Tag Archives: Brian Stern

With Fireworks Off, PAL Needs Pals

As chair of Westport’s Board of Finance, Brian Stern watches Westport’s dollars carefully.

But as a longtime Westporter, he knows the importance of funding to organizations that make our town a wonderful place to live. He writes:

Like most Westporters, I was disappointed to hear that (for very good reasons),  the July 4th fireworks are off again this year.

It was the correct public health decision — but it comes at a cost to the Police Athletic League.

The fireworks display is their major fundraising event, and it has now been canceled for the second consecutive year. In addition, the PAL suffered a serious loss from this winter’s revenue at the Longshore skating rink, which they also sponsor.

Westport PAL suffered a severe hit from COVID this year. (Photo/Michael Wisner)

The funding gap for these  events  is about $165,000.

The PAL is a wonderful institution. It provides  youth programs in a wide variety of sports and outdoor pastimes. It particularly tries to support families that, for whatever reason, cannot afford these important activities.

In order to keep the momentum of this fabulous organization rolling, I encourage all Westporters to join me in sending whatever amount you feel comfortable. Click here to donate online, or send a check to the Police Athletic League: 50 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.

To learn more about the PAL click here.

Board Of Finance Delays Beach Concession Discussion; Chair Gives Somber Fiscal Assessment

Westporters who tuned in from home last night to watch the Board of Finance discuss the new Compo and Longshore beach concessionaire got a surprise.

As the meeting began, chair Brian Stern announced that the agenda item has been moved to April 15. The COVID-19 crisis necessitates the rewriting of the first year of the contract, so more time is needed before a board vote.

Stern moved quickly to an overview of the virus’ effect on town finances, and the budget process that lies ahead.

Acknowledging the difficulties faced by residents, businesses and non-profits, he admitted, “No one knows how long or deep this will be.”

Westport’s pension fund has already plunged from $350 million to $300 million. However, he assured his fellow members, “benefits are secure.”

Brian Stern chaired the remote Board of Finance meeting. Members joined from home.

As the country heads into a recession, Stern said, the town will be hit with non-recoverable costs. The Parks & Recreation Department, for example, could lost $ 1 million to $2 million, from its $5.2 million budget.

Effects on the state of Connecticut, meanwhile, will be “huge.” Deferred income tax and plunging sales tax revenue will be “devastating. And these big numbers will trickle down to our little town.”

There are some mitigating factors. For example, Westport will save money by paying fewer Parks & Rec summer workers, and see lower utility costs in schools.

But those savings come with costs: “There will be fewer Westporters at the beach, and our kids are not going to school.”

If the coronavirus crisis continues into summer, crowds may be down at Compo Beach. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Stern counseled his Board of Finance colleagues: “Be prudent.”

He promised,”We will protect town services, pensions and benefits. Our reserves are robust, and our tax base is strong. But we must be proactive, and frugal.”

Town Mill Rate Set: 0% Increase

Westport’s mill rate is set.

It’s exactly the same as last year.

The Board of Finance voted unanimously last night to keep the town’s mill rate at 16.86, for fiscal year 2017-18. The board did express concern about the possibility of a mid-year “supplemental assessment,” depending upon state finances.

The total town budget is $204,240,189.

First Selectman Jim Marpe said:

I am proud of our department heads for working diligently to control costs and improve efficiencies, while at the same time maintaining and enhancing our infrastructure. We have been able to absorb the fully restored school budget through the efforts of all town departments. We continue to reform our pension and health programs as we continue to fully fund our obligations and aggressively pay down debt.

Our community is united to ensure that Westport continues to be a highly desirable place to live – for our youth, young families, and seniors. In addition to fully supporting our world-class schools, this year’s budget includes enhancements to downtown, the beaches, and the senior center. Our grand list continues to grow and enables us to mitigate property tax increases, reflecting the confidence residents and businesses have in investing in Westport.

Board of Finance chairman Brian Stern commended “the hard work and commitment of the town’s department heads and professionals. While not raising property taxes, we will also be able to retain reserves at 11%, at the high end of our policy range and consistent with the town’s Aaa rating.”