Pension Plans And Probate Courts

From Ken Dixon of the Connecticut Post:

HARTFORD — Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch lobbied his former colleagues in the state Senate Tuesday in an attempt to defuse a financial time bomb that could blow up and cost the city about $25 million.

The improvised fiscal explosives date back 10 years, when Joseph P. Ganim, now in federal prison on corruption charges, decided to invest city-employee pension funds in the stock market, which fell sharply a couple of times over the years before plummeting to historic lows last fall.

The $350 million bonded in 1999 fell in value to $269 million by the end of 2006, $263 million in 2007 and it’s now worth $161 million for the 1,000 city police and fire department employees and retirees who joined the Pension Plan A by 1980, according to Michael Feeney, the city’s chief financial officer.

Now, Finch wants a two-year moratorium on contributing to the fund at levels required by the state, with the hope that the markets will come back and the city will recoup some of its losses.

At stake are city jobs that Finch said he would be forced to terminate to make up for the losses.

“Bridgeport was one of six cities that bonded and then took the bond revenues and bought stocks, much the way that George Bush had talked about privatizing Social Security,” Finch said. “It turns out it’s not a very good idea.” He said the city has been filling a $3 million deficit in the pension plan each year, but this year the requirement will be more than eight times that, but it hasn’t been planned in the city budget.

“It’s not in the budget because no town has that ability to backfill a pension deficit,” Finch said. “There’s plenty of money to continue paying people for many years, but actuarially you’re supposed to spread the deficit over three or four years.”

He said the state law that allowed the pension bonding requires extending payments of the deficit over several years.

“So we need to suspend that for two years because of the market collapse, in order to be able to see if the market will come back enough to backfill this,” Finch said. “I mean, we’re talking about many times the $3 million at a time when there’s no possible way to do it.”

He stressed that retirees are in no danger of missing pension checks, but the city just needs a little time to wait for the stock market to readjust…

Feeney, in a phone interview from Bridgeport City Hall, said the state requires Bridgeport to keep that pension fund at a minimally funded threshold of about 78 percent. To do this, the city would have to invest $25 million this year, including about $4.5 million already set aside.

He said over the last 18 months the funding ratio has fallen to 45 percent.

“We’re looking for relief over the next few years to put together a game plan to go forward,” Feeney said. “In the meantime, everyone who currently has a pension will keep getting paid.” He noted that the State Teachers Retirement Plan has regularly been underfunded and no educators have missed out on pension benefits.

Well, this is where relationships matter. Finch spent seven years in the state senate before he assumed the mayoralty 18 months ago. This is a good test for whatever goodwill he has with his former peers.

Finch’s pitch in Hartford came on a day of legislative action that included an overwhelming House vote to streamline the state’s financially strapped antiquated Probate Court system possibly down to 50 or so districts. The vote drew howls from some suburban and rural probate judges that could see their current stand alone districts thrown into multi-town districts in time for the 2010 election.

Don’t know how this will shake out but it would make for an interesting election if suburban towns, say Trumbull and Monroe, were tossed in with Bridgeport where Paul Ganim has held that spot for more than 10 years.

Black Rock Rocks


Community Association Organizes Contest to Find a Special Symbol for a Distinctive District

The Black Rock Business Association needs a symbol to identify its member businesses, professionals, and neighborhood groups. The Association is sponsoring a competition to create an original logo to promote Black Rock, the thriving historic district in Bridgeport, Conn. The contest is open to all artistic professionals and students in the Bridgeport area.

Black Rock restaurateurs Dominick Modugno and Miguel Tomasio, the organizers of the Logo Competition, saw the need for the area’s numerous businesses and organizations to work together. “There are so many great places to eat, shop, and have fun,” says Modugno, the co-owner of Viale Ristorante Bar & Grill. At Viale, which opened in 2005, everything is made in-house, including all pastas, breads, and Patricia Modugno’s decadent desserts. Tomasio, the owner of Taco Loco, adds, “We have it all – movies, music, ethnic food stores, even a design district – as well as great restaurants and unusual shops.” The 27-year old Taco Loco won the Fairfield County Weekly Readers’ Poll awards for Best Mexican Restaurant and Best Margarita in both 2009 and 2008.

Entry forms can be picked up at Viale, Taco Loco, and Burroughs Community Center, all on Fairfield Avenue, and at other stores and restaurants in Black Rock. Design criteria, submission requirements, and rules and regulations are available with the entry forms. Entrants should bring their logo designs to Burroughs Community Center by June 26, 2009. The winner, to be decided by a committee of community leaders at a special reception at Viale, will have the opportunity to design a guide to Black Rock for a fee.

