The Budget Impact, And New Steel Deal

9:30 a.m. update: Lots of stuff today including the state budget impact on Bridgeport and an announcement by Mayor Bill Finch and the developer for Steelpointe Harbor, a 52-acre mixed-use redevelopment of the lower East Side, that establishes some common ground to move the languishing project forward albeit without any news that specific retailers have signed on for the first phase of the project.

But it’s a start. Developer Bob Christoph Sr. has pledged a $500,000 non-refundable deposit to the city once the City Council has approved the revised plan and the mayor signs the deal.

The $500k is a far cry from the $4 million the city had budgeted for two consecutive budget cycles in anticipated revenue from transfer of land from the city to the developer that was not realized, forcing the city to make up the loss in revenue by cutting city departments. The deal is structured so that land is transferred based on developer performance.

Christoph projected store openings in 2012. David Smith and Steve Krauchick from provided the following feed from the event including interviews with Finch and Christoph.

Meanwhile the budget passed by the Democrat-controlled state legislature is headed for passage following the announcement by Republican Governor Jodi Rell that she will neither sign nor veto the budget, except for some selected social service line items she says are loaded with pork. The budget becomes law in five days failing a gubernatorial signature.

Rell, in exasperated comments in her news release, says she doesn’t like the spending package but won’t get in its way after months of exhaustive negotiations with Dems.

Tucked inside the Democratic budget approved on Tuesday is some good news for the city: a moratorium on city pension contributions to police and fire retirees saving millions in the short term and restoration of autonomy for the Bridgeport Port Authority that was the subject of a lot of hostility and led to the termination of Joe Riccio as port authority director.

There’s $400k for the Discovery Museum, $380k for the zoo, $100k for the Boys and Girls Club in the state budget.

City beancounters are feeling pretty good that the pension moratorium was passed. The city had not budgeted its state-mandated pension obligation on the leap of faith that the legislature would come to the rescue during this difficult economic climate. Now the city has some breathing room as it waits for the economy to turn around and make those payments in the future.

Several news releases below starting with Gov. Rell regarding the budget and Mayor Finch’s release about Steelpointe

Governor Rell: Budget Will Become Law Without Her Signature – and Without Pork-Barrel Spending

Governor Will Not Sign Bill, But Will Line-Item Veto $8 Million in Earmarks, Other Spending Added at Last-Minute

Governor M. Jodi Rell today announced that she will neither sign nor veto the state budget given final approval by legislative Democrats early Tuesday morning, allowing the bill to become law without her signature according to the state Constitution. However, Governor Rell said she will exercise her line-item veto power to remove new earmarks and new “pork-barrel” spending items added to the bill.

“Democrats have repeatedly called this budget a ‘compromise,'” Governor Rell said. “It is hardly a compromise. Last week I put a new budget proposal on the table – my fourth – in which I accepted tax increases I did not want in return for cuts in state spending. The Democrats just could not cut, once again showing they are unwilling – or simply unable – to make meaningful reductions. They refuse to accept the reality that families and businesses accepted months ago: We must live within our means.

“Instead, this budget calls for more borrowing and vague plans for future savings,” the Governor said. “Worse still, in the hours before this budget was brought to a vote the Democrats had the audacity to add more spending. It is as if they believe the people of Connecticut do not care, are not watching and will not notice.

“Because of this complete disregard for our taxpayers, I will be using my line-item veto to eliminate all of the new earmarks and pork-barrel spending. The total is some $8 million – not an overwhelming amount in the scheme of the two-year budget. But this spending is an insult – a slap in the face of our taxpayers.

“I will not veto the entire budget,” Governor Rell said. “However, I will not sign it into law, because I do not believe in this budget. I do not want, by my signature, to put a stamp of approval on their spending, their inability to make cuts or their levels of borrowing, revenues and taxes.

“But a veto will not bring significantly different results, I fear – and the people of Connecticut are starting to truly feel the effects of our stalemate. This budget crisis has lingered longer than any in state history. Struggling families, people who have lost their job or their home, people with disabilities, cities and towns, schools, state agencies and non-profits – all have been left wondering about the future. They need to know state resources are in place and available. Now they will know.

“Let me repeat: This budget is not the compromise I sought – but it is a fight that has saved our taxpayers billions of dollars,” Governor Rell said. “By digging in my heels, I have forced the Democrats to sharply lower their demand for new taxes. They went from $3.3 billion in new taxes in their April budget to $2.5 billion in the June budget, dropping to $1.8 billion in their July budget – and $900 million in the current proposal.

