Sprinkle, Sprinkle City Budget

Fairy dust
Spreading a little fairy dust on the budget.

Fairy dust. Artificial numbers. Sleight of hand. Phony declarations. Dubious accounting. Ah, it’s a mayoral election year, and the first order of hocus pocus is the city budget.

When Mayor Bill Finch submits his election-year budget to the City Council in April will all of the above be in play? The city’s budget director Tom Sherwood has been pretty good at playing the artificial deficit game. Yes, the budget has a deficit, but let’s bloat the actual number to scare unions into the concessions required to balance the books.

That has worked for some of the unions, but not all. I chatted with a city cop the other day who was pleased the rank and file received its pay increase this budget cycle. A few years ago the mayor agreed to a retro four-year wage deal with the police union that called for zero increases the first two years and then wage increases of six and five percent respectively for the final two years. The mayor wants union employees to pay 25 percent on insurance premiums. Some unions have said yes. The cops have said no way. What’s the mayor gonna do, lay off cops in an election year with a spike in crime?

So maybe the actual deficit halfway through the budget year is a few million, down from the $8 million when the council approved the budget, following union concessions and moolah Sherwood socked away here or there. Perhaps bean counters artificially inflated the police overtime budget. “Oh, gee, we’ve reeled in overtime spending” so now the budget is balanced. Whoopie!

Finch’s first budget–after promising to cut taxes $600 as a mayoral candidate (remember that?)–raised taxes by that much depending on property assessments. Reval kicked in for the year two budget and the tax impact wasn’t as harsh in some neighborhoods, some even received a small reduction. His third budget had a one mil increase representing a tax hike of $150 or so per homeowner.

I cannot wait to see the election year budget Finch submits to the City Council in April. My guess is it’s another tale of fairy dust, the mayor’s special potion stirred by Sherwood. Even if the budget is out whack Finch will submit a no tax increase budget and deal with the consequences if he’s reelected. And most council members, also up for reelection, will go along with it. What are friends for?

Let’s see how much screaming we hear from mayoral opponents during the budget process.



  1. I remember the old days … good old days … if you could make it here in the Sweetport you could make it anywhere. Stop the games and the hidden tricks and make it right again.

  2. *** Maybe it’s time to spend some real money on an independent budget expert firm with no ties to the city or B&A committee, to do a real honest city budget, no? Out with the old & in with the new. Time to get the old playbook out ’cause *** HERE WE GO! ***

  3. Maybe a charter revision commission and establishment of an independent board of finance with the qualifications for appointment clearly spelled out that they must be experts in financial areas.

  4. $600.00??? I got my check returned stamped NSF! Non-Sufficient-Finch!!!

    Maybe we can have some more Heinz Ketchup Tax Anticipation gimmicks!!! Steal Point 5 million up front bucks turned into $500k. Priceless and Shameless.

  5. How about sprinkling some salt on the roads and sidewalks in the 126th district, so those petitioning can get some traction out there? While out there I saw some Jets fly over New England. What was that all about?

  6. He’s back; but I ain’t grinnin’
    Another curveball thrown after Caruso withdraws. Wouldn’t that be something. Because Caruso drops out, Ganim drops in.

    Ganim: It’s good to be back in Bridgeport
    January 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm by Keila Torres

    BRIDGEPORT — Former Mayor Joe Ganim brought his two sons along Monday afternoon for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorative march in the city’s East End.

    The former city leader, who was released from prison last year, used to attend the event every year. “It’s good to be back,” Ganim said.

    When asked if he would ever consider another run for office, Ganim replied: “You never know what the future holds.”

    “It’s always a pleasure to be back in Bridgeport, to be in the East End,” said the Easton resident, who received several rounds of applause throughout the day from the people at the march and following ceremony.

    Ganim called the day’s events “inspiring.”
    “That type of inspiration can lead in so many different directions,” he said, not ruling out a move back to Bridgeport in the future.

  7. Regardless of partisan intra-party politics, I hope all of us can agree on one thing: Budget committees need to be independent from and insulated against elected officials. Elected officials are paid to make decisions in the best interest of their constituents. The purpose of budget and/or appropriations committees is to present an unbiased, no B.S. assessment of what tools elected officials have to work with. When political insiders, third parties, lobbyists and cronyists work their way onto these committees (see: Budget, Board of Education, etc.) pandemonium is inevitably the result. Professional, accredited accountants and economists should be put in charge of Bridgeport’s budget.

    To parse the paradigm in a different way: Who would you rather have perform surgery on your child’s brain tumor? A board-certified, world-renowned pediatric oncologist, or a guy who read a couple of medical textbooks from his college library and got his job because he donated half a million dollars to the chair of the department? Given this is an extreme example, but I believe it perfectly illustrates the root of ALL problems in Bridgeport’s government.

    Professionalism = Results
    Political Handouts = What We Have Now

    I freely admit all factions in Bridgeport are guilty of this to one degree or another, but it does have to stop. A city should be run like a university or a major corporation: employment positions are given based on expert qualifications in an extraordinarily narrow field; for instance, accounting, social science or public planning.

    A simple return to true American meritocracy would do WONDERS for Bridgeport.

    All, of course, in my humble opinion.

    -Mountain Man


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