Hartford is a complete maddening mess in the final days of the legislative session that looks like a special session will be required to pass a state budget. It was one of several topics that citizen budget scrutineer John Marshall Lee addressed to the City Council Monday night.
I know that State grants to cities and school systems have not been settled in Hartford. Hopefully that will happen soon for City taxpayers and parents.
How do you feel about current year fiscal reports? Do you realize that last year when you adopted a $552 Million budget that despite overestimating revenues in some areas, the assumption of $9.8 million for municipal share of sales taxes was low by almost $7.7 Million and provides a revenue surplus projected at 10 months of almost $700,000?
Expenses are often harder to predict but there was so much conservatism used last year, particularly regarding full-time salaries and benefits that it seems there is $3.6 Million of projected less expense in the budget.
Put the two numbers together (and I realize that it is only a projection), and you may see a surplus of $4.3 Million at year end. Amazing isn’t it, especially when you begin to review the salary and benefit accounts. It looks like at the same time the Mayor was talking (and still is) about the cut of 100 employees, the external audit figures did not verify that number. Table 17 from the 2016 CAFR released this past spring shows a decrease of only five personnel from 1346 in 2015 to 1341 in 2016.
One can seriously guess that the actual spending assumptions for this tax year where the mil rate was raised from 42.2 to 54.37 were padded too conservatively. I wonder how taxpayers will respond to those facts, don’t you?
Spending upwards of $170 Million or more of taxpayer money for public safety while City taxpayers only contribute $63.3 Million to our school system doesn’t sit well with many folks. The BOE had to really cut people and programs this year. Approaching you for the expense of renting real estate for youth programs was a necessity. Some of you have been outraged because in your own words “we gave them $3 Million” and want them to fund the Lighthouse program. Well the BOE operates a lean educational program in my opinion and when they saw NO revenue for the 20-year period of recreation program occupation and growth, they saw that a subsidy to a relatively wealthy (and under monitored) youth program serving 3,000 City youth at best was no longer possible. The BOE has 21,000 to educate. It is not easy. But it was necessary.
I have brought the situation of $850,000 or more family fees to Lighthouse showing as Not Applicable in the Department budget and have asked why. There have been no suitable answers, since it is genuine revenue. Not to treat it as revenue and report it publicly is to be a poor steward. It is just one more issue I have brought to your attention where revenues are produced and not shown to taxpayers.
Please recall my two reports to you on the Print Shop. Ken Flatto has not yet found the authorization for that City Department to be doing any public business. Nor has he come back with an explanation as to how purchasing orders over a five-year period showed Print Shop balancing, when purchase orders in excess of Print Shop expenses were recorded exceeding $830,000. Aren’t you anxious to restore trust and confidence in the fiscal reporting you must approve? You are running for re-election. These are serious matters to the voters even if they seem less so to you.
Thank you for listening. There are likely to be major adjustments when the State returns with revenues for the City side of the budget as well as the BOE side. The Mayor and the Council need to know more about BOE operations to lower the fear about school funding. You are on the carpet tonight for learning and becoming better stewards even at this late date. Time will tell.