Budget Time

Time to Change Methods. It's a Brick Wall, Silly.

Time to Change Methods. It’s a Brick Wall, Silly.

Both the Town and the BOE proposed budgets have been released.

BOE Budget: http://stratfordk12.org/images/customer-files//2015.16ItemizedEstimateofExpenditures3.2.2015.pdf

Town Budget: http://www.townofstratford.com/filestorage/39879/43107/66139/Operating_Budget.pdf

As we will see in coming posts, no effort has been made by anyone to save the taxpayer anything. None at all. If you are looking for significant reductions you certainly won’t find them in either budget. You will have similar disappointment when you look for clear data or explanations. In fact, some of the explanations we’ve heard in the “press” are pretty funny. Well, they would be funny if they didn’t cost us so much. Recently the Mayor Harkins released a statement advising us that, due to revaluation, we’ve lost a significant amount of value in the properties we (you and me) own. But, according to the mayor, that’s okay. Don’t worry about that because he’ll raise the mill rate to adjust for that! Everyone that is not in a union and works for the Town or BOE can still get a raise.

The Stratford Version

The Stratford Version

The latest ploy by our Council Chairman and mayor was to conduct “Executive Sessions” of the Town Council/WPCA (They are the same thing, you know.) out of view of the public to decide whether to steal $5 million from the WPCA cash reserve or to just sell the most expensive asset the Town owns.

Both items raise serious questions about fiscal management. The first question is how did $5.2 million accumulate in a cash reserve? That seems like a whole lot of money for a $10 million operation. We can think of no business that keeps 52% of it’s entire budget in a “cash reserve”. Then there are the stories filtering out of Town Hall that the WPCA is losing money. Losing money? How can that be? There is certainly enough on hand to siphon $1 million of the WPCA budget to pay Town-wide pension obligations (which is totally illegal), subsidize Public Works (also illegal), pay the Town $600,000/year in “rent” (illegal as well) and oh yeah, fork over $300,000/year (really illegal) to the Town’s General Fund. Maybe that’s why the WPCA is “losing” money?

But the second item on the agenda is the sale of the whole thing to some random corporation which goes by the name of “regionalization”. A very conservative estimate of the actual sale value of such a facility would be well north of $100 million ($100,000,000). Why on Earth would we do that? Honestly, we have no idea. No one does except Harkins. The point here though is that the WPCA is not owned by John Harkins. The owners of the WPCA are you and me. Why are we not involved in this decision? If a For Sale sign appeared in your front yard, you would certainly want to know why it was put there and who did it. In “Executive Sessions” we are not entitled to participate or even know who voted yes or no.

We demand public hearings and a referendum on the matter.

RTC Wave

RTC Wave

It seems that our Republican Town Committee dominated Council is poised to rubber stamp sale prices on whatever Harkins wants to sell. No matter that we (you and me) own it. Top prize on the list is the WPCA (Sewer Treatment Plant). It is hard to imagine anything else in Stratford that works as effectively and efficiently as our WPCA. After receiving large grants, subsidies and loans the WPCA is truly a state of the art facility benefiting not only Stratford, but the entire Long Island Sound as well as other communities. What’s more, it only takes 16 people to run the entire operation (not counting the 10 members of the WPCA Board/Council). Unfortunately for our politicians, the State of Connecticut requires that all “fees” collected for the use of the WPCA be used for the operation and maintenance of the WPCA and nothing else.

What does this mean? It means that the Sewer Use Fees that we have been paying cannot be used to subsidize Town-wide expenses like pensions, Public Works, the General Fund or shortages in the Town budget. You know, like Harkins has been doing for the last five years? Yes, since Harkins was elected mayor, sewer fees have steadily been going up. At first the flimsy excuse was to make the fees competitive with surrounding Towns. (AYFKM?) But we have been steadily increasing the “cash reserve” in the WPCA over the years of being overcharged (because the fees are more than necessary for the operation of the WPCA). After some exorbitant raises for non-union Town employees, large raises for BOE Administrators and a bunch of new toys for the boys (anyone seen the new 95 foot tower ladder yet?) it turns out the Budget is about $4.5 million short. How does the mayor make this shortage good? Well, there is $5.2 million in the cash reserve of the WPCA….

But we are not done yet. There is that Theater that is sitting on prime land right on the river. Prime enough to make any developer drool. So Republican Town Committee Chairman and sometimes Registrar of Voters Lou DeCilio wants to tear it down.

And then there is Eminent Domain. Rest assured, that will be back on the table before election day. We’ve already heard the the Colonial Square Shopping Center was a prime target of that one. But once Exit 33 starts construction…well, the sky is the limit.

And of course there is the coming budget…..

Eminent Domain?

Council Powers

Council Powers

Stratford looking to loosen eminent domain laws
By Stephanie Simoni, WTNH Reporter Published: January 12, 2015, 6:44 pm

“STRATFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– The Stratford Town Council is looking to loosen their eminent domain law at a meeting Monday night. Members are asking their constituents, “Right now, is economic development such a high priority that they want us to have that power, or would they rather not?”
Town Attorney Tim Bishop said the town had a knee-jerk reaction in 2006, after the owner of a little pink house took on New London at the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo vs. the City of New London. The Justices decided it was legal for a municipality to take private property for economic development purposes. In light of this, Stratford’s Town Council passed a statute.
“This statute basically told the public that here in Stratford we’ll never do that,” said Bishop.