“This budget reduces the corporate surcharge that the Democrats first proposed at 30 percent to 10 percent over the next three years, and excludes nearly all small- and medium-sized businesses in the state. This budget makes significant changes and reductions in the inheritance tax and requires the state sales tax to drop. And it does cut some state spending. Most importantly: This budget crisis must be resolved. For the good of our state, this crisis is now resolved.”

Under the state Constitution, the bill automatically becomes law without the Governor’s signature five days after passage.

News release from State Senators Anthony Musto and Ed Gomes


Urge governor to sign bill that preserves vital services and helps the state’s largest city

Hartford – Two measures included in the biennial budget bill approved by the General Assembly last night and supported by state Senators Anthony Musto (D-Trumbull) and Edwin Gomes (D-Bridgeport) would not only preserve vital services for low-income and working families but also would have direct financial and operational impact on the city of Bridgeport.

The legislation would relieve Bridgeport of its pension obligation to police and firefighters for the next two fiscal years under conditional oversight from the state-a move that would spare city residents a substantial property tax increase and that will preserve city jobs. The measure has local support from the police and fire unions. The bill also restored local government control to port authorities.

Following the state Senate’s 22-to-13 approval of the bill-House Bill 6802, An Act Concerning Expenditures and Revenue for the Biennium Ending June 30, 2011-early this morning, the senators urged Governor M. Jodi Rell to sign the bill.

“This was not a perfect budget, but it’s a budget that reflects the realities of our current situation,” Senator Musto said. “Beyond preserving things like Family Resource Centers and services for seniors, this budget puts in place language that will help save Bridgeport tens of millions of dollars over the next two years on its pension obligations while moving the city toward a long-term plan. Without this legislation, taxpayers in Bridgeport would have been forced to absorb several million dollars in property tax increases-something that unfathomable right now.”

Senator Musto continued, “In addition, we’ve returned port authority control to local governments and fixed a problem that developed at the end of the session. I would strongly urge the governor to sign this bill.”

“This is good for Bridgeport, it’s good for working families, it’s good for seniors and it’s good for children,” said Senator Gomes. “This bill makes smart cuts and puts things in place that will help protect jobs and programs in our city. We will come out of this economic downturn, but these things will help us out along the way there.”

News release from State Rep. Don Clemons

Bridgeport Lawmakers Tout City Benefits of State Budget

The Chairman of Bridgeport’s legislative delegation Representative Charles “Don” Clemons Jr. (D-124) said the new state budget adopted by the General Assembly has many benefits for the Park City. Despite cuts to numerous state funding programs, Clemons said Bridgeport fared well citing $164.2 million of state aid for local education, a special pension contribution exemption, grants for various city institutions, and retention of an autonomous Port Authority.

“The delegation successfully combined efforts to ensure Bridgeport earned our fair share of the state budget pie,” said Clemons, who also serves as chairman of the Legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and is a member of the budget-writing Appropriations Committees. “I’m proud of our work to help solve this budget crisis, but most importantly we were able to minimize the potential negative impact on Bridgeport residents.”

The budget contains a $406,125 grant for Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum as well as $380,000 for Beardsley Zoo. Clemons also highlighted a $100,000 matching grant for Bridgeport Boys & Girls Club.

The pension exemption will allow the city to save tens of millions of dollars by suspending 2009-11 payments to the policemen and firefighters retirement funds by arranging for long term financing for the liability. “This is a huge savings for city taxpayers, without compromising the integrity of the pension fund,” said Clemons, a retired firefighter.    

Overall, the $37.6 billion budget for 2010-11 represents a compromise with Governor Rell that erases an $8.5 billion deficit with a combination of spending cuts, borrowing and new revenues, mainly from an income tax increase on the wealthy. The plan also calls for a small reduction in the state sales tax, which will benefit all state residents, Clemons noted.

News release from Mayor Finch re: Steelpointe Harbor

City, Steelpointe Harbor Developers Announce Tentative Agreement for 52-Acre Development Site on the Harbor

Mayor Bill Finch and Bridgeport Landing principal Bob Christoph Sr., today announced a tentative agreement for Steelpointe Harbor, a nearly 3 million square-foot development on 52 acres in the City’s East Side.

The plan will be the biggest and most important economic development project in the City’s history, encompassing 1.1 million square feet of commercial space and 1.5 million square feet of residential and 250,000 square feet of residential or hotel space. The City retains ownership of the property and will allow the developer to acquire it in phases as they meet specific milestones as delineated in the agreement.

