Ouch! Mayor Proposes Huge Tax Hit–Education And Pension Contributions Lead The Way–Gomes: It’s Insane

UPDATE: Includes mayor’s proposed budget

What a difference a year makes. Mayor Bill Finch Monday night proposed a city budget that calls for a 2.7 mil increase representing a budget hike of $24 million including $7 million more for city schools after flatlining school spending the prior three years. The mayor announced, under his proposal, the average homeowner would see an additional tax hit of more than $400 and his own home about $600, as well as additional car taxes. City Council members, reacting with disbelief at the tax hike proposal, say they will find ways to cut back the tax hit.

The mayor presented his roughly $518 million spending plan to the City Council Monday night. Council members say they were not briefed about the budget in advance. One year ago the mayor’s office was quick to kick out a news release touting his budget proposal that called for no tax increase in an election year. This year, the start of his second four-year term, was a much different story. City officials were so underground about sharing tidbits about this spending plan that moles were running for cover.

Tonight (Tuesday) at 6 in City Council chambers the mayor begins the first in a series of public meetings selling his spending proposal to residents as he gears up a public outreach campaign to persuade voters to approve mayoral appointment of Board of Education members on the November ballot. A big tax hit will make it that much harder to sell. Still, this is the beginning of the budget process that could see council members scaling back the mayor’s spending plan that includes additional contributions toward pension obligations he has put off in the past to avoid tax increases.

The mayor announced Monday night he had rejected investment in city schools the past several years because the administrative atmosphere was not worthy; but, he claimed, with new Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas in place, with extensive experience turning around troubled districts, “Now is a really good time to invest in education.”

In addition to more education spending the mayor’s budget adds roughly $6 million more for pension contributions and millions more for city employee salaries and health care costs.

As the mayor takes his budget on the road, the City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee begins the process to see what stays and what goes over the next month. The full council votes on the budget in May before going back to the mayor for possible veto action. The council will set a final mil rate in June. OIB spoke to several council members Monday night. All of them promised cuts to the mayor’s budget. Either way, hunker down for a large tax hit.

John Gomes, 2011 mayoral candidate and former director of the city’s government efficiency CitiStat Program, said of Finch’s proposed budget increase, “It’s insane. People all over the city whether homeowners or businesses are struggling and now it’s even worse. Residents are packing their bags.”

Finch issued a lengthy budget transmittal letter Monday night, in part:

In addition to generating revenues for the City through aggressive tax collection and economic development, I am also proposing that we generate the revenue necessary to make an historic investment in our education system, public safety, and infrastructure through a 2.7 mil increase. For the average resident in Bridgeport who currently pays $6,200 in taxes, this equals a $424 increase, roughly $35 per month. As a homeowner myself, I understand that this is not easy. I can, however ensure Bridgeport residents that this increase will be wisely invested to stabilize and grow our City. It is also worth noting, that the bulk of this 2.7 mil increase is attributed to our pension obligations.

I have proven to you over the last four years, that I will spend your tax dollars with the utmost responsibility. The City of Bridgeport will do everything in our power to ensure that your tax dollars are being used properly to invest in our collective future.

Read mayor’s entire remarks here.

Mayor’s budget here.



  1. Does anyone know what the additional $24 million is for? $7 million is for the board of ed and $2.5 million for health care and pensions. What about the other $14.5 million???

  2. Did the mayor wake up this morning and realize we had a pension problem?
    I hope everyone who voted for this SOS is happy because this is a preview of the next four years.

  3. This SOS has already cut a behind-the-scene deal with the state and has promised this increase in taxes to pay for education in order to bail out Vallas’ bogus budget.
    Come on Paul, make public the letter; or do you really report to the state of Connecticut and not the BOE?

  4. And Bob Curwen never saw a tax increase he didn’t like. He will talk tough, ask Tom Sherwood to show him where he can save money, Sherwood will come up with a gimmick and Curwen will say we worked 25-hour days and did all we could. And Tom McCarthy will say the council is not responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city.

