How Sharp Is Your Scalpel?

When a mayor’s trying to figure out what to cut to produce a balanced budget should he go across the board or slice deep into targeted departments? Mayor Bill Finch has done the latter.

The Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition has issued a graphic showing disproportionate cuts to libraries (-28 percent), health (-55 percent) from the current budget year to the one Finch proposes starting July 1. Finch cut more than $1 million from libraries and roughly $3 million from health, the biggest chunk against school-based health clinics. Finch has given the Board of Education roughly a five percent increase.

BCAC’s figures also show a 12 percent increase to the Mayor’s Office/Central Grants that includes departments such as Labor Relations, Finance, Tax Collection, City Clerk, Town Clerk, Tax Assessor, City Attorney and Purchasing.

Police and Fire Department budgets will increase, as proposed, about five percent and Economic Development roughly 8.5 percent, some of that for new positions to modernize staffing levels and make the office more business friendly.

It’s never easy taking a scalpel to departments. Someone’s going to scream.

We haven’t heard an update from the mayor in recent weeks on what he proposes to do with city assets such as Pleasure Beach, the municipal airport located in Stratford and two golf courses. He has made it clear that he’s not going to budget one-shot revenues. So perhaps any asset sales — if even possible to do because many of them are encumbered by regulations and deed restrictions — go into a fund that pays down city debt service, a $71.7 million item for Finch’s proposed budget.

Republican State Sen. Rob Russo’s call for a forensic-style audit and management study for the Board of Education adds an interesting twist. (I’m glad we have accountants reading OIB to explain the different auditing standards. If you missed them, see reader explanations from previous post.) At more than $200 million the city’s BOE budget might have auditors licking their chops for duplication, spending irregularities, misplaced priorities and perhaps more.

Russo is trying to squeeze out the few hundred grand from the governor and Republican leadership in Hartford — before the legislative session ends next month — to bring in the big independent bean counters.

The Bridgeport City Council’s budget committee meets tonight at 6:30 in the Wheeler Room of city hall to review the proposed library budget and hear a presentation from library officials.



  1. Mr. Grimaldi,
    If only it were as simple as you make it out to be. But if you look to see where the scalpel makes it biggest cuts you will see a more vicious pattern.
    22 Public Health Nurses – all represented by SEIU 1199 Health Care Workers
    13 SBHC Nurse Practitioners / social workers – all represented by SEIU 1199 Health Care Workers
    7 Dental Hygienists – affiliated with 1199
    Library assistants associated with SEIU
    Health Dept. Medical Associates and Outreach workers associated with SEIU
    Which unions choose Chris Caruso over Bill Finch?
    SEIU / 1199.
    This budget is bad policy and bad politics.

  2. “BCAC’s figures also show a 12 percent increase to the Mayor’s Office/Central Grants that includes departments such as Labor Relations, Finance, Tax Collection, City Clerk, Town Clerk, Tax Assessor, City Attorney, Purchasing.” That really sez it all. Why are the children made to suffer the predations of the departments staffed by political appointees? Labor relations? Hire an attorney in Staphstrom’s office. Purchasing? Does anyone in city hall know how to make procurements online with a credit card?

  3. When trimming budgets, a sharp scalpel in inexperienced hands often does more harm than good.Trim the fat but leave the muscle may be easier said than done But the fat in Bridgeport’s cost structure doesn’t take a microscope to find.

    The problem with this preliminary budget is twofold: it reflects a distorted set of priorites; and it seems to ignore the consequences of truly draconian cuts to the library and health care. It may be no more complicated than that, but the thinking behind it should be of great concern to us all.

  4. Talk about tough choices
    Today’s CT Post lists the Top Ten Deadbeat Developers in the city for both Real Estate and Personal Property taxes.
    Sal DiNardo and REMGRIT top both list. In total they owe $11,768,000. If Sal simply paid the interest on an annual basis it would be $2,118,000 in new revenue. That would pretty much take care of the Health Department budget cuts. If he paid his annual taxes and interest and didn’t pay any of the old balance that would probably take care of the other budget problems.
    Before the city takes any of his property, Sal will be back before the council looking for another sweetheart tax deal. Maybe OIB can have a pool and give a prize to the person who comes the closest to guessing how much of a cut he is looking for without going over.
    I’ll go first. My guess is he will want all of it forgiven.
    BTW who here thinks the mayor has paid back all of those campaign contributions that he promised to do after the last tax break? Or will that simply go the way of the $600 homesteading tax break?
    More tough chocies for Mayor Finch.

  5. Well Bob you got your point across on DiNardo but how about coming up with areas where cuts can be made? Ideas on how to get this budget fixed. Everyone has read about DiNardo; right now we need ideas on fixing the budget.

  6. B Walsh – can’t DiNardo be forced to pay those taxes? what kind of enforcement is place, why don’t you come up with a way to do that. complaining is just words, how about coming up with a plan of action? Complaining isn’t the solution and it resolves nothing, its part of the problem.

