First Selectman’s Update

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Melissa Mack

Melissa Mack

I am delighted to report that four of the Town’s expired collective bargaining agreements have been successfully negotiated. The remaining three are in the home stretch. The 2014-expired Police Union contract was headed for expensive arbitration when new Human Resources Director Ziemba, Finance Director Cerrato, new Assistant Finance Director Finnegan and I got involved. Resolution was a great team effort and provided our dedicated police officers reassurance that they are valued by our Town. The goal for all negotiations included providing fair employee compensation while reducing unsustainable long-term post-employment benefits. Going forward, union negotiations will be staggered so that these important deliberations are not undertaken and their costs borne by the Town all in one year.

Much of my efforts over the last two years concentrated on improving our Town’s governance, operations and customer service. I am excited to “get out of the weeds” and look forward to finding fertile soil where Suffield can really grow its future. Suffield’s greatest opportunity lies with economic development. Success in this arena works to free Suffield from the State of Connecticut’s fiscal oppression by moving us toward financial independence. This year’s new businesses included the River View Animal Hospital, Champion Container and expansion of Windsor Federal Savings with Broad Brook Brewery and Four Seasons to follow in 2018. Phase II of the Route 75 utility expansion project awaits approval by the State Bond Commission. In conjunction with completed Phase I and the recently subdivided Town-owned light industrial land, Suffield is poised for development in this key area near the airport. We already sold one of these parcels, promising to add to Suffield’s commercial tax base next year. Approval of the Tax Increment Financing District in Suffield’s Town Center and the associated TIF Master Plan, along with the upcoming demolition of the Town garage outbuildings, sets the stage for Ffyler Place development. I am anxious to support new businesses investing in Suffield!

Together with economic development, it is crucial that Suffield both maximize and be fiscally responsible with its tax dollars. On the “maximize’ front, we were pleased to end 2016 with excellent news that we maintained our S&P bond rating of AA+ while improving its outlook from stable to positive. Both oversight by our financially savvy Board of Finance and improved governance practices and internal controls contributed to the favorable rating. The outlook paves the way for favorable rates on bond issuances in the coming years if we can overcome the impact of Connecticut’s economic instability. On the “fiscally responsible” front, we worked hard this year to deliver a Town budget with a modest 0.98% increase, attributable entirely to increased employee benefits costs and the State mandated real property revaluation. Additionally, we placed a moratorium on nonessential capital projects. Town Hall with its failing HVAC system must be addressed immediately, not only to reduce our rental expenses, but also to return our temporary swing space to the tax rolls.

I am proud of our accomplishments over the last two years, grateful for the ongoing support of the community, and look forward to meeting future challenges and continuing to advocate for what’s best for Suffield. Please exercise your important civil right and responsibility and VOTE! on Tuesday, November 7 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Suffield Middle School. Great candidates seeking to serve our community need your support. I am taking a bipartisan approach to this election and hope you will read the biographies of each candidate and choose those with the skills necessary to make the complex and often difficult decisions required by their boards. I look forward to seeing you at the polls!

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