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City Council Approves Budget With No Tax Increase–Education Advocates Cry Schools Shortchanged

May 8th, 2018 · 34 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Budget, City Council, Education, News and Events

Langan council

City Council meeting Monday night.

UPDATE: see council budget changes here.

The City Council by a 16-3 vote Monday night approved a city budget with no tax increase for the spending year that begins July 1. Councilors Kyle Langan, Pete Spain and Eneida Martinez voted against the budget urging more support for city schools.

Councilor Ernie Newton offered a different take on education spending asserting “The school board has no accountability … they’ve done a poor job not going after the top-tiered” administrators.

School board members Dennis Bradley, Maria Pereira and Jessica Martinez sat in the front row of the council chambers taking in Newton’s comments. Newton’s remarks struck a nerve with the passionate Martinez. Upset, she got off her bench and walked out of the council chambers.

After the meeting Newton explained, “We have to make tough decisions in others of the budget. We have responsibilities to city safety, fire, public works–a lot of stuff that the board of ed doesn’t have to worry about. They depend on the state just like we depend on the state. This is not personal, but somebody  has to say the Board of Education has not been prudent in how it spends its money. The board has been so dysfunctional fighting with each other. You can’t blame us for that piece. What do they want to do, lay off police, fire, sanitation workers? You have to be responsible. I’m for kids, but we have to be responsible for the kids in the areas of police, fire, sanitation and recreation as well.”

Newton’s East End council partner Eneida Martinez made an appeal for more school funds, wondering why the city doesn’t shut down its two municipal golf courses to provide more school money. North End councilor Michelle Lyons retorted “The golf course makes a profit,” adding the city is “stuck between a rock and hard place trying to find money on both sides of the street.”

Black Rock councilor Pete Spain noted the school board went through the “painful exercise” of “cutting to the bone” eliminating coaches, substitute teachers and books.

West Side councilor Kyle Langan proposed more than one million dollars in cuts, to return that money to schools, ranging from police overtime to “supportive contributions” that go to nonprofit organizations. His proposed cuts failed in an amendment vote.

Finance Director Ken Flatto says the tax rate, 54.37 mils, will remain the same.

Technically, the council’s Monday vote now returns to Mayor Joe Ganim for possible veto action until the official setting of the mil rate in early June. The total spending plan is roughly $558 million.

Councilwoman Maria Viggiano, who gave birth a few days ago, did not attend the meeting.

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34 Comments so far ↓

  • Mojo

    *** Education advocates, etc.. in the past, present & coming future have always & will always continue, to ask for more money before during & after the city & state budget proceeding’s. They can never get enough money year after year & the education system never fails to over spend money on school items, programs & non union political jobs! However, year after year the state’s standard record keeping on the quality & overall student’s educational improvements, etc.. is continuously below national standards! Giving more money to the Bpt. urban educational system does not mean better quality educational results in general. Past history records have shown this to be true in many urban schools that spend money in the wrong areas & seem to get little or no results! To me its a team effort that includes the city, school admin; teachers & teachers assistant’s, parents & or guardians, school staff & security & the BOE and the student’s school board just for starters. And last but not least, the State’s Dept. of Education & Standards & a state accounting over-seer of education spending! A problem this deep rooted & and affecting so many kids in an urban setting for so-long is not fixed in a year by throwing more money at it without a well thought out plan and the support of the educational system locally & the State. ***

  • Lisa Parziale

    Kudos to Eneida, Pete Spain, and Kyle, you may not have changed the outcome, but you voted your conscience; Eneida the council needs a strong woman!

  • John Marshall Lee

    People on the Council and BOE Finance have been asking more,and in my view, better, more targeted questions this year. New people with less vested interest in status quo. Yes. But also some folks willing to think outside the “box” they get placed in by leadership.

    Mojo, no major system is fixed in a year, but what step might be important to indicating a trend? Essential flat funding year after year is not such a trend because fat gets cut, and then muscle, and where are you then? Employee compensation and health care benefits increase in a steady manner, even if only by a small percent annually. Flat funding does not cover this. Is the BOE Finance group doing a reasonable job of examining each line and eliminating the least necessary for the coming year? It appears so. Because their cuts from a tight budget continue, while on the City side, finance and OPM keep providing “padding” of one type or another that keep serious study from getting at “pet project political personnel”; the Mayor has no statement of an overall labor relations plan for increasing productivity;, and the capital spending, authorizations, and bonding activity triangle is currently off the tracks in a field, far from public view. Wasteful and expensive overall. Who will keep asking questions of those in power and looking for accountability? Time will tell.

