every budget cycle the unpleasant but necessary task of making cuts falls upon those members of the RTM who take the matter of affordability seriously. Making thoughtful and measured budget reductions is a complex process, and determining exact numbers requires weeks of review and discussion. It is remarkable that those who take the path of least resistance can be critical of those who take action. It is equally remarkable that those who refuse to acknowledge the adverse effect that higher taxes have upon property values and who year after year push back on every effort to slow the growth of spending can accuse RTM Republicans of not acting in a bipartisan manner.

Tom McCarthy

RTM District 8

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