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Packed Education Crowd Provides Earful For City Council

April 26th, 2017 · 23 Comments · City Budget, City Council, Education, News and Events

Aresta Johnson public hearing

Superintendent of Schools Aresta Johnson, center, addresses City Council committee Monday night. At left board member Maria Pereira. At right board chair Joe Larcheveque. CT Post photo Christian Abraham.

From Linda Conner Lambeck, CT Post:

Supporters of the school district’s $255.9 million budget proposal aimed to fill the City Council Chambers to capacity during a public hearing held Tuesday.

That mission, they accomplished.

For 2-1/2 hours, speakers, some carrying signs, others the hands of young children, were called up one by one to give impassioned three-minute pitches to council members in attendance on how school guidance counselors, reading teachers and kindergarten aides should trump other things in the city budget.

Full story here.

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23 Comments so far ↓

  • Andrew C Fardy

    How many residents were in the crowd? How many actual tax payers were in the crowd? Where is the money going to come from?

    • John Marshall Lee

      Andy, This was a real crowd of stakeholders of all kinds. Last week the Library and the BOE leaders spoke to the B&A Committee to state their cause and there was opportunity for dialogue, as has not been part of B&A planning for years.
      They do not drill down…look at the Print Shop flagrant issues for years now….with no good explanation by the Finance Department. What is a reason not to explore privatizing the Print Shop for numerous reasons? And the Transfer Station put out to bid last year but back under City control with a budget not hinting at the savings available? Police Department: $1 Million or more. When will the Council do more than “listen”? When will they respond and let the public see what they know, what they have been told, and what they truly value? And where can a taxpayer know that their observations and reason are understood by the Council members? Time will tell.

      • Ron Mackey

        JML, the City won in arbitration with the fire union the ability to have the vehicle maintenance shop to privatize years ago but the City never did follow up making that change.

    • Eric Alicea

      You kill me with your “tax payer” qualifier. Everyone in the city pays taxes. If a renter rents a home/apt doesn’t their landlord pay the property taxes? In essence a renter pays a premium to rent assuming the landlord gains a profit. Come up with a better argument regarding “tax payers.”

      • John Marshall Lee

        Eric,
        Don’t mean to “kill you” as you phrased it. I know that “private” property owners must pay taxes and you do too. Carry that message to the many renters who have not figured that out and therefore see no point in considering City fiscal matters as relevant to them.

        But, when do you hear a City Council member who celebrates his role as a representative of all the people including taxpayers, of local, State and Federal taxes, to be sure that spending priorities are focused, that inefficient or low need programs and departments are not funded in favor of those that help the most people, like Education and Library??

        Finally, you need to check your facts before making a statement like, “Everyone in the city pays taxes.” Aren’t you overstating the case for folks without a car, who do not own a business, and who live in public housing (where no property taxes are levied)? 2500 or more units of that kind in the City? And the folks who receive Section 8 vouchers, a major Federal subsidy, how do they see property tax levies in congregate housing? There are more potential voters in the City than actual taxpayers, but a greater percentage of taxpayers meet their obligation annually, than the lower percentage of citizens who are registered to vote, but ignore the privilege. Who should Council persons be representing? What name best describes such a person?

        Happy to answer your questions. Wish there was more such dialogue and discussion in the City and on this site. Time will tell.

      • Andrew C Fardy

        iTS A LOT EASIER FOR YOU TO MOVE THEN IT IS A HOMEOWNER.

      • The Bridgeport Kid

        Eric is correct. If you live and work and shop here in Bridgeport, you pay taxes. A portion of the sales tax collected in Bridgeport goes to the city. The landlord pays property taxes.

  • Ron Mackey

    Andy, good questions but let address your last question, “Where is the money going to come from?” We are going to pay with our City taxes or with our State taxes or both but the question that needs to be asked is what are the of priority the elected officials compare to the priority of the taxpayers?

  • Joseph Sokolovic

    As a parent Having attended and spoke yesterday’s hearing I could say it was a full house! To answer some questions I see here:

    1.Various stakeholder were asked to stand at various points. I estimate at least half were parents and Bridgeport taxpayers.

    2. $$ could come from cutting the bloated overtime from the police dept and reigning in the growing budget of the legal dept. Also putting a moratorium on parades, celebrations, recognitions and dedications which just act as photo-ops can possibly save additional tax dollars.

