The “T” Word

08Feb10

Squeeze Here

Grand list in Stratford declines slightly
By Richard Weizel, STAFF WRITER
Published: 10:09 p.m., Sunday, February 7, 2010

STRATFORD — The national economic and housing crisis, combined with an artificially lowered tax rate the past two years, have taken a toll on the town’s new grand list of all taxable properties, reversing the previous year’s $57 million increase in 2008 with a $58 million drop last year, officials say.

In contrast to the 1 percent grand list increase in 2007 and 1.25 percent hike in 2008, the grand list in 2009 declined 2 percent, caused primarily by the steep decrease in real estate and housing values, according to Mayor John A. Harkins and Tax Assessor Melinda Fonda.

Harkins said “while we inherited this from the previous administration, I wanted the job of mayor and intend to clean up the mess … but it’s not going to be easy. People have to understand we are paying the price for two years of politically motivated mill rates and deflated taxes that may have felt good a year ago when there was no tax increase, but will come back to haunt us now…”

“…We have taken the first step in this process by implementing a hiring and spending freeze across town government, and more compromises will be included in the budget proposal I will present to the Town Council in the coming months,” Harkins said.

Did anyone feel good about the last election year budget? Was anyone fooled by Miron’s “fiscal responsibility”? Did anyone think property values would go up? This game has gone on for 20+ years. Property values go up, the mil rate goes down. Property values go down, the mil rate goes up.

At the very least, Harkins is being honest with voters. It’s about time. The news can’t always be good. The tough choices facing Harkins and the Council will be compounded by and extremely high foreclosure rate (nothing effects your monthly mortgage payment like property tax), real unemployment at over 10%, increased school enrollment and the largest per capita senior population in the State.

If anyone has a suggestion, this would be the time….

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29 Responses to “The “T” Word”

  1. 1 jezebel282

    Suggestion #1:

    Control overtime and callbacks. Both are treated as if they were part of the base pay. Like an entitlement. All overtime requests should be approved by the Mayor’s Office.

    The alternative is simple. Join the other 17+ MILLION Americans in unemployment lines.

  2. 2 gforrester

    Did anyone feel good about the last election year budget?

    Yea I did! The Town Council set the mill rate and therefore the lack of a tax increase during the largest recession in recent history which several other communities also pasted 0% or < 1% tax hikes. The fact that the previous Mayor had disregarded the spending controls in the budget and had $240,000 cash outs and blew the OT budgets of PW and Parks in a blatent attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the voters but engaging in last minute improvement programs has nothing to do with "politically motivated budgets" but everything to do with a single politically motivated individual trying to get re-elected. I don't recall anyone standing up and saying "raise my taxes" last year but I do recall several residents saying that they could not afford a tax increase so you can't have it both ways.

  3. 3 jezebel282

    Mr. Forrester,

    Weren’t you on the Council when our taxes were raised a total of 25.7% over three years?

  4. 4 cstratct

    What Mayor Harkins should have said was “while we inheritied this from the previous administration AND TOWN COUNCIL…”

    The former Mayor bears responsibility for his decisions with regard to spending and a whole lot of “fuzzy math,” but it is ludicrous to think the former Town Council bears no responsibility while taking credit for the lack of a tax increase.

    The Town Council had to approve the budget and mill rate, which you, Mr. Forrester, have pointed out.

    Miron tried to limit the education increase to about half of what was requested. The Town Council restored about $600K of that requested increase.

    And for what it’s worth Mr. Forrester, you don’t do yourself any favors in your attempt to have it both ways. I don’t remember seeing you, or any of the other former council members for that matter, asking the unions for wage freezes or doing much to reign in an education budget that made up almost 1/2 the entire town budget.

    There’s plenty of blame to go around. Miron doesn’t get a pass as he was the chief executive, but neither does the former Town Council.

  5. 5 jezebel282

    The man has a point there, Mr. Forrester.

