Only a few regular meetings remain for the current City Council that will be replaced by a new legislative body with some new faces in December. Citizen fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee revisited some questions he has presented to the current configuration during an address to councilors Monday night.
As a City are we in the habit of getting financial decisions right? As far as accountability how can we tell? What is being done currently that puts us on a dependable track to climb from our current economic development problems?
Tonight we take another public look at the project featuring the Majestic and Poli theaters. The oft-mentioned number is $400 Million. Is that what will be added to the Taxable Grand list in a certain year in the future? If the project is promoted as being market rate for the majority of units, why is the funding assumed so dependent on scarce State funding available for low-income housing? Will land for the project gathered by the City and currently non-taxable, receive a fair value from developers and produce revenue annually without limiting agreements? Will services to the new tenant population overwhelm a ‘limited revenue stream’ with additional expenses?
And MGM is talking about a deal on our precious harbor front. How long has Bridgeport Landing Development owned the property now being addressed by Mr. Murren? It is good to know that such development may not be financed with public funds but what other adjustments need to be made because of agreements in that district? As a citizen taxpayer it would be a change to see enough numbers and a timetable for at least five years to show what the plan is if all things go right.
Police budgets have risen in recent years, though two administrations have tried to limit the overtime component. Why do we continue to include external work guarding street construction, etc. as overtime work when it is not the same work for which internal overtime is credited? Is the significant additional expense for pensions, since Plan B benefits have been abandoned for MERS, worth the low-level skills required for such duty? It is work that does not require weaponry or much of police recruit training. Is there another way to accomplish such duty at reduced expense to contractors, decrease pension funding by taxpayers, and open new positions to City residents, perhaps second-chance candidates with preference?
Since this Council took office nearly two years ago, you have heard me raise questions about many subjects including abatements, PILOTS, City revenues and cutting expenses using variance info. Among these were:
— $950,000 paid from OPED Capital accounts that was money from bonded sources and transferred to pay off Port Authority debt without coming through the Council. When were you asked to approve money transfers, as part of your Council duty?
— Last week, the Finance Director called that OPED transfer “illegal” yet neither the City nor the Council has ever gotten excited enough to call for consequences. Why is that? How do you replace the OPED funds? Who gives you money when you fail to chase the robber?
— Lighthouse program raises funds from ‘family fees’ each year, which never appear in your budget of $800,000 to $900,000. Yet Lighthouse does not spend all of the revenues annually that they receive on their internal staff and outside services purchased. They seem to create a ‘profit,’ or sum of money that is spent elsewhere, but where is that? It would appear to be enough to pay rent to BOE. Have you researched that? Can you see the whole story? Can the taxpayer or fee payer? It would help fund school operations, if you acted.
— In Plant printing continues to work with non-City customers. Was authorization for this found and presented to the Council? Finance budgeted $10,000 of annual income but the first month of the year shows revenues over $6500. Is this an opportunity to cut one full time position and expensive benefits and let the business flow to tax paying Bridgeport printers?
— And taxpayers still cannot raise a question to your financial committee? And the monthly report available to you electronically is not available to those same taxpayers for what reason?
Some of you will not be present when the new Council sits in December. That is a fact. It is also a fact that the items above have not been addressed fully by this Council and the question on Election Day will be, “Why not?” Time will tell.