WESTPORT, Conn. — First Selectman Jim Marpe presented his annual state of the town for Y’s Men last week, opening by saying Westport is “increasingly an attractive and vibrant community.”
He said he seems to be using his giant scissors every week to cut ribbons for new businesses, and new families continue to choose Westport.
“Financially, we are in great shape,” Marpe said. The town’s Aaa bond rating allowed a bond issue to be refinanced last November to reduce the interest rate from 3.0 percent to 1.9 and save $600,000 over the bond’s remaining 14-year life, he said. The town's revalued Grand List is up 7.8 percent, to a whopping $10.9 billion, Marpe said. And of that, 1.2 percent was real growth — new construction and renovations.
“This will have a huge impact on stabilizing the tax rate stable and attracting new residents,” Marpe said of the growth.
The town's 2016-17 budget totals $204 million, a 0.97 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. The school budget is $113 million, up 1.29 percent, the lowest the former Board of Education member said he could remember, while the town side is $91 million, a 0.57 percent increase.
The Board of Finance has approved a mill rate of 16.86 percent, a reduction of 0.83 percent, due Marpe said, to the Grand List gain.
Though a potential $2 million state funding reduction was halved, Marpe said Westport should not count on future state money. Instead, the town must seek longer term “sustainable ways” to manage spending, he said.
Marpe pointed to the energy performance contract with a projected savings of $1 million a year for the next 10 years. He listed a number of initiatives — to expand, upgrade and improve the Senior Center; make Baron's South available as recreational space accessible from the Senior Center; study senior housing alternatives; and respond to the desire of the growing aging population to downsize.
Marpe also introduced Jen Fava, Westport’s new director of Parks & Recreation.
She talked up the improvements at Compo Beach — two new pickleball courts; a new walkway from the bath house to the cannons, the start of a walkway all around the beach; dredging at the marina; and, soon, replacing the basketball courts, then South Beach restrooms and a new bath house. At Longshore, two paddle tennis courts were added, and the pools were resurfaced. And the golf course is in “beautiful condition,” she said.
Pearl at Longshore is open, the park entrance will be repaved in the next few weeks, and a new site plan for the entire park is being developed, Fava said.