Now, council member Jason Santi is exploring the idea of loosening the law. The town attorney didn’t detail which land they’re interested in, if any. http://wtnh.com/2015/01/12/stratford-looking-to-loosen-eminent-domain-laws/”

Remember the Woody Guthrie song, “This land is your land”? Well, not so fast there. It will be the Council’s land if this harebrained scheme goes through. What the proposal seeks to change are the restrictions (Yes, almost all of them.) placed on the Council’s power of Eminent Domain. So rather than seize land for the public good, any land (like yours) can be seized if there is a developer that has a couple of councilmen, a Registrar of Voters or a mayor in his pocket.

Perhaps we should contact Mr. Santi (jsanti@townofstratford.com, 203-522-4220) and tell him it’s not that we don’t trust the Council or mayor…wait a minute! Actually, it is because we don’t trust the Council or the mayor.

Theater "Renovation" Tool

Theater “Renovation” Tool

Officials propose amphitheater to replace Shakespeare building
By Greg Reilly on January 7, 2015

“Three elected officials have come together to present an alternative plan for bringing a live entertainment venue to the town’s 14-acre Shakespeare Theatre park overlooking the Housatonic River. Jim Connor, 8th District town councilman and the Republican majority leader; Lou DeCilio, registrar of voters, arts commission alternate member and Republican Town Committee chairman; and Dave Fuller, zoning commission chairman,” http://www.stratfordstar.com/31828/officials-propose-amphitheater-to-replace-shakespeare-building/

Before we start, let us parse this a little bit. “Three elected officials”. Elected? Who ran against Lou Decilio? Who ran against David Fuller? That’s like saying Kim Jong-un is an elected official in North Korea. Now that that’s dispensed with let us move on.

So the “new” proposal, asked for by no one, is that the Shakespeare Theater be torn down and a what? Amphitheater? Be put up in it’s place? Seriously? Do these three “elected officials” realize that this is New England? An amphitheater? It gets kind of chilly here for well attended outdoor productions.

Now we must admit, we have never been a big fan of the Andy Hardy “Let’s put on a show” plans (Younger readers can google “Andy Hardy”) that seem to get submitted over and over again. But this plan makes no sense whatsoever. Tear it down and build an amphitheater that will sit empty for 6-8 months a year?

We are not theater experts by any means, but this is just ludicrous. Perhaps what bothers us the most is the circumvention of any procedure. We are all aware of the lengthy and laborious process a variety of groups have gone through just to submit proposals. These three “elected officials” can tell the Council to vote on their proposal ( Is there even a Powerpoint presentation?) just because it is from them? If you are King Louie and every member of the Republican Town Committee shakes in their boots at the thought of you, the answer is “yes”.

We suppose that during the last five years we have all been missing the target. We have been wasting our time with councilmen and mayors. We should have just asked King Louie.

New For 2015!

Administration's Piggy Bank

Administration’s Piggy Bank

OK, we lied. There is nothing new for 2015. We have exactly the same issues we had in 2014, 2013, 2012…..

Your property tax bill is sitting on your desk right now waiting to be paid, if you haven’t paid it already. That’s right, the one you got in July. To save expenses (Save expenses? In Stratford?) the Town only mails you one bill. You just have to keep it somewhere for about 6 months until it’s due again. How convenient!

As you write your check for the non-deductible sewer use fee, the Mayor and Council still intend to “sell” the land that the WPCA sits on to the WPCA. Which, is of course, the Town Council. That will deplete the $5.2 million we’ve been overcharged for the last five years. And we all know that the $5.2 million will “have” to be replenished so our Sewer “Fees” will go up again.

Of course there is the Shakespeare Theater. We expect that debate to go on for at least another 10-15 years.

Then there is the black hole called the BOE which still has no discernible budget for the current year.

Then there is the closed Main Street which shows no signs of being completed in the four months the mayor promised. But that’s small potatoes compared to what is lying beneath next door at the Army Engine Plant which still has not been formally sold.

But wait! There is the inevitable appointment of Gavin Forrester to the Council replacing Budnick. Gavin Forrester? Never mind. That’s not new either.

Maybe the mayor will settle his divorce case? That would be new! Oops, wait a minute! Miron was divorced too. Nope, nothing new in 2015.

He’s Baaaack!

Legal Decision Lotto!

Legal Decision Lotto!

Court says Stratford must rehire cop
Daniel Tepfer
Updated 11:39 pm, Monday, December 15, 2014

Yes, it’s true. Justin Loschiavo is well on his way back to Stratford PD, a uniform and a patrol car with flashing lights. This should go well.

