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Letter: Wirfel, Collins Will Keep Westport Strong

WESTPORT, Conn. – The following letter was submitted by Westport resident Helen Garten, chairwoman of the Board of Finance.

To the Editor:

It goes without saying that Westport faces economic challenges. The test of leadership is how we respond to those challenges. Westporters expect their elected officials to address problems calmly, without blaming others, and to work together to solve them.

The Board of Finance, under Democrat leadership, has done just that. When the recession caused a drop in nontax revenue, we reacted quickly, finding ways to fund services without large tax increases. As the recession lingered and budget pressures increased, we used our clout to begin the consolidation of town and school back-office functions, an idea that had languished for years. When pension costs soared, we stepped up to honor our commitment to employees, but sounded the alarm that Westport must move to a sustainable employee benefits package.

Now, we are taking steps to ensure that our Other Post-Employment Benefit calculations are accurate and that we are providing medical care to employees in the most efficient way possible. In all cases, current board members have worked together to reach consensus. Usually, we have spoken with one voice.

Ken Wirfel has been a key player in this process for the past four years. Ken brings his professional skills as a top prosecutor to focus on budget details and to argue for fiscal prudence, better internal controls and greater transparency. Occasionally, the board's efforts have met opposition from the administration and the Representative Town Meeting. When this has occurred, no one has been more steadfast than Ken in standing by his principles, and no one has been more articulate in making the board's case.

Janis Collins, running for her first term, will be a valuable addition to the board. Her knowledge of accounting and actuarial practices will bring useful expertise to the board at a critical time. Janis is a problem solver who will take a positive approach to challenges. As Parks & Recreation chairwoman, when faced with budget constraints, Janis created Friends of Westport Parks & Recreation to find private funding alternatives to scarce tax dollars.

Fiscal prudence. Integrity. Problem solving. These are the qualities that Ken and Janis will bring to the board. I hope you will join me in supporting both of them for Board of Finance, so that, working with our colleagues, we may continue to protect the taxpayers and keep Westport fiscally strong and vibrant.

Helen Garten

Chairwoman, Westport Board of Finance

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