  6. 6 gforrester

    Cstratct

    Miron tried to limit the education increase to about half of what was requested. The Town Council restored about $600K of that requested increase. (it was actually $500,000 restored)

    Your damn right we did and I am proud of the fact that our school system has improved and was recently removed from the needs improvement list with the expansion of tutor programs. As far as taking responsibility for the current fiscal problem because we did not raise taxes I fail to see your argument. In the first place the only items that I have heard are way over budget are legal fees which are not under the control of the Town Council since the Town Attorney works at the discression of the Mayor, OT budgets for PW and Parks (again not under the control of the Council) and cash outs given by the Mayor. The majority of the projected revenue amounts came directly from the Mayor’s budget which was generated by the Former Finance Director and since I am no longer on the Council I don’t get any updated financial reports.

    I don’t remember seeing you, or any of the other former council members for that matter, asking the unions for wage freezes or doing much to reign in an education budget that made up almost 1/2 the entire town budget.

    if you would further your own education you will understand that based upon the Charter the Town Council can not get involved with contract discussions between the Administration and Union and can only get involved when the final version of a contract is presented, and that is only with an up or down vote. For the Town Council to have made any public statements regarding contract talks it could be taken as a violation of the seperation of duties as described under the Charter.

    As far as the Education budget over 90% of all education spending is fixed, either by contract (and yes the teachers union accepted a 0% wage increase in the past) or by unfunded Federal or State Mandidates such as No Child Left Behind/ Sheff versus O’Neill, or Special Education, and is not therefore discressionary. If you have any specific Education programs that you feel you would like to see cut please feel free to forward them on to me and I will see that they are reviewed and discussed. Many if the BOE line items that will be proposed with next years budget are at a 0% increase, but unless you are suggesting violating the terms of contracts and not providing Medical Insurance for next year, there is a 4 Million Dollar premium increase that will have to be addressed so you can consider that cost either fixed by contract or not but every employer is faced with a similar problem.

  7. 7 jezebel282

    Mr. Forrester,

    Ummm… the word is “discretion”.

    Any comment on the $450,000 spent on new granite curbs instead of, say, boilers for the High School? Or perhaps the similar amount, $400,000, renovating the top floor of Town Hall instead of, say, boilers for the High School?

    I understand that it was LoCip funding but there are plenty of capital equipment expenses that it could have been used for, say, boilers for the High School.

    For 3 out of 4 years our taxes increased significantly. 9%, 12% and 3% respectively. Are you taking credit for that 25.7% increase as well?

    (Nice catch on Miron’s attempt to give his administrators secret raises, by the way.)

  8. 8 sudds

    Ok… I gotta defend Mr. Forrester here…

    One the one hand you are compaining that taxes went up 27.5% over the last four years (which you say is too much)… and on the other hand you’re complaining that they didn’t go up last year!!!

    Talk about being in a lose-lose situation!!!

    Thank you for your service Mr. Forrester… and congrats on not going insane/suicidal because of it!!!

  9. 9 jezebel282

    Sudds,

    “Ok… I gotta defend Mr. Forrester here…”

    I have never found Mr. Forrester to be deficient in his ability to defend himself. His name gets mentioned because he is typically the only politician in Stratford with the guts to come here and speak up.

    But if we are going to debate issues, let’s debate them all. Miron did, in fact, turn the 2009-2010 Budget into a fairytale, taking from almost every budget line and shoveling cash to Berchem, Moses and Devlin. He spent $40,000 on flowers alone in October. That money had to come from somewhere.

    Can you imagine the laughter on the other end of the phone when Harkins would ask a department where their money was?

    Can we expect a mil rate increase? Absolutely. There is no choice. Is that a reason to raise everyone monthly mortgage payment? Not necessarily.

  10. 10 1george1

    Gavin

    Last 4 years PENSIONS went up $ 5.2 million
    Prior 4 years PENSIONS went up $ 3.6 million
    Prior 4 years PENSIONS went up $ 3.3 million

    Total Obligation $ 17.4 million
    1990-1994 PENSIONS averaged under $ 4. million

    Gavin under your watch the PENSIONS went up 70 %.

