In his Monday address to the City Council, citizen budget scrutineer John Marshall Lee highlighted taxpayer savings, including the city print shop, declaring “Perhaps we should outsource this City function and see if there is a savings of at least $150,000 to $200,000 ANNUALLY?”
I asked a question over a year ago wondering why in the five years to 2017, the print shop made $800,000 of purchases over and above what the finance report shows. We assumed that outside revenues were meaningful. For the 2017-18 year, Mr. Flatto entered a $10,000 revenue assumption. Big difference between $160,000 per year and $10,000 but have you looked at his reporting? For July 2017 almost $7,000 and no print shop revenue since then? Do you trust Ken’s numbers? If you don’t thoroughly have confidence in them, what will you tell your constituents?
Part of my point last year is that print shops in this region do not feature benefits like the City offers employees. Healthcare expense reimbursements? Lifetime healthcare? Defined benefit pension plan? Perhaps we should outsource this City function and see if there is a savings of at least $150,000 to $200,000 ANNUALLY.
Do you have time to conduct such a study? Probably not, even if you had such an interest. But shouldn’t we invest in seeing if there may be a better way of affording services and supplies? How might you do that? Hire a staff person with financial and accounting expertise. If he or she is with you during the year, their value at budget time becomes more valuable, because they will know the big numbers and City practices better. You have room in your Legislative budget to make that happen if you have the willpower. Who else will do the work if you do not? Imagine if Council members found ways to cut expenses and taxes other than in budget sessions. Photo-ops for sure!!!
Nearly two years ago the City started spending $24,000 per year for a program that the State also uses to let voters see how funds are spent. How is it working locally? How many hits do you count for a month or a year? Is it necessary or valuable? What about putting the monthly reports out on Finance and/or OPM Department sites and let the public download to their hearts content? What would Ed Adams think of such an open and accountable measure that carries no added expense? What is the current excuse for not letting the public see the numbers?
Tonight there is language proposing an Ordinance to create (and at some later date likely fund) our Other Postretirement Employee Benefits (OPEB). Why do we continue lifetime healthcare benefit funding? This big expense to taxpayers is when the employees are long gone. How do we stop this pattern and get a grip on what Labor Relations is proposing in our technologically changing times? Does that discussion need to wait for the Mayor to return attention to Bridgeport? Does it mean that the faces of the politically appointed need to be back at their desks from vacations or time spent petition gathering?
And what level of stewardship does the City exercise over property it receives? It bothered me that the former Black Rock Bank and Trust building on the corner of Brewster and Fairfield Avenue purchased from a non-profit more than ten years ago for about $640,000, held for years and most recently sold for an adaptive reuse with commercial and residential spots for maybe $300,000. Look at it today, but remember how much money taxpayers lost in buying high and selling low, plus forfeiting rents.
This morning I visited property at 347 Wilmot Avenue in the East End. The City got the house through a WPCA foreclosure action. Fire, vandalism, chimney disrepair, and overall blight are the most obvious issues. But aside from the land value, what has happened to the two-family house value while in City ownership? Where is a list of such properties? Who is in charge? OPED placed a net bra on the Main Street theater properties within the past couple years for in excess of $100,000. Why own lesser properties if we cannot care for them? Who will look into this? Questions beget questions, but good questions beget solutions. Time will tell.