School Board Approves Budget–Mayor To Unveil City Budget Next Week

Unlike last year when the elected Board of Education threw in the towel in anticipation of a state takeover of schools, the current appointed school board Monday night approved a budget that anticipates a commitment for additional city and state revenues. Mayor Bill Finch will submit his budget proposal to the City Council next week that may well include a tax increase to accommodate school spending. The new budget year starts July 1.

From Linda Conner Lambeck, CT Post:
With a single unanimous vote Monday, the state-appointed city school board approved a five-year school improvement plan for the district, a $226.3 million operating budget request for 2012-13 and finally sealed this year’s budget.

The plan makes sweeping changes to almost every aspect of the district’s operations and calls for a steady infusion of additional money from the state and city.

There remains a $3 million hole in the current year budget that Interim Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas said he is confident the state will eventually close with a grant or loan.

“This a solid plan. An achievable plan, designed to move the district forward,” said Vallas, who came to the district three months ago to help it fix a staggering budget deficit and design a plan to help the worst-performing district in the state improve.

The spending plan calls for a 4.88 percent boost in spending next year. The district’s stagnant $215.8 million operating budget would increase by about $10.4 million, with the state providing $6.8 million and the city $3.6 million. The new state money is contingent on the city spending more.

“Four months ago, we were faced with a budget where the only solution was to cut sports, cut social workers, increase class sizes. It was the only way,” said Board Member Hernan Illingworth. He credited Vallas and his team with instead cutting central office and redirecting funds to the schools.

As for the school improvement document, Illingworth said he agreed with 99.9 percent of the plan. His only reservation is with the Good Schools Foundation proposed by Vallas that would work to raise funds for the district.

“We have to be careful how we do it,” said Illingworth, concerned that the foundation be a resource and not something that supplants school board control.

Board Chairman Robert Trefry said he likes that the plan addresses all children in the district and doesn’t just start with the youngest students.

“It’s comprehensive, not evolutionary,” he said. It also hits on all of the issues the board heard when it went on listening tours with the public.

Vallas’ budget and five-year plan were produced in a climate of urgency. The clock has been ticking on the life expectancy of the state-appointed board, which took over in July after the state seized control of the district following the locally elected board’s decision to disband.

The state Supreme Court on Feb. 28 overturned the takeover, citing a largely technical violation of the law. Under the court’s ruling, members of the old board whose terms had yet to expire will be joined by newly elected panelists, once the court works out the timetable for a special election.

But Monday night’s actions appear to have set the district on a new, long-term course.

Read more here.



  1. Typically, a coup d’état uses the extant government’s power to assume political control of the BOE.
    I’ll vote No to Finch’s five-year plan.
    I’ll vote No on the City Charter.
    Bring back the real BOE now!
    The Jim & Tom Show this Wednesday on WDJZ 1530 AM at 9am to 10am

  2. Now after four years Finch is going to put money into education. He is going to raise the per-pupil payment by $1,500 over the next 4 years. That’s $375.00 per student through 2016. Big deal. BTW Bill where is the money going to come from? The taxpayers? Yes.
    You want us to pay more taxes yet have no say in how it is spent. Oh yeah, the B&A has a public meeting where we get to talk to the B & A about the budget. This group of drones just listen, they answer no questions and make no statements. It’s all bullshit.
    I have a question, how long did the appointed BOE spend looking at these figures? Very little, I bet.

  3. A tax increase may be warranted but the lack of true watchdog oversight by the City Council points to the critical need for a Board of Finance composed of very experienced financial experts. Does someone have the history on why the Board of Taxation and … was removed from the Charter years ago?

  4. I have read through the Vallas education improvement plan and multi-year budgets. I could not have put this together because as a taxpayer I do not have access to the info. I have no reason to distrust Paul Vallas, and I take him at his word that he will be accountable and open and that the numbers and facts will be transparent.

