Westport is a great town, but “we” are not immune from the current downturn in the economy. Our residents have lost wealth from their eroding home values, their retirement plans, and their savings. Personal incomes, commissions and bonuses are significantly lower, and many have lost their jobs. Our businesses are suffering from sharply reduced sales and prices. While municipal revenues are property tax based and somewhat insulated from recessions, the ability of our town’s people to pay taxes of any type has taken a material hit.
At the same time, Westport is correctly committed to providing the highest level of education, strong and responsive public safety, and other essential recreation and public services. Additionally, our town has to find ways to pay for mushrooming pension obligations.
These systemic issues are the new reality and not unique to Westport, and while these concerns may not currently appear to be at the crisis stage, the warning clouds are clearly visible. Typically, delays in action only serve to make the ultimate solutions more uncomfortable. If we are to maintain municipal service levels and a reasonable tax rate, every component of service delivery must become more efficient as a matter of necessity. There must be less overhead and elimination of process redundancies, so we can afford excellent town services. We need to reap the benefits of the past spending on IT, and we need to make financial decisions based on timely and reliable data.
One thing is for sure, solutions can only be accomplished with the direct input and empowerment of our great teachers, emergency workers, safety officers, and the other dedicated employees of Westport. We must make fact based decisions, reach consensus, and be non-partisan.
I am committed to addressing these complicated and difficult issues with realism and responsibility.
Westport will remain the great town “we” are.