Away, But Still In Touch Fiscally

Citizen fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee could not attend the speaking portion of the City Council meeting Monday night where he is a regular voice. But he does not disappoint, writing to council members “since I am used to a routine of reviewing the Monthly Financial Report, released most recently on October 25, 2016, and providing some impressions to you on fiscal affairs I decided to keep you in the loop but through email alone this time.”

Items that might capture your notice and attention:
· Revenues from the property tax levy for FY 2017 have already reached 50% in the first quarter of the projection expected. Even more encouraging is the new State of CT revenue line item that shares regional sales taxes with the City. It already exceeds your conservative goal by $3 Million and is projected to grow by millions more during the last nine months. Good news.
· The Police Department budget continues to provide Overtime Expenses that exceed all budget projections, requiring a further increase. $108 Million of expense for about 400 employees regarding public safety can be compared to around $65 Million of City taxpayer funds flowing to the schools where 21,000 youth get daily attention and more than 2500 employees receive compensation.
· Another comparison might show that Police Department expenses include slightly more than $34 Million for salaries, more than $16 Million for personnel services including internal and external overtime, close to $36 Million for fringe benefits (that increased $3 Million since last months that is pension heavy but includes healthcare as well), and over $16 Million for the Pension A bond interest and principal obligation (payable for about 14 more years). The numbers will look even more out of line when a study of the “interest rate assumption relative to the actual plan earnings” has been prepared for each plan, likely causing increases in annual funding.
· You may wonder why variances are not provided for all expense categories as the year progresses. If you had a program or department you had special interest in funding or monitoring, it is right for you to ask why you fund IT Service each year at a number and they find it hard to spend the allocation, or why, for example, it appears that funding you authorized for Minority Business office is not being spent for some reason.
· Despite the City continuing bus service at this moment or school resource personnel in City side budget (or not and for how long, unsure) the question is that 150 people were cut and there are not reserves sufficient to fund Kindergarten para-professionals or guidance counselors in the budget reductions from FY 2016. What will you do to remedy an equal opportunity for these young children with no one with power ready to exercise their Council power?

I was invited to be a member of “Citizens Working for a Better Bridgeport” several years ago. The group is morphing from a purely “political action group” into two distinct parts each with a different fiscal filing and organizational status. I have been happy to share my fiscal observations and expertise for the benefit of all citizens. The group is purposefully growing. It held a community meeting last Saturday with Scott Burns in attendance as well as Ken Flatto who spoke openly with those in attendance. The group has attracted some participation from different sections of Bridgeport. However, we hope to broaden participation even more. Will you sit for a cup of coffee within the next two weeks with a representative of the group? Let me know your pleasure and a good time for you. Be my guest. Issues and viewpoints range depending on your neighborhood. Consequentially if resources are scarce, good intelligence must be developed over the concerns of each smaller community within the largest city in the State.

I will call you on your Council listed number in any case. I hope we can meet in person finally. If you wish to decline such a meeting, please let me know and I will not bother you further on this subject.


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