  • DC Faber

    Bridgeport’s math and priorities puzzle me. Mr. Newton asked if we wanted to cut Police/Fire or Sanitation as if those are the only areas that could be cut? And I will again parrot those who suggest that if Bridgeport school were funded at least 90% of the way we could perhaps afford to reduce our police force or at least reduce their OT. Thank you Kyle Langan, Pete Spain and Eneida Martinez. It’s time like this I wish the city had an independent Board of Finance.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    There is more than enough in this budget to cut. Start with the mayors budget and get rid of all of the mayors appointments. Here we are giving raises to these people and we are doing nothing for the kids. I guess the rule is fuck the kids lets make sure the political kiss asses get theirs.
    What part of educating our children dont the politicians understand? Hey Ernie there are enough positions that are political in public facilities to cut there.
    Lets hold the PD to their budgeted OT numbers
    Lets change to formula for the library and switch it to education.
    ITS THE KIDS THAT ALWAYS GET SCREWED

  • Lisa Parziale

    You’re right Andy!

  • Maria Pereira

    Dennis Bradley, Jessica Martinez and I attended the City Council meeting last night while a Facilities Committee meeting was being held at Black Rock School.

    Three of the speakers that had signed up in advance did not show-up so a FaithActs member, Jessica and myself all spoke on the need to invest in our children.

    I stressed that Jessica and I have been longtime adversaries, however we have been able to set aside our differences and work together on behalf of our 21,000 students. Children should never pay the price due to the actions or inaction of adults. I stressed that children were innocent and our most vulnerable population. Jessica spoke beautifully and was very articulate.

    There were more members of the public than usual. Most were there regarding the need to fund the BPS.

    As a full body, the City Council was an incredible disappointment and both Ernie Newton and Reverend McBride Lee were deplorable.

    For five consecutive years the City Council chambers has been standing room only filled with parents, students and educators advocating for funding for our schools, yet Mayor Finch, Mayor Ganim and the City Council have failed to abide by the pleadings from their own constituents.

    What we need in Bridgeport is a revolution. I am not weary or tired, I am fired up.

    • Ernie Newton

      Let me be clear about what last nights City council meeting meant to our city residents of Bridgeport.1. We Kept TAXES DOWN!
      2 Gave a 1 Million extra to the board of Education Which The Mayors budget flat funded 3 Found 1.7 Million for our Library which the Voters supported.
      A No Vote would have meant that The Mayors Budget. A budget that included a 6.7 Million dollar Hole and included A TAX Increase.OUR City Council worked long and hard to find cuts in the budget to cover those short falls while giving monies to the board of education and not raising our taxes and maintaining city services.

      • Frank Gyure

        Ernie..you also attacked the BOE and said they were do a lousy job. What are you doing in terms of crazy Police overtime,almost six figure salaries given to Ganim cronies. Where is your leadership? Where is your leadership on FOIA.Where is your leadership?

        • Maria Pereira

          Exactly, Frank. Acting Chief Perez blew the OT Budget by $2,000,000, not $200,000, TWO MILLION.
          OT is not a fixed cost and should be controlled.

          I challenge Ernie Newton to identify one line item in the BOE Budget that was blown by $2,000,000. He won’t be able to do it.

          In addition, Ernie was quoted in the CT Post that because the City Attorney was stalling on assisting the Ordinance Committee he was going to reduce the City Attorney’s Budget. Ernie Newton made no such recommendation.

          I have an issue with politicians that just talk, but don’t back up their words with actions. That is my position on ALL politicians, not just Ernie Newton.

          • Frank Gyure

            Basically,Ernest Newton is a TRAITOR.

          • Frank Gyure

            Ernest Newto talked and walked a different line before CC elections but he is now just another Testacrat.

          • Frank Gyure

            The People Of Bridgeport,through their elected CC representatives,need to to see BPT Police payroll on a continuous basis. The full CC needs to see BPT Police payroll on a continuing basis or at least The CC Budget Sub-Committee need to see BPT Police Payroll on an “as-is’ basis.” Will the BPT City Council step up and regain control of The BPT Police Dept?

  • Bob Walsh

    If Maria, Dennis and Jessica can sit quietly that in and of itself speaks volumes as to the united front that the Board of Ed is making.
    To bad that the council could not do the same.

    • Ron Mackey

      Bob, I thought this was good for Maria to say what she did about getting along with other BOE members and I’m glad to hear that.

  • Bob Walsh

    Kudos to Pete Spain, Kyle Langan and Eneida Martinez for standing up for something they believe in.
    Joe Ganim still rules the majority of the council with a firm grip.

  • Bob Walsh

    Too bad that Tom MacCarthy couldn’t break through and vote for the BOE spending amendment. I know he has shown no leadership on this and other issues but just once away from the cabal.
    But asking just once in a final vote is asking too much.
    Just get off.

