May 22, 2013
Written by Steven E. Coury
Thursday, 13 October 2011 07:01
Ridgefield owes more than $100 million, pays $14 million a year in debt service, and has the third highest per capita debt of any municipality in Connecticut.The Board of Finance heard a proposal to finance another $4 million to purchase two-thirds of the Schlumberger property, with the remaining one-third to be sold to a private developer at a below-market price to construct 50 housing units. Mr. Marconi’s motivation to purchase this property is to “control its destiny,” but has no plans to use the property or proposed offsets from the current budget to pay for it.
Other proposed town projects have also been discussed, including a new library, new fire and police stations, a gas line to the high school, and reinventing Branchville. These are important projects that we can’t pay for because of our debt.
We are in a spiral of more spending, more debt, higher taxes, a credit downgrade, and uncertainty about whether we will have the ongoing ability to maintain our excellent schools and town services. There’s a wish list of projects, but no master plan for Ridgefield’s future.
Although I support the ultimate decision to purchase the Schlumberger property, the Board of Finance correctly rejected the proposal. What are our priorities, and which projects must we sacrifice to pay for them? How will tax revenue currently generated from the property be replaced? What will more debt mean for our credit rating? What will the property be used for, or will it become a burden to maintain? What will 50 additional housing units mean for road maintenance, town services and education costs? Does it make more sense to purchase the entire parcel and profit from the sale of building lots when the real estate market improves?
These would be our considerations if I am elected to the Board of Finance.
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