A tale of two towns


I know it was you, Fredo, but that’s alright: it was all of us

Fairfield, Connecticut, has a population of 60,855, and encompasses 31.3 sq. miles. In 2006, Money Magazine named it “The Best Place to Live in America”.

Greenwich, CT, has a population of 61,171, and encompasses 48 sq. miles (corrected from earlier draft) much of which is in low-density neighborhoods. Despite the land size differences, you might think the two towns should have comparable budgets. You might think so, but you’d be wrong. Fairfield’s proposed 2016-17 budget is $130 million. Greenwich’s is $427.9 million, up from last year’s $411 million.

Here’s Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau’s cover letter for his proposed budget:

Highlights of my proposed Townside budget are:

  • ●  For the first time in over 20 years, my Townside budget is proposed to be less than the prior year. I am proposing a Townside budget that is just under $130 million. Last year’s Townside budget set a record for the lowest increase in twenty years. This year we beat that record with a .22 percent decrease. [emphasis added]
  • ●  This budget does not reduce or defer any services.
  • ●  The drivers for this reduction are lower healthcare costs due to the move to a new healthcare plan for Town employees, lower annual debt service, lower workers compensation expense, lower pension costs and lower fees and professional services.
  • ●  This budget includes the annually recommended pension contribution, the annually recommended OPEB contribution, higher paving costs, higher sidewalk maintenance, more Public Works equipment, increased snow clearing expense, increased Senior Center support, increased Senior and Disabled Tax Relief, a supplemental contribution to surplus to support our AAA rating, and continued funding for school security personnel.


  • If we can – fairly – blame our state’s horrendous spending and resulting budget disaster on 40 years of Democrats, who is to blame for Greenwich’s own out of control spending, a town controlled and run by Republicans for over a century?
  • Certainly the local Democrats aren’t the answer to this mess – they want to borrow more money so they can further leverage their spending, but our own Republicans have demonstrated an ineptness that’s almost breathtaking these past few decades, and they’re only getting worse.

UPDATE: Ooops! Not quite a Gilda Radner “Never Mind”, but FAR Ghost informs me that the Fairfield budget of $130 does not include its school budget, which brings their budget to $295 million.  That’s still an extra $138 million to govern the same number of people, but not as bad as I understood it to be.


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41 responses to “A tale of two towns

  1. Not that I’m a fan, but the Fairfield number does not include their $165mm Board of Ed budget. The Greenwich number does include the BOE. So really a $295mm versus $433mm.

    • Anonymous

      btw, their BOE number INCLUDES healthcare costs and debt servicing….our BET conveniently doesn’t account for BOE or any departments fringe benefits or debt servicing…..so no transparency or accountability to know which departments are better run than others.

      Again, by our REPUBLICAN leadership. blah.

  2. Cos Cobber

    Time for a third party.

  3. FF

    I would like to point out that Mr. Tetreau is a Democrat

    • But not a Greenwich Democrat, luckily for his town. I really don’t see any difference here in Greenwich between our two ostensibly independent parties. Both are constantly on the lookout for new ways to spend, both would increase spending, year after year, and by pretty much the same percentage.

  4. Plus the town of Fairfield, like every other town in Connecticut is too smart to own a money-losing nursing home which adds another $25 or $30 million to Greenwich’s expenditures.

  5. GreenITCH

    Makes little sense to me all the pile up in $$$ , pensions , health care benefits etc to Town employees . I looked over that list of 60 town employees making $140k and was like WTF is this a joke . If you knocked off 20 -30 % of salary expense id imagine it would still be a fairly high paying position given the equivalent in other towns . Has been well documented that many employees are from out of town so its not like the Unions can muster up the votes to stop the town from reigning back these expenses

  6. Toke

    They also allude to debt service which to a simple minded money manager implies debt, which must be repaid at some point. Greenwich seems to believe in pay as you go and tax as you pay. Bassackwards when you think about where rates are BUT we do fritter away too much and stealth taxes are definitely the order of the day at Town Hall and those miscreants should be roped in first

  7. CatoRenasci

    You want to lower spending in Greenwich? Get on the RTM – I know, a huge time waster, but…. the ONLY way citizens in Greenwich can control spending is at the RTM.

    The way to do it is simple, if politically infeasible: at the budget meeting, reduce all the line items (except things like the pension contributions, debt payments, etc.) by, say 10%.

    Don’t get into the weeds, you’ll never win against the administrators and spenders who know the intricacies better than you can. Just cut the main numbers.

