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The City Council’s Leap Of Faith On The Budget

April 24th, 2013 · 13 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Budget, City Council

You talk to City Council members and they’ll tell you the state’s budget process has more moving parts right now than a shell game. How they vote on the budget will be a leap of faith based on what they expect the city to receive in state funds. The council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee is reviewing Mayor Bill Finch’s $520 million spending proposal. No definitive date has been set for a budget committee vote and then a full vote by the council. The time frame for a full council vote is two to three weeks.

The city received some good news last week when a state legislative budget committee restored some cuts to the city in Governor Dan Malloy’s spending plan. A new wrinkle, however, has been added to the budget deliberations regarding the minimum budget requirement the city must kick in to maximize state education dollars. Some council members say even if the city receives most of what it expects in state funding the taxpayers will still be facing an average tax increase of about $200 to $300, rather than the $400 average increase based in Finch’s budget proposal.  That still leaves many higher assessed homeowners in neighborhoods such as Black Rock, Brooklawn and North End facing hefty tax increases.

Other council members say there are areas of the budget such as police overtime and payments to outside legal firms that can be cut back by millions of dollars. Do council members have the will to make those cuts? This is an election year for the council and how this budget process shakes out will determine how many of them have challengers.

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13 Comments so far ↓

  • Fluckarella

    Everyone in Black Rock (130th) is doing the watch and wait on this budget.
    Now the State wants Finch to come up with the 3.5 Million Bucks for the BOE.
    We are so Flucked!

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Based on my viewing the budget process I don’t think the B&A has the will or the knowledge to cut any department budgets. They have gone through a number of departments and no signs of any cuts being made was evident.
    Based on some department heads reaction to the budget numbers I believe these department heads did not submit these numbers. I firmly believe all the numbers were provided by Tom Sherwood.
    I believe any cuts that will or may be made will be made by Sherwood.
    I prepared budgets for the department I was in charge of for a large insurance company and I had to do a five-year budget plan every year and I needed to make the necessary adjustments.
    I believe any cuts will be made by Sherwood and not the council. It must be noted that what has been submitted canNOT be proved or documented.

  • Mojo

    *** Someone correct me if I’m wrong; when Mayor Finch first took office and claimed he inherited a $17 million deficit from the Fabrizi admin, he swore he would never pass a city budget based on “assumed revenue.” Be it “assumed” from the Feds, State or “assumed” incoming city revenue (taxes or economic development, etc.), he would not do it, period! Well year after year this admin. and City Council is always waiting on what the State will or will not do to help them make a decision towards passing an “unbalanced” city budget, no? And most of the time the city’s budget is passed before the State actually has ended their budget process, hopefully just before the end of the old fiscal year. This year will be more of the same with the usual budget money shortchanges affecting the BOE and City Libraries along with some of the city’s social services depts. So once again I say there’s not enough tweaking in the world to stop or even make these tax and mil rate hikes less painful. Vote “no contest” and give this proposed budget right back to the Mayor with a final “NO” vote in the end by the entire City Council during this election year! Any type of “yes” votes on the part of the City Council for whatever the reason would be political suicide under normal circumstances in a city that has balanced political parties and many active voters. But this is Bpt and is not called “ZOMBIELAND” for nothing! *** ANOTHER PASSED “UNBALANCED BUDGET” WITH THE SAME OLD FINGERPOINTING AND EXCUSES ***

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    Having done some research and a long conversation with Councilman Stafstrom, who is attending every budget meeting–and very generous with his time to his voters.
    The mayor presents the budget. It is the default budget. The City Council B&A committee reviews, revises and presents their version of the budget to the full Council Vote. If the council votes no by a majority of 1 on the B&A recommended revisions, the Mayor’s proposed budget is the new budget. The only way I want my council person to vote no on the B&A recommendations is IF their budget is a larger tax increase than the mayor’s. This is by City Charter, which desperately needs a real and I mean real honest revision.
    With regard to state assistance, we have two hospitals, two universities, a jail and courthouse that are not taxable, the agreement with the state is Bridgeport will agree to the state building here and if the state has the funds, they will pay us a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT), which seems fair as the surrounding towns do not have these facilities, and they have use of the services offered. The state is broke, and to the credit of our State reps, they are fighting hard with other city reps to have at least a portion of the PILOT funding restored.
    I agree with Mojo 100%–the mayor needs to remember why anyone voted for him with regard to city budget and funding sources, and he needs to present a budget without reliance on state funding, he has not. He has given that burden to our city council members to cover his Assets …
    Looking over the financials of the last couple of years over the shoulders of JML and Andy Fardy, it appears every department has run over their budgets–not one has stayed on or under budget and there is the question of the funds allotted for positions not filled–where is that surplus money? Thanks to these two tireless men, the public is now aware of the shortfalls of our City financial accounting, cash flow–waste and blatant non-oversight of city spending. One example, it has been found there are 100-plus fax machines in the city. While this may seem a small expense, having worked for major banks and corporations there is a much more cost-effective way to manage communications without compromising efficiency and sensitive documents. It would seem there is a great need for each department to have an efficiency audit, and implement very serious cost-saving measures, and this just might be accomplished without massive layoffs. If every department had to construct a real budget and had to live by their budget, internal cost-saving measures could be achieved.
    Thanks in a very large part to JML and Andy, the mayor and city council members are now aware of the need to examine, question and hold every department budget under scrutiny. The B&A committee must start having real reviews of the city finances on a regular monthly or quarterly basis and not wait until it is budget crunch time.
    The next question is can the City Council cut every single city department’s budget and city expenses by at least 10%, which seems to be what is needed to halt a tax increase. This is not a case of the increase is less than what the mayor proposed, this is a case of no tax increase.