“We have crafted an agreement that addresses the City’s most important objectives in creating this development – growing the City’s tax base, creating jobs for Bridgeport residents and reclaiming the waterfront for public access and use,” said Mayor Finch.

“The national economic situation has left many cities with stalled or forgotten developments, but Mr. Christoph is willing to use his own resources to kickstart this development. The city of Bridgeport is very lucky to be working with Bob Christoph and Bridgeport Landing Development,” Finch added.

The work on the site will be done in phases, and the developer has agreed to work with the City in the short term to create waterfront access to the site for the public, something that has not existed on the peninsula for more than a century.

“This care and planning has paid off. Today this project, Steelpointe Harbor, is poised to move forward. The intense and lengthy process of study, interviews, analysis and evaluation have resulted in a development program that is structured to anticipate and capitalize on opportunities that this economy presents. This development agreement and plan can be successfully developed and become the catalyst for additional development that is contemplated in Bridgeport’s Master Plan.”, said Bob Christoph Sr., Principal of Bridgeport Landing Development LLC.

“During the past 18 months, despite the economy and all the hardships its has presented, Mayor Finch and his administration have worked together with the my team to understand, position and re-align the Steelpointe Harbor project so it can move ahead and succeed,” Christoph added.

“The Steelpointe Harbor agreement is a great step forward in our efforts to revitalize Bridgeport’s economy,” said Congressman Jim Himes, D-4. “Steelpointe will create good-paying local jobs and help transform the waterfront into an accessible, vibrant, exciting center for development.”

The development agreement will be presented for referral to the Committee on Economic and Community Development and Environment at the City Council meeting on Sept. 8.

About Steelpointe Harbor

Steelpointe Harbor is an urban mixed-use development. Its design uniquely captures and embodies the most desirable characteristics of a modern, harbor-side neighborhood. Its balanced mix of retail, restaurant, entertainment, commercial and residential uses will allow its residents, visitors and the public to stroll, participate and enjoy the waterside and other activities through a planned network of streets, broad sidewalks, plazas and a continuous harbor walk. Steelpointe Harbor will deliver a complete, one of a kind waterside experience and destination for the citizens of Bridgeport and the region at large.



  1. So what are they announcing about Steal Point? What does this mean to the average taxpayer? Have they lined up retail tenants? Are they starting construction? If not, until they start construction and line up tenants can we please stop making announcements about Steal Point? This must be number 20 or more announcements over the years, still nothing …

    I will compliment whoever cleaned up and fenced the site, I think it was the developer. At least it is not as much of an eyesore.

  2. They put up a fence and cut the lawn. The majority of the property that Christoph described as a “junkyard” was cleared in the late ’90s under eminent domain.

    Once again a bad deal for the city.

  3. I’m no Good Humor Man, but what is this Mister Softee stuff that they are serving up? Is this Sonya Finch’s version of Cecil Young’s epic, Custard’s Last Stand!

    Can’t resist … What’s the Mister Softee case, the Mayor can’t get a hard-on?

  4. Mayor’s wife hard on faux-ice cream vendor. She says, “He screamed and I screamed!” I guess they all screamed for ice cream.

    Man guilty in incident outside mayor’s house
    By Daniel Tepfer
    Staff writer
    Updated: 09/01/2009 11:04:49 PM EDT

    BRIDGEPORT — City activist and former sheriff Cecil Young staunchly defended his free speech rights Tuesday, charging that his arrest last February outside Mayor Bill Finch’s home was, in part, racially motivated.

    But after a daylong trial during which Young acted as his own lawyer, a Superior Court judge found him guilty of disorderly conduct and sentenced him to a suspended 30-day term.

    Following the verdict, Young accused the judge of ignoring evidence and siding with police and the mayor’s wife. “It’s a sad day in Bridgeport,” he added.

    But Judge Frank Ianotti retorted that he had carefully considered all the testimony in the case, including self-incriminating statements by Young.

    “Certainly a person has a First Amendment right to express himself, however, when it infringes upon the rights of others the activities go too far,” the judge said. He ordered Young to stay away from the mayor’s home and family.

    Young was arrested Feb. 23 when he stood outside the mayor’s Crown Street home with a bullhorn to protest the fact he no longer has health care because he was fired from a job at the city’s Health Department.