  • Maria Pereira

    Ernie Newton is not the Moses of his people, he is a Judaist.

    Ernie made a lengthy speech, as he so often does, claiming the BOE had to be held “accountable” because the BOE does not manage its money well and we have a lot of “fat” at the top. He said all the BOE does is “fight” and “argue.” The commentary was not rooted in facts, but since when has that gotten in the way of unethical politicians. We should all be deeply concerned if Ernie Newton is the moral compass of the City Council.

    Jessica became so upset by his comments that she stood up and stormed out of the chambers.

    Reverend Lee is a teacher at Waltersville School and piggy backed on Ernie’s comments and stated she agreed with Ernie “120%.”

    These comments are so completely baseless that neither could ever support their assertions with factual examples.

    Every BOE Budget has been balanced since 2009/2010 and we have not let $1 go unspent or revert back to the city. Over the last 5 years we have made $40,000,000 in devastating cuts while the City has increased its spending in many areas.

    We have cut all of the following positions since 2010/2011. Each position was valued between $100,000 – $150,000 with benefits:

    Director of Facilities
    Director of Security
    Asst. Director of Security
    Director of Guidance
    Communications Director
    Assistant Superintendent
    Director of Athletics

    In the last two years we have cut almost 200 positions including all kindergarten paraprofessionals and homeschool coordinators.

    I am requesting Ernie Newton provide a list of every position valued at over $100,000 that was eliminated on the City side.

    What we need in Bridgeport is a revolution. I am not weary or tired, I am fired up.

  • Maria Pereira

    When I entered the chambers I explained to two City Council members that the B & A Committee proposed a budget, however tonight the proposed budget is debatable by the full council, amendments could be made, debated and voted on. I stressed that they should call for roll call votes to get every council member voting against 21,000 children.

    Kyle Langan made a motion to reduce expenditures in police overtime and several line items that contribute to community events by $1.2 million. He made it clear his intention was to make a follow-up motion to reallocate the $1.2 million to the BOE. Pete Spain seconded the motion.

    Christina Smith stated that she had originally proposed reducing the accounts for community events to zero but she wanted to “compromise”. Kyle was only proposing to reduce those accounts by 50%. Christina Smith then voted against Kyle’s motion.

    Pete Spain, Christina Smith and Michele Lyons “passed” on the first go-around. I find that cowardly. This is done so that they can see how the wind is blowing and whether their vote will change the outcome BEFORE they cast their vote.

    The only City Council members that supported it was Pete Spain, Marcus Brown, Kyle Langan, Michele Lyons and Eneida Martinez.

    Our 138th City Councilwoman, Karen Jackson, is the only member that has children in the BPS and she voted against the motion to appropriate an additional $1.2 million to the BOE. I made clear to her last night she will not be elected dog catcher. She is done.

    Although both Pete Spain and Eneida Martinez spoke in favor of the BOE and discussed potential cuts in specific categories, neither offered their recommendations in formal motions that could have been debated and voted on.

    In the end, only Eneida Martinez, Pete Spain and Kyle Langan voted against the 2018/2019 Budget. Reformers Karen Jackson, Marcus Brown, and Christina Smith stood with the corrupt powers that be instead of our 21,000 public school children.

    What we need in Bridgeport is a revolution. I am not weary or tired, I am fired up.

    • Local Eyes

      The process by which the unsustainable status quo collapses and is replaced by a sustainable reform is called a revolution. Those who have made a sustained effort in this regard are best suited to achieve its fruition.
      Conclusion:
      Beware the fired-up piranha. —- – - – - – >*{{{><

  • Ron Mackey

    I’m glad to see that Kyle Langan, Pete Spain and Eneida Martinez voted against the budget urging more support for city schools. What are the priority of any local government, educating the children in order for them to be productive citizens and the health and safety of its residents. What business would want to relocate or to start a business that has a poor educational system?

    There is definitely more money that can be cut from the budget but Mayor Ganim is holding back to make further budget cuts just before primary time to show that he is a good manager of governing.

  • Ernie Newton

    Maria If anyone Knows who JUDAS is take a look in the mirror.
    You have always turn your back on people who don”t Kiss your A – - I’m not the one. The truth is for the last 10 years or more. The Board of Ed has never cut from the top down.You seam to know whats in Our budget you tell me.Yes We have new members on the board many of them i supported.AGAINST The old ones Chris Taylor,Jessica Chaila Robinson.Because i know they really care about our KIDS.YOU Care only about how many election you can WIN!Please i am not the MARIA you want to have a beef with I don’t need you to think for ME!

  • Maria Pereira

    Ernie, the student population in the BPS is over 95% minority with the vast majority of our students being Black & Hispanic.