Many readers may not remember the whole Loschiavo debacle. After all, it was a few years ago and had other interesting characters as well. There was Miron, Town Attorney Richard Buturla, Police Chief John Buturla, the Loschiavo parents; Deputy Chief Joe Loschiavo, Assistant HR Director Linda Loschiavo. They, of course had understudies like Adam Bauer, John Harkins and Ron Ing.

We had thought about writing a general review, but couldn’t summon the effort. Instead, we have posted a link history which you may want to peruse:








As usual, the only losers in this story are the same ones as they always are: Stratford Taxpayers.

Coming Attractions

Coming Attractions

While we wait for the next four to six months (or longer?) for Main Street to reopen, many residents believe it is because a new road is being constructed. That is only partially true. The closure of Main Street is a small taste of what may be coming. While the brave crews work to remediate the site, it was deemed so potentially dangerous that civilians shouldn’t even drive by it. Thus the closure. How dangerous? Aside from the asbestos (We are certainly familiar with that in Stratford aren’t we?) there are the PCB’s, lead, mercury, arsenic, a variety of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Chemicals) and other unpronounceable chemicals that have leached into those few acres from the Stratford Army Engine Plant.

Which, to any reasonable person, means that the clean up of the Stratford Army Engine Plant (SAEP) is going to be exponentially larger, more complex and expensive. The SAEP is still owned by the U.S. Army. The sale to Point Stratford Renewal has not been executed due to the disagreement over the cost of remediation and, well, who will pay for it. While Stratford has been taken out of this loop many years ago due to mismanagement, it remains Stratford residents who will be the most effected.

Why bring this up? Because citizens should know what they are being exposed to. We certainly can’t depend on Harkins and his group of press release writers.

“The mayor said the site will eventually see a “mixed-use” development…the property will gradually become transformed into an attractive and “vibrant” part of town with a greenway, hotel, apartments, retail outlets and other amenities.”http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Army-Engine-Plant-deal-finally-takes-off-4940619.php

Amenities? Like men in moon suits? Unfortunately, we will not be able to see what’s going on during the airport phase due to the worthy attempt to keep civilians as far away and as safe as possible. But to ignore reality and to propose that everything will be puppies and rainbows is an insult to every citizen of Stratford. As we have been shown repeatedly by this mayor, truth is the last thing we can expect from him.

Does This Come Before Or After The Pride?

Does This Come Before Or After The Pride?

This may be one of the ugliest stories we’ve covered here….at least since Miron.

Mayor’s wife seeks divorce
By Greg Reilly on October 2, 2014

The rumors are running rampant throughout town and, frankly, many of them ring true. We are generally loathe to comment upon personal relationships, but this has been published in the “press” and involves our highest elected official. What is at stake here is the credibility of our chief executive and the enormous doubt cast upon his ethics. We have yet to see documentation of any involvement of taxpayer funds, but should that be the case this site will be the first to call for resignations or a recall.

It's Only Taxes. Let 'Em Burn!

It’s Only Taxes. Let It Burn!

Fire chief reports another rating upgrade; new truck

By Greg Reilly on September 25, 2014

“…The department is acquiring a brand new Seagrave Aerialscope II 95-foot Tower Ladder truck, with a price tag of approximately $1.1 million…” http://www.stratfordstar.com/28845/fire-chief-reports-another-rating-upgrade-new-truck/

Only last week it was announced that, “…acquiring two new trucks with a combined cost over $1 million, acquiring new breathing apparatus with a cost of roughly $300,000…” http://www.stratfordstar.com/28510/town-improves-fire-rating-property-owners-may-save/

Umm, does anyone else notice that all that adds up to $2.4 MILLION on top of the FD’s $12 MILLION/year budget (not including overtime)? What happen to the FD Boat anyway? Haven’t seen that little expensive toy lately. How many times in the last, oh say, 375 years had we had to call for the assistance of a 95 foot tower ladder?

How many times can Harkins sell the WPCA to cover this? But wait! We homeowners are in luck! We may save up to $50 a year. “…Property owners are encouraged to check with their insurance agents or companies to see how the improved town rating might affect their insurance premiums…Savings of approximately $50 per year is not unrealistic, according to the mayor’s office, depending upon the rating system used by the resident’s homeowners insurance company and the value of the property insured.” $50? A year? (Note: don’t bother. Unless they just put a fire hydrant outside your front door, your insurance company doesn’t care).

Something’s burning out of control. That’s for sure.

And lest we forget; remember the big deal Harkins closed? You remember, the one where he gave up valuable Stratford land to the City of Bridgeport? He told us we would benefit because Main Street wouldn’t flood anymore. It would be raised!

He didn’t mention it would only be raised 12 inches and still flood did he?

“…Flooding on the section of Main Street/Route 113 near the end of the runways at Sikorsky Airport may occur less often and may drain away faster after the road is rebuilt as part of the airport improvement project now underway, but, according to the project engineer, “it will still flood….The new road will be about one foot higher in elevation than the section that will be replaced.” http://www.stratfordstar.com/28841/main-street-will-still-flood-after-airport-construction-project/

And then, for our own safety, Main Street will be closed because it’s too dangerous to even drive by the disturbed ground. Wonderful! Heckuva job, Johnny!


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