    My first question: There are 20,300 students assumed in the five year plan. The article says the City contributes $2500 per student in the current year and will contribute $4,000 per student in 2016. The five-year plan assumes an increase of 5% by the City. $2500, $2625, $2756, $2895, $3010, $3160 … oops, something is off, isn’t it? What am I missing?

    Second, when we look at the “monthly report from finance” in recent years, some of the BOE budget items have been there, including Food and Nutrition at $11,300,000 annual and BOE Debt Service of $15,664,000. But I have missed that category in the new 40-page draft budget, although the fact so many kids in so many Bridgeport schools qualify for breakfast and lunch programs is referenced at many BOE meetings. What report will the B&A get to see when the dust settles, and how will it compare to what they were getting previously? Will it be what the taxpayer sees?

    Finally, I recently wrote about the Comprehensive Annual Financial Review 2011 (and its predecessors) where I noted the City actually spent $270 Million in its General Budget, a total of $318 Million for Education expenses (including grants), $45 Million for Capital Budget and $23 Million for other non-major governmental funds, for a total of $656 Million spent by the Finch administration.
    I would like to see a comprehensive report more often than six months after a fiscal year closes.
    I would like to know there is a fiscal watchdog group in the City that verifies the fiscal plan for each year is what is done.
    I want to see the public have more input into the process than the one meeting minimum called for in the current charter.
    What do you say about these fiscal matters? The Charter Revision process grinds along again tonight. The Budget and Appropriations Committee meets tomorrow afternoon. You have no right to speak at either meeting, but you will have to receive and respond to the tax bill. Are you seeing the big picture yet? Time will tell.

    1. Dogs that lie with dogs that have fleas get fleas. Vallas is too cozy with Fabrizi and Testa. Neither Fabrizi nor Testa have demonstrated they are committed to improving the quality of the education in Bridgeport. The proof is in the pudding. Both have been in charge and little has improved. Vallas should have built a 12-foot wall isolating himself from these two. Instead he is caught up in the ‘cheap shoe’ kitchen power table at the restaurant. I think we are wasting our time with Vallas.

  5. So almost a year ago the elected Board of Education was deemed dysfunctional and the state ordered it disbanded. The state then appointed its own BOE. Now with 3 months left in the current budget year the state-appointed BOE finally approves a budget that has a $3 million hole in it. The superintendent of schools says not to worry. The state has promised to come up with the missing dollars, however the document that purportedly states per the state of Connecticut is still under negotiation and will not be made public.
    If the last elected BOE was dysfunctional, then the state-appointed BOE is simply and totally incompetent. Now that I have seen the difference I will take dysfunctional any day of the week.
    I think I saw these same clowns climbing out of a VW the last time the circus was in town … Oh that’s right, Bridgeport, where the circus never leaves town.

  6. Paul Vallas has a couple of other alternatives for not running an actual deficit this year, he claims. So he can take his time to get the State money to plug the 2012 hole as long as he knows what to do if he gets stiffed.
    However, the real circus is in our City Council follies. And the Charter Revision Commission has no clue there is such a gap between the incumbent administration and a balanced understanding of what it means to be a check and balance on fiscal matters that would imply some training, some initiative, some example there is serious work to be done each month. Rather, this group looks to attend Council meetings that get shorter and shorter to approve consent calendars, engage in no real discussion and betray no sign of serious matters beyond moments of silence for the deceased. And when it gets to committee meetings the level of discussion could be seriously improved were members of the public able to add their two minutes to the discussion while it is ongoing. There is a fiscal crash coming and there is too little awareness in the body to avoid the results.
    One of the ways the BOE Board seemed to reveal its dysfunction according to some was the tenor of comments and dialogue, the inability to know or abide by rules of conduct for public meetings that ran out of control by leadership, and the investigation into seemingly minor areas of financial detail. However, the dysfunction of the Council shows silence and “good ol’ boy backslapping humor” can also reveal a public poorly represented by a membership that does not receive appropriate continuing training (including on ethics), is not proud of what it spends taxpayer stipend money on so they are willing to put the information on the public record (including why 10 members went to Washington, other than to see the White House or President), and why they do not demand comprehensive and well researched and documented recommendations from the executive branch including pros and cons, expense and revenue assumptions where appropriate and alternative or minority reports on the same subject. Council only hears one way, the company way, and whatever it is, by them it’s OK. Conflicts of interest are not understood at all here. Wonder when the crash will occur? Time will tell.

