The Mayor Pitches His Budget And School Reform–Higher Taxes?

Mayor Bill Finch will submit his proposed budget to the City Council on Monday (today). He will then take his spending plan on the road for a series of community meetings starting Tuesday at 6 p.m. in City Council chambers, 45 Lyon Terrace; Monday, April 9, 6 to 8 p.m., Black Rock Library, 2705 Fairfield Avenue; and Thursday, April 19, 6 to 8 p.m., North End Library, 3455 Madison Avenue. The public sessions provide the mayor a platform to sell what appears to be the linchpin of the budget process: more financial support for city schools as Finch gears up public outreach to support increased mayoral control of the school system. What will the tax increase be to support school spending?

The mayor’s mantra: don’t blame me for the school system without giving me the tools to improve them. The mayor has empaneled a Charter Revision Commission that is expected to send a question to the City Council for ballot approval asking voters to choose among an appointed or elected school board or perhaps a hybrid of the two. This and several other charter-related questions will appear on the November ballot.

Finch has gone where no mayor has gone before putting his personal and political prestige on the line to reform one of the worst performing districts in the state. It has led to a state-appointed school board and hiring of high-profile supercharged schools chief Paul Vallas who has worked to reform districts in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans.

The Connecticut Supreme Court, citing a technicality that required the elected school board to seek training before dissolving itself in favor of state control, has ordered an election for four school board seats that will be calendar set by Superior Court Judge Salvatore Agati in a few weeks. A court hearing will take place April 13 between legal parties and elections officials to discuss setting an election. The state-appointed school board will remain in place until the results of the special election are certified. The four new elected board members, some of whom could include state-appointed panelists who are Bridgeport residents, will join five dormant elected members on the sidelines since the state takeover was implemented last summer.

Meanwhile, Finch is gearing up for full campaign mode as he appeals to city voters to support a mayoral-appointed school board at the polls in November. It’s an effort that could receive strong financial backing from city and regional business interests. The mayor on Monday will also brief the editorial board of the Connecticut Post about his proposed budget. Several business leaders who support the mayor’s school reforms will also attend.

The City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee will conduct a series of review sessions during April and early May before the full City Council votes on the budget in early May. The budget year begins July 1.



  1. Listen carefully. Don’t forget Budget 101 with John Marshall Lee has showed us plenty of the budget fault lines. This particular budget presentation by the Finch/Wood mayor’s office will raise deception and illusion to a fine art. And at the end of the day, taxpayers will pay more and education will still be a limited experience in Bridgeport.

  2. “Don’t blame me for the school system without giving me the tools …” Is that the Mayor’s defense? Well then it is fair to ask the Mayor to please explain the flat budget funding of BOE for four years. How do you fund TOOLS with inflating labor and supply expenses already decimating a flat budget plan? Didn’t anyone at the State level, some member of the City Council, someone on the BOE (be they Democrat, Republican or other party) or just one plain taxpaying school parent ask him why no additional City support from 2008-2011 in kind, in cash, in sympathy??? And since the Mayor is so good at getting photo-ops when citizens are gathered at meetings where food is present, what were the 300 such occasions in the single 2011 budget year where the average restaurant, caterer, etc. tab was about $600? Can you imagine that, BOE grant money to the tune of $190,000 was spent on such. Was that for tools? But who knew??? And that is the real question about all of the money that gets spent annually in this City, isn’t it??? Show us the money, all of it, both where it is spent and from whence it comes, Mayor Bill!! It doesn’t matter to me whether it is from property tax, Federal Grant, fees, licenses, State ECS, PILOT or other grants and proceeds from bonding and notes. Add it up. $650 Million? $670 Million? $700 Million? And it all gets spent? Who is minding the money on the way out of the Mayor’s office for capital, city operations, education and all sorts of public services? Who is accountable for all of the money, Mayor Finch? Where is the public document, showing the “devils” in the detail every quarter of the year on the City website and discussed at public meetings?