    3. The priority of elected officials should be the priority of our people. If not we must vote them out and flip the entire council if necessary.
    The people spoke last night loud and clear. Hopefully the council gets the message that the voters of this city will no longer stand for “business as usual” or that’s just how it is in Bridgeport. No Bridgeport that’s just how we’ve allowed it to be.

  • Bob Walsh

    Again, it appears that the Public Hearing was before the B & A committee and NOT the full council.
    COWARDS is said in the past and I will say it again.
    We have a city council that will not even sit there and listen to the public.
    It’s time to get rid of all of them and start anew.

    • Ron Mackey

      Bob, great point, the B&A committee was there to let the crowd vent and they’ll have the excuse that it was the other council members who didn’t increase the BOE funding. Let the whole City Council sit in their seats and listen to the voters.

      • Lisa Parziale

        Bob and Ron actually most of the council members were there, the only districts I didn’t see were the 137th and 139th. I should say they weren’t in their seats, maybe they were in the chambers, but I didn’t see them.

        • Maria Pereira

          Lisa, the following were present for some or all of the B & A Public Hearing:

          130th Burns and Bukowsky
          131st Moyer
          132nd Brantley & Olson
          133rd Lyons & Paniccia
          134th Herron & McCarthy
          135th McBride & Salter
          136th Casco
          137th Nieces & Feliciano
          138th Paoletto & Smith
          139th NO ONE

      • John Marshall Lee

        By 6:30 PM 16 of 20 COuncil members were present, IN A LISTENING POSITION. But what did they hear? How do they connect it to their existing knowledge and beliefs? Why were they really there? Three minutes time is enough to express your sense of how to spend the money, but not to provide advice or enter into discussion on possible changes.

        The Council members do not wish that type of encounter with their public. Most interesting to my eye was Joseph Sokolovic. ( I had preceded him with my body not quite square to the Council Committee, but then they had their blank face on and no amount of eye contact really works at that moment.

        Joe Sokolovic planned and executed a 2/3 turn towards the hundreds in the audience while taking a video selfie of him delivering his message. The chairs had a moment of indecision where they called on him to face them…..basically, as a sign of respect. Have they ever thought that their rules that prohibit response and limit time speaking to them, are a more serious sign of continuing disrespect by the Council to the public? And Council members make no effort to engage any of perhaps six members of the public who have spoken to them with serious alternatives. Voters need to vote, but taxpayers (and other users of City services) need to look at fiscal plans regularly to see if priorities are met and results planned are achieved. Time will tell.

        • Joseph Sokolovic

          Thank you for the kind words Mr. Lee. I am grateful for the financial breakdowns you provide. One correction though. I was not taking a selfie. I get nervous when I speak so I was reading prepared text on my phone. The councilwoman shouting my name and the councilman trying to get the mike out of my hand did nothing to calm my nerves.

          • John Marshall Lee

            Thank you for explaining your positioning to read your message from the electronic device.

            The Capital Budget hearing last week revealed that the City Council chamber is facing renovations worth hundreds of thousands, that may have something to do with improving the sound system. Of course, improving the sound system technically does not equate to getting a more informed and directed Council representative, does it? Time will tell.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Drill up, Drill down , Drill where ever you want and the money is not there. Where the people should be is in Hartford where they allocate the state monies for education. They keep giving funs to the rich suburban towns. My favorite is Trumbull High Scholl where they poach kids from Bridgeport and the other towns around. How do they do this? Well they offer a farming program thus making the suburban Kids eligible to attend Trumbull High. Take a ride up there someday and see the sports complexes they have built there. remember Bassick must walk a few city blocks to practice on a city field.
    Remember teachers and administrators just got raises. Did the bite th bullet NO
    Let Ganim get rid of at least 20 $100,000 a year jobs.
    Lets due away with or limit the Nutrition system and put that money into education. Let parents feed there kids breakfast in the morning and send their kids to school with a lunch. Am I being to harsh? Tough shit Life is harsh

  • Jeff Kohut

    Andy: You know from your long and varied experiences as a Bridgeport resident/taxpayer, public-safety officer/first responder, Democratic Town Committee member/political activist, and resident/taxpayer of the state of Connecticut that Bridgeport’s socioeconomic problems are deliberately maintained in Hartford for the sake of Gold Coast/suburban interests… You know that our political problems are only a symptom of the regional/state policies and decision-making regarding Bridgeport economic development… So, the logical starting place to fix our problems is not from within, because our problems don’t originate from within… Polices toward Bridgeport must change from the loci of real power — in the Gold Coast/suburbs, by way of the lackey representation of their interests in Hartford/DC…

