Finch Pitches Tax Increase In The Rock–Historic Opportunity For Schools: “I Never Asked This Before”

Facing a sometimes restrained, sometimes frustrated crowd, Mayor Bill Finch addressed a jam-packed audience Wednesday night at the Black Rock Library Branch to explain why he must raise taxes. He established his priority right out of the box: his comments chastising neighborhood residents to stop complaining about high taxes were taken out of context.

Finch in Black Rock
Mayor makes a point at Black Rock budget presentation.

“Those people have got to stop complaining about their taxes” the mayor stated at a recent brown bag lunch with constituents captured by CT Post reporter Tim Loh. The mayor claimed taxes in Bridgeport are a good deal and folks in Black Rock, the city’s highest taxed area, should stop whining. Finch has been feeling the heat from Black Rock residents and pols unhappy about his comments. It comes at a time the mayor is asking residents to grant him the power to appoint members of the Board of Education on top of his proposal to hit taxpayers with a hefty tax increase. No easy sell.

Tax protest
Finch was greeted by tax protesters.

The mayor hosted the second in a series of expected neighborhood meetings to explain his budget that includes a 2.7 mil tax increase to cover $7 million more in school spending and millions more in pension obligations. The mayor’s in the first year of a second four-year term. Better to get the pain out of the way as soon as possible. With budget director Tom Sherwood and Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas at his side, the mayor urged residents to support his plan reasserting he had not raised taxes the prior three years. He has called his proposed $7 million investment in city schools historic.

The meeting was moderated by Black Rock resident Pat Crossin, who had spent 10 years as chair of the City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee during an era when taxes were actually cut in the city. One by one residents both inside and outside of the neighborhood expressed anguish about the impact of a hefty tax hit and pointed to areas of the budget that should be cut.

Many Black Rock homeowners, with the highest assessments in the city, will pay on average $600 and more under the mayor’s budget proposal now in the hands of the City Council.



  1. Having these informational meetings on the budget are a very good thing. Thank you to the Mayor for taking his show on the road. I was in attendance tonight at the Black Rock library. I listened to the presentation; heard some of the questions and suggestions but left deeply saddened. The proposed budget will send the tax rate to just under 43 mils; more than double that of the surrounding towns! Bridgeport will be further behind the economic eight ball if the budget is passed as is.

    I was saddened for another reason. There isn’t a level playing field as the budget deliberations commence. The City’s OPM director has been at this for well over fifteen years. He knows what he is doing and can talk circles around just about everyone. Where is the professional pushback? If it wasn’t for the persistence of John Marshall Lee and Andy Fardy, there wouldn’t be the degree of budget insight that has been written here on OIB.
    I think I am now a johnny-one-note on the solution; Bridgeport needs a Board of Finance that is comprised of five top-notch professionals elected to provide citywide oversight on the complicated finance, pension and accounting matters. The city needs five professionals whose sole responsibility is to think every hour, every day, every week and every year about all of the facets of Bridgeport’s finance. The Board needs to challenge the Director of OPM’s assumptions as every monthly report is issued. Tonight folks tried to ask, challenge and plead but they didn’t have a fair shot. They didn’t have the in-depth background that was essential to achieve a successful pushback. The Director of OPM talked circles around every speaker.

    This charter change for a Board of Finance is a no-brainer in my opinion. It is just as important as a blended board of education. The Mayor stated tonight companies aren’t moving to Connecticut due to the economy. I don’t agree. I am in Stamford, Norwalk, and New Haven a lot lately. I see construction cranes everywhere. I get off the train in Bridgeport and I sigh in deep despair. Despite solid land use policies we are not attracting new developments like our neighboring municipalities. We need strong oversight to put our fiscal house in a stronger position. 43 mils is not going to get us there.

    1. Nancy,
      You are being way too naive. Even if there were an elected Board of Finance and even if it had a requirement the members be “top-notch professionals,” the process would be obfuscated here in Bridgeport. Who decides what is “top notch?” Mario Testa? If you require CPA’s you will get no one. If you require individuals with some kind of accounting/business/management background, you will get whomever Mario wants.
      And I can assure you, you are not going to get top-notch professionals (if you mean CPA’s or CEO’s of major companies) going door-to-door to wage a primary against the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee endorsed slate. Ain’t gonna happen.

      1. Bob, really everything that’s represented as change is panned by you. Surrounding towns have Boards of Finance and they do a very good job.
        Bob, for god’s sake stop being so negative and try coming up with solutions.

        1. Andy,
          Reality bites.
          Do you honestly believe EVEN if you got something like this passed, the system would not corrupt it? I see nothing wrong with trying something new BUT if new isn’t tempered with reality then it is totally unrealistic.
          Long before you and John were doing your budget thing, and I commend you for the work you are doing, myself, Andrew Baker, Elaine Pivirotto and Donna Curren had submitted an ordinance to establish a Citizens Based Financial Review Commission.
          This was shot down by your boy John Fabrizi and eventually the rest of the council.
          It was not even as powerful as a Board of Finance but it was viewed just the same as someone butting into the city finances.
          So don’t talk to me about trying something new. Been there, tried that. A lot more often than you have Andy.

  2. You will live to see 100 mils if things don’t change. Taking from the taxpayers to give to the tax eaters must stop. In a sane world, the tax eaters would be given a one-way ticket to California.

    Want to attract business to Bridgeport? Clean house in 2013. Why wait? What has to happen before all the property owners revolt? How much government abuse will you take until you fight back?

    There should be a thousand property owners protesting, not just three! Connecticut was once a prosperous state with abundant opportunity. The current status quo is strangling the state. Stop complaining and sweep away the blight of business as usual!

