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First Selectman Sends Notification to Westport Legislators

Post Date:05/15/2019
First Selectman Jim Marpe announced today that he has written to Westport’s State Legislative delegation asking them to oppose the proposed shift of a portion of the “normal cost” of funding the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) from the State to municipalities. The letter takes the form of an endorsement of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments (WestCOG) communication to all the legislators serving the WestCOG municipalities. Westport is a member of WestCOG, along with 17 other cities and towns in Fairfield County.  

Governor Lamont’s proposed budget includes a provision for sharing a portion of the TRS funding with the State’s municipalities, with a larger proportion of that share going to communities like Westport that have higher median teacher salaries. The State of Connecticut has had responsibility for operating and funding the TRS for many decades. WestCOG’s opinion is that local municipalities have played no role negotiating the pension contracts or in funding the program, nor have they played any role in its investment management or in setting the expected rate of return. Unfortunately, over many administrations, the State has not adequately funded the TRS.

Mr. Marpe noted that if this proposal is allowed to go into effect, it would add $608,000 to Westport’s FY 20 budget that has just been approved by the Board of Finance and RTM. This additional cost is expected to essentially double to $1.25 million in FY21 and increase again to $1.9 million in FY22.  He said, “This will have a direct, negative impact on the mill rate and could result in a trimming of local services in order to keep property tax rates at a reasonable level.”

Mr. Marpe continued, “The Board of Selectmen, Board of Education and Town departments have worked for months to create a responsible budget that serves the needs of Westport while keeping our tax rate at an attractive level for current and potential residents and property owners. The imposition of this pension cost transfer will likely force the Town to raise property taxes to support a program that it has no role in negotiating or managing.  And to make matters worse, this cost transfer does not address the underlying problems that impact the State’s funding of the TRS over the long term.”  

He added, “We value and respect our teachers, both past and current, and want to be sure that they receive the pensions that they have contractually earned. We hope that the Governor and the Legislature will find a more creative and equitable solution to this funding challenge.”
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