    You were on the pension board 6 years.
    Capital Debt went from $ 160 million to $ 204 million.
    You ran budget workshops. that feehand didn’t have.
    You are intimate with details of Town + BoE finances.
    I N T I M A T E!!

    Taxes more than doubled in x years, giving ample padding
    for an election year freeze, when property values went
    down 2 years in a row, but only recently reflect for some,
    not all people.

    Raymark has 250 acres toxic ground water under our houses.
    which may or may not be a health hazard, but killed property
    values, which should keep our taxes lower …
    NOTHING ACCOMPLISHED

    AVCO VACANT with 3 phony BIDDERS

    SHAKESPEARE VACANT with 3 phony BIDDERS

    AIRPORT not BOUGHT – We lost an acre.

    LBW under appraised – nothing noted during campaign by your
    Republican Standard Bearer, who OWNS an appraisal company.

    AVCO a multi BILLION DOLLAR project delayed since 1992

    Town Attorneys over $ 1,000,000 – grand theft?
    If ANY PROBLEMS were solved, they couldn’t bill 3/4 of billing.
    1992 – total fees were $ 222,000

    GAVIN, while you point out that x + y + z were under Mayor’s
    discretion, why not take some of the blame:
    1 – Chairman Charter Revision # 1
    2 – Democrat Minority leader named Charter Revision # 2
    3 – The most intelligent, competent, and knowledgeable Councilor
    accepted the same Charter Revisions, “your appointees” placed.

    Gavin, many of Stratford’s problems fall directly at your feet for
    your activities the last 10 -12 years in actively being aware of the
    carp done under the color of the law.

    Gavin, you may not have been the architect or a major beneficiary
    of what I believe have been Grand theft looting ….
    However, there are sins and crimes of ommission and commission.

    Finances are your field!

    If you ever go State’s evidence ….

    But that would presume the political parties and government cared
    about the USA, Americans who are not members of the parties/clubs,
    and where love of Country, was superior to personal, career, political
    interests …. which I had never ascribed the perverse, to you …. and
    still hold Diogenes Lantern towards several people, including you!

  11. 11 sudds

    “Can we expect a mil rate increase? Absolutely.”

    Agreed… but a mill rate increase doesn’t necessarily equal an increase in our taxes! With the valuations going down, we could (LOL!) get a mill rate increase and our taxes could (LOL!) go down!

  12. 12 1george1

    The fact that the previous Mayor had disregarded the spending controls in the budget and had $240,000 cash outs and blew the OT budgets of PW and Parks in a blatent attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the voters but engaging in last minute improvement programs has nothing to do with “politically motivated budgets” but everything to do with a single politically motivated individual trying to get re-elected.

    Gavin
    The MAYOR PROPOSES BUDGETS
    The TOWN COUNCIL CONTROLS SPENDING.

    The MAYOR controls day to day Administration.
    The TOWN COUNCIL CONTROLS SPENDING.

    The MAYOR controls inter Departmental Spending.
    The TOWN COUNCIL CONTROLS SPENDING.

    The TOWN COUNCIL CONTROLS ORDINANCES + RESOLUTIONS.
    The MAYOR controls Town Attorney interpretation.

    The MAYOR controls Town Attorney interpretation.
    NOTHING prohibited the TOWN COUNCIL from CREATING
    changes to the TOWN CHARTER to be voted upon, for the
    many problems you want people to believe, is there????

    I barely respect Henrick, Feehan, Kubic, Norm, the attorneys,
    Lou-Bill, Mirons, Schirillo, and others.

    Sooner or later Gavin … sooner or later … the real Gavin will
    step up ….
    There are some things … money or phony positions can not buy …

  13. 13 gforrester

    George

    George if you are saying the pension contribution continues to go up based upon pensions and contracts that are in place you are correct and, newsflash, the pension contributions will continue to rise based on those contracts until 2018.

    If you will notice there were fewer disability pensions granted was is a direct result of changes in the contract language that was made prior to my arrival so I will not take credit for that.

