This is Part 3 in Fairfield Taxpayer’s initial series on this subject. Part 1 addressed “What is a Strategic Plan?” and why we agree that having one would be good for our Town, and Part 2 addressed the foundational questions: “Where are we and how did we get here?” In Part 3, we move on to the ultimate questions: “Where should we go and how should we get there?” Finally, Part 4 will recommend some “Next Steps.” We will focus in Part 3 on some key goals we could establish, and consider why they might be in the best long-term interests of the Town. As noted earlier, strategic planning works best as an iterative process, and this section, Part 3, is subject to even more revision than Parts 1 and 2. Our views are offered, as we hope many others will be, not as definitive, but as constructive contributions to a much broader discussion that engages as many Fairfield stakeholders as possible.
Where should we go and how should we get there?
A Common Framework
One common framework for answering these ultimate questions is as follows:
1. Core values and beliefs
2. Mission (and sometimes also, or alternatively, Vision and Purpose)
3. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (“SWOT”)
4. Major strategic alternatives
5. Goals and priorities
6. Key performance indicators (“KPI’s”)
7. Strategies to achieve goals
8. Objectives to implement strategies
9. Action plans to achieve objectives
10. Key assumptions and success factors
One way to think about many of these planning terms is by their timeframe: some are long-term (e.g., values, beliefs, mission, vision, purpose); some are intermediate-term (goals, priorities, strategies); and some are short-term (e.g., objectives, specific action plans). The remaining terms are tools for analysis and measurement (SWOT, major alternatives, KPIs, key assumptions and success factors).
Core Values and Beliefs
Most strategic planning efforts begin by defining core values and beliefs as a foundation for agreement on a mission statement. Although this step may not be necessary for Fairfield if everyone agrees that our mission should be simply, “To Continue to Prosper,” core values and beliefs can also be helpful in resolving conflicts between opposing interests when it is necessary to make tough policy choices. Accordingly, we propose the following tentative list to get the conversation going, with the understanding that each of the core values and beliefs we eventually adopt will require a clear definition with which everyone is comfortable.
2. Rule of Law
4. Majority Rule
5. Minority Rights
6. Property Rights
7. Environmental Conservation and Sustainability
8. Civility and Tolerance
9. Public Safety and Public Education
Once again, as with everything else in this paper, all of these are subject to refinement over time as more and more stakeholders weigh in. It will be useful to remember that we should include on this list only core values and beliefs that are relevant to creating a strategic plan for Fairfield. For example, core values and beliefs specific to one religion or one political ideology are not appropriate.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Even our very simple mission statement, “To Continue to Prosper,” leaves open the important question of what it means “to prosper.”
We believe the meaning of the words “to prosper” for a town like Fairfield should be based on its ability to produce positive results in some combination of the following key performance indicators.
1. Strong relative residential property values.
2. Strong relative commercial property values.
3. Strong school performance.
4. Low relative crime rate.
5. High ratings on an annual town-wide survey of residents’ satisfaction with public services, public facilities, public health and safety, and Town ambiance.
6. A strong and stable financial condition including a high credit rating.
7. Higher relative population stability through lower relative population turnover.
8. High relative participation rates in elections, youth programs, civic and community organizations.
9. High relative environmental protection and sustainability.
10. Sound infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, municipal and emergency equipment, wastewater treatment, etc.
Once again, this tentative list is subject to substantial revision as the planning process advances. Even if it were accepted as is, there is much work to be done to decide how we want to measure each KPI. For example, the BOE recently approved a new District Improvement Plan (DIP),  which established 22 different Student Performance Indicators (SPI) that result in 229 different data points (because several of the indicators will be measured for every grade from K-12 to which they apply and in some cases for different cohorts within a given grade). And beyond the choice of KPIs there is the need to decide how to weight and prioritize them.
Proposed Strategic Goals to Help Fairfield “Continue to Prosper.”