  5. This should come as no surprise to OIB bloggers, no? With possible charter revision hopes of more control of the BOE come last-minute money increase proposals along with playing catchup on pension contributions, employee salaries and health care cost. Money the city can regain later with forced layoffs and givebacks like in the past. The city council will find some sort of budget gimmick to muster up as a taxpayer saver but make no mistake it’s a done deal with a high $600 city tax increase! The city budget “dog and pony” sideshow is just beginning with lots of finger-pointing and political blame to go around. So be sure to get to the B&A meetings early for a seat and don’t forget to sign up for the useless city budget public speaking night! Milk and cookies will be served at a city discounted price for all past and future Finch voters! *** FORGETABOUTIT ***

  6. I’m back! For a short time at least–too busy trying to build my dream business. Ouch? Lennie, let me remind you, you don’t live in Bridgeport anymore. What’s this about the Council “reacting with disbelief at the tax hike proposal, say they will find ways to cut back the tax hit.” You bunch of poor fools–or at least acting the fools. Now they seem to know the meaning of the word “cut.” Too late! The time to cut or cry about spending was while or before the Finch administration was allowed to increase debt by over $100 million. Desperate times are here and the City desperately needs lots of money. Taxing is the only way for a municipality like Bridgeport to raise revenue. Politically, now is the time to do what you gotta do. The council members don’t have to face the voters for another two years and the mayor has twice as long as that time. Surely, people aspiring for a future mayoral run will have a field trip with this issue and could potentially gain popularity or support, but the election is still about four years away.
    The increase should be at least 4% considering there won’t be the kinds of developments necessary to raise the tax revenue the city needs; the council allowing the debt to grow over $100 million the last four years; the cost of lawsuits, TAN debt and the interest to name a few. As for all those people I’m going to hear bitching about paying higher taxes, I’ll remind them: you get what you elect. If you didn’t vote or voted for Finch, pay up and shut up.
    On another note:
    The other day I was speeding on I-95. I saw a trooper on the side of the road up ahead. As I passed the trooper, I reached out and grabbed all the cheese from the pizza he was eating.

  7. Mojo knows how to deliver a knockout punch–that’s why he’s OIB’s chief wisdom dispenser (blogger).

    A different Mayor would have faced the same reality–even if they responded otherwise. Defined benefit pensions are key. They’re too expensive. As the ongoing deflation makes their value skyrocket (I wish I had one of those), they could become a source of needed revenue–but only if municipalities make the switch to 401k status. Inflation wouldn’t hurt because they were designed to offset that. I encourage JML to explore the idea and identify the potential savings. Any pension should be determined by your contribution and not some namby-pamby criteria like seniority or time. Welcome to my world (wink).

    Grab your cell phone and get in touch with my foibles here:
    www .localeyes.mobi

    The internet was invented so people could answer their own questions.

  8. And Bob Curwen, Angel dePara and Tom McCarthy did not see this tax increase coming???
    They should at a minimum resign from their leadership (ha, ha, ha) positions on the council and consider stepping down completely.
    They are making fools of themselves and fools of the taxpayers and voters in the city of Bridgeport.

  9. I was at the meeting last night ,what a dog and pony show. JML and I have been telling everyone we could this was happening. It happened.
    I took a quick look at the mayor’s proposed budget and what did I see? They are still funding GHOST positions. For those who don’t know, these are positions for which the city budgets salary and benefits and then leaves the jobs unfilled. I looked quickly and found 14 such positions in public facilities. I did not check the entire budget last night but I will report back on the number of ghost positions in the entire budget. You cant make this stuff up.

  10. To Local Eyes,
    Don’t go blaming the unions. Defined benefit plans created the problem, not funding them properly created the crisis. This falls on Finch and Fabrizi.
    Bridgeport unions have already agreed to changing the manner in which their pensions are structured. This is a management problem and a political problem; a grossly incompetent city management and a bogus pension bailout plan whose only retirement was guaranteed was John Stafstrom’s.

    1. Finch and Fabrizi were asked to finance a promise made by former Bridgeport Mayors. That’s called politics. City pensioners have been over promised. Mr. Walsh: what you call gross incompetence, I call your recent past. I do not see how you can divorce yourself from Bridgeport politics circa 2011. What union membership calls an obligation, others call a promise that cannot be kept. The liabilities are staggering–who wants to finance that? Drum roll, please. Discussing that is where this blog should be headed, imo.

  11. Here is a quote from Finchwoody on the new school budget.
    “The question should legitimately be asked, after funding schools flat for nearly all of my first four years, why are we proposing an increase now,” he said. “And the major reason is sitting here in this room. It’s (Interim Superintendent of Schools) Paul Vallas and it’s the vision that he put together with the community, the business community, the parents, on a long-term vision for success in our schools. We’ve never had that before … Now is a really good time to invest in education.”
    So these last 4 years under FinchWoody the kids did not mean squat. They did not like the supt. of schools so they let the kids get screwed.
    I must remind FinchWoody they controlled the vote of the BOE during those four years.
    This BOE bullshit is nothing more than a grab for more money FinchWoody can play with.
    BTW Mr. Mayor, where is the $11 million in the education budget for the nutrition center; are you privatizing that also?
    Mr. Mayor, where did the money come from to give Fabrizi a promotion and a raise?