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      Correction: Bridgeport has three courthouses, a juvenile detention facility, two universities, a community college and a correctional center. And that’s not counting the property owned by the city itself. How’s about selling off some of Bridgeport’s real estate holdings, Mayor Finch? That is relatively painless. Oh, wait a minute, you won’t be able to pimp off the neighborhoods that didn’t vote for you …

  • The Fixer

    No doubt it’s Sherwood’s budget. Not since Joe Ganim and to some extent John Fabrizi has the mayor taken a hands-on approach to the budget. Sherwood says raise taxes and budget 1.8 million in union concessions and Finch goes along with no question. The picture in today’s CT Post of former Mayor Tom Bucci carrying the L’Ambiance wreathe to the memorial with Pete Carroll sent a powerful message. The unions are DONE with Finch. His latest budget proposal was the nail in the coffin. There will be NO concessions, not this time. Lay off as many employees as necessary to make up the 1.8m and then try to function. Good luck with that. One thing about Tom Bucci, he knew the value of co-existing peacefully with the unions. Finch never learned that lesson so he spends millions in outside attorneys to fight the unions. The City Council is finally questioning the outside legal expenses as they should. But will they have the guts to stand their ground? Time will tell.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Attention All Taxpayers …
    The Council has collaborated, in general, with the administration annually in staging the “budget sessions.” No one has told them to understand an operating budget it must be monitored monthly, and the interaction with all projects, purchases, bonding, contracts, etc. are important. When you fail to review, to monitor, to have rigorous oversight each month, you have lost the battle. It is obvious when you wander around for a month and ask taxpayers for answers on the cuts, when you have already accepted Tom Sherwood’s “brainwash” cheat sheet. Where was money found for the new Police Deputy Chief who is keeping track of internal overtime? And a couple months before for public relations personnel? And a few more people in this year’s budget? Mayor Bill still talks about the number of people he has cut, but when I ran the City numbers last year it seemed about 75% of those claimed were in the education department, and he does not manage those folks yet, does he?

    Finch does not get it. Check with OPED and you will find Steelpoint will not generate anything of significance from its tax base because as a special taxing district, its property taxes will go to support its financing for up to 30 years. Can you hold your breath that long? Time will tell.

  • Mojo

    *** Well there you go, “assumed proposed unbalanced city budget” in which even if a 10% cut across the board were implemented, it would never be followed by most city-side depts (who’s to know?). Threats of more union layoffs, forced retirements, unfounded firings along with nickel & dime cuts, flat-lining school and library budgets with the usual promise to curtail O/T will all equal to “more” high-paying political jobs, no? *** WELCOME TO ZOMBIELAND ***

  • The Fixer

    Interesting reading today in the CT Post. First former Councilwoman Maria Valle tells Finch not to raise taxes and the foot-in-mouth mayor replies, “then I’ll have to lay off all these people,” referring to his do-nothing staff. Well thank you, Mr. Mayor, that’s a start to cutting the budget.

    Second, letter from mayor and Adam Wood praising Charlie Carroll for his excellent work as PF director. If he did such a good job, leave him there and save $140k on a new position. Or was that just lip service to the Carroll brothers who are pissed their baby brother was dissed? Rumor has it the new PF job was promised to Rosa Correa’s nephew. Another politically motivated unnecessary expense.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Mayor Finch told Maria Valle he would have to lay off his aides if the budget were cut. Mr. Mayor, DO IT!!! Your advisers have done nothing to help conditions in Bridgeport. They have made things worse. They have managed to instill fear into the city workforce with the help of some sellout union leaders. BTW Bill how is it mayoral aides get OT?
    Bill the financial house of cards you and Sherwood with the aid of the city council built is about to fall. Hey Bill, here is a list of jobs you can get rid of:

    1. Liaison between Mayor and BOE $100K plus
    2. Police spokesman              $60K plus
    3. Parks Director                $104K
    4. Two Mayoral aides             $250K
    5. two jobs in Labor relations   $180K
    6. Civilian community rel. PD    $60K
    7. New deputy Chief PD           $100K plus
    8. CitiStat Whole Dept           $500K plus

    There is over $1 million in savings in this list.
    If you can’t bring yourself to do what’s necessary I will do it for you free of charge. Just ask.

  • Black Rock Barb

    Does the mayor and city council think we do not see through the game of I will ask for really high taxes and you lower the taxes and look like heroes and get reelected? Andy I would love to see your list of staff members given a furlough. Fired = unemployment–furlough might save that expense …

  • Baffled in Bridgeport

    The Council needs to suck it up and cut the Mayor’s budget until there are no new taxes. Overtime, over budget, ghost positions, bloated Mayor’s appointments, outside counsel and their hundreds of thousands of dollar fees–need to go. Then 10% cut in every department. That’s the easy stuff. Then go get the rest. Be responsible and do what you are elected to do–represent your constituents.

  • Dave Walker

    The Mayor and the City Council have plenty of places to cut that would not harm essential public services. The City has too many overhead people and political appointees. It wastes huge amounts on poor contracting practices. It’s paying for health care benefits of former workers who aren’t retired and who are eligible for coverage with their current employer. In addition, it can conduct furloughs that will save significant dollars and not result in unemployment payments, if necessary. Avoiding any tax increase is a litmus test for the City Council and Mayor. We’ve had enough. It’s time to do your job or leave it.

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