    Yes, the Mayor is accountable for City-side spending, isn’t he, without going to the State to use a new State Law (removal of BOE, unlawfully according to the Supreme Court), or a quiet meeting (as in Pension Plan A contributions), and responsible for pressing for development of City properties destined to expand the taxable Grand List? But years go by and one begins to ask, “WHERE ARE THE EXAMPLES OF MAYORAL ACCOUNTABILITY???” the Mayor has pledged to his hand-picked Charter Review Committee? Unfortunately the CRC for the most part does not seem to question Mayor Finch’s credentials for ACCOUNTABILITY. That in itself is troubling, since I know at least four people who put their names in the hat for CRC duty who have Bridgeport at large in their vision, more current knowledge of Bridgeport governance structure and its current operating process, and who had no tie to City pressure: be it employment of CRC member (1), or fees for work for the City coming into families (2). And one or more of those selected had not volunteered for duty with credentials for this task perhaps more humble than others who had volunteered.

    The Mayor enjoys control. Not accountability. Failure in accountability to the Charter annually with failure to post the June final month results of each fiscal year. (Will someone ask all “business leaders present” what they think of receiving only 11 months of expense and revenue info and not knowing what year-end variance is until six months later? Would they fire their bookkeeper, financial adviser or accountant for such dereliction of duty?) Failure to provide stated levels of budgetary internal controls by way of internal audit staff that is claimed in current City documents. Failure to provide public access in his first four years of governance to questions, comments and detailed responses to questions raised by the public. (How is BConnect working out? Ask them a question and what happens?) Premature enthusiasm on settling or solving problems is not accountability. If the Fire Department settled labor issues last year and those public safety employees are part of a State plan MERF, are Fire Pension Plan B funds still with the City, and why? Where is the liability or responsibility for future pensions? Why are the minutes of that Fire Pension process not available six months later with 2 FOI requests? How many issues are caught up in the spider web of problems and issues at the City Attorney office? So many questions to be asked (and this is hardly scratching the surface) and so few responses. Accountability??? Time will tell.

    1. Remember. Your readers EAT at Ralph and Rich’s. They don’t DINE at the Tiger Club at Princeton. You have a point. Try to get to it a bit quicker.

  3. Am I the only one who finds Finch’s selection of venues a bit odd? Is this the old classist mindset that says only people in the North End and Black Rock pay taxes so those are the only ones he needs to convince?
    If this is about education and the vast majority of students are minorities, why isn’t Finch going into minority neighborhoods to ask for forgiveness in his old ways?
    If Finch is selling education, why aren’t these forums taking place in schools? We spent several hundred million building all of these new schools, why isn’t he showing them off?
    Old dogs new tricks? As Mojica might ask.

  4. Finch had dour years of flat-funding the BOE. Now all of a sudden he gives a damn? Now he wants the tools to fix the schools? What a birdbrain!!!

  5. So here’s the thing: I have a HUGE problem with ANY public official of ANY KIND who publicly proclaims: “Don’t blame me” about ANYTHING. After that phrase, nothing else he said matters.

  6. Local Eyes came down with the last drop of rain–somebody had to the last person to recognize the cell phone trend and turn their OIB handle into a cellular device. Now I can reach mobile users wherever they go. Thanks, Lennie.

  7. I think the Mayor is right, when he said, “Don’t blame the BOE for the school system because I didn’t give them the tools to fix it.”
    Vote for the Connecticut Working Family BOE and stop the Finch Budget Gimmickry.

  8. Finch/Woody are saying don’t blame me for the fix the BOE is in. That is total BS. This administration has not increased its contributions to the school budget in the last four years, NOT ONE PENNY.
    At last year’s budget hearings when the BOE budget request was late, Mr. Sherwood stated screw them we will give them the same as last year. Little did any of us know the fix was in and Finch was lobbying to get rid of the elected BOE even though he held a 6 – 3 voting majority.
    Finch has one purpose in taking over the budget and that is to get his hands on their budget money. Please don’t tell me the law states this money is designated for education. If that is the case why is the administration holding back on $2.5 million in ECS funding?
    Finch needs to soften the blow of a huge tax increase and he will use money from the school funds to do so.
    Ask yourself one question: If Finch did not give the schools a raise in their budget for four years why is he so anxious to do so now?