    Tell the politicians and administrators to figure out how to make do with the lower number: if they have to lay people off, fine. If the employees will renegotiate contracts rather than see lay-offs, even better.

    Oh, and don’t tell the politicians, administrators and employees they can reduce services. Nope. Their job, for which they are overpaid, is to make it work with the money the town provides. If they can’t do it, they can quit or be fired, and we’ll hire people who can.

    The political will to do this is lacking. We have met the enemy and he is us!

    • RTM Member

      Agree Cato 100%!!!!!!!

    • I did serve on the RTM, Cato, for two miserable terms back in the 80s. I even sat on a “Cost Containment Committee”, formed to try to place some rein on spending. What we found was that there was no constituency for specific cuts, but huge pressure against them. “Raise my taxes five dollars, I don’t care, but don’t cut …” was the response.

      But I think we took the wrong approach, which your proposal avoids: don’t get into the weeds, just demand 10% cuts across all line items, and let them figure it out. Will the public put up with the pain? I doubt it, but we could try.

      By the way, do any pf you remember the Police Department’s response the its budget was cut a teensy bit back then? They eliminated school crossing guards, at a cost of $6 per hour, at all schools. Typical bureaucratic strategy, and it worked. The money was restored.

      • CatoRenasci

        Precisely the point: the gnashing of teeth and wailing and rending of clothes for any particular cut – say the Education budget, or the police or fire departments – is astonishing. The trot out the kiddies for the education budget and waive the bloody shirt for the cops.

        In a real way, the problem is as much who we hire to run things – both paid and political – they set the tone which informs what the various constituencies in the departments ask for.

        We need to start with how much we’re willing to spend this year, and make the budget find the funds, rather than just deciding the wish list we want, and setting taxes to cover it all.

        We could probably have a town at least as well run, and with the same services we now have, with a budget of $300 million, but it would take several years and a lot of political will, that we simply don’t have.

        Everyone is afraid – afraid the schools won’t be great (they’re not), afraid real estate prices will go down (they have anyway, and as taxes go up, prices go down – it’s simple math when you present value the stream of tax payments into infinity), or that they can’t get a cut rate nursing home for granny (it’s not cut rate, but we’re still subsidizing it to the tune of 300-400% per year above what they promised when we voted for the renovation.

        • RTM Member

          Cato, I totally agree with your intelligent and reasonable response. However, until this Town moves away from the friends and family employment factory that is Town hall and BOE—we ill never address the problem.

          Greenwich used to have a thriving private sector employment – today it is all GOVERNMENT or quasi non profit…..Town of Greenwich, Greenwich Hospital, the private schools….thus, those very people who have a vested interested (listening John Blanklely) are the voters who RELIABLY go out to the polls given their vested stakes in the outcome.

          So, no surprise that all the boards and even RTM (BOE, BET, Nathaniel Witherell,etc) are filled with people who want LOTS and LOTS of employment and services—oh, and BTW, they want low mill rate, hence, the borrowing crowd who wants to send the spending bill to future generations.

          Thus, it is completely a foreign concept—to increase productivity per employee, spend less on labor contracts (for friends and family), and to decrease overall spending to rate of inflation and private sector wage growth.

          Thanks anyway Cato for your excellent summary and hope to see you on May 9th at the RTM budget vote.

        • Walt

          RTM Member –
          So if you can’t facilitate change, maybe you should resign, call for the other RTM Members to do so, and have a Jerry Maguire moment? Try and make a difference with a real public statement.

          And I don’t mean to imply you are a crazy Scientologist homo like Tom Cruise. NTTAWWT. But stop being a part of the problem. And work towards a solution.

      • CatoRenasci

        When I was a kid in the Old Stone Age, the crossing guards were kids who volunteered. Maybe got credit on a merit badge for Scouts, or something like that. No pay.

        • RTM Member

          Walt—I, and others, just may have a “radical” moment and have every RTM member scream at the May budget meeting that WE CANT STAND IT ANYMORE AND WE NEED TO DISBAND THIS WORTHLESS RTM ENTITY that is filled with sycophants who follow in lock step with whatever the First Selectman, BET, and BOE want them to do.

          Stay tuned.

        • Walt

          RTM Member –
          Thank you. That is good to hear. I think it is time to stand up and you will garner a lot of support. And respect for your integrity. And you can’t put a price on that. I would come to support you, and I am a man of my word. After all, I kept my promise and voted for Francis. AND HE STIFFED ME OUT OF MY PBA CARD!! The gold one. That figging loser.

        • hmmm

          RTM Member,

          It’s about time. You should all walk out after without voting too if that helps.