    Sonja Finch, the first witness called by Assistant State’s Attorney Nicholas Bove, testified that about noon Feb. 23 she arrived home with her 3-year-old son when she saw what she thought was a broken-down ice cream truck parked in front of the house. She said a man who appeared to be dressed like a police officer was standing in front of her house with a bullhorn.

    “He was making announcements, he was yelling, ‘Mayor Finch come out of your house!'” she recounted. Finch said that she and her son went in the house and she called police. At one point she said the man, identified as Young, came onto her front porch.

    Young, wearing a blue jacket with official-looking city of Bridgeport patches on the shoulders, sat down in a chair beside Finch to begin cross-examining her.

    “Let me first say I’m very, very sorry,” he began, looking directly at her. “But you made some statements that were not true.” Over the objection of Bove, Young continued: “You are right, I came up on your porch when I first got there.”

    “What you don’t like the admission, Mr. Bove?” the judge inquired.

    Young then asked Finch if she recalled what he was yelling.

    “I don’t know what you were saying, I was trying to keep my son calm. I was more concerned with your actions and the possible threat to my child,” she said.

    At one point, Finch chastised Young for wearing a jacket that appears to make him look like a police officer. “You’re not a police officer,” she told him.

    “I wore the jacket to try and calm your fears,” he responded. “If you saw an ice cream truck in front of your house, why wouldn’t you think I was the Good Humor man? You thought it was my truck and I’m not going to say this was a racial profile.”

    Finch and Young, sitting only inches apart, began arguing over his actions until the judge interceded.

    “Did he use the bullhorn on your property?” the judge asked Finch.

    “Yes,” she responded.

    “And was it loud? the judge asked.

    “Yes,” she said.

    “I’m really upset that you misinterpreted what my actions were,” Young told Finch. “Is there anything else you want to say that I did to you?”

    “Only that I did not feel safe and I did not feel I could keep my 3-year-old safe,” she added.

    Sounds like a Seinfeld episode with Kramer.

  5. Rumor has it that the mayor’s office has made a great move … file under give credit where it’s due … and promoted Chris Rosario into CitiStat … ’bout time a hard worker gets cited for doing a good job … bravo.

  6. No doubt that Chris Rosario is a hard worker but the question I have for Mr. Finch is this. What have we accomplished since we have instituted CitiStat? We have paid over $400K in salaries and as of yet have not seen anything that they have done. Carol Curry gets fired, John Gomes is moved and as I understand it will be in charge of Blight and one other department. So why do we have a CitiStat? Another question: Moving Chris out of the mayor’s office, does that make an opening for another mayoral aide? Who will that be? Anyone care to guess?

  7. The Oracle of Omaha Steaks!

    This just in! Hot Off the Panini Press!!!

    “Pushing up Daisies”

    I read with interest the newest installment of Bridgeport’s non-epic economic development project, now spelled Steelpointe.

    “We had a site that looked like a junkyard. We have cleaned up the site. We’re here because we believe in Bridgeport.” Robert Christoph, principal of Bridgeport Landing Development LLC, Connecticut Post, September 1, 2009. C’mon Bob, you love Bridgeport because you love your sweetheart deal.

    I propose a new name for another one of Bridgeport’s Litany of Ain’ts.
    Steal Point!

    The above-described developer has flip-flopped this project so many times to entities including Midtown Equities and the Rex Realty Group, that it strongly resembles a real estate “Daisy Chain.” The city should re-bid the project, breaking it down into quadrants and selling the corresponding quadrant(s) to the highest bidder. Here we are trying to sell the old Black Rock Bank & Trust building for $750k and giving away the rights for 50 waterfront acres, that is now an option deal for $500k, for the same 4.4 million dollar figure from 1997. Whatever happened to that much-heralded 1 billion dollar deal much ballyhooed, by the editorial board of this paper, mayors and the Bridgeport Regional Business Council. And don’t forget that we gave the Pequonnuck Yacht Club over 4 million dollars to sail out of town. I strongly recommend that Bridgeport’s City Council reject this latest land gain.

    The developer has made off with too many dollars on the backs of the city taxpayers.
    Mr. Christoph has put up a fence, cut the grass and planted some pretty flowers.

    Let’s call this project what it really is.
    A Pansy Scheme!

  8. Rosario is a good man and an asset to any department he is in and will put out 100% for the city … obviously Finch sees that and since I’m a half-full-glass type, I believe he did a good job in putting Rosario into that ultra-important agency.