  9. Visitors to this blog agree: Zena Lu, Jimfox and Andrew C Fardy bring nothing new to the table on a consistent basis. Sure, Lennie emboldens them to speak their half-baked truths but they offer no solutions or alternatives and seem to blame the person in power as opposed to the situation at hand. These guys never raise the bar and any referee will tell you they couldn’t jump over a phone book. Game on.

    1. What the hell are you talking about?
      Local Eyes, it is not that I don’t think you are somewhat intelligent. I just don’t see how your comments connect to the current topic. What does me saying I think it is not in any public official’s best interest to say “don’t blame me” on any current topic have to do with jumping over bars and phone books?

        1. LE: You can’t crow until you are out of the woods but there’s an exception to the rule. So, Mimsy was the Jabberwocky, do you smell what I am steppin’ in?

          1. That’s Mister Local Eyes to you, junior. And I know what you’re steppin’ in because I put it there before I took off your shoes.

    2. Local Eyes, in all the time you have contributed your bullshit to this blog you have not had one, not one, intelligent suggestion. Do us all a favor, blog in Trumbull where you live. We don’t need your bullshit here, we get enough of that from the FinchWoody administration.

        1. LE: I can tell by the sophomoric quality of your nonsensical goading that I am older than you. And for the LAST time, I am a woman so that makes it Ms. Zena Lu to you. So you may now run along and go dip someone’s hair in ink. Have a nice day, junior. 🙂

  10. Local Eyes, here’s something new to your table. The CT Post today said the police budget is way overspent with a full quarter still to go in the fiscal year. We just had our eighth homicide. Fardy says he can’t get a cop to respond to calls in his neighborhood. Did y’all know Osborne, Nunn and Wood use the Bpt Police as their personal courier service? Instead of sending certified letters, Osborne sends police officers to hand-deliver threatening letters to employees. I know of three instances where this has happened and the employees lived over 40 miles away. That’s a few hours where a Bpt cop was out of service in our city because he was acting as a courier. I sent this information to MariAn Gail Brown at the CT Post but she never responded to me.

  11. Budget master Sherwood talks about how he releases monthly reports on the city’s financial situation vis a vis spending and income.
    While this is partially the truth the fact of the matter is there has been no public release of the final twelfth-month report that closes out the budget year.This twelfth-month audit document will show the city funds and the city expenditures, it will show if there is a budget deficit. I have asked several council members about this 12-month report and none of them can ever remember seeing this document. I think the last time one was issued was over 10 years ago.

  12. John Marshall Lee,
    You are valuable, informed; perhaps smart? But you just don’t get it. Sam Beckett said LESS IS MORE–GET IT?
    John, you read like that Cuban guy who gave five-hour lectures to people who knew he was right wing.
    Is it intelligent to be a blowhard, a well meaning blowhard, but give it a break.

  13. *** Why is the Mayor only making his city budget pitch at City Hall, the North End and Black Rock? Is there something to the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil?” And is this pro-education budget pitch nothing more than a smoke & mirrors speech leading towards BOE control and higher taxes in general? BOE control and Benjamin$ are the key to the upcoming charter revision question in November. SOLUTION: *** Vote “NO” ON ALL CHARTER REVISION QUESTIONS THIS NOVEMBER ***

