The End Of Sherwood’s Budget Forest?

Sherwood

No one knows the city’s more than $500 million budget like Tom Sherwood. For more than a decade he has served as director of the city’s Office of Policy and Management, a fancy term for budget director. Budgets are a labyrinth of numbers, departments, projections and imperfections. When it comes to the spending side of the budget it’s all about Sherwood. How much money is left in the account? Call Sherwood. Need to move money around? Call Sherwood. Need to hold the line on taxes in an election year? Call Sherwood. It could be Tom Sherwood has fashioned his last budget in the state’s largest city. Retirement appears to be on the horizon. But don’t be surprised if Mayor-elect Joe Ganim picks his brain, or asks him to stick around as a resource for awhile.

The way things work in Bridgeport, the budget director handles the spending side while the finance director (Anne Kelly-Lenz) tracks the revenue side with tax assessment and tax collection coming under her umbrella.

Sherwood worked in the OPM office when Ganim served as mayor his first tenure so they are well acquainted. Sherwood was chief bean counter under John Fabrizi and then Bill Finch. For years political insiders wondered, how does Sherwood manage to stick around so long through different administrations? Because no one has an intimacy with the budget like Sherwood. Knowing where the money is tucked away is a mighty thing.

In the weeks after Finch assumed the office of mayor December 1, 2007 he told folks privately Sherwood was gone, sayonara, adios, goodbye, see ya. A funny thing happened on the way to Sherwood’s involuntary retirement: he stayed around another eight years, such was his budget value. It appears Sherwood is going out on his own terms.

When Ganim receives the oath of office December 1, the current budget Sherwood fashioned starting July 1 will be almost mid year. In a few months department heads will be directed to submit budget proposals to OPM as Ganim prepares to submit his first spending plan to the City Council the first week of April with the trap door of reval likely on the horizon. Lotsa luck.

If Sherwood departs as planned, gotta think he’s going to receive a number of phone calls for his budget knowledge over the next few months.

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11 comments

  1. Tom Sherwood, the director of the city’s Office of Policy and Management, is in a position like being the fire chief, nobody knows what they really do so nobody challenges them.

  2. Sometimes I say don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya to Sherwood but sometimes I think he is a loyal employee doing what he is told and they are hard to find.

  3. Is it time to review the Charter one more time to check out where past administrations have been fast or loose in interpreting how things are completed in the City?
    While Lennie has raised the subject of “budget spending,” he has only referenced the Operating Budget. No comment on the Capital Budget that covers borrowed money for projects and accounts that may operate for multiple years without full reporting or being closed. Remember we also get many grants each year and the storyline for those funds is not shared in an open and accountable way as far as the public in Bridgeport is concerned. Calling for annual meetings where both the administration and public may exchange info, more open reporting of all fiscal data on the City web site, reviewing “transfers” of funds between accounts, posting $$$ amounts for every item that is assigned to a Council Committee and for every item reported out for a vote would be helpful to all. Minutes of all meetings must be moved and seconded then giving room for discussion before approval. How does that process work when it comes to City monthly financial report or the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (which last year had 20 errors noted)? Maybe there is no process. While the Finance Director has written narratives to cover changes in revenue expectations, I cannot remember a serious dealing (from OPM according to OIB) with spending differences. Perhaps it is because the variance column for the monthly report is INOPERATIVE. Or is it because variances are only to be readily observed in Sherwood Forest? Time will tell.

    1. The external auditors, Blum Shapiro in recent years, has had the “raw material” on City finances for nearly three months now. The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report should be in City hands by the last week of the year. Will we see the “whole picture” at that time, or is there another place that looks at “internal controls” in a deeper manner that will show us the depths some OIB readers have predicted for City finances? Time will tell.

  4. *** All city directors must submit a letter of resignation to the new incoming Mayor and he decides whom he is going to keep or let go! Believe me, I know this first hand. And it doesn’t matter how good a job you had been doing beforehand either. However, running on the losing opposing Mayoral candidates slate during the general election does not help keeping your job either! *** WHOOP ***

  5. Mojo,
    I trust more than a handful of City employees are “guilty” of “doing a good job” on a regular basis for the citizens of Bridgeport. However, how would anyone know that who would be looking for care, competence, and activity records that would show priority departmental work becoming complete? Should all employees have an evaluation regularly? Is that happening as a matter of course? As an exception to the rule? Who in management is responsible?

    Why is it about “keeping your job” rather than “doing the public’s business competently, carefully and completely?” If it is only about a job, the public and the person are cheated, no? Time will tell.

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