    Amazingly, even the most intelligent and sophisticated of our residents/activists choose to remain in denial about this and use their energy “shoveling sand against the tide” in City Hall, essentially flailing at the air… Every year there is a budget battle over school funding, and every year there is an underfunded compromise via a last-minute bone thrown from HARTFORD…

    There is no additional $blood$ that can be drained out of the inverted carcass of the Bridgeport residential tax base, and no significant money that can be diverted from within the budget that could represent anywhere near our education budget short-fall…

    We could reasonably squeeze a lot more money out of the utilities/electric-power infrastructure based in Bridgeport (as well as recycling and waste storage/transfer operations, non-profits describable in terms of SHU Bridgeport property, etc.), but that would require special legislation from HARTFORD and possibly a legal fight requiring HARTFORD/state involvement (through the offices of a useless, Gold Coast AG)… That won’t happen without major noise from the Bridgeport electorate (and other urban allies in the same boat…).

    So, Andy, you are correct in your observations, but it is unlikely that the leadership from among Bridgeport’s activist community will avert their decades-long, fixated gaze upward any time soon. So nothing will get better in Bridgeport any time soon, barring a properly-placed “fire cracker” in the proper sensitive area of the Bridgeport activist community that is capable of breaking their City Hall fixation… (Possibly something akin — or even related to — the Trump “fire cracker” that blew up in November… But, amazingly, even that was barely enough to lift the eyelids of the DNC…)

    So; we shouldn’t look for any real advancement of Bridgeport’s interests/condition any time soon… (There is, as yet no-one announced or exploring the possibility of a run for the governor’s office that fits the bill of what the state or its cities need for a turnaround…)

  • Tom White

    The superintendent and teachers union actively encouraged attendance. Many in attendance were likely non-resident staff.

    Public education, like most taxpayer-funded, unionized services is inefficient. Bridgeport public schools are no exception. Compliance to regulations is time-consuming and costly. People make a career of it.

    The Board of Education is the legislative body overseeing Bridgeport Public Schools. The city council approves a level of funding within the City budget.

    The MBR was established long ago to ensure adequate funding. The city council cannot pick and choose BOE line items to fund or not fund. That ability changed years ago.

    Perhaps the city council will reduce its stipend to allocate more funds to the BOE? Sure. (Sorry. Getting sill.)

    By the way, property owners pay taxes based on the established value of the property which they own. Renters pay for use of property. Renters do not pay taxes on the property because they do not have a legal claim of ownership.

  • BPT Punisher

    Just because someone is renting in the city doesn’t mean they aren’t paying taxes to the city.

    Car taxes?

    Just saying….

  • Mojo

    I’am all for giving the Bpt. BOE system much more money so they can over spend money on all the wrong things aswell not keep good records on their overall budget come spring time next year! Throwing more money at the school system is not going to fix their main problems. Same bullshit every budget year with the same problems and excuses, no? ***

  • John Marshall Lee

    I sent this to OIB and it has not been posted yet. But it is one example of “digging” that is going on at this moment. These are my comments at the Hearing.

    “Budget and Appropriation members and other Council members in attendance I speak to you to ask for full support of the Board of Education and Library budget presentations. As you heard last Wednesday when the leadership of those groups spoke to you, the values of the people lie in the direction of education and library services that have failed to receive the same type of support you provide to Police and Legal historically.

