The following is the opinion of First Selectman Candidate Martha Jankovic Mark in response to First Selectman Tim Herbst.
By Martha Jankovic-Mark
I want to offer some initial proposals for municipal policy in a Martha Jankovic-Mark Administration, but before I do, I have a few observations about the First Selectman Tim Herbst’s rambling, ‘speak-before-you-think’ statement to the media last week.
Right out of the gate, the first thing our town leader did, characteristically, was to accuse me and other Democrats of lying and being deceitful. It’s an old pattern with Mr. Herbst, and it’s a significant character flaw. It’s impossible for him to understand that political opponents can have disagreements and criticize each other without calling one another “liars" and “deceitful.”
Herbst won’t ever change his schoolyard-bully persona. And, really, this is not a particularly critical campaign issue. But the people of the town deserve better.
More problematic are the number of distortions in his statement. Here’s what’s true:
True: The 34 percent increase in sewer-user fees belongs to Herbst and his Water Pollution Control Authority. It’s not related, as he wants you to believe, to a 20-year-old contract with Bridgeport.
True: The Herbst-controlled Town Council sets the amount of money the Board of Education spends. So he can point to the budgets requests of the school board all he wants—he knows that board doesn’t determine the budget.
True: Herbst shifted $10 million in sewer costs to all taxpayers, claiming they’re road costs and should be borne by the whole town. What he won’t say is that this is the first time that costs have had to be shifted in that manner, and that $2 million of those costs are for the sewer-project oversight firm, which was hired by Herbst to contain sewer-construction costs. The project went over budget anyway.
True: Pension liabilities have been a problem in Trumbull through Democratic and Republican administrations, and both sides have attempted to fix them. Herbst has increased contributions to the pension liability, but failed to live up to his own campaign promise of applying 25 percent of all surpluses to the pension funds. As a result, the funding ratios—the amount of money in the funds compared to the actual fully-funded status—for both the police and town-employee pensions have gotten worse under Mr. Herbst.
True: Spending and taxes have gone up significantly under Herbst. Don’t let him try to say otherwise. Car taxes have increased by more than 20 percent. Sewer-user taxes have just gone up by 34 percent. Spending has increased by more than 13 percent in four years, and non-education spending has increased by more than 17 percent. Without the fortuitous revaluation, residential property taxes would have increased far more than they did.
Those are facts. It’s not “lying” and it’s not “deceit.”
Now, back when he was running for office in 2009, Mr. Herbst claimed that budgets would increase at the rate of inflation minus 1 percent, or he’d veto them. He claimed that he’d adhere to zero-based budgeting.
So much for easy promises.
Here’s a Martha Jankovic-Mark initiative. In my first budget as first selectman, I will hold all spending except for contractual obligations at their prior-year levels. I will do that even if I have to reduce some lines as others increase. Our taxpayers deserve as much. That’s real zero-based budgeting, not the sleight-of-hand variety that Herbst likes.