  14. Friends of OIB,
    For over a year you have been reading what I have been writing. Not one person has refuted the facts I have reported. And very few bother to answer the many and frequent questions I have been asking (in a spirit of trying to find out what you may know that I don’t).
    The big complaint is I use too many words, Samuel Beckett said less is more, and something about Princeton eating clubs. The point is I eat at Viale’s, Ralph and Rich’s, Two Boots, Ash Creek, Brennan’s Shebeen and at Marty’s Pizza Firetruck. And I listen to a number of people who are not readers or leaders; but are taxpayers and disgusted, introducing them to Only In Bridgeport indicating the most relevant City info gets shared here.
    So if you like, you may continue to try to edit me. You are wasting your time. Better to focus on the City game, right? But really, Lennie and Ray are the only ones who are going to do that.
    You may choose not to read what I have to say, but that will be your loss when I continue to thoughtfully connect facts you have not heard before, and then stitch them to the whole tent of NON-ACCOUNTABLE, SECRET and OPAQUE activities of this (and earlier) City administrations.
    For instance, how long has it been that I have been talking about the failure to provide monthly reports (that the Finance Department referred to as quarterly reports last year obviously never reading the Charter requirement) and specifically the twelfth-month report? It has been well over a year. There are monthly reports this year! Why is that? Same lousy format needing reform, but B&A does not know what to ask for, so they starve.
    How many monthlies have you looked at and compared? Didn’t hear you. May I assume if you fail to answer, you haven’t looked at them? Should I accuse you of laziness, failure to care, being short on … take your pick. This City needs more than Andy Fardy and me digging the financial stuff up and posting it for all to be informed and criticize. Do you know how many letters to the CT Post I write that never show up? That’s OK. Today Keila Torres took the facts we did not get from our watchdogs on B&A, did her own inquiry and wrote an article. That’s better than the OP-ED page any day. It was news, and you saw it first here on OIB!
    How many of you are going to join BOB-2012 this year??? We can use your smarts to observe the watchdogs at work. Phones are open. Time will tell.

  15. You probably should write directly to Keila Torres. She obviously is amongst the few who can muddle through your lines after lines after lines. I would prefer you reach more people with less. What do you think is important? Pandering to the pedantic or informing and influencing those who are actually affected by the fiscal irregularities of which you write so profusely.

    1. yahooy,
      Have you read the CAFR-2011?
      Have you read the City Charter Chapter 9, Section 7?
      Do you pay property taxes so a major budget increase would affect your disposable income?
      Will you assist in monitoring Budget & Accountability as part of BOB-2012 this year?
      Answer those questions for me, please, and then I might have some sympathy for your ‘preferences.’ I guess, time will tell.

      1. I am insulted by your callous remark. You are a pedantic prick. You write for your own reading enjoyment.

        Schmuck. I agree with absolutely everything you are say. That’s right!!! Absolutely everything. I have two academic degrees and a military commission and I have the attention span to make it through your interminable treatise. But I am not your sole audience. You need to tone down your rhetoric so you can reach the people who will benefit from your thoughts. Brevity. Succinct. No more than 22-word sentences and 7-sentence paragraphs. Don’t you understand you could influence a brain-dead registered non-voter to get out and vote? But no. You seem to think the people on this blog will benefit by osmosis perhaps.

        Your exhausting compilation of words after words after words mean nothing if you cannot articulate to your audience. It is imperative that you get your message across. Quit trying to impress. We already are. We know you are a respectful and passionate man driven to expose the most egregious of fiscal improprieties ever known in this town. We depend upon your demonstrated zeal for justice.

        You have the responsibility to alert the community and motivate to effect change. In simple terms, by line 222 we begin to fade. By line 437 few of us can figure out what in the hell you are talking about.

        Give us all a break. Write like you talk. Never mind, I’ve heard you talk. How’s this. You have to donate to the general fund a penny for every word over 7000 each and every time you post. That in itself will likely pay off the deficit.

        The answer to you inquiry is YES, YES, YES and likely only if you tone it down. At my age I don’t buy green bananas. I’m sure as hell not going to waste time trudging through your endless streams of semantical syntax.

        You have a worthy message. Try.

        1. yahooy,
          So you agree with the message, because you have read what I say and have heard me as well, but you don’t care to introduce yourself in person and become part of a public groundswell with a face on it? I mean BOB. Too bad. What’s the matter, have to have people salute you these days?

          You yourself today use a flurry of graduate-level words that may cause readers to trudge or even halt. And then you have the ‘chutzpah’ to tell me what my responsibility is? Maybe you see a schmuck in the mirror? I have been giving facts and opinion (in a form you dismiss and critique) to the reading community. I have not been getting similar input from you. We are not currently in a mutual relationship.