Subject to further refinements in our mission statement and in the KPIs by which we decide to measure our success, we have proposed below five strategic goals that we believe would help the Town continue to prosper. For each of the goals, we suggest some specific objectives and action plans in support of each.
Proposed Major Strategic Goal #1
CONTROL SPENDING AND RISKS
In order to continue to prosper, FT believes that Fairfield’s most important strategic goal should be to control our spending and risks. Some specific actions that would help us to achieve this goal are as follows:
1. We should decide what rate of growth in spending and taxes is acceptable to us, and perhaps adopt some benchmark(s) for that rate of growth, like the rate of inflation or the growth in taxpayer incomes, and perhaps amend the Town Charter to require a referendum to approve any increase that is greater than the limit we adopt.
- FT proposes that unless and until we have a strategic plan that concludes otherwise, tax-rate increases should not exceed the rate of inflation, and because it is already too high, our tax rate should be reduced if we can find ways to do so through increased productivity or other savings.
2. Since labor is 70%-80% of our total spending, we should restrict future growth in public employee compensation to the same rate of growth we are willing to allow in total spending.
- Continued high increases in public employee compensation are not in the public interest because they will eventually destroy the ability of towns like Fairfield to support their public services including their schools.
- FT proposes that all public employees and unions should work with the Town to restrict any future increases in total compensation to the rate of inflation.
- Since healthcare costs are about 20% of total compensation and are projected to grow 8% annually, this means that if inflation is 1.6%, ceteris paribus, there is no room for any salary increases unless we can increase the productivity of our public workers and reduce headcounts.
- In order to do this, we need a cost breakdown for both Town and School System services by program and by user or student.
- We should analyze our Senior Tax Relief program to see if it is cost effective, and if not, consider how these resources could be better used to retain seniors.
- We should consider what additional, cost-effective services the Town could provide for seniors, such as member-driven programs and services that help seniors continue to live safely, independently and comfortably in their neighborhoods and homes, and thus to “age in place.”
5. We should look for ways to reduce costs and increase productivity in every public service, including our schools.
- We believe that there are many opportunities for both reducing costs and increasing productivity, including upgrading our IT systems and resources.
- We should benchmark all of our current public services against those of other towns in terms of service levels and costs.
- We should consider outsourcing school and public services to private contractors. We do this now to some extent, but there may be other opportunities.
- We should consider merging some services with a town like Easton.
- We should require every department to develop a strategic plan that addresses any relevant key performance indicators that were adopted as part of the Town’s strategic plan.
- We should require all departments to provide annual business plans (not merely budgets) establishing specific objectives each year that are consistent with their strategic plans.
- We should have formal annual performance reviews of every department head based on the objectives that were agreed at the beginning of the year as part of their annual plans.
- A significant portion of every department head’s compensation (including the Superintendent of Schools) should be performance based.
- The First Selectman should be required to provide a formal annual report each year (not merely a subjective State of the Town address), that describes the Town’s performance based on the KPIs that were adopted as part of the Town’s strategic plan.
6. We should do all we can to reduce the Town’s exposure to the risk that it could be overwhelmed by the cost of the post-retirement benefits it has promised to its employees, both pensions and healthcare.
- We should eliminate defined-benefit pension plans as an option for all new Town employees, including police and fire.
- We should negotiate less generous post-retirement healthcare benefits and demand that employees assume responsibility for more of these costs.
- We should try to privatize the huge liability associated with the pensions for current retirees and employees.
7. We should do all that we can to protect the Town from the risk of inappropriate high-density development under 8-30g. 
Proposed Major Strategic Goal #2
FIND NEW SOURCES OF REVENUES
Our second major strategic goal should be to consider ways in which we can generate substantially higher non-residential tax revenues.
1. The most obvious example is commercial property development. For example, according to Cushman & Wakefield (C&W), Fairfield has only 2% of the office space in Fairfield County.
