The City Council Monday night conducted its last official meeting for the budget year ending June 30. Citizen fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee urged them to reflect.
Tonight is the last regular City Council meeting of the fiscal year. As we await State final deliberations on revenue to Bridgeport as a City and to Bridgeport as a BOE, it might be appropriate to review some other fiscal issues and problems of the year and to determine what you have done about them.
1.) When the last year closed on June 30, 2016 I fully expected that the Finance Department would deliver to the taxpayer an official 2015-16 final monthly report with all line items showing, both revenue and expense, subsequent to the external audit. The audit was complete by February, but this document was not published this year. Such a report is the only way the taxpaying public can see what actual results were: over spent, under spent or misprojected. I expect that you will let Finance know that you wish to see that same report for 2016-17 when the audit is complete in January 2018?
2.) What is your reaction to the revelation that the Print Shop is producing work for the public contrary to its Mission? Was this referred to a Council Committee for study? Has the Finance Director found where either the City Council or a former City administrator authorized this “private work” for a privileged few? I provided you with a chart showing purchase records for the Printing Plant for five consecutive years. The purchases indicated more than $800,000 of expenses, purchases, in that time more than the City reported. Is that irregular? Have you received an explanation? Which Committee is in charge of such an issue? By the way, why did you permit that department to increase their Salary and Fringe benefits by $105,000 for the 2017-18 FY with no increase in productivity or personnel?
3.) The Port Authority debt payoff of $900,000 with OPED funds in the last days of the Finch administration has never been addressed by the Mayor’s Office. Wasn’t that amount from bonds? Didn’t such a transfer require your approval? Doesn’t the public need an explanation? Even if you think that matters should just rest, how will this look to statewide voters when revealed in a run for statewide office in 2018? And what about a legal body like the Port Authority whose finances month in and month out are handled by City Finance, but they can produce no fiscal record since 2008? They are not even pursuing such an external audit? Their Board has been short two mayoral appointees for too long? Where is your oversight of City funds and property?
4.) Again and again Lighthouse has come to your attention this year and some of you to its defense. But where is the “special fund” that receives family fees of $850,000 per year? Where are those dollars spent? Do you get to see any report of it during your operating or capital budget review and votes? Did you never realize that Lighthouse was actually being subsidized by the Board of Education? When their own deep digging revealed the extent to which they were bearing an expense without compensation by the City, they asked you to be fair. A rental payment certainly is wise to include in a budget when you are not operating on your own property, isn’t it?
5.) That brings us back to the issue of 21,000 youths in public schools getting your support. You may have thought you were providing them with $3 Million, but when OPM claws back payments for services without mutual agreement between the two parties, the City and BOE, the funds that came from your funding was less than $400K. Taxpayers of this City have supported the BOE with 2015-$60.8M, 2016-$63.3M, 2017-$63.7M and in for July 1, 2017 $63.7M. Four years, less than 5% difference. But what have you done with the Police Department in that same time period? 2015-$87M, 2016-$100M, 2017-$102M, and for next year $105M. Almost 20% and growing? How do you defend the “serve and protect” increases for fewer than 500 employees while holding back local dollars for 21,000 youth?
. An annual report with all line items post audit?
. In Plant Printing exceeding authority and budgets?
. Port Authority operation with taxpayer assets of harbor property and without any fiscal info for 9 years?
. Lighthouse full revenue and expense reporting?
. Police Department v. Education of youth–funding?
Do you trust my numbers? If not, please challenge me with your questions. Time will tell.