  9. If you are promised something in the future by the City, negotiated by the Mayor’s staff and approved by the City Council, do you expect to receive that something? Well if you are a debt holder of the City, you do expect to get paid in a timely manner and our latest budget indicates that $75 million in principal and interest are due this year.
    Now if the promise is about Post-Employment Benefits, there are at least two types that the City has promised and must fund, to currently retired people as well as currently employed who will become retired. The two types of benefits are pension/retirement income benefits and Other Post-Employment Benefits, namely retiree healthcare.
    Don Clemons indicates in news today that we have a breathing spell because the State Legislature has suspended our required pension funding. But nobody is talking about the retiree health benefit that according to actuaries is almost $875,000,000 currently and to which we are not even paying the full current cost.
    City Debt and OPEB if added together would put Bridgeport near the overall statutory debt limit of 7 times annual tax receipts. Perhaps they are not summed together for this purpose but they are still taxpayer obligations, not routinely addressed to the taxpayers of the City and must either be paid or reneged. When a labor negotiation is completed does the Post deal with these numbers? When City Council people (who work for the City or have family members who do) vote in favor of the Mayor’s recommendations are they suffering a conflict of interest? Are all of you OIB writers and readers holding your breath until you come up with a great idea?
    The pension and retiree healthcare benefits are close to $1 Billion in total, and not one person out of one thousand in the City sees the problem. Why not? OK, you can breathe now. Let’s aerate some brain cells regarding the meaning of this.

    1. *** It’s overdue by about 6+yrs. “F.R.B.” and maybe the city “might” have been headed today back towards financial black status? *** I’m feeling a bit light-headed, let me take another “deep” breath! ***

  10. I would be willing to bet that the $875 million is the cost of funding the pension and health benefits for retired and for currently serving city workers. It would take all of the city workers to retire at once and to collect their projected retirement funds in a lump sum. Teachers are under a funded pension fund the city employees are under a funded pension fund called murph (I think that’s the name). Presently serving police & fire are under a funded pension system.
    So instead of having people scared how about breaking down this $875 million liability and tell the truth?

    1. TC,
      It is the Municipal Employees Retirement Fund (MERF) not murph.
      Musto said, “this budget puts in place language that will help save Bridgeport tens of millions of dollars over the next two years on its pension obligations while moving the city toward a long-term plan.” That’s a lie. There is no long-term plan. The only thing close to a long-term plan is that Finch hopes in two years he can do the same thing all over again. If Musto wanted a long-term plan he should have required that a Financial Review Board be established to ensure that there would be some long-term planning and not short-term memory lapses.
      But the real point is that Beacon shouldn’t be worrying about the unfunded pension liability but the lack of a fund balance to protect the city against any minor financial problem.
      Shine the light on the real problem Beacon and an accounting issue that no one pays any attention to.

  11. *** Good decision by the judge in the bull-horn case! It’s time for Cecil to stop crying wolf for almost everything & expecting the townfolk to come a-running to help in all his “personal” blunders as told by Cecil. *** Steelpointe, a project that’s been in the making since the Ganim era, came very close to happening during the Fabrizi Admin. & put on hold due to the recession. Now, it’s time for the Finch Admin. to claim credit for the whole enchilada, should anything that looks like a shovel in the ground happen! *** Cheers to the Bpt P&Z committee for voting for the City’s Master Plan & showing some independent thinking. *** And last but not least, congrats to Rosario who works hard & seems to always try to further his education & work experience. However, is it nothing more than a pay raise @ a time when other workers are being laid off or fired? A move to a dept. that is basically non-functional in terms of the actual work it does & purpose for its existence? Or should the dept. be terminated completely & the “$” used in a dept. that actually has been generating revenue for the city to increase its revenue potential? *** Or are the bloggers & public in general just too negative & uneducated to suggest such governmental advice? *** Or is is it time like in the presidential race last year, to keep the push for political change going as we get closer to the local city elections in Nov. ’09? ***

    1. Mojo still believes in the press releases that Caryn Kaufman used to write for the Fabulous one. There was NEVER a workable plan with Mid-Town equities. Just a big shell game.
      At least Donna Curren had the guts to vote against a bad plan even if it cost her the council seat. Mojo is still sucking up to the Fabulous one hoping the if Fabs runs again Mojo can be someone again.

      1. *** Gee, I don’t recall blogging anything about a workable plan for anything nor mentioning Ms. Kaufman’s name either? Also, please decide whom you would like to blog as (web mask) to send your replies, ’cause they all seem to sound about the same regardless of how hard you try. ***

    2. I believe that the “plans for development” of that property started well over 20 years ago. Maybe it was during Curran’s or was it Panuzio’s or might have been Mandy’s administration. Was it Model Cities or Harbor pt. or … anyhow I’m sure you get the gist of what I mean.