          I was at the RTM session when MISA was on the line and I think I vomited several times watching all of the woe is me bullshit from the students and the parents that supported that mess.

          I will say the spenders are definitely organized.

  8. Anonymous

    This is what we need in Greenwich—an INDEPENDENT group not beholden to the machines on both sides….


    Includes short & long term cost cuts.
    Facebook site is place to start to get on local train to change to
    Make Greenwich Great Again….
    Input there & to Chris… Anonymous or not input welcome.
    Have presentation that I have offered repeatedly to BOS & BET….response….either none or we need to see it first!
    Spring into action?
    Want to put 10 point vote on RTM Agenda for May Budget Rubber Stamp Meeting.
    Let’s hit the road together….hint….save over 800k per year with paving protocols….
    Fabulous no Town money…Greenwich Town Party success…inspiration for 3rd Party….Greenwich Party?….

  10. Anonymous

    I hate to say this but I know a group of Greenwich Democrats who are involved with the Democratic party. They honestly believe we don’t tax and spend enough here. As an example, they believe every last dollar spent on MISA was worth it. The argument was that good schools raise property values and that MISA was going to make my home worth more, and that I should happy to support such a project.

    Additionally they fully support all of our unions and believe we don’t reward our union employees enough.

    • CatoRenasci

      Ayup, that’d be them…. of course, many of them are themselves (or in their families) sucking on the public teat and routing in the public trough.

      MISA would never have been approved if anyone had presented the full bill in advance, or if anyone had done a proper Phase II Environmental Assessment prior to presenting the plan to the RTM.

      I have to say, as a musician, MISA is a great hall: quite possibly the best hall between New York and Boston (used to be Norwalk’s symphony hall, but I think MISA is better….). Of course, a high school does not need one of the best halls in the Northeast. We’d be just fine with a good hall. For maybe $15 million instead of $46 million (+the other environmental costs which were undearthed as a result…).

      I’ve gone around and around with some of these same (I’m pretty sure) Democrats. You’re right, they do think we’re undertaxed and that we should spend more. Whatever the unions want, damn the costs. More services. Every convenience! Just a little more effort from the Golden Goose!

      • Certainly the readers and commenters on this blog knew what was going to happen to those initial MISA estimates, but we tend to be a more informed and certainly more skeptical body than other voters.

      • hmmm

        what’s crazy is they think we are under taxed…when is enough enough? Will a 550MM budget be enough? Will they say WTF when it is 700MM? when will they say we are done?

    • hmmm

      stupid is as stupid does….

      it might raise property values which you then give back to the town in the form of property taxes and therefore never see the benefit of it.


  11. Walt

    Dude –

    By any empirical measure, the Greenwich annual operating budget is a disgrace. It is bloated, feather bedded, incestuously overstaffed, and totally inefficient. The salaries and benefits are well over market to those paid in the private sector. It is MASSIVELY inefficient.

    The entire town government needs an enema. Both Republicans and Democrats are to blame. They consider it A WIN to raise the budget “only” 4% every year. It is a true disgrace. We would be better off if we asked the BET, and other elected officials to resign. Then we put all of the names of the Nathaniel Witherell residents IN A HAT and pull out names to replace them. Any of them that don’t need a dribble bib get the job.

    We couldn’t do any worse. Plus it will give the old codgers something to do. Give them free pampers in lieu of salaries and it’s a win-win. And maybe Francis can tax their bingo games. But their mandate is a 10% cost reduction, with no diminution in services. It can be done. Quite easily if you take the politics out of it.

    And if the PD pulls any of that shoot the crossing guards crap, fire the police chief. If he can’t do it, someone else can. They need to start dealing with economic reality, and not continue to be tethered to unlimited “predictable” 4% tax increases. The rest of the world has.

    And your holy grail “Location, Location, Location” is IRRELEVANT now! Technology has rendered time and location irrelevant. You can work from anywhere. You don’t need to commute. So getting a premium for being a bedroom community to Manhattan is GONE!! We pissed it away with the income tax, and ever increasing property taxes and to many municipal employees. There is ZERO reason to move here, unless someone land a high paying job. Which all seem to be heading out of state. The decline will be slow, but it will be painful, unless we WAKE THE FUCK UP!!

    Now you get the hell out of here! And if that goomba Tesio tries any rough stuff, you tell him I ain’t no bandleader. Yeah, I heard that story.

    Your Pal,

    • Walt

      And Dude –

      Did you hear that Patty Duke died today? What is going on with 2016? David Bowie, Gary Shandling, a true comedy innovator, Glen Frey, and Abe Vigoda also passed away already this year. It seems like anybody with talent is being snuffed. Although I did hate the Eagles.

