From Brian Lockhart, CT Post:
The city has eliminated most of the $20 million budget deficit, if not the entire thing.
But the fiscal challenges are again mounting, less than four months months into the budget year, from police overtime to the possibility that union givebacks will not materialize.
City Finance Director Kenneth Flatto’s message to members of the City Council’s Budget Committee Tuesday was a generally positive one. But he and Nestor Nkwo, the budget chief, also sounded some warnings.
“We believe the city’s financial position and budget is in good shape and rock-solid,” Flatto said.
Full story here.
Flatto, Ganim and the entire City Administration are LIARS.
Flatto, Ganim and the entire City Administration are Great!
I raise questions routinely about the budget. But you know that already. Getting someone to answer them is more difficult. But last night some NEW info about how the monthly financial report is composed came to light.
FIRST: BREAKING NEWS to Finance Office. The reason a monthly report is to be produced MONTHLY is because it is called for in the Charter, which preceded the MUNIS computer system. Back in the Finch day, OPM boss Sherwood did not like to put up summer reports because there was little ‘action’ and some spending in those months was returned to the previous, but not technically closed, fiscal year. Well that is still the case.
Second: We learned the schedule of when the Tax Collector provides numbers to the Finance office for the monthly reports may actually cause an under reporting. Example: The July monthly financial report (MFR) showed $117 Million of property tax revenue. When the same amount showed in the August MFR, I questioned its meaning to the CC. (Perhaps there was a tax revolt? Or perhaps the July numbers came from a date later than July 31?) Flatto admitted it was the latter explanation.
THIRD: The report Flatto distributed to the B&A and to the CT Post reporter was different from that which was distributed the week before. I had pointed out math variance errors on the revenue side and Flatto had corrected them. What he had not done was to review/proof the expenditure entries, specifically for the Police Department. So the errors relative to PD adjustments and estimations by Flatto remained and he could not explain them credibly unfortunately. CAN THE FINANCE DEPARTMENT PREPARE A CREDIBLE POLICE BUDGET WITH STAFFING INFO BASED ON CURRENT NUMBERS OF PERSONNEL PLUS ANOTHER TRAINING CLASS? That is not what is shown today. Will Finance do that? Doubtful in my estimation. It is much easier to keep everyone relatively confused about how the budget is operating. However, the size of the Police Department budget projection has grown to almost $110 Million and that is not supportable.
FOUR: Councilwoman Brantley has some other areas than the Police Department to spend “surplus” funds discovered and remembers there was discussion at budget times about two types of contingency accounts.
It is early in the year and Flatto can talk about snowstorm expenses (where we were lucky last year) and low results in union givebacks (but is there real pressure or reason to press at this time by the Mayor) that are not likely to change.
FIVE: But Flatto and Nkwo are NOW sounding a warning, shortly after getting approval for TAX ANTICIPATION NOTES AND BONDING, that credit authorities are looking for Bridgeport to deal with its VERY LOW “city fund balance.” Is that really news? Taxpayers, Ganim is grooming this year’s overtaxing to be able to set aside around $2.5 Million as a year-end surplus to increase that account. At this point it is almost an open admission “overtaxation” in this current year has been dishonest in its presentation.
SIX: Last night’s AGENDA also included a demonstration of “OpenBridgeport,” a piggyback on the State effort at open, accountable and transparent that is nearing completion. It will show the revenues and expenses of the City Operating Budget in the current year. Relative to revenue history the City has gone back to 2014 but with respect to expenses we shall be able to only see the unaudited (at this moment) results from 2016 and compare to the current year. Personally, we should balance the revenues and expenses and have all included from 2014 forward if that is the year chosen. Why not? There was much about Finch accounting to question and which never was answered. The electronic system will be accessible through the internet and complement the MFR work. Neither system includes grant revenues or expense data or that of the capital budget either. Other caveats and anomalies will surface, hopefully with good footnotes or narrative. The expense of $2,000 per month was identified. If it gets more folks to look at the numbers, it may be helpful.
OpenBridgeport will carry the Board of Education info as well and that may be of great interest to citizens, though relatively meaningless to City Council as that is not really in their routine purview. Will the sharing of grant revenues by the BOE continue? Time will tell.
By the way, the heading above says “Questions Linger.” I was away for a few days in the past week, did anyone receive an answer to that often-asked question: “Where does Mayor Ganim live?” It is truly nice the revaluation recognized the tremendous decrease in condo values, and Mayor Joe could purchase some units on the cheap, if that is true. But that would look like “vulture capitalism,” wouldn’t it? And how many appeals to the court that handles CT property tax cases have been filed on behalf of the Ganim family, just on Bridgeport properties? Weren’t they happy with the results? Time will tell.