Vallas At Budget Hearing Urges $7 Million More For Schools–Others Demand Cuts

Facing a relatively tame audience of education advocates seeking more school aid and taxpayers exhorting budget cuts, the City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee Thursday night heard from about one dozen speakers addressing Mayor Bill Finch’s proposed spending plan that calls for a 2.7 mil increase to finance $7 million more in additional school spending and millions more in city pension obligations. The council chambers crowd of about 40 was thin in comparison to past years, especially in light of the mayor’s proposed tax increase. Finch had previously conducted three public neighborhood sessions on the budget, which may have removed some steam from the council public hearing. Is he Dr. Finch, the anesthetist?

Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas stressed the need to establish a partnership with vocational schools so city kids attend public school in the morning and vocational school in the afternoon. He also touched on high school seniors taking college classes so that they’re better prepared for college following graduation. On finances, he highlighted the need for $7 million as a funding increase. “This is a one-time increase.” He said savings will be achieved through efficiencies such as consolidation of departments. “We will not come back for further tax increases.”

Vallas emphasized this request for $7 million was a one-timer to stabilize school finances. There is a justifiable concern, he said, if you provide an increase this year another increase will be requested in the future. “We feel confident that this will address the (funding) issue once and for all.”

He talked about partnerships with private-sector institutions and regional colleges to bring more resources to the district and increase opportunities for the kids, new curriculum instructional materials, benchmark assessment systems and supplementing classrooms with the latest technology.

Vallas said Bridgeport has become a national model for reform, emphasizing the city cannot afford to shortchange the children.

Pat Fardy, a resident of the Upper East Side, claimed $5 million could be cut from the budget through eliminating “ghost positions,” jobs budgeted but have not been filled. “Look at those departments, cut those positions … this is a big amount.”

Her husband Andy Fardy, a retired city firefighter, insisted the council demand regular financial reports from city budget director Tom Sherwood.

City budget watchdog, John Marshall Lee, a resident of Black Rock, urged the council to cut the ghost positions so the education budget can be funded. He also called on the council to demand monthly financial reports per City Charter requirement.

North End resident Jacqui Kelleher, a member of the reconstituted Board of Education, stressed a transformation is taking place to improve the school system. The Sacred Heart University professor said Vallas’ education “model is historic.” She said a resurrected school system will increase property values. “It will drive the message home that our children are worthy. His vision will transform lives.”

Giacomo Gates, a city musician who graduated Central High School in 1966, said most people in Bridgeport don’t receive Greenwich incomes. He said he’s “looking for a break in taxes, not a raise. Please consider that.”

Betty Martin, an eight-year resident, said “I’m a single woman against raising taxes. I cannot afford it.”

Mark Trojanowski, a city realtor, said residents are struggling. He cited many foreclosures in the city that would be exacerbated by a tax increase. “My heart goes out to you because you have a gargantuan task. Please don’t raise the taxes any more.” He said he supports education, but taxes are already too high and residents cannot afford to pay more. “People are working two or three jobs … When you raise taxes you’re pushing Bridgeport further down in the hole.”

John Gomes, 2011 mayoral candidate, who has spent weeks in front of City Hall protesting the mayor’s proposed budget, criticized Finch for accepting pay increases since taking office more than four years ago. He said he supports education, but charged Finch “using education as a crutch in the budget is irresponsible. Let’s find the money somewhere else.”

Don Greenberg, a college professor and resident of Black Rock expressed skepticism about the mayor’s education resolve. He said the mayor had been in office for four years “and didn’t say boo about how bad schools were.” Greenberg said if he really thought the schools would be improved with $7 million more he would support it.

Jennifer Buchanan, a mortgage professional from Black Rock, said she would not be surprised if this “tax increase goes through residents will stop paying their mortgages. Please take this budget back to the mayor, please don’t raise our taxes. If you can give the money to the schools without raising taxes do that.”

The hearing started at 6 p.m. and lasted 90 minutes. All seven members of the council committee were in attendance. The committee is expected to vote on the budget next week and then the full council on May 7, but three council members Leticia Colon, Lydia Martinez and Michelle Lyons may not be there. They are scheduled for a trip to the Dominican Republic for a ceremony donating two decommissioned firetrucks to that Caribbean nation’s government.



  1. Not one word about the other side of the BOE budget, the huge amounts of money we spend on goods and services, especially in food and nutrition. Highly lucrative contracts that can certainly stand a pass with a very sharp pencil.

  2. The new superintendent said his plan will be put into place and go forward without the increase in the school budget. As I recall he also asked the goods and services budget be transferred in the budget to the school so they can pay the vendors from the school budget and not from the city budget. If this tax is passed it just might be the tipping point for underwater homeowners to stop paying their mortgages & taxes–considering it takes an average of 635 days to foreclose on a property, that lack of revenue to the city is something I hope the city officials understand.

  3. So we have the Malloy Plan, the Finch Plan, the Vallas Plan and the Timpanelli Plan.
    It looks like we’re privatizing the BOE, with taxpayer money.
    Is this legal? I smell billable hours.

  4. How is the BOE state-paid-for audit coming along? Timpanelli can always find an honest job if we give him a monkey, an organ, a tin cup, a funny hat and put him on Main and Fairfield Ave. Let him play some music and we can donate to the “poor” little funny-looking old man.