2. However, adding commercial space would not be easy. According to C&W’s “Office Snapshot” for Q2 2015, the overall vacancy rate for Fairfield County office space is still above 20%, gross rental rates are declining, and there is currently no office space whatsoever under construction. 
3. We should consider imposing or raising user fees for discretionary services.
- For example, our public libraries continue to measure their success solely by how many people use their services and programs, and a significant (and perhaps growing) number of those users are not residents of Fairfield.
- In contrast, our Parks & Recreation Department covers the cost of many of the programs and services it offers with user fees.
Proposed Major Strategic Goal #3
REFORM STATE GOVERNMENT
Our third major strategic goal should be to bring maximum pressure on our State government to stop increasing spending, taxes and borrowing (including unfunded liabilities for retirement benefits) at unsustainable rates, and to figure out how to generate strong growth in the economy, jobs and population.
1. The Town of Fairfield should take a much more active role in advocating for change in Hartford, in addition to demanding strong representation from our State Senator and Representatives.
2. Reforming Connecticut’s state government will not be easy because of an apparent lack of consensus among voters about the nature of the State’s problems and what should be done about them, perhaps because too many voters do not have a long-term commitment to the State.
- A new constitution was adopted by Connecticut in 1965, the primary purpose of which was to change how representatives in the legislature were elected. Previously, each town was granted one or two representatives, and thus small towns enjoyed equal representation with large cities. Under the new constitution, the number of representatives was apportioned based on population.
- In the 50 years since 1965, the voters have elected: (a) Democratic governors for 26 years, Republican governors for 20 years, and an Independent governor for 4 years; (b) a Democratic majority in the Senate for 44 years and a Republican majority for 6 years; and (c) a Democratic majority in the House for 46 years and a Republican majority for 4 years.
- Some observers believe that public-employee unions exert undue influence over both our Executive and Legislative branches of government. Recent evidence of a close relationship between our government and the public-employee unions is that two outgoing legislative leaders, Christopher Donovan  20 years in office) and Donald Williams  (22 years in office), both recently landed jobs with the State’s largest teachers’ union, the CT Education Association. Also, the head of CT’s Department of Labor, Sharon Palmer, is the former president of the American Federation of Teachers - CT, an AFL-CIO union representing 28,000 teachers and other workers.
3. Unfunded state mandates (including 8-30g) should also be a focus of Fairfield’s efforts to reform our state government.
Proposed Major Strategic Goal #4
TRANSFORM PARTS OF FAIRFIELD?
We have many opportunities to strategically evolve our town's services to meet the needs of a 21st Century community, and to keep Fairfield a vibrant and attractive community for new families as well as existing residents, including senior-oriented housing and services, bike lanes throughout town, improved town parking facilities, and even more attractive entertainment venues.
- We should also consider bold, transformational changes, like a complete makeover of Fairfield Center (including the vacant Community Theatre), with a major public-private, mixed-use (commercial, residential, educational) development that would provide the following services and attractions:
- Access to Fairfield Center amenities including arts, entertainment, restaurants, main library, fitness centers, Sherman Green concerts, shopping, YMCA, parades, FTC.
- Hotel with conference facilities.
- A new, modern train station.
- Indoor public spaces and atriums offering year-round “outdoor” access.
- Grocery stores, dry cleaners.
- Senior Living support: retirement center; assisted living; nursing home; urgent and geriatric medical care; satellite nursing programs from FU and SHU; relocated Senior Center.
- Transportation: ample and convenient parking; Metro-North; bus routes; bicycles; Zip cars; frequent Town & Gown shuttles to and from Fairfield Center, Quick Center, classes, lectures and sporting events at FU and SHU.
Proposed Major Strategic Goal #5
To some significant extent, Bridgeport’s problems are Fairfield’s problems. While many individuals and civic groups in Fairfield are already passionate supporters of our neighbors in Bridgeport, anything more we can do to help Bridgeport, whether at a personal, community, or governmental level, will also enhance Fairfield’s future prosperity.
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