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04/19/2023 08:00 AM

Real-World Consequences to Choices

This past Tuesday, North Haven presented a proposed 2023-’24 budget. In the face of a tax increase, the first in five years, North Haven has prioritized police and sanitation over education and fire.

The fire department in North Haven is beginning to be critically underfunded. Currently, the town is facing two separate federal investigations of its fire safety protocols. There is a lack of required leadership: firefighters that passed the lieutenant exam cannot be promoted due to a $28K budget deficit. They are working with antiquated equipment: a Jaws of Life needs to be replaced at the cost of $31,000. Finally, our contract fire inspectors are facing personal liability, yet the town’s plan to transition them to full-time employees, budget neutral, for the town’s liability insurance is facing resistance.

These items (essential safety equipment, nationally mandated safety protocols, personal liability for our fire inspectors) should be considered mandatory; why is the town choosing to fund leaf pickup instead?

The school system already faces many challenges, including faltering academic rankings exacerbated by COVID. Alas, this year, the Board of Finance (BOF) agreed to only a 2.46% increase, well below inflation. How can we improve if we effectively cut spending? Teachers are being underpaid, aging infrastructure is being ignored, and even critical gas reserves are being cut. Students are already feeling these cuts; prospective residents will be next, deterred from moving here and increasing the tax base.

There are real-world consequences to the choices being made. Higher taxes aren’t ideal, but services, from leaf pickup to police, require financing. By so dramatically prioritizing these programs over Fire and Education, we are jeopardizing our future. Please call First Selectman Mike Freda, write to the BOF, and attend public budget hearings to support our fire department and school district this spring.

Kieran Ahern

North Haven