  12. How can anyone be in disbelief about this?

    Is the proposed tax increase enough to cover the shortfalls from previous budget years? Or will the administration be back for another hike next spring?

    Are vendors being paid–within their contractual times?

  13. A little off topic:
    From the CT Post: Weir, Hornsby head Vibes’ lineup
    City officials, elected officials and board members lineup for free tickets in violation of city Ethics Ordinance.
    City taxpayers take it up their wallets based on sweetheart deal the Vibes cut with the city.

    1. Why shouldn’t the Vibes get a sweetheart deal. It is one of the few major positive things the city has going for it. The city should start cutting a lot of sweetheart deals if it can get more events like the gathering.

  14. Surely they jest!

    “Councilman and Budget Committee co-chairman Robert Curwen’s reaction was simple. “Three letters: O.M.G.,” he said. Committee co-chairman Angel DePara said the increase was “going to be asking a lot from the already cash-strapped citizens of Bridgeport.”

    Councilwoman Susan Brannelly said the mayor’s proposed budget will give the committee a lot of work this year. “Because 2.7 mils is not going to fly,” she said. “Certainly not with the public but I don’t think with the committee either.”

    Read more: www .ctpost.com/local/article/Finch-seeks-tax-hike-for-schools-pensions-3454025.php

  15. Andy Fardy and I are not prophets. We are not accountants. We are taxpayers from different parts of the City who share outrage with City fiscal mismanagement, the failure to tell the truth, and their absolute drive for control of every governance lever in the City. The outrage comes from the failure to achieve anything worthwhile during the past four years for the taxpayer, the student, and the City future for the dollar demanded as payment from taxpayers.

    I mention prophet because we claimed last fall there would be a tax increase at this time and the main thrust would be on improving education. That is part of the picture but it needs more study. If you look at Paul Vallas’ BOE budget the claim the City was assumed to increase its contribution by 5% and the State by 2.5%. What was ignored was this question: Were the % going to be calculated as a % of current contribution or as part of the total education budget??? Big difference it turns out. The Mayor’s budget seems to be saying it’s a % of the total education budget. $7 Million to education additional from the City is 5% of $140 Million isn’t it? So is the school budget only $140 Million? And $3.5 Million expected additional from the State is 2.5% of $140 Million isn’t it? But what slice of the BOE budget is $140 Million? What is included? What is left out? BOE Nutrition funded by the Feds? BOE principal and interest funded by Bridgeport? Why is there no report including every dollar raised and spent annually from every City, State, Federal and outside contributor? Isn’t it time for such a comprehensive report, or are we going to be as blind as our watchdogs? If both Mayor and Superintendent support the concepts of OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, and TRANSPARENT, they have to act on it or these are mere words.

    We have also questioned for many months why there has been reference to internal controls and internal audit staff in the budgetary narrative for the past few years. Take a look at this year’s statement. Four-five years after the last internal auditor served, they have changed the untruthful statement put before all of us. Why was this position cut? What has replaced it and where does the public have any evidence of the work product of internal controls? Anyway, the City has adjusted their printed disinformation but the Mayor’s rhetoric continues and must be challenged.

    Perhaps someone will ask the Mayor to provide a copy of the Pension Plan A deal with the State he made last year and our actuary has provided as a basis for action? Did the Mayor on our behalf agree to a larger contribution this year, but fail to share it with the public, the B&A or the City Council before the election?

    Perhaps someone will ask the Mayor about the Fire Department active employees and his completed negotiations. Are the Fire Pension Plan B pension assets still with the City Fire Trustees or were they moved to the State? If the money is still here, why is it here? If all of a sudden there are market losses, will city taxpayers be responsible for making them up to the State? Something does not seem quite right about this … and Andy Fardy has presented two FOI letters that hang with the City Attorney without response … for six months now.

    How many ghost positions did the Mayor propose this year and why are there any? By the way, the Mayor claims to have eliminated over 225 positions. Does anybody have such a list? Does the Mayor have such a list? Has the Mayor added any positions since 2007? What is the net count? For those of you who trust everything Mayor Finch says, OK to trust, but remember to verify.

