Council Votes On The Budget–The Meaning Of Declaring Victory

The full Bridgeport City Council Monday night, following the lead of its budget committee, cut back Mayor Bill Finch’s budget proposal in what the mayor and council leadership describe as a compromise. Residents will pay more, but not as much as originally presented. The budget process isn’t about how it starts, it’s all about how it ends. The mayor offers a hefty tax increase, there’s blowback from the City Council that receives blowback from taxpayers. Victory is relative. Everyone lives to fight another day.

The mayor announces a compromise and declares victory in more money for schools.

The City Council agrees to a compromise and declares victory for pushing back.

And taxpayers? Well, it’s still a tax hit, but not what it would have been if there were no blowback from the council pressured by constituents.

Resident budget examiners such as John Marshall Lee and Andy Fardy and his wife Pat Fardy are big pains in the asses to city pols. But they serve a purpose, more importantly now in the malaise that is the city electorate. Majority city voters have no clue, or are just too distracted to know, about the impact that local officials have on their lives in the areas of police, fire, education, sanitation, parks and taxes, and all the rest.

If no one complained do you think Mayor Finch would have said oh, gee, I really didn’t realize how far I went, I’m cutting back the budget pain. No, there’d have been a huge tax hit. If no one complains why should the mayor care? The mayor knew there’d be some heat over this budget, otherwise he wouldn’t have engaged residents in three different budget presentations, to his credit. He proposed $7 million more for city schools and told taxpayers who pushed back I need you to afford more, do it for the kids. Perhaps he had asked school chief Paul Vallas what he could live with. Even though he’s not getting what he initially requested the mayor can say look, I’m investing $5 million more in our kids.

Council members can look constituents in the eyes: we pushed back as hard as we could and nearly halved Finch’s tax increase.

And the folks who attended the mayor’s budget sessions downtown, in Black Rock and the North End? Had they stayed home the tax hit would have been so much higher. It shows how a small group can assist the masses.

News release from Mayor Finch:

City Council Votes to Approve Budget. Budget proposal seeks $5 million increase for local education funding. Police overtime trimmed by $500K; positions to be eliminated.

The City Council this evening voted to approve the 2012-13 budget compromise approved by the council’s Budget and Appropriations committee over the weekend. The compromise budget calls for a 1.47 mil increase–a 3.7 percent total increase. The mil increase would mean the average Bridgeport taxpayer would pay about $230 more in taxes.

The proposal calls for $5 million increase in education funding, down $2 million from the Mayor’s original proposal. It includes a $500,000 cut in police overtime, and the reduction/delayed hiring of vacant positions that were scheduled to be filled throughout the year.

“During the last three years, while other towns and cities across the state have raised taxes on their residents in the toughest economic times, I chose to focus on fiscally responsible actions, cutting department budgets and collaborating with nearly all of our unions to gain concessions,” said Mayor Bill Finch. “I believe that is now the time to make an investment in our City’s future by increasing spending in our schools. We will continue to work hard to find savings for our taxpayers and increase government efficiencies.”

The Mayor’s proposed budget included savings by creating more efficiencies, increased emphasis on tax collection–focusing on delinquencies and motor vehicle scofflaws, increased health care premium cost sharing by employees, and the elimination of 26.5 positions, mostly through attrition. The Mayor’s proposed budget also included nearly $10 million in mandated payments to the closed police and fire Pension Plan A.

“The Council members, my staff and I worked together to find a useful compromise that still allows us to make a record, increased contribution to the Board of Education, while making further cuts that will lessen the impact of the potential tax increase for our residents,” said Mayor Finch. “I applaud the council’s budget committee for their long hours and hard work that led to this compromise budget.”



  1. I believe you are way off base on some of your thinking–if it were not for JML and the Fardys we would indeed have a much higher tax; however I also believe the Mayor got exactly what he wanted–a 30-day budget review completed with incomplete financial accounting and documents–imagine the waste our city council members could have found with full disclosure of budgets and cash flow from each department and the mayor’s office. That the council members gave the excuse the were only volunteers–what a statement, they lobbied hard to be on the ticket and worked all of us for their vote. The statement they worked around the clock for 30 days is a very lame excuse, they had the power to demand more time and complete documents but chose the easy way out and anything to please the mayor. Not one person in this city supported the tax increase, the new superintendent of schools even stated his plan would work even without the tax increase. To state to us our taxes have not been raised by them in the past–they did not have to raise them to have our taxes increase by 40% in the last five years, and they certainly did not decrease our taxes with the last revaluation and now they will increase once again. This city council does not represent any citizen I have met in the last few months at these budget meetings. Shame on each one of these people, and shame on us for electing them.