    Your truth about the BOE is nothing but a figment of your imagination. I just listed all the high-level positions the BOE has cut. Where is your list on the city side?

    This is NOT about turning your back on me, Ernie. This is about turning your back on innocent Black & Hispanic children.

    Chaila Robinson is not on the BOE. You supported Jessica Martinez, yet she was so outraged by your remarks she got up and walked out of the council chambers while you were speaking.

    I find your inability to punctuate, capitalize, and form complete sentences concerning. I am not pointing to perfection and recognize this is a blog, but your grammar is really poor.

    My goodness, you were a State Senator representing Bridgeport/Stratford and this is the best you can do.

    Your remarks last night were simply outrageous, inaccurate and unacceptable.

    Ernie, you stated at a BOE meeting that as long as we stood by Dr. Johnson, the Board of Education would have a friend in you.

    If what you said and did last night constitutes a friendship who needs enemies.

    You were quite simply completely out-of-line.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Who cares is the motto of this council . With few exceptions this council is bought and paid for by Ganim and testa.
    There is always money to give raises to political hacks who have city jobs that Ganima found for them. Look at the BS when people complained that Coble got a 13 K raise. They were about to give a raise to another kiss ass but backed out.
    This city should be ashamed of its self. Oh yeah screw you Ernie

    • Lisa Parziale

      Andy it’s a flaw that most of them have. They love the acceptance and attention members of this Administration shower on them. Poor things, it won’t be long before some of them are replaced, and they won’t even get a hi if they see the culprits again. Andy send them some of your spunk!!!!!!!

  • Local Eyes

    Reformer’s credo: when the intense feelings of the minority outweigh the weak feelings of the majority, a transformation becomes more likely and that’s the reformer’s goal, right?

  • Maria Pereira

    The governance of Bridgeport is simply inept.

    Several members of our community successfully fought a proposed development on Ohio Ave. before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

    The developer filed another application for the same property and hired Ray Rizzio. We have now appeared before the ZBA on four separate occasions.

    The applicants requested the matter be postponed at the first appearance.

    The meeting was canceled the second time due to a lack of a quorum.

    We appeared in March and the Chair delayed the matter because Ray Rizzio had submitted new plans that day.

    The matter waa rescheduled for today May 8, 2018. I rechecked the ZBA homepage at 2:00 pm this afternoon. The agenda was still there with no changes or cancellation.

    Severa of us arrived at 5:45 pm.to find the City Council Chambers in the dark and the videographer present. There were no notices posted that the ZBA meeting waa canceled or relocated. We rechecked the website at 6:00 pm and the agenda was still featured with no mention of a cancellation.

    I contacted a friend that shared no notice of cancellation was filed with the City Clerk.

    No applicants or attorneys showed up which informs me they received notification of the cancellation. What about notifying th e public?

    This is such disrespectful behavior.

    • flubadub

      Maria, it’s the age old ploy of delay, delay, delay hoping they wear you down and you walk away or you miss a meeting where they pass the application.

  • Tom White

    Lennie, do you have the budget adoption document that shows what the city council cut from the mayor’s recommended budget and added to their version?

    How about those attempted amendments?

  • Velez

    You just got love the way Bridgeport does stuff, they are going to give an exam for custodian ( see link https://www.bridgeportct.gov/filestorage/341650/341652/341902/341904/Provisional_Custodian_I_Exam_Notice.pdf )
    but it is only open to the politically connected. This test has always been open to the public.This seem to be the only way they that the politically connected can keep there spot.This seems to goes against chapter 17, section 211 part (A) of the city of Bridgeport charter.

  • Tom White

    Lennie, thank you for the ‘adds and subtracts’. This is what it boils down to.

    There was nothing significant done to change the mayor’s proposed budget.

    Other than ‘expenditure decreases’ provided to them such as “potential” changes to health insurance savings, the city council just nibbled at budgeted expenses, many of which will be replenished with budget transfers they are not aware of.

    Reducing police overtime is a popular cut every year. It appears to be inflated. Six months from now there will be a crisis with police overtime and the reality that the police department budget is not legislated, but rather dictated by union agreement guidelines will begin to set in.

    It is tempting to comment ‘Same circus, different clowns’, but I sense there were some well-meaning members.

    At least they made a symbolic gesture by decreasing their bloated stipends and ‘other services’ slush fund.
    Oh! They did not decrease their funds for junkets and parties?

    Well at least they cut office supply budgets for various departments, gasoline for the Fire Department and tires for the Public Facilities Department.

    Great job!

  • Mojo

    *** Has Rev.Lee improved on her understanding of City Council Proceeding’s & political do’s & don’ts on the city’s council committees? Last I remember when she was new on the council, it was hard to understand what she was saying & the political logic behind it at times! *** That’s Politic’s, no? ***

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