      The good news is, you should be safe.

      Your Pal,

      PS – Did you hear GE is moving out of Connecticut. And maybe Yale. The school, not the lock company. But all they need to do is move their Endowment Fund people to another state. Which is easy to do. And if they charge them property taxes, they stop VOLUNTARILY giving New Haven $8 plus million a year. Progressive politicians really are morons.

  12. Anonymous

    Peter Alexander – what’s your deal? None of your posts make sense. They rarely contain complete sentences. Are you trying to be poetic? Efficiennt? Is alcohol involved?

    • Anonymous

      Peter just being Peter. That’s all.

    • Riverslide

      Anon – You’ll quickly learn whom to skip over on this blog: the guy you mentioned; the one who says “dude” a lot; the ones who have given themselves lofty, learned-sounding nicknames, etc. When you’ve done this kind of filtering you’ll find there is a fair bit of decent material here.

  13. Behind the Library

    When I grew up there, Greenwich was only 48 square miles. Where did all that extra land come from?

    Also when I grew up there, the town had not elected a Democrat to anything in living memory. The RTM had more members than the Canadian Parliament, which meant it was too big to do anything, so could do little harm.

    What the hell happened?

    • As far as I can tell, it’s not that the RTM has gained an ability to do anything, but the local Republican club has been taken over by fiscally irresponsible people, who can’t say no and don’t want to.
      While the RTM rubber stamps their plans.

  14. HS Mom

    The waste in this town is ridiculous. Have you ever watched them do leaf pick up? Make people bring their own to the dump or bag and do one or 2 quick pick-ups a season. When I asked why we still did it, a BET member said because it wasn’t all that expensive.
    The main library has way too many employees, especially now that they’ve converted to self check out. Cut 100,000 from whatever we give them – I bet no one will notice.
    How many supervisors and other administration does the ambulance corp have? The actual people on the ambulances are great and I think they aren’t paid enough but the rest need a serious pruning. We are subsiding a lot more then EMT and medics to save resident’s lives.
    and parks and rec? Do you know how many people we have just to process registrations for picklball, all sort of youth sports, and other activities? Stuff that used to be handled by volunteers until someone’s nephew needed a job. Most of that stuff has been computerized but the number of staff hasn’t been reduced.

  15. Let’s give the BET and RTM the clear message that the spending is TOO MUCH.

    • Anonymous

      Do it! Come to the BOC meeting tonight at town hall at 730, then go to the BET and RTM meetings and counter the collectivists!

  16. FF

    How about this……Buried deep in our Town Charter is the (quite easy) capability to form what is called a “municipal third party”. Get a couple of signatures and you get a ballot line, for BET, School Board and the rest. You bring a bunch of Republicans, I’ll bring a bunch of Democrats, you give my guys some of what we want, you get some of whay you want – I’ll lead giving up a 10% across the board cut, you double the Social Services budget and hire a professional construction manager. We’ll start there. Pipe dream, sure, but what do you have to lose. Interim planning meeting at Walt’s house, Friday at midnight. I’ll bring extra PBA cards

    • Walt

      Francis –

      You know what? I AM IN!! I will gladly support this. Not only will I host at my house, but I will pledge $10k of my own money to make a difference, assuming we can get another $90k to make a difference. Deal? Or is this another hollow pledge on your part, like stealing my vote and then hosing me on the PBA card. A gold one. You loser. And I will commit 1 day a week towards changing things. I shit you not. If we don’t straighten this Town out, quickly, we all head down the shitter.

      Why not really try to change things, outside of this broken system, and make a difference? Maybe you finally have a good idea. It only took you like what? 50 years? Better late than never. You loser.

      But I am in. My house. Free food, free booze. Strippers if you want them. Do you prefer male of female? And a $10k all cash buy in by me if you can get $100k committed. And that is no joke.

      Let’s shake things up and make a difference. It is long overdue. Greenwich needs an enema. And you can be the mouthpiece, but I write the platform. A 10% spend reduction, with no debt, and I am in. Let’s shove it down their complacent little waspy ass throats. Or are we dealing with the Cos Cob Mafia? WELL I AIN’T NO BANDLEADER!!

      I will take you to the White House if you just do what I tell you. You progressive Commie. But let’s do this. Seriously.

      Your Pal,

    • CatoRenasci

      We tried that in 1993, put up a whole slate for the BET. Ended up getting Peter Crumbine on as a Republican in 1995….