 News release from Anthony Musto


Measure would require annual reporting to better serve vulnerable youth

Hartford – Senator Anthony Musto (D-Trumbull), chair of the General Assembly’s Select Committee on Children, today led the state Senate in final action on legislation that will require the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) to annually review the cases of all children and youth in DCF care and report on “stuck kids.”

“We currently have a highly vulnerable population of children under the care of DCF that are not monitored in a comprehensive or systematic way,” said Senator Musto. “As legislators, when we look at the services we have in place for these kids-who are often considered invisible-we don’t have a way to adequately measure which services are working, which are not, which are in need of improvement or which should be abandoned. This is an important oversight and accountability measure that will help make sure that youth in our DCF system who do not have a voice are taken into account when important policy decisions are on the table.”

The Senate approved the measure unanimously by consent.

Beginning on February 1, 2010, DCF would report to the Select Committee on Children and the Human Services Committee the number and age of those children:
· Living in a psychiatric hospital or out-of-state treatment center, how long they stayed in these facilities and the reasons that they’ve been placed in these facilities;
· Who have run away or are homeless, how many days they’ve been considered runaways or homeless and any trends in youth homelessness;
· Who have a plan for permanent living arrangements and how successful those plans are; and
· Who have refused DCF services and any trends that exist related to the refusal of services.

Senator Musto also thanked Representative Gail Hamm (D-East Hampton) for her advocacy on this issue.

The bill-House Bill 5915, An Act Concerning “Stuck Kids”-was previously approved 143-to-3 in the House of Representatives. It now moves to Governor M. Jodi Rell for consideration.



  1. “Bridgeport was one of six cities that bonded and then took the bond revenues and bought stocks, much the way that George Bush had talked about privatizing Social Security,” Finch said. “It turns out it’s not a very good idea.”

    Federal law prohibits me from borrowing money to invest in securities. How come the Madison Avenue Goomba network got to do that? It would be really interesting to learn with whom the brokerage transactions were placed.

    Elections aren’t that far off. We have got to decimate the Madison Avenue bunch from office. 35 years of wink and tickle municipal management is enough. Don’t you think?

  2. Do you think that after losing $90 million between 1999 and 2006 that the pension investment firm hired by the city and the city representatives should have pulled back? Don’t you think that they would have invested pension funds in very low-risk ventures? Between 2007 and 2008 we lost another $100 million. Duh! Anybody in the market has lost money but with low-risk investment the loss should have been a lot less than 50%.
    Here is Feeney asking for a couple of years to come up with a game plan, are you kidding me or what? Why a couple of years? I hope that the city is at least making its contribution to the pension fund I mean just its regular by contract matching contribution. If not it means we are screwing with the budget again.

    1. Here’s a little background on the pension stuff.

      The City has its own Plans for Police and firefighters and BOE Janitors. The Janitors’ plan has no further employees and a few pensioners. It is small and will go out of existence as the pensioners die off.

      Plan A ***was*** a completely unfunded plan for the Police and Firefighters. In the late ’70s? Early ’80s, the City bought some annuities from Met Life (no doubt from whichever agent was favored at the time). It has been receiving the payments–around $2 million a year or so. The payments decline as the annuitants die off.

      Around the early ’80s the City closed plan A and started “B” plans, one for police and one for fire. The “B” plans have been actuarially funded. The City has made the contributions recommended by the actuaries. The required contributions declined if the market rose, and increased if the market declined.

      In 1998-2000 a financial fad arose. The Pension Obligation Bond. At that time the market had risen steadily, and people figured that cities with unfunded plans (like our Plan A) could save money if they borrowed money, invested it and used the income to fund the pensions. This also made people feel more secure, because now there were all these assets ***dedicated*** to fund the pensions. The idea was that you’d swap the (unknown) pension liability for a known amount of debt service.

      Here too was a chance to do a big deal: $300 million in bonds to be sold and $300 million in pension funds to be invested. (brokerage comissions!) This transaction figured in the US v Joseph Ganim case, if I’m not mistaken.

      My understanding is that for a while it was a good deal for the General Fund. The debt service on the bonds was less than the pensions would have been, and the City refinanced the bond issues to take advantage of declining interest rates.

      Now the city is seeing the risks involved: A large payment required if the “A” pension fund falls below some specified level. Thank you, Joe Ganim.

      The “B” plans have been steadily funded on an actuarial basis, and invested fairly conservatively in the stock market, so at minimum the City, like all cities, faces a period of very high contribution levels, which will have to be budgeted. But hey–for a while the City was contributing less than the employees. It evens out.

  3. Okay. So the pensions for PD & FD are shot. That’s the bottom line, right? Fuzzy math? Well unfortunately, pension funds are in trouble all over, but there are ways that the City can limit its exposure to a certain degree.

    Try looking at it this way:

    When you hire political hacks and political favors instead of hiring people that actually want to do the job, how long will said political hack or favor last in that job? A full employment term (25 years)? Or will they tap out early? Does THAT have an impact on these “suddenly” underfunded pensions?