    1. I’m with you, Jennifer Buchanan. Lennie, what day did you get naive? This process has been a bad joke from the get-go. Pure bullshit. I don’t believe anyone on the Council has lost a moment’s sleep over this. Let’s cut a few things, wink, wink, and go home. With no effort by the Finch administration to cut expenses and a suck-it-up and let-me-tell-you-what-you-can-afford by Finch, they should have sent it back and told Finch to return when he actually had done some real work on the budget. But hey, there I go again, assuming the Finch administration actually has a brain or cares about what anybody thinks. I hope none of them ever sleep again.

  2. You are so right, jhvb. It is NO victory for anybody except Finch and his cronies, who are all getting raises to cover their increase, if they even live in this cesspool city. No VICTORY and to claim otherwise is just stupid.

  3. ZERO was the number we were looking for, Council members. The most insulting part about this vote was the fact City Officials think they can bamboozle us. Aim high and settle for the number you are really looking for. That way it looks like you are doing taxpayers a favor. Zero would have been the respect getter; in my opinion 1.47 is the replacement getter. FAIL.

  4. The pressure to come clean–sorta–with financial numbers by members of this blog and the community probably mitigated the tax increase approved.

    The process remains baffling.

    The administration has been forced to admit the financial management shortcomings of previous administrations in an attempt to cover their own.

    It is more than understandable the administration has attempted to hold back on tax increases during the recession. They claim they have received some new controls on spending from labor agreements. You guys all knew a tax increase was coming this year.

    This is not a very open administration, however. There is little reason to trust their numbers. They had to be flushed out in the open.

    Given the city’s history there is no reason to take them at their word.

    Beyond whatever short-term budget sleights-of-hand are gong on, the administration has failed to address the long-term problem of building the grand list.

    The grand list problem is a Bridgeport problem inherited by the Finch administration. It’s been an issue since the 1960s.

    Whether it be Downtown, Steel Point, Housatonic Avenue, the Remington Works or the GE Works, industrial and commercial redevelopment is the only way to secure the financial health of the city.

    Add a new area to this list of economic development woe–and you better stop them before they get started. An ad on this page from the “Friends of Remington Woods” wants to preserve the old ammo dump in the northeast corner of the city as a nature preserve.

    You guys cannot afford this kind of loving concern from people from out of town. They kill your ability to run a community.

    Financial studies from the 1980s predicted this parcel would come into development play in the 21st Century, right about now, after it was cleaned up. Sure these studies can be off. The city hasn’t figured out a way of rebuilding its own Downtown. The environment “Friends” think it is far enough along they should be active. By the way, I bet your good friends in Stratford are right in there with them. God bless.

    Don’t allow out-of-town idealists make the financial health of your city worse by boxing out a parcel of property that should be developed for the good of the community.

  5. Jennifer Buchanan,

  6. Special thanks to Carlos Silva, Andre Baker and Marty McCarthy for their no votes. To the rest of the lemmings on the council shame on you. To Olson and Ayala, resign; you don’t show on an important subject like this. NBA.

  7. Tonight on Bridgeport Now, a review of the new city budget by citizen watchdog John Marshall Lee at 8pm until 8:30pm.

    There is so much to talk about … “19 vacant positions removed from city budget.” What is the total number of, otherwise known as, ‘ghost positions?’ Seemed so easy, why didn’t it happen before? Were there any live positions that became unfunded and were the staff notified? Tune in to find out.

  8. Jim Callahan: First, let me just say you are completely wrong about the source of preservationist resistance to the Remington Woods development. I, and many other Bridgeporters, started the preservation movement in the late ’90s and are still behind this movement. We do have substantial backing from other Connecticut environmentalists (e.g., the Sierra Club) who sympathize with Bridgeport’s abysmal air qulaity and our related epidemic rates of related respiratory and cardiovascular disease (in particular, childhood asthma). (See Kelia Torres Ocasio’s coverage of the Bridgeport Health Study–from about one year ago, copied below. The study found the city’s health was best in the areas surrounding the Remington Woods and Beardsley Park.)

