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Fairfield Officials Prepare For Likely Job Cuts, Tax Hikes In Wake Of GE Move

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) -- A suburban town is preparing for life after one of its biggest taxpayers picks up and leaves.

As CBS2's Lou Young reported, it was a grey day in Fairfield after the departure of General Electric.

"We need it here. They pay a lot of taxes," Janis Torres said.

The now shuttered headquarters of the multi-national conglomerate already bears the name of non-profit Sacred Heart University as GE shifts jobs to Boston and other parts of Connecticut, and cashes a $31.5-million check for property that is now off the tax rolls.

The first selectman -- Connecticut's version of a mayor -- is annoyed.

"We met with GE; they were very private. It's their sale, the town was not involved, however we did ask them please keep the property on the tax roles when they sell it. GE didn't do that. They chose to make a deal in the best interests of GE, not the best interests of the town," Michael Tetreas said.

Fairfield's annual town budget is $290-million. GE paid $1.5-million, not a disaster, but an inconvenience.

Sacred Heart University, which is already in Fairfield and expanding into GE's space said the long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term pain.

"Our people, whether students or employees spend money in Fairfield. GE employees were going there, working there, eating there, and mostly getting on the parkway to get home," Sacred Heart University, President John Petillo said.

Town and company have had a kind of marriage for the last 42 years. You can even find a GE logo on the fancy electric car charging station in the center of town, but like any relationship that's based partially on money, when there's a breakup, there's hard feelings.

"When you take a million dollars in taxes away from me, I still have to make payroll. That's a real challenge for the town and the taxpayers," Tetreas said.

Fairfield can get some of the lost revenue from the state. It's preparing to cut some town jobs and may have to raise taxes.

Planners say in the long run the attractive power of a growing Sacred Heart University and nearby Fairfield University will help the town more.

"Knowledge based economy, and I think having two universities locally will work in terms of making that new economy," Fairfield Economic Development Director, Mark Barnhart said.

It's a possible silver lining in the shape of things to come.

The university said it plans to open up 400 additional undergraduate slots and hire 60 staff when it expands onto the new campus.

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