In what was Tom McCarthy’s likely final City Council meeting, a constant presence for many of those years, fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee, barked out a series of questions to members of the legislative body during the public speaking portion of the evening, wondering if proper attention is spent on the expenditure of taxpayer dough.
Council Members, taxpayers and voters, friends … tonight I wanted to look at the process by which some taxpayer dollars are spent and where no oversight exists for the whole story. This morning the CT Post reported that discontent from camera parking meters during the past year will become resolved as 118 modern meters and another 512 of the old style will be replaced for $600,000 and be installed by City workers. Lower tech, certainly. Benefiting from the failures of the first rollout? Yes, but does anyone know whether this is a fiscally necessary and productive scheme from the numbers reported by Brian Lockhart? Where does one go to see what it has cost the City to step into the current program, and what expense to get out of it? And how does the new program compare in costs per unit? And whose budget are these meters being paid from, operating or capital expense? And what is the expense to Public Facilities for installation?
Former environmental Mayor Finch saw benefit in converting City vehicles or a portion thereof, from gasoline fuel to an alternative. Who did the conversion? At what expense per vehicle? And was there ever a report on how this subsequently benefited the taxpayer? Well, his successor at 999 Broad Street may have had some “second thoughts” about fuel economy because I heard a recent story that some of the Finch vehicles have been returned to gasoline fuel. And the reason was? And the expense of retrofitting a second time was? And this makes sense at what date? Does anyone see how a budget assistant to your committee might be looking at stories like this and making sure that fiscal sense is applied to “dollars and cents?”
Oversight by an assistant or a Finance Board could also look at items purchased by the City on occasion that are used sparingly at best or that disappear from sight. Do you remember a public light system that was to present shows under railroad bridges near the end of Bill Finch’s term? Perhaps the expense including hardware and software was $300,000 or more. It wasn’t used as contemplated. What happened to it? Is it sitting in a City property gathering dust while we pay of the expense of the borrowed money used to purchase? Or did it get sold off? What return on the original purchase have we seen?
I thought it might be instructive to look at the bonds that you just authorized as they become City dollars. $23,380,000 of General Obligation bonds with a first payment due in July 2019. We get to work with the funds for a year before beginning to repay our obligation. Is the $12 Million for the Congress Street Bridge replacement located here? What if we do not have all of the permissions and plans in order, plus other funding, where can the City Council (and interested taxpayers) see that the money is well attended to in the meantime? Why is there no reporting on City Capital accounts at least quarterly?
Have you ever read a bond document? You know it includes a copy of the most recent CAFR 2017. On page A-1 I quote: “The officials listed below were elected or appointed in the autumn of 2017. The current administration has a significant amount of prior governmental management experience. The Mayor had five previous terms in office from 1991-2003 (info on others) … .The goals of the Administration include fiscal accountability and openness, a commitment to management efficiencies and total quality management, and a proactive approach to improve the financial condition of the City of Bridgeport and the quality of life for all Bridgeport citizens, residents and businesspeople.” Interesting way to write history with half a brush and paint left in the can?
I have other comments on the other bond authorized for another day because it will cost taxpayers to do this refunding, and the purpose was really to put this year’s payment schedule off for a year so as to balance the budget without added taxation. How long can we keep on refunding debt as interest rates rise and not realize that there is a true increasing cost to that strategy? Time will tell.