Save Trees, Mayor Receives Financial Reporting Suggestions

City fiscal observers John Marshall Lee and Phil Smith, in a letter to Mayor Bill Finch, offer suggestions for streamlining financial reports so “The Council and public can better see what is happening by reading notes and observing variances in a format that will allow them to monitor the report monthly as their Agenda declares. And trees can be saved.” Letter follows:

The City has many problems as you know. Financial issues loom large in almost everything that crosses your desk. The Charter and Ordinances as well as other external or internal rules govern your financial life, yet they are not always followed. And the public simply does not get the word, which as taxpayers is their due.

Let’s focus on the Charter required monthly financial report. It runs 88 pages or more often. As you indicated in your 2014 address to the BRBC, you are “finding ways to cut government waste.” Target this report for immediate reform:

• Eliminate ALL Public School budget info except for three or four lines that would include: Education (Lines 01800-01899), BOE Food Services (01900), BOE Transportation (01875), and perhaps Debt Service (01940) though this is paid by the City. BOE budget is available on Public Schools site. This saves 20 pages.

• There are approximately 60 departments with personnel expense. Why not list each DEPARTMENT on one line, use the next five lines to summarize (1) Personal Services, (2) Other Personal Services (3) Fringe Benefits (4) Other Expenses and (5) Special Services? This is the format used in recent years with budget presentations. During the year Variances will be more easily spotted by everyone and necessary transfers (See City Charter Chapter 9 Section (5i)) can be attended to easily. This format can reduce 50 pages to 8 pages, eliminating particular confusion in Public Safety sections. Next to the Department title the number of current FTE as of that month can be reported as it does on the Public School site.

• It is well to have a title page that indicates the month and year with a summary of where budgeted and actual revenue and expense are running and what surplus or deficit variance is happening. It is likely necessary to have revenue and expense variance commentary averaging 4 pages as a year progresses.

• The Revenue reporting pages currently run around 8 pages and can remain as they are except for Line Item categories that have not been filled in recent years. Remove these lines as they only fill space. Likewise BOE revenues can be compressed to single lines, where the City contributions of all kinds can be clearly identified. City Grants Managers may be encouraged to produce regular reports of their fiscal efforts like the Public Schools.

• And the simplified report should be made available monthly by the fourth Friday of the following month as called for in the Charter at the City Clerk’s office BUT ALSO ON THE FINANCE DEPARTMENT site. Perhaps a Grants report for the City similar to the Public Schools needs to be presented regularly as well. The full report similar to current format needs to be available on the Finance Department site so that line item details eliminated in the Summary (1-5) format can be viewed.

In summary City fiscal reporting can be reduced to about 21 pages a savings of printing and paper by 75%. The Council and public can better see what is happening by reading notes and observing variances in a format that will allow them to monitor the report monthly as their Agenda declares. And trees can be saved. Win, win, wins would seem in order. Time will tell.



  1. I applaud this effort and eagerly await our mayor’s response. How can he possibly not embrace this proposal? Saves trees, ink, promotes integrity and transparency, complies with the city charter–all hallmarks of the Finch administration. Perhaps the report can also be delivered electronically for even wider access!

    1. To Baffled’s comments:

      And what could be more green than this?

      Welcome to 2014, Mr. Mayor and City Council veterans!

      Maybe Dan Malloy, while he’s in town campaigning, can speak to this? Lead.

  2. Dear Baffled,
    Right on! Failure to embrace the spirit of this suggestion would correspond to a high order of hypocrisy. But if the report remains as is, would that surprise anyone?
    Regarding electronic delivery of this report, that is something that is available to City Council members and has been, at least to B&A leadership for several years now, but not to the public. Does Bill Finch care? Time will tell.

  3. The mayor also likes to raise taxes. What he does not like are suggestions and criticism. The overall attitude of this administration has been “How dare you give me an idea?!” I’m going to make a suggestion anyway. Fuck it. The state of New York has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the United States, 6.5%. Businesses that create new jobs and make new investments in production property and equipment may qualify for tax credits of up to 10% of their eligible investment. New businesses may elect to receive a refund of certain credits and all unused credits can be carried forward for 15 years. As Bridgeport sorely needs long-term jobs that pay an actual living wage, Mr. Finch ought to consider offering similar incentives to attract investment in the city. The local economy depends on EBT, WIC, service industry jobs that pay pathetically low wages, and the proceeds from criminal activity (drug dealing, larceny, sale of illegal guns, prostitution, extortion to name a few).


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