Lauretti touts consistent grand list growth, low taxes in bid for 16th term

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Mark Lauretti

Mark Lauretti

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

SHELTON — After three decades, Mark Lauretti says his results speak for themselves.

Lauretti, seeking his 16th consecutive term in the mayor’s seat, touts his role in revitalizing downtown and attracting business and hundreds of new jobs to the city — all while overseeing an ever-increasing grand list and consistently low taxes.

“How can you not acknowledge the successes we’ve had?” Lauretti said to those who criticize his record.

“Everybody wants to be Shelton,” Lauretti added. “There are so many positive things going on … we have a long history of grand list growth, a low mill rate … and this city will be debt free in four years. Can anyone else say that? I deliver … and it is hard to argue with that success.”

Thirty years has not dampened his enthusiasm for the position, as Lauretti has called this one of the “most exciting times” in the city’s history. In the coming days he said he hopes to announce a deal with an international manufacturing firm eyeing the city-owned Mas property.

Lauretti’s critics — headed by mayoral opponent, retired Shelton police officer David Eldridge — charge the longtime mayor with consolidating control, limiting transparency in budget decisions, failing to properly fund the education budget, and mismanaging the city-run student transportation service.

Lauretti called the criticism “laughable.”

Beyond the development in downtown and along Bridgeport Avenue — a major driver in the city’s more than $5 billion grand list — Lauretti said his tenure has brought 14 miles of walking trails, the Riverwalk, the dog park, and more than 2,000 acres of open space.

Lauretti said the city, with its 22.42 mill rate, holds only $22.38 million debt, far less than such neighboring communities as Derby, Seymour, Monroe, Trumbull and Milford.

The mayor was first elected in 1991 to run a city with $28 million in debt. He said he has spent his most recent years watching over strong grand list growth, which in turn has allowed him to keep taxes low. And how does Lauretti keep the taxes low?

“You can’t cower to every political criticism that comes your way,” Lauretti said.

“Things are based on facts. People like to demean our education system … they do not think we spend enough money,” Lauretti added, “You can say the same thing about every city department. We spent less than everyone else … that is nothing new. But when you control spending and generate new activity, you’re hitting at both ends of the equation.”

For critics of downtown parking, or lack thereof, Lauretti said at some point there will be a parking structure. The question, he said, is the type of public-private partnership that works best for the community.

“I’m not going to just react to election year nonsense,” Lauretti said. “I’m not inclined with the city being the lead, but certainly the city could participate with private enterprise. Whatever is done has to benefit the public.”

Lauretti has also responded to continued attacks on the city-run bus company by stating the city has annually saved hundreds of thousands of dollars since taking the student transportation reins.

And while some opponents criticize the bus company’s performance, Lauretti said even Gov. Ned Lamont acknowledges the lack of qualified drivers is a nationwide problem.

“We have outperformed,” Lauretti said about the bus company, saying that there have few missed routes this year and the city has enjoyed success in recruiting new drivers. “We’re way ahead of everybody.”

Lauretti said he has endured criticism his entire career, but attacks have been more personal in recent years — which has heightened his frustration.

“With all the success the city has enjoyed the past 30 years … it is unfair,” Lauretti said about the criticism. “...You know how much money I have saved everyone over the years, and we still built the infrastructure, despite what they say.”

Lauretti said if everyone can keep taxes low, why is no one else doing it?

“Affordability, predictability and our quality of life,” Lauretti said. “It’s tough to top all of that. People need consistency, whether it is a business that wants to grow or relocate, or a senior citizen living on a fixed income, predictability is important. That is what we have brought for 30 years.”