    Who cares, right? Well, YOU should care. Why? If the crony employee doesn’t work the full term to get vested in his/her pension, and retires early on a “disability”, it means that:

    A – They have not fully contributed to the pension, thus NOT being able to support their own retirement.

    B – They draw an EARLY pension, which means that since they have not fully contributed, they are now drawing monies away from other members. This would then require an increase in contribution by the other members and the TAXPAYER. (That’s YOU)

    C – Since they are now drawing a pension EARLY, they would most likely be living longer under the pension than it was designed for. So–If someone is pensioned off at say, 45 instead of maybe 55 or 60 when they were supposed to retire, they are now drawing on an underfunded pension fund a lot longer.

    So–a “quick” fix–stop hiring the status quo. You want to be respected, start treating those CITY JOBS with respect and HIRE people who are motivated and want to DO the job.

    Stop listening to special interests and backroom handshakes and go out and find GOOD, HONEST, MOTIVATED EMPLOYEES.

    The Stock Market will eventually take care of itself.

    Bridgeport, … now I am not so convinced of that …

  4. Condolences to Andy Fardy on the passing of his brother.

    Wasn’t Bill Finch on the City Council when Joe Ganim reworked this pension deal?

    1. *** Maybe D. Murphy’s Rainbow League’s catcher was bond counsel @ that time? *** It’s a good idea on the 2-yr. moratorium to help keep the city & taxpayers from being forced to backfill these pension fund deficits @ the min. 78%, hopefully ’til the market readjusts! The city can’t use their rainy day fund nor have enough fat to cut away from the budget to find $25 million either! *** Right now, I believe the Probate Judge gig in Bpt. is considered part time. If the jurisdiction expands to cover some of the neighboring towns around Bpt. it would push it to being a full-time job & maybe a “$” raise as well? Which means more interest in the job from a larger pool of candidates in Fairfield County. ***

      1. “Murphy’s Rainbow League’s catcher”? Mojo I swear to God this is what makes me go crazy on your ass. Why can’t you say “Dennis’ companion” or call him by name? Why do you have do make a derogatory gay remark? I don’t give a shit what you say about him it’s the gay reference I don’t like.

        Who was responsible for investing the pension money anyway? Was it the bond counsel or an employee? I thought the city treasurer did that. Does anyone know?

        1. *** Nothing wrong with making reference to a real existing softball league that’s a sports recreational venue for gays in general! If you’re bothered by the mention of anything gay related, maybe if you finally come out of the closet you wouldn’t be so upset! Besides you seem to like to label others in negative ways so why so defensive when it comes to gay issues? *** What goes around, comes around, sooner or later! ***

  5. “town committee,” There seems to be a few things missing from Ken Dixon’s article in the Connecticut Post.
    Andy, it was my understanding that pension plan “A” is unfunded and those pensions are paid from the City’s General Fund. Also it was Joe Ganim with Bill Finch on the City Council who changed the person who was doing what you said, “invested pension funds in very low-risk ventures.” Joe made the change and Finch said nothing. The city’s unions were telling the City Council that person who was going to invest those funds did not have the background and experience to invest those funds.

  6. How’s this for a Black Rock logo: Pose one of Cappoziello’s strippers as a siren on the seawall at St. Mary’s. You’d highlight one of Fairfield Avenue’s most successful businesses while paying tribute to our storied seafaring heritage! Only in Bridgeport!

  7. At the council meeting Monday night, Mayor Finch pretty much blamed the sad state of the fund balance and the need for Tax Anticipation Notes and his inability/unwillingness to deal with the shrinking balance and the lack of cash on the Board of Ed’s refusal to turn over their entire surplus. So sad …

  8. It’s about time that all of the self-interested and self-important assholes in eastern Fairfield County remove themselves from public service and “nonprofit” social welfare agencies. Every time I hear someone say “I want to do what’s best for other people” (or some similar sentiment) I know I’m hearing bullshit. It just ain’t worth listening to any elected official. Hey Musto. “Stuck kids”?! How ’bout doing something about the ADULTS that are “Stuck”? How ’bout doing something for EVERYONE that can be accurately described as “stuck”? I know, I know; it’s an alien concept, helping people that need help. There are more than a few people living in homeless shelters that have simply tapped out of living, preferring to bottom-feed instead of leading a real life. Many of these people are just lazy. But many of them are suffering from mental illness that the nonprofit groups are not equipped or inclined to address. If a person ends up at Operation Hope(less), he or she is told that “we can help you with long-term housing.” What he or she is NOT told is that the waiting lists for long-term housing are at least a year long and growing longer. He or she is also told that they’ll have a better chance of being approved for subsidized housing if one is:
    A. addicted to narcotics or other hard drugs;
    B. a raging alcoholic;
    C. a single mother with more than one child;
    and/or D. suffering from mental illness.