  7. Wondering,
    A few quick thoughts are:
    BCAC issued numbers (which I have not had a chance to dig into) which indicate the city is adding 49 new employees and cutting 64. If we don’t add the 49 then we only need to cut 15.
    With well structured buy-outs, we can get financial rewards while lessening the pain of the cuts on long-serving dedicated city employees.
    Although I concur with Mayor Finch’s policy of not including one time revenues to the operating budget, it is almost impossible to go from $16 million one year to $0 the next. The city should recognize some revenues of this nature to bridge this change in accounting. If an extremely conservative estimate yields $1 – $2 million in revenue, I do not see a problem with adding it this year as part of a plan of eliminating this practice over a few years.
    The city needs to take a much harder look at its organizational structure. I have always believed that combining the Tax Collector and Tax Assessor’s offices makes sense. The flow of work ebbs and peaks at different times in these offices and I believe there are economies of scale in both management and clerical staff. The same can be said of departments in the health and social services areas.
    I would definitely do something about the Port Authority. State law allows a municipality to establish these types of authorities by either an independent agency or through a city department or even as a line item in the budget. I do not think the PA has worked. I believe that the city would be better served and the port and coastal areas more effectively integrated into the overall planning of the city by eliminating its current structure.
    And there are certain niceties in the city i.e. mounted police, segways, harbor patrol that need to be eliminated or curtailed as a means of saving costs and gaining efficiencies.
    But what do I know. I’m not on the budget and appropriations committee.

  8. How come no one talks about the millions of tax dollars DiNardo pays every year. or the millions of his own money he invested in cleaning up the old Bridgeport Brass site that will be the new home of a company moving from Fairfield. DiNardo cleans up dirty properties to put them back on the tax rolls. Not bad. The old Remington Arms site is a shit hole. You think the city’s going to clean that up? When pigs fly. And when Finch gets a clue.

  9. City Kitty,
    The only way to enforce the tax liens is to seize the properties and sell them off at auction. Make these people feel the pain. The city has got to stop playing footsies with these developers and show them once and for all that we mean business.
    Until these land barons believe that they are going to lose money, they will sit on that property, build up back taxes and laugh at the ordinary tax pay that gets his car towed for not paying $100 in back tax.
    And we need to get a real auction going and not one run by the city attorney’s office. Why doesn’t the city do what the feds did in Stratford?
    When one of Sal’s properties is sold at auction, I’ll be there. You can spot me in the back of the room with a sickle in my hand and a smile on my face.
    Do I hear $10.00 for the Remgrit properties? $10.00 is the opening bid.

  10. I can’t help but wonder what the need for school dental hygenists is. I thought we had dental clinics in the city for the underserved, so why do we need 7 of them to sevice school kids, why can’t they just go to the clinic? It would save money. I agree we need nurses in the schools, but dental hygenists seem unecessary. Remington Arms looks like a war zone, is there a plan for doing something with that? Granted, DiNardo does do some good things in the city and he pays some taxes, but he doesn’t pay all of them.

  11. Grin – clue me in, what did the feds do in Stratford? I do remember when Waterbury stuck it to Daddario for nonpayment of taxes. We just don’t take a hard enough position on these delinquents. If you and I have to pay, then everyone should have to, I don’t care if its $10 or $10,000, if you owe it, pay it, or the city should come after you, no excepcions to the rule.

  12. Mrs. McGillicuddy over on Novotny Court hasn’t paid her taxes this year. The bill she received included an 18% interest charge and an advice that Foreclosure Proceedings were imminent.

    (1) How much interest has DiNardo been charged?
    (2) Why is he not in foreclosure?

    This isn’t rhetorical. I really want to know!

  13. I want to know also yahooy. I had to pay 18% interest on car tax bill a few years ago because I just plain forgot to pay it. I learned a tough lesson, but I paid it making sure it never happened again. My interest rate on my Mastercard is only 12.5%, so 18% seems pretty high. by the way, how is your friend Anna doing? I think you want her, you really really want her! 😉

  14. City kitty i agree with you we dont need the clinics in the schools. Put the clinic out to bid and let a aprivate company run them. The city will get money from the bidder and the savings of getting out of the health care business. The State of Connecticut offers the huskey program for Health care for all kids so if parents have not applied they should.
    mr. Walsh you may not be on the budget committee but i am sure you can offer advise or ideas. Your idea of doing away with the port authority is a valid one with a million dollar savings. Put the port under the CAO in the mayors office. the port authority was instituted when it looked like we were getting casinos.

  15. You are right on, town committee. School nurses do take care of kids that get sick or need medicines during the day, but dental hygenists are not necessary. Dental care at school is a waste of money when there is a dental clinic they can go to. I don’t know much about the port authority, but if it saves a million to put it under the CAO, then i say go for it. Bob Walsh should suggest this idea to the budget committee. that’s a huge savings and well worth checking out.

  16. Finch cannot make unilateral decisions as to how accounting issues may be applied to the city’s financial statement. Just as business operates in accordance with accounting standards and principles prescribed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) a municipality is compelled to conform to the standards of the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB). Otherwise, all financial reports issued by the city are nothing more than a continuation of the smoke and mirrors we have been forced to live with since the Machinists have been in control.

  17. The Unhonarable finch can start in his own office. Is there really a need for him to have 3 secretaries? And what do Ruben and Tyrone actually do? We know now that he has his press sec do the dirty work for him when he is too coward to show up. What about the Greeter? Is that really necessary? What happened to those computers they used to have set up in the halls a few years back that showed you where the offices were located? What did they do throw those away? or are they sitting collecting dust? What about the finance office do we really need the feeny guy, and the one under him Lupkas? What about the damn computer dept why do they have all of those project managers making over 80 grand a piece. The cob website sucks. I called over to that dept and was told a mark kovacs is the manager who takes care of it. I left a message he didnt call back. Is he one making 80 grand ? whos son is he? We have all of these made up positions in city hall that can be trimmed without devestation. Cut these peoples salaries. What about the secretaries that fabrizie gave raises to of about 20 grand a piece and put them into the supervisors union? Who do they supervise? nobody thats who. CUT CUT CUT CUT the fat! Why is finch being allowed to cut important jobs and creating make believe noshow jobs for his cronies? This disgusts me.


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