Testimony to the Board of Finance
Jim Cameron - 3/11/14
My name is Jim Cameron. I have lived in Darien for 23 years. I serve on the RTM and am the volunteer program director for TV79, our town’s Government TV station.
I love this town and believe passionately in its open, inclusive form of government. So first, i want to acknowledge and thank all of you, the members of this board, who give so generously of your time and expertise to help keep Darien’s finances sound.
The process of designing, debating, vetting and voting on our town’s budget occupies many months and involves many other volunteers in town govt. That process is open for all to observe and participate in, in person and via TV79.
When the board of selectmen debated their budget, one resident showed up… one. He claimed he spoke for some silent majority in town that was upset with a proposed tax increase they could not afford and, he claimed, they might have to leave town.
I know that there are many in Darien who are not millionaire investment bankers… those living on fixed incomes, facing rising costs. But we have tax abatement plans to help them, and I hope they take advantage of those offers and stay in our town. But they are not the majority.
The majority in this town are parents and school aged kids. Education is our major industry, but schools alone are not what this budget addresses.
So I suggest that as you review these proposed budgets, you consider those who may leave Darien because we are not spending enough…
Consider our commuters who must wait ten years for a station parking permit just to get them on a train to their jobs, because we have not added to needed parking lots … can they afford to stay in Darien?
Consider those who live in parts of town where our police dept’s radios do not work because of ‘dead spots’, despite years of budget requests for enhancements to public safety… can potential victims of crime afford to stay in Darien?
Consider our town’s public services, delivered with failing equipment because year after year the agencies’ requests for capital investment are “kicked down the road” as being unaffordable… until, maybe, next year. Or next year.
Darien is a first class town being run on a bare bones budget. The quality of life and the quality of schools that attracted us to this town are eroding because of misplaced priorities. I, for one, say “raise my taxes”.
Please invest in our town and its future. Give the police dept the gear it needs to keep us all safe. Invest in new fire dept equipment, snow plows and roadways. Clean our beaches, build new sidewalks. And yes… please raise my taxes.
I am certain that this board will squeeze every dime and pinch every penny in these budgets. But please do not shortchange this town’s future by under-investing in the present.
We cannot have it both ways. We cannot continue to be a first class town with unsustainably low taxes.
You get what you pay for… and you don’t get what you don’t pay for.
I, for one, am willing to pay more to get more.