  12. Beacon2: Interesting post that concerns me as a taxpayer. I would be curious as to what your thoughts are on how to reign these long-term costs in. Some months ago I remember discussing the city’s reluctance to pay overtime to both police and fire department personnel. To avoid paying overtime costs they hire to staffing levels well above minimum and in doing so increase the long-term costs associated with hiring i.e. salary, pension, health benefits. There is a common misconception that police and fire pad their pension figures by working overtime. In some cities and towns this is true but not in Bridgeport … pension figures are based on base salary alone. This being said, I would think it reasonable to at least consider cutting back on hiring and having existing employees pick up the slack with overtime. I have to believe it is a more cost-effective way to operate.
    This is just one example of how the city could begin to start making better decisions regarding long-term fiscal responsibility. Any thoughts?

    1. How come, then, we still only have 21 cops on patrol at any one time?

      BTW …

      I drove past Steelpointe this afternoon. I have to say the property is looking real good. Nice and clean with a bunch of new signs all over the place. It actually looks like someone paid attention to the place so any prospective developers would see a nice-looking opportunity. Who do you think was responsible for prettying up the place?

  13. The budget will be passed without Governor Rell’s firma, no? She didn’t want to “lend” her name to a budget that she didn’t approve of. Give that broad a glass of prune juice.

  14. Nastiness in Bridgeport politics is alive and well. Ann Barney and I are having our campaign signs stolen at an alarming rate. As of today we have had 10 of our 50 signs stolen. The latest 2 signs were stolen this morning between 9AM & 1PM. I know the time because I have been checking our signs daily since the first one disappeared Saturday.
    I guess when you are desperate you will resort to any tactic. Stealing signs is not going to win the election. You can steal the signs but you can’t steal the message that IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE.
    A message your signs are safe as we will not lower ourselves to your standards.

    1. *** Losing signs in general is a usual in local city elections, no big deal! Besides it’s not the signs that are going to win or lose the elections. Keep knocking on those doors & talking to registered voters, that’s the ticket. ***

      1. Hector in his day could steal signs with the best of them.
        He always knew when the other team was going to bunt, hit and run, and have a pitch out. If my memory serves me correctly he used to work the Ellsworth Field area pretty effectively.

        Bob Keeley never met a sign that he didn’t like.

  15. Taken from the annals of today’s Connecticut Post.

    City Council member Robert Curwen, D-138, said he hopes to see plans for the peninsula finally come to fruition. “Unfortunately, you’re the third mayor that has sat before me with this enthusiasm,” he told Finch. “I can say I’ve heard this before, no disrespect to you, Mr. Mayor. I just want to see the shovel in the ground.”

    Council President Thomas McCarthy, D-133, said the council would take time studying and discussing the agreement to ensure that it is in the best interest of the city. “The process last time was rushed, to say the least. It was a bad way to do business. We are going to take our time on this,” he said.

    The only shovels that are going to be used are the shovels to shovel the shit against the tide.

    It seems like you guys only know how to do “bad business.”

  16. Grin–Don’t be mistaken … I am not fighting for firefighter or police overtime. Just pointing out an obvious flaw in the way the city is currently operating.
    I do have a healthy respect for the work that both the police and fire department perform, especially here in Bridgeport. They both claim to be among the lowest-paid departments in the state and both are among the busiest in terms of workload. So this is potentially a win/win for the city. They can benefit from a fiscal standpoint by decreasing the long-term exposure which is growing out of control by not hiring too many and also see an increase in morale by allowing current employees to earn wages that are competitive with surrounding communities.
    Please feel free to weigh in. As for me, I’ll keep banging the drum in hopes that someone out there is listening.