  3. Like lambs to the slaughter, taxpayers sit and listen as Mayor Finch describes the manner of their demise. Spending more on schools? What has that achieved?

    Finch is following Dannel 88’s game plan. Do the dirty work early. Who cares if the best citizens suffer? The greedy government is insatiable and the taxpayers are wimps!

  4. Studies have clearly shown throwing more money at schools does not necessarily get improvements. In this case $7m more Bridgeport taxpayers are asked to provide. A true line-by-line audit and looking at how the money is spent is needed, and also we need to take inventory. For example, some schools may be about to purchase equipment another school doesn’t need and is in storage. There are countless examples, books written about it. Any past efforts should be attempted again and it should be done by citizens.

    What I don’t get is the state takes over the BOE in what judges now rule is an illegal act … and is it the state that asks Bridgeport to raise taxes as today’s CT Post article says is “Vallas’ ambitious vision?” How can we even know where this new money will be spent?

    I prefer the old “dysfunctional” BOE to higher taxes. Also, why is there is a delay in having the official members of the BOE members get back to work?

    1. The deal is the state of CT a.k.a. Dan Malloy told Bill Finch they would give him $3 million in a forgivable loan if the city substantially raised taxes for the coming budget year. Everyone knows it but the City and State refuse to acknowledge it until it is a done deal.

  5. I stopped to listen last night and sure enough, the obfuscation by SHERWOOD was classic SHERWOOD.
    Bridgeport residents are really being assaulted and it is education that is being held up as a priority …when it wasn’t even on the Finch/Wood radar during their first term except to try to make Ramos look the fool.
    Keep it simple if you have to swallow this bitter pill …
    No support for charter revision if there is no corresponding support from Finch/Wood to have a Board of Finance.

  6. Something else few know, the take-home car issue still has 20+ take-home cars every day. I was driving down the RT8 connector at 7:30am Wed. morning and passed two cars with “bpt” plates, so for laughs I followed them to City Hall Annex while on their way to work. Neither of them was the mayor or a fire chief, or the police chief. Apparently a lot of city employees continue to drive city cars to and from work daily. Why are we paying for folks who live in the valley to drive to and from work on our nickel? Anyone?

  7. burman,
    Thank you for performing a “watchdog” task. If Tom Sherwood wants to submit reports to the public with old data, errors of multiple kinds, and ask them to believe; if the Mayor likes operating without “internal audit staff” as internal control while claiming such people in his documents; if Mayor Finch and Tom Sherwood stand up and tell you why they do not need to obey the City Charter but offer it as a cost-cutting measure; you can see the duplicity of the message. The Mayor can stand to cut that also.
    Keep your eyes open, and let OIB readers know what you see. Like the City take-home cars. Like the occupants or visitors to City Hall who park illegally on John St. next to the Annex all day and do not get $35 tickets. How privileged. Another idea to get the budget to balance. Time will tell.

  8. Love that “Well, I am asking you to afford it” statement. Well, Mr. Mayor, we are asking you to stop lining the pockets of your sycophant cronies. Hold your staff to accountabilities that somewhat approach reasonable and customary job performance standards. Reform the Charter based on the needs of the MANY, not the needs of the few, or in your case, the one. Respect the folks who pay your salary, and elected you to lead this City. I could go on, but what’s the point? The point is, you can’t always get what you want. Learn it, Live it, Know it. WE DO.

  9. The B & A committee had the first of many budget meetings last night. Yes, the same night Finch was in Black Rock. Somebody forgot to reserve a room in city hall for those meetings. The meeting was started after 7:20PM. It seems they got a room but now did not have a quorum. They then called Lydia Martinez to get a quorum. Sue Branelly was at the Finch show and tell, Curwen was absent for the second day in a row and Nichols kept his record straight and perfect and did not attend.
    I did not attend this meeting but I bet both budgets reviewed last night bade 100% no questions asked. You can’t make this shit up.

  10. Hey, I saw one of those new street sweepers Public Works just bought! It went down the middle of my street. So many cars were parked on both sides it could not even make it to the curb to get to all the dirt! If the City won’t enforce parking why buy this equipment with tax dollars I can’t afford! What a bunch of idiots! Time to put out the For Sale sign.

  11. *** Those B/R attending citizens who “voted” for Finch or did “not” vote at all during the last Mayoral election really should have very little to complain about, no? The writing was on the wall before the Mayoral November election and especially after the July (BOE) vote for the State takeover! It’s the old borrow from Peter to pay Paul city budget shell game that’s got most of the B&A committee in a state of confusion! Past four years of BOE and library money flatlining, forced retirements, personnel attrition, union and non-union employee givebacks, layoffs, employee dismissals, “delayed” health benefits and city pension contributions, out-of-court suit settlements, and a temp city “job freeze,” along with the think “GREEN” money-saving policies! *** SAVE & SPEND POLICIES THAT WILL REQUIRE TAXPAYERS TO GIVE A BIT MORE IN ORDER TO CONTINUE GETTING A LOT LESS! ***

  12. Okay, so here’s another thing: What about the BPT residents who have no direct connection to education reform in this City? Not to say I don’t think we need education reform for myriad reasons, it’s just residents own homes and cars and the like in BPT who are: Senior Citizens or retired who no longer have children trying to benefit from public education in this City; young couples who do not plan on having children for a while; singles who have no children, and singles who do not plan on having children. Those taxpayers are a tough sell on a tax hike for education reform. Just saying …

  13. Zena Lu,
    It’s a tough sell to those with kids, too. I have a child and send him to a parochial school because I don’t trust the public school system; I’m not sure I ever will in this city. I hate paying the extra $4,000 a year, and it’s breaking me. Moving out of the city I have lived in the last 40 years is looking more and more like a reality …


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