          Telling me about green bananas that can be purchased at $.59 a pound may actually tell me more about you than your supposed age.

          “Give us all a break.” When did you get elected critic in charge, blog editor, chief reporter?

          1. All right, now!!! You managed to tell me off in a concise and succinct manner. Now keep up the good work.

  16. *** When it comes to the city budget, 50% of the city council members don’t have a clue, 25% are questionable and the remaining 25% can’t muster up enough support to make a positive difference! Many are city employees and/or members of the local town committees of the districts they’re supposed to live in and represent. And let’s not forget family and friendswho may be city employees or on boards and commissions. Bottom line, you can’t serve two masters so city taxpayers are left once again out in the cold, on the outside looking in, no? *** THINK DOLLAR GREEN ***

    1. I am not sure what you are referring to but it might be $110 million in TANS ( Tax Anticipation Notes). This was voted on by the Council’s B & A committee without one piece of paper being presented to the council members.
      This has been a practice of the past 2 administration since the $55 million rainy day fund was run down to about $10 million.
      The money is borrowed at a low percentage and supposedly repaid in a short period of time.

  17. Tuesday night the mayor makes the first of four presentations on the budget. This is all fine and dandy but as of 10AM Monday morning the budget has not been put on the city website.
    Does this mean he presents the 2012 – 2013 budget and we get nothing to refer to or question? It looks like we get to question the budget that ends in June rather than the new budget.
    Mr. Mayor I know you won’t have answers to half the questions; you’d better have Adam Wood get his text messaging ready.

  18. Charter Revision … create a Board of Finance in addition to a blended Board of Education. Expect a huge tax increase announcement today. Will have huge negative effect on homeowners many of whom are under water with their mortgages or seniors who are barely hanging on. Bravo to John Marshall Lee and Andy Fardy for keeping the finance issues front and center. Can’t solve anything if the mil rate continues to make the city noncompetitive. We need a qualified and experienced Board of Finance to focus on these issues every week of every month of every year.

  19. They are trying to eliminate all checks and balances. Our country worries about Syria, Myanmar and places such as these two countries and we are in the midst of taxation without representation also a dictatorship were opposition is removed. Case in point, people who speak up to Dawn Norton are hand-delivered suspension letters by the police state in city, acting on Andy Nunn’s and Wood’s orders with approval of the Police super. There are others, health dept being run by Alanna Kabel,health director from Monroe has no authority, no pay, everything goes through Alanna. Director comes in with her credentials and sits at desk her assistant knows nothing which is a little more than Alanna. Soon we will salute Herr Fuehrer Finch with the stiff-arm salute. The minister of propaganda Herr Wood and The SS commander Herr Nunn are ready to eliminate all who are opposed to the one-party system.

  20. What is politics if not a dangerous attempt toward controlling others rather than reforming oneself?
    Rugged individuals are in short supply here–that’s why my words resonate with total strangers on this blog.

    bpt guy: quit worshiping Hitler.

  21. Tax hike coming? Funds needed? Why not explore taxing churches again, some are saying. Isn’t that what Bridgeport has more of than anything else … Churches?

    Heck, since the state has been busy in local affairs, why not explore Bill No. 1098 again:

    Think the BOE issue was controversial, this one was much more so. Church folks got really upset quickly! Bill was raised by Democratic co-chairs of the judiciary committee up in Hartford.

    Interesting legal stuff going on … I read the reason the state has the authority to dictate what happens in the church is because the church filed for incorporation under state law. So how much would churches be taxed?

  22. They should be taxed at the same rate as everyone else. The same holds true for the hospital. Both Bridgeport Hospital and St. Vincent’s Hospital are buying up a lot of property in the area they are located in. They are taking taxable properties off the roles and we the taxpayer are footing the bill as the PILOT program from the state does not come close to covering what we are losing.

  23. You would need someone with courage with this one … as there was much outcry by the church lobby against being taxed, and Hartford reps who proposed such a law left their jobs–McDonald was State Senate and Lawlor was member of the Connecticut House.

    Anyone know how many churches there are in Bridgeport?


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