  17. Thank you to Grin Reaper for reading and discussing financial issues. City fund balance the so-called “rainy day” fund. I agree that it is important. That is why I have previously written about the lack of info about where it currently stands. GR, do you know where the 2008-09 budget closed? The previous year the fund stood at year end at around $10,000,000. Mayor Finch pointed to a $20 Million deficit the City faced since last fall. So did the City run a deficit? If it was greater than $10 Million we are already broke. Does anyone know the current fund balance number, which has been almost steadily decreasing for 10 years now???
    $Ten million is a small number though an important one and that is why I appreciate Park City Fan’s curiosity about pension benefits. Before we look at alternative solutions, I’d like everybody to understand that the $847 million actuarial liability has nothing to do with pensions or retirement income!!! It has to do with retiree health insurance for which the City has never put money in a fund and for which we have recently not paid the annual current liability in full either.
    If any legislator has told us that we are “saving” $tens of millions because of retiree costs being deferred one year or two years, it is like Mayor Finch saying he “saved” us money this year by not providing employees 2.5% raises in the first two years of their contracts only to double the raises in the second two years. Try to spend those “savings,” sports fans. The entire compensation question is ignored: as a municipal employee are you performing competently and productively for the City, for how many hours in a week, for how many hours in a year, for what salary, current medical, life, disability, other allowances and future retirement benefits (pension income and healthcare)??? Is it comparable to other jobs in the community at large, more favorable, or less? Why are benefit costs, already a huge number, not dealt with fairly and currently as part of a long-term plan? Does that scare employees or retirees??? Are they further worried that most City taxpayers have no clue to the issue of future costs??? Does anyone think that the practical solution is to raise taxes on residences and commercial property until all of these obligations are met??? ‘Cause that’s the way the law reads??? Perhaps more people ought to think about this one, and start asking questions at the Mayor’s office or of your Council person … see who is aware of the issues, at least. Perhaps then we might have more than one meeting per year on City Budget and finances.

  18. Get your calculators and start adding what your nickles and dimes will add up to.

    New budget will “nickel and dime” residents
    By Ken Dixon
    Updated: 09/02/2009 05:19:04 PM EDT

    HARTFORD – The new budget’s centerpiece may be higher taxes on the state’s wealthiest ­– generating a billion dollars over the next two years — but virtually everyone else in Connecticut will be nickel-and-dimed for at least $100 million.

    A variety of enhanced charges and license fees will reach throughout the state, from small business owners to cigarette smokers. Entrance fees at state parks will be doubled. As of Oct. 1, a certificate for a Certified Public Accountant that currently costs $75, will be $150.

    A gas station owner with one pump who’s now paying $50 a year, will have to remit $100 to the Department of Consumer Protection.

    State marshals who carry out evictions and deliver judicial documents currently pay $250 in annual fees. The new budget raises the fees to $750. Pharmacists who pay $600 for an initial license will have to pay $750. Hypnotists licensed for $50 a year will see their fee doubled.

    Cigarette dealers who pay $25 will pay $50, while smokers themselves, already paying $2-a-pack in state taxes, will soon pay $3 a pack.

    Do you run a package store? The annual permit of $400 will rise to $500.

    Want to fish for your dinner? A $20 inland fishing license will cost $40. Salt water fishing, which has been free, will cost $30.

    In fact, more than 730 fees will be raised to generate a projected $97 million over the course of the budget.

    Even people with their houses in foreclosure will get hit with a real-estate tax that’s expected to raise about $25 million by the time the new budget expires at midnight June 30, 2011. Distressed cities such as Bridgeport will be able to charge a quarter of a percent more to help local budgets.

    Bonnie Stewart vice president for governmental affairs at the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said Wednesday that it may be too early to gauge the statewide reaction to higher fees approved by lawmakers desperate for revenue.

    “The budget, in its entirety is really a patchwork of fee increases, modifications to tax cuts and some cuts in spending,” she said in a phone interview. “At the end, people felt they needed a budget, but it’s not one anyone’s embracing, including CBIA as well.” She said the final product is much better for business than a package passed by Democratic-dominated committees in April that would have cut tax exemptions and credits for businesses that Connecticut needs to stay competitive.

    “Our main focus in the session was to make sure something wouldn’t happen to hurt corporations,” she said. “While we never supported the fees, we didn’t focus as much on them. In the end are we embracing those fee increases? Absolutely not. But comparing what we have now, it was a long session and every day we heard a new proposal that would harm our ability to recover from the recession.”

    Democrats did agree to keep open the state courthouses in Norwalk and Derby, despite Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s plans to close them.

    But the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Long Island Sound account, funded by extra fees on Sound-themed motor vehicle license plates, is being eliminated and the funding will revert to the General Fund.

    Dennis Schain, spokesman for the DEP, said Wednesday that the Sound account, which began nearly 20 years ago with license-plate revenue, is another victim of the state’s fiscal crisis. “It has been a valuable program that’s funded many projects to Long Island Sound and related resources, but these are extraordinary times,” Schain said.