    One last item for the moment: The Mayor loves to discuss his national Certificates of Achievement for Budget and Financial Reporting (CAFR). Last night he said the award is for “budget transparency” in his talk, as the City Council members were just getting that report and signing for it. Perhaps you have noticed his repeated awards claims? He has never mentioned to my knowledge City taxpayers are paying the financial cost to the Government Finance Officers Association for this annual award. Could we cut this expense this year? And the awards are not for the specific material covered in the report but for the beauty pageant of data, charts, and narrative. The GFOA also offers reports and training classes that would be of significant use to City fiscal workers and City Council members. Have these ever been pursued by the City?

    The new budget for next year is on the City web site now. This is your opportunity to read the narrative. Does everything make sense to you? How does it compare to last year, this year? What does your Council person think? (Please be kind.) Would they like help? Perhaps the budget meetings can get posted with agendas that allow a limited Q & A by the public? Maybe the meetings should be televised for future review? That is the Council’s domain. Not the Mayors, I suggest. Perhaps the Budget and Appropriations Committee can use the help??? Budget Oversight Bridgeport-2012 can use your help. Call me at 203-259-9642 if you wish to participate with Andy and me and other City volunteers in monitoring our B & A “watchdogs.” Time will tell.

      1. For that matter you could just refer to yourself as ‘Jimmy.’ See how easy it is to get your point across while economizing the verbiage?

        By the way … at a penny for each word over 7000 as I proposed yesterday, you owe the general fund $34,000.

      2. yahooy // Apr 3, 2012 at 5:49 pm
        To your posting

        You do yourself a disservice. There has not been a disclosure of such magnitude for the city of Bridgeport as the disclosure of money operations that figure in the city of Bridgeport’s budget.
        No one has grasped as well as John Lee to the degree he is making it public knowledge. I grant you SHERWOOD has a keen and malevolent grasp of the city numbers and to be sure he never would let the public, the council members and the Mayor!
        So thank you John Lee for the kind of information we are going to need to ultimately save the municipality of Bridgeport.
        I would suggest you work on developing a lengthened attention span because every word is valuable and critical. I would rather have the words of John Lee than the horrendous actions of the Finch/Wood administration.

        1. I want it to be very clear SHERWOOD would not let the public know about the budget chaos, nor would he let the city council members know (B & A especially). Nor would he let the Finch/Wood administration. Besides SHERWOOD, nobody knows the numbers.

  16. “The mayor announced Monday night he had rejected investment in city schools the past several years because the administrative atmosphere was not worthy.”

    If the mayor felt so strongly about the past administration why did he not pressure the BOE to get rid of Salcedo faster? He had a say in Ramos coming here. Why if he were so dissatisfied with Ramos did he not pressure the BOE to get rid of him? We all know superintendents serve at the mercy of the political tide.

    However my main concern is the mayor did not like the administrative atmosphere. What about the 22,000-plus students? Does he give a rat’s ass about them?

  17. Wouldn’t it be in the city’s interest to slash property taxes? The terrible schools plus high taxes are the reason many do not live in Bridgeport.

    It seems to me a major tax cut could be revenue neutral over time because of the new residents and businesses it would attract.

    It worked for Boston in the early ’80s.

  18. We will know how good Paul Vallas is this time next year when he has laid off/retired/fired most of the 400 or so paraprofessionals who work with kindergarten and special-needs children. Does he honestly think college interns working on master’s degrees in education will flock to Bridgeport schools to work with with pre-k, kindergarten and special-needs children? I know of no college student willing to do my job.

    What if the state education department comes in to audit the IEPs of special-needs students? The IEP is a legal document–if it calls for a special-needs student to have a 1 to 1 para–and the student doesn’t have one–Vallas will face fines.

  19. Finch is just replaying out what’s already been played in Chicago ~
    Opponents of a mayoral takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools said the change would not help the district compete for federal money, nor would it improve student performance or accountability.

    At a press conference at City Hall on Monday, opponents of the takeover said the attempt to replace the democratically elected school board with one appointed by the mayor threatens the gains made by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The governance change would require a modification of state law enacted by the state Legislature and the governor. It’s unlikely Milwaukee residents would have the opportunity to vote on the takeover.

    And Chicago, of course, was paralleled with a tax increase–even though private money was chomping at the bit to be invited to the party.
    www .expressmilwaukee.com/article-7762-mps-mayoral-takeover-opponents-say-theyrsll-fight-on.html

    Why? Just because they could.

  20. Both co-chairs of the B & A committee expressed shock at the 2.7 mil rate increase, both stated they had just got their first look at the new budget. I have one question for both of these guys.
    What happened at the private meeting you two held in a rear table at White’s diner on Saturday? I know there is no love lost between the two of you so this meeting really has some significance.


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