    Beyond health reasons and major area flooding issues, there are very powerful economic development issues that are highly contraindicative of developing the “Woods.”

    For Jim, or any of the other Bridgeporters who believe developing the Remington Woods is a good idea, please arrange with me to attend a meeting of the Sierra Club/Friends of Remington Woods to hear well-researched, well-developed alternative arguments. I can assure you development of the Woods would be a huge negative for this city. (My e-mail is; phone–203-394-7678).

    Bridgeport study finds obesity, asthma and diabetes are prevalent
    Keila Torres Ocasio, Staff Writer
    Updated 11:56 p.m., Monday, May 16, 2011
    Page 1 of 1

    BRIDGEPORT — Adults in the city have nearly double the rates of asthma, diabetes and obesity as adults statewide, according to a recently completed study conducted by the city.
    In particular, residents of the East Side and East End–the 06608 and 06607 ZIP codes, respectively–had the highest rates of chronic diseases in the city, while those living in the Upper East Side, Success Village, Treeland and Mill Hill areas of the city, or the 06610 ZIP code, had the lowest rates in most categories.
    The Bridgeport CARES survey, conducted last fall, asked 1,707 city residents to answer questions–through door-to-door interviews and by phone -about their health habits and daily lives. The CARES (Community Allied to Reach Health Equity) study is a self-reported survey, as opposed to an epidemiological study based on medical data.
    Nineteen percent of those who participated in the survey reported having been diagnosed with asthma. That number is more than double the statewide rate of 9.3 percent.
    The East End had the highest reported rate of asthma, with 22 percent of the 305 respondents in that neighborhood saying they have been diagnosed with the disease. But those figures don’t surprise East End residents, who remember all too well the days of Mount Trashmore.
    “I’m really glad they found out what we’ve been saying for the last 10 years is true,” said Lillian Wade, president of the East End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone. “We have so many brownfields. We try to clean them up and come to find out we get more.”
    Overall, 8 percent of respondents in the city indicated they had a child in their immediate family with asthma.
    While East Side residents had a slightly lower rate of asthma than the East End, at 21 percent, the neighborhood ranked highest in obesity and diabetes citywide. Sixteen percent of East Side residents reported having diabetes, while citywide 13 percent reported having the disease. Those rates are significantly higher than the statewide rate of 6.9 percent.
    Just as alarming is the fact that at 40 percent, the East Side’s obesity rate is nearly double the statewide rate of 21 percent. In fact, the only area of the city with obesity rates not higher than the statewide rate was the 06610 ZIP code, which also had the lowest rates of asthma, diabetes, homelessness and stress citywide.
    Bridgeport Health Director Kristin duBay Horton said the obesity rates in the city are directly correlated with the lack of full-service grocers in low-income neighborhoods. In the East End, for example, there are no grocery stores or corner stores that offer fresh fruits and vegetables.

    She said residents in that neighborhood have to either pay a $13 cab ride or spend 80 minutes on a public bus to reach fresh foods.
    “People just don’t have access,” said duBay Horton, adding that she is trying to figure out how changes in residents’ environment can affect their health. “How do I make the structural changes … to help them make the healthy choice to keep them alive?”
    The CARES study oversampled the East Side and East End neighborhoods because those had been undersampled in previous efforts.
    Reach Keila Torres Ocasio at or 203-330-6321. Follow at and

    Read more: www

    1. So Jeff Kohut, will you instead personally guarantee the current (not proposed) mil rate until all of your pie-in-the-sky nonsense comes to pass? Are you kidding? Bring manufacturing back? Don’t develop any of Remington Woods? Think I hear your mother calling you to dinner …

  9. *** As stated before, 25% of the council members would not have enough support to make a difference either way; that’s five members who either voted no or were MIA. Leaving 50% without a clue and the remaining 25% questionable in how and why they voted! Same song and dance, just a different message to this year’s budget madness, no? *** Stay tuned folks, it’s just getting started! ***


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