    Whereas the 20 members of the Bridgeport City Council face a budget vote shortly and whereas they were provided a budget document that is incomplete, inaccurate and contains personnel and other line item requests that are annually “vacant” as well as certain expense line items that suffer the same defect.
    Therefore, on April 26, 2012 the BUDGET OVERSIGHT BRIDGEPORT (B.O.B.) requests of the City Council members the following actions:

    1. Return the 2013 budget document to Mayor Finch for reform to eliminate said “ghost positions” and “ghost expenses” in a true spirit of budget cutting, so that the education budget can be funded in accord with the BOE budget plan. Reform the “actual 2011 expense” line items to indicate complete and accurate entries for all expenses paid with taxpayer funds. Then resume the budget review process with “complete and accurate” data that does not require guessing. You can be no later than the US Congress or the CT Legislature has been in recent years in meeting a timetable.

    2. Request the Mayor to provide the missing “12th month finance reports” for June 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 so that you and the public can see the year end line item expense revenue, expense and variance totals. Chapter 9, Section 7 of the City Charter directs the Mayor to report monthly, 12 months per year. No exception is noted.

    3. Prepare a request per Chapter 9, Section 7 of the City Charter for the Finance Department to include columns for “actual expense for the month one year ago, for the annual-to-date for one year ago, and variance” to be included currently in each monthly financial format.

    4. Request the administration to disclose in writing the entire nature and extent of current internal control activities that serve as watchdog function. Which employee is tasked to perform what activity by when, for instance? And what reports of their activity are made available to the City Council or to the public?

    5. In order to encourage a public appreciation and support for City fiscal process, as taxpayers, open up current severely limited opportunities for speaking at Committee meetings (similar to current Board of Education practice); request that all fiscal documents made available to the City Council are made available currently on the City website, and archived for reference in future years, including auditor Management Letters and City responses to same.

    6. Hold a public meeting before approving recommendations from the Charter Review Commission to discuss the advantages or disadvantage in creating a new fiscal body, a Finance Board, to assist the City Council legislative budget powers in formation, review, and overall financial governance including grants, capital projects including bonding, and pursuit of “best fiscal practices” for municipalities today.

    We invite you to consult our YouTube presentations: Bridgeport Finances 101 and 101A. Those who wish to host a PowerPoint meeting or volunteer for B.O.B. can contact John Marshall Lee (203-259-9642) or Andrew Fardy. We are dedicated to develop OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, and TRANSPARENT City practices and governance processes.

  6. Did you bother to read the “Bobbing for Budget Accuracy” article from yesterday, April 26? Thank you, Mojo. You read everything.

    Go back and read it. We talk about “ghost positions,” which are annually appearing budget vacancies, most of which never get filled thereby allowing Mayor P.T. Finch (P.T. is not Phineas Taylor in this instance, but rather Partial Truth) to spend your tax dollars in another fashion. “Ghost expenses” are similar in that they are budgeted for one purpose yet spent for another like the $60,000 or greater usually not spent by certain City Council persons up to their $9,000 limit. Unspent the Mayor directs it to those things he wishes. “Ghost positions” and ghost expenses are worth millions to the Mayor. He has not cut these. If you got the June 30 report you would see where monies were not spent as “planned and budgeted” but where the funds actually were spent. These are one source of “slush” and we are awash with “slush.”
    Gaining access to 2011 actual “stuff” purchased by the City, I have attempted to show how certain Departments spent funds: CAO $330,000 or more, OPM $80,000 or more; or made slush contributions: Legislative $200,000. Because of incomplete and inaccurate reporting in the 2013 City Budget of 2011 actual expenses, the City Council has been on a “wild goose chase” provided courtesy of Mayor P.T. Finch. Open the books. Provide time for discussion and study. Cut out the rushes to decisions with dubious data provided before the decisions are required. Cut out losing operations like Sikorsky Airport where City taxpayers will become responsible for a planned-for $300,000 loss to keep this general aviation facility open, keep a dozen employees provided salary and benefits greater than too many City taxpayers, and no one on the B&A asking why. Finance Board!!! Time will tell.

  7. I attended the B & A meeting that went over the budget for the emergency call center and for the PD. Sherwood was not present. The B & A members asked more questions of these two units than I have seen for the past two years. The one thing they do need to do is press the department head for clear, concise answers. Example, they pressed Chief Gaudett on overtime payments but did not get a complete answer. It seems the council becomes emboldened when Sherwood is not there.
    Suggestions for the council:
    1. Have budget time extended from 38 days to 90 days to give council members more time to study the budget.
    2. ORDER AND I MEAN ORDER Sherwood to provide the 12-month CAFR report. He has no right keeping this from the council.
    3. Make cuts, start by eliminating the salary and benefits for the ghost positions. Cut funding to the mayors office to prevent the reselling back to the city unused vacation time and sick leave; Wood received $35,000 in such payments and Nunn received $22,000 and the mayor $4,444. I am still hunting for the other 37 mayoral appointments and their payouts. In Fortune 500 companies their policy is use it or lose it.

    1. He was probably stuck in traffic coming back from Stamford after picking up his son from work in his take-home city vehicle. Even though only two people take home vehicles … Yeah, Right !!!

  8. *** $7 million increase plus $2 million for in-kind service makes $9 million, no? That’s a lot of new 6th grade reading level books for the BOE in general! *** EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED ***

  9. There is little question the city’s education budget needs to be stabilized. One of the benefits of getting the school budget finally straightened out would be private investment in the school system. That will never happen under these conditions, though.
    However, to have the school budget balanced on the backs of overtaxed Bridgeport is patently unfair and morally objectionable.
    Conducting a forensic audit on the Bridgeport school system is an idea that has been broached for years. There would be definite savings in moving forward with this plan.


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