  7. The Finchwoody administration has kept $2.5 million in ECS money. It did not transfer this money over to the BOE yet. That really leaves a gap of $500K.
    As far as the B&A committee goes they will meet 3/28/12 at 1:30 PM to discuss and pass the BOE budget. Let’s remember this will be a budget of about $226 million. There will be a few bullshit questions and then they will recommend passage in a 7-0 vote, this will then go to the full council for a 20-0 vote.
    What’s sad about this is none of them really know what the hell they are passing.

  8. JML,
    Quit being an apologist for Paul Vallas. He is as sneaky and underhanded as Tom Sherwood but for some reason you like him. In a truly transparent financial process, Mr. Vallas would identify exactly where the savings will come from if the state does not ante up. In a truly balanced budget, the BOE would only account for known income especially with only three months left.
    Mr. Vallas should submit a balanced budget that does NOT include potential income, clearly show where the spending will be and then show if additional monies do come in how they will be spent.
    Mr. Lee, you would never accept from the City Council what you are so readily accepting from the FRAUD Paul Vallas.
    It’s time for you to be consistent in your criticism of others.

    1. Grin,
      The man has been in this City for 90 days, used his acumen and experience assisted by an assembled team of professionals and come up with a multi-year plan and multi-year budget. At the moment he has said he will not allow the education budget to run a deficit this year. (By the way the Mayor and Sherwood, here for years, can give the people no such ACCOUNTABILITY or guarantee.) I understand with the education process in our City spending over $330 Million last year, a differential of less than 1% with all the moving parts is acceptable at this moment. You can’t see it from a galloping horse as they say.
      However, I do want to see how it resolves itself so I continue to look at the paperwork. Vallas claims he can find $1.5 Million in Medicaid reimbursements that can be/should be claimed, but that takes time, so that may be an answer, by the way. Did you read that?
      At the moment I am looking for two sets of numbers that are included in current BOE monthly budget reporting but I did not see in the BOE draft budget.
      Grin, it’s time for you to be more positive about what needs to be looked at, or done, because at the moment he has not made a misstep in Bridgeport from what I can tell. Stating $3 Million of State income for this year, that might be $2 Million or might be dealt with in the next 90 days differently is small potatoes relative to the discord and lack of info previously available.

      Tom Sherwood is a Finchwoody practitioner for sure. He tells you a partial truth to satisfy you and then walks. Let’s see what this year’s budget process reports on “internal controls” or internal audit staff. If the language is the same as previous years, there is a question for Mayor Finch for sure. Ask it, please.
      I usually am criticizing practices, not persons. And the City Council as a group behaves without courage and credibility in too many areas, but specifically financial because they are not watchdogs. Bob Curwen for instance has been on the B&A committee for 14 years and is a Co-Chair, but he has not had 14 years of experience because B&A has not moved to increase its competency in review through training, cannot look outside itself for getting truly relevant monthly variances and warnings, is proud to shut out public comment by relying on public hearing notice rules that could easily change, has seen the City unreserved fund balance decrease from $55 Million to $11 Million with no pushback. He acts like a tour director, not a watchdog, and if it is true his wife is a City employee, and he has on occasion been willing to take a City check, then he is a lapdog, a barkless statue. I give his co-chair Angel DePara some slack, though my procedural observations are still relevant, because of the time he puts in attending Citizen Union meetings, Charter Revision Meetings and his own committee responsibilities. He also is willing to meet, respond and seek improved ways of doing City business.
      So Grin, I am consistent in my commentaries and that is why I will call you to tell me what Vallas has said in his draft budget about how he will not be in deficit this year. Did you read it as I have? And what is missing and where did you find or not find said answer? Time will tell.


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