STRATFORD, Conn. — Mayor John Harkins presented his State of the Town address Tuesday, touting low unemployment, significant grand list increases and a renewed emphasis on quality education, saying Stratford leaders are “transforming our community into a destination.
“My administration has spent the last six years focusing on the tough issues that have beleaguered our town for decades,” Harkins told about 125 people gathered at Oronoque Country Club. “In doing so, we have achieved many things once thought impossible.”
In a far-reaching speech, Harkins touted improvements to the EMS, police and fire resources in town, pledged to continue to work on contaminated superfund sites and explained his “historic support” of the school system through a 7.4 percent increase in his education spending proposal.
The plan adds 28 new educators — from teachers to tutors — to address student-teacher ratios, performance concerns and an increasing special education student population.
“Doing so will allow our school system to flourish, but it will also make our town more attractive to prospective residents and allow us to continue building on our successes of the past six years,” he said.
Harkins said his administration has made key and necessary investments and management changes in government to improve “mediocre services” of the past.
“If you pay taxes in town you should get better than mediocrity,” he said. “Stratford deserves better.”
Despite budget woes at the state and municipal level around Connecticut, Harkins said Stratford is experiencing “an economic renaissance.” The unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, down from 9.2 percent in 2012, and 38 new businesses have moved to town, creating 590 jobs.
Another 14 businesses expanded, resulting in 708 retained jobs and 350 new jobs, he said.
The Grand List grew $38 million in the past year.
A new United Illuminating Co. substation planned for Stratford Avenue will generate an estimated $775,000 in taxes in its first year online, he said.
Stratford is working with the state on a number of initiatives, including the new Transit Oriented District near the train station downtown. It has also secured $24 million to install a full interchange at Exit 33 off Interstate 95.
Harkins believes it is part of his job to make Stratford a place where “people want to live, work and raise a family.
“We have so much potential in our town that is finally coming to light,” he said.