    There is no magic revenue source. But you can find the funds in your current budget if you will dig and dialog –not just politely listen. You must respond and question that which you do not understand with respect. An example of digging for dollars is the City Print Shop budget:
    • The City has a Print Shop to produce printing services for City and Board of Education needs…but taxpayer dollars are spent for outside printing. WHY.
    • The Print Shop has indicated no revenue for many years in its annual budget request. City Finance Director now admits thousands of revenue??
    • One or more persons indicate that though not employed by the City, printing services are produced for them by the Print Shop, at no or low cost to them or their community organization. Where does any revenue raised in this way flow? Who benefits?
    • A review of budget expenses for operational and service items indicates that City purchase orders exceed these two budget lines in City records and budgets, considered both balanced and complete, actually show an unfavorable variance of $830,000 subsidized annually from FY 2011-FY 2015 by taxpayers.
    • No revenue? Or hidden funds? Underreported expenses? Unbalanced budgets reported as balanced? How does this escape the City Finance Officer and external auditor?
    • Does authorization to spend taxpayer dollars on the Mission of Print Shop, serving only City Departments, exist anywhere?
    • The budget you are reviewing for Print Shop employee salaries and benefits shows an increase of $105,000 for FY 2018? WHY? Department out of control?
    • Why do some City Departments ignore the Print Shop and purchase from local shops for their work if City Printer offers great value?
    • Assets, including machinery and equipment purchases are recorded at what value today? Were they bonded or acquired otherwise?
    • Has a comprehensive review of this shop been conducted to ascertain whether alternative outsourcing would reduce City expense by hundreds of thousands of dollars? SHOULD THIS DEPARTMENT BE PRIVATIZED AND SAVE THE CITY $300,000 Annually?
    • What about your Legislative Department budget where you can find about $150,000 of planned spending that has not been used in recent years?
    Why not dig into City budgets to find the $3-4 Million necessary?”

    If the Print Shop numbers ever become corrected, showing real revenues from all activities, and all expenses for the Print Shop supported by purchase orders or otherwise, then maybe there is something to trust. In the meantime there are audible complaints that the cost of using the Print Shop has increased. Is that so? But when all is said and done, I will bet that several hundred thousand dollars can be realized through an all department analysis of needs and use after accurate numbers are provided. Isn’t that a start? And as Tom White suggests, Legislative Department could offer $100,000 cut without breaking stride.
    Move on to the Transfer Station and Airport budgets,,,kaching…kaching…perhaps a million and Police Department another million plus….but what do we know or what can we share when we are shut out from discussion and dialogue. In the meantime, wait for Ken Flatto to locate authorization for non-public activities not congruent with Mission statement, new and accurate financial reports, and a flat budget instead of a proposed $100,000 increase? Time will tell.

    Budget and Appropriation members and other Council members in attendance I speak to you to ask for full support of the Board of Education and Library budget presentations. As you heard last Wednesday when the leadership of those groups spoke to you, the values of the people lie in the direction of education and library services that have failed to receive the same type of support you provide to Police and Legal historically.

    There is no magic revenue source. But you can find the funds in your current budget if you will dig and dialog –not just politely listen. You must respond and question that which you do not understand with respect. An example of digging for dollars is the City Print Shop budget:
    • The City has a Print Shop to produce printing services for City and Board of Education needs…but taxpayer dollars are spent for outside printing. WHY.
    • The Print Shop has indicated no revenue for many years in its annual budget request. City Finance Director now admits thousands of revenue??
    • One or more persons indicate that though not employed by the City, printing services are produced for them by the Print Shop, at no or low cost to them or their community organization. Where does any revenue raised in this way flow? Who benefits?
    • A review of budget expenses for operational and service items indicates that City purchase orders exceed these two budget lines in City records and budgets, considered both balanced and complete, actually show an unfavorable variance of $830,000 subsidized annually from FY 2011-FY 2015 by taxpayers.
    • No revenue? Or hidden funds? Underreported expenses? Unbalanced budgets reported as balanced? How does this escape the City Finance Officer and external auditor?
    • Does authorization to spend taxpayer dollars on the Mission of Print Shop, serving only City Departments, exist anywhere?
    • The budget you are reviewing for Print Shop employee salaries and benefits shows an increase of $105,000 for FY 2018? WHY? Department out of control?
    • Why do some City Departments ignore the Print Shop and purchase from local shops for their work if City Printer offers great value?
    • Assets, including machinery and equipment purchases are recorded at what value today? Were they bonded or acquired otherwise?
    • Has a comprehensive review of this shop been conducted to ascertain whether alternative outsourcing would reduce City expense by hundreds of thousands of dollars? SHOULD THIS DEPARTMENT BE PRIVATIZED AND SAVE THE CITY $300,000 Annually?
    • What about your Legislative Department budget where you can find about $150,000 of planned spending that has not been used in recent years?
    Why not dig into City budgets to find the $3-4 Million necessary?

  • Andrew C Fardy

    I will say this for the last time. The feds are not doing their jobs. Despite their over produced PR they are fucking lazy. I would sa they are lazy because the graft, stealing and such are still going on and no one is doing anything. How much money needs to be unaccounted for in CBDG grant money

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