    At Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, weekend resident fees that are currently $10 will be $20. At Indian Well State Park in Shelton, weekend resident fees will double to $14. At Squantz Pond in New Fairfield, weekend resident fees will double to $20.

    While majority Democrats agreed, in part, to Rell’s proposal to cut the 6-percent sales tax down to 5.5 percent in attempt to stimulate consumer spending and create as many as 8,300 new jobs, majority leaders delayed it until next January.

    A Democratic rewrite of the idea in the new budget includes an obstacle: If state revenues decrease by one percent by January, the tax cut may never occur.

    Taxes on the state’s wealthiest will rise from the current 5 percent to 6.5 percent – about $30 a week – on singles making more than $500,000 and couples with incomes of $1 million a year.

    While they’ll be a 10-percent surcharge on corporate incomes over $100 million, there will be a general doubling of business-related fees in the office of the Secretary of the State. Corporate registrations that are now $30 will cost $60. Certificates of limited partnership that now cost $60, will go up to $120.

    Rell on Tuesday said she couldn’t sign the overall budget into law, but would let it take effect automatically, effective Sept. 8.

    The General Assembly will reconvene within the next two weeks to act on wide-ranging legislation to authorize state agencies on how to implement the budget. There’s a chance for political shenanigans then if Democrats attempt to insert special-interest items into the bill.

    Rell has warned that if Democrats attempt to restore $8 million in “pork” she used her line-item veto authority to kill on Wednesday, she’ll veto those programs again.

    Later still, lawmakers will vote on a package of capital projects for possible long-term bonding. Then, finally, the record-setting budget-impasse of 2009, will be completed.

    Higher fees for state licenses and certificates, effective Oct. 1, under the new budget. (Current charges are in parenthesis.) Bait dealer: $100 ($50) Land surveyor: $220 ($110) Attorney: $565 ($450) Electricians and Plumbers: $150 ($75) Barber/hairdresser: $100 ($50) Teacher: $375 ($300) Veterinarian: $565 ($450)

    1. Joel,

      Package Store permits have been the same for over 40 years. It’s about time that fee was raised. When the Fair Trade Act for liquor regarding minimum mark-ups was abolished about 29 years ago we had many mom and pop stores close. It should probably be about one thousand dollars a year for the off-premise packaged goods permit. Cafe, Tavern and Restaurant permit fees have been the same for at least 30 years.

  19. BEACON2: The issue I raised earlier regarding police and fire overtime versus hiring had as much to do with health insurance costs and obligations as it did to do with pensions. I am sure, based on the content of your previous postings, you can understand how they are related.
    Police and fire departments have minimum staffing levels which must be maintained per the collective bargaining agreements. This allows for adequate protection for the public and ensures that first responders can operate safely when called upon. The city, in an attempt to avoid paying overtime, consistently hires well beyond those levels. In doing so they take on not only the salaries of these new hires but also the pension obligation and most importantly health insurance benefits … for life.
    Health insurance costs are out of control and have been for some time. At what point does the city realize it may be more cost effective to change the way they are doing business and consider using overtime as a tool to minimize the long-term exposure? Of course they would have to find another excuse for the deficit come budget season as this is clearly their favorite.
    Another idea … just full of them tonight … how about giving city employees a cash incentive to opt out of the city health insurance plan? I know other cities and towns do it … could they all be wrong? I am sure many employees would consider it if they had spouses whose plans would cover them. As a matter of fact I wonder how many city employees spouses have opted out of their respective plans for a cash option and are currently on the city of Bridgeport plan?
    Just a couple of thoughts that I thought were worth mentioning.

    1. The City Office of Policy and Management couldn’t do a cost-benefit analysis to save their lives. Tom Sherwood shoots his mouth off with his opinion of the minute. We need professionals that understand municipal government running city finances. This crew is a joke that gets worse by the second.

      And who are these state guys that went to UCONN with the Mayor that are getting paid extra consulting fees to go over everything the inept paid staff has already done? Throwing good money after bad. This administration needs a complete overhaul.

  20. park city fan, I caught your meaning about lower # of employees getting overtime rather than larger # to meet City requirements but creating added OPEBs. I don’t know enough about staffing levels, etc. and did not know about pension formulas here in the City. Thank you for bringing that up.
    You were full of ideas tonight and a cash incentive, depending on the amount might be one good way to limit the total liability we face. If such a cash option is available regionally, perhaps we can gather “better local practices” for benefit of our challenged leadership and suggest them in detail??? Thank you for this discussion.


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