    If a person does not fit into any of these categories then it’s “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” When I hear a story of someone working their way out of poverty, homelessness or life in a housing project, I’m heartened. When I think of how everyone in Bridgeport is being misused by their elected officials (and that includes Jim Himes, especially if he took all that quacking by Operation Hope directors as the truth) I want to throw up. When I think of how the city has been misused by a small group of well-connected heels, geeze … I’m not surprised that people smoke crack.

    1. *** “Everytime I hear I want to do what’s best for other people, I know I’m hearing bullshit”! *** Well get ready ’cause you’ll be hearing & reading it from the day the DTC & RTC pick their endorsed candidates ’til election day, Nov. ’09. Will it be the same old song & dance but with a different meaning; or same-ole, same-ole? *** Time will tell! *** Remember on the local level, “most times” it’s the little things that really mean a lot. “Sometimes”, when voters get a lot of political premature promises, they end up with post-excuses later! Like many things in life, politics is a learning experience, where you’ll only get out of it what you put into it! ***

  9. Ron; Pension plan A is unfunded and the monies come from the general fund. As we die off the city’s pension liability for pension plan A shrinks. There are not that many of us left.
    The pension plan they are talking about is B. This is where as you know (others don’t) the police and fire pension contribution goes into a pension fund and is to be matched by the city. The funds were to be invested by a professional under the watch of a representative of both the police and fire union and a representative from the city. At first the fund made a lot of money with low-risk investments. Then politics entered into it. I don’t remember who changed the pension pro but I believe that you are correct. Ganim changed it and things started downhill. Now I know all about the financial crisis we are in throughout the country but if the fund had stayed conservative the losses would have been a lot less.
    You know that for years the city has been drooling over these funds and I hope this latest request for a 2-year hiatus is not going to be the rule rather than the exception. I also hope that the city is still at least matching the contributions that the PD & FD are still making. No mention of that. I believe this should be looked into.

  10. It never ends … I was getting a coffee … insert joke, no donuts … got little kids at home to chase around … and a lady in front of me said she was at a local deli for lunch and she said that a BOE custodial boss gave that deli a few cases of expensive light bulbs in return for a few sandwiches … used to be a time when taxpayers money went for real things like boats and plane tickets … but sandwiches???

  11. So Bpts Finest, did you get the woman to sign out a complaint? Did you get the BOE boss’ name? Have we sworn out an arrest warrant? Used to be a time when accusations like this were followed up with arrests. Unless you are not one of Bridgeport’s finest or maybe an out-of-towner who doesn’t pay taxes in the city anyhow.

    1. Mr. Walsh … This is not my business to act upon hearsay in a coffee shop … the BOE has their own constables who are more than capable of acting upon said accusations if found to be true. I’m sure as an elected official you can force an investigation to satisfy your and the public’s needs.

  12. Bob it’s my understanding that the BOE has a $5.1 million surplus. I understand that orders have come down from BOE to spend the money before the budget year ends. Finch should send a letter or better yet meet with Ramos and tell him the city’s budgeted amount for the BOE will be minus $5.1 million for the upcoming year. Enough is Enough.

  13. And TC, I am not saying someone is right or someone is wrong in all of this but for many, many years the city has tried to force the Board of Ed to do whatever the city wanted them to do. Creating the medical insurance fund that I believe the city has played games with based on the threat of not increasing by a penny the most inflationary cost on either the city’s or BOE’s side of the budget. Well, the chickens have come home to roost.
    It is the city now begging the Board to do right by them after so many years of the BOE begging the city. State law I believe gives the board up to 18 months to dispense surplus funds in recognition of all of the other constraints that are put on the school budget.

  14. Hey, maybe the board should use that $5.1 mill to buy more light bulbs from a local business who would pay taxes on all that extra income and then that custodial boss can trade the light bulbs for more sandwiches and feed the whole city for a few days!!!

  15. Mr. Walsh–I hear that the Deli on the corner of Capitol and Main was known for Pastrami for Fluorescent exchanges. Hell they might have even had a few “Franks”.

  16. The BOE can thank their lucky stars that I am not the mayor. They broke balls last year crying for more money for education. They got their budget but of course not all they wanted.
    This end of the budget year they have a $5.1 million surplus. The BOE is now on a spending binge to get rid of the surplus. They are spending $1.1 million on supplies for next year and still have $4 million left to spend.
    They want to play chicken and thumb their noses at the citizens of Bridgeport. I would reduce their budget by $5.1 million for the coming year. Remember if they actually got all the money they requested they would probably have a surplus in excess of $13 million. Time for this shit to stop.


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