    Raymark has 250 acres toxic ground water under our houses.
    which may or may not be a health hazard, but killed property
    values, which should keep our taxes lower …
    NOTHING ACCOMPLISHED

    George the Town Council has no control over this and neither does the Mayor, The Fed’s are driving that bus as you should well be aware of since you have attended the RAC meetings. Please stop saying it’s the Town Council’s fault because it was never in our hands. I did however get an ordinance passed which makes it harder to make the Raymark Ballfield a tonix waste dump and if you need clarification please contact Save Stratford for the facts.

    AVCO VACANT with 3 phony BIDDERS – Again the Federal Government took that away after the Town Council voided the contract with Team Stratford for cause after Aaron Hockmann filed for bankruptcy, In essence the Town Council did do something positive to free the Town of a bad contract with Team Stratford.

    SHAKESPEARE VACANT with 3 phony BIDDERS – I was on the Town Council that voted to accept the property back from the State and we had two open sessions for bidders to come forward. I voted for KKP that could not come up with the money, but because the Town Council wrote in a reverter clause the Town was not strapped with an impossible long term deal, and I voted against Hanney because of several reasons, not the least of which was the lack of a performance bond. The time for the Theather may have passed.

    AIRPORT not BOUGHT – We lost an acre. – Can’t buy what is not for sale George, or did I miss the fact that the City of Bridgeport had for sale signs on the front door.

    If you ever go State’s evidence ….

    George just please stop already.

  14. 14 gforrester

    George part 2

  15. 15 gforrester

    George Part 2

    So if I am to blame for all that is wrong in the past 12 years (funny since I don’t recall being blamed for anything while on the Zoning Commission 2000-2003) do I get credit for the things that went right like the improvement in the bond rating, balanced and surplused budgets, capital improvement projects to Longbrook Park, Kings Street Culvert, Center Restoration, reduction in crime, new WPCA facility, or is it all one way George.

    I encourage you to keep running for office because last time around you actually got 62 votes for council so you must be hitting on something.

  16. 16 jezebel282

    Mr. Forrester,

    You forgot to mention the new EMS headquarters.

  17. 17 phineast

    Gavin-I am very grateful to you for all you do for everyone in town. You truly are one of Stratford’s points of light. Keep up the good work in your new position and I hope the newbies can count on you for guidance.

  18. 18 jezebel282

    Phin,

    Gavin is half the man he used to be.

    😉

  19. 19 1george1

    Gavin,

    Thank you for the reply.
    I never said you did nothing.
    I also praise you, Valzone and the Bests for EMS.

    However, there is soooooo much left unsaid.
    Unsaid within the post.
    Unsaid to the public.
    Unsaid within decisions made behind closed doors of executive session
    and RTC and DTC and RTC.

    None of my 60 votes was bought with lawyer money or drug money,
    like so many in …. the USA, and certain area elections ….

    Gavin, you and I both know much about Team Stratford, whick now
    controls the Town Committee you joined.
    Am I missing some thing?

    Gavin, you chaired C.R.C. # 1 and 1 of 3 appointing C.R.C. #2, with
    your campaign manager the sponsor against Budget Referendums,
    and the Town Attorney opine we lost grandfathered rights due to
    being under home rule act.

    Like Miron was against the Mayor form of Govenment, but became
    the mayor, abetted by the Republicans splitting votes ….
    You steered CRC # 1, deeply involved in CRC # 2, then pretended
    to be against Miron, stating YOUR TOWN CHARTER does NOT work,
    YET NEVER MAKING a single attempt to fix it on Voter Ballot …..

    Might want to review Frank Church Committee and Knapp Commission
    findings to see the USA VERSION of FASCISM which your family fought
    in WW II.

    “RELINQUO TOTUS Spes YE QUISNAM PENETRO HIC.”

    “Diabolus usquequaque vendo proditor.”

    “Vinco mens usquequaque interficio, occisor

  20. 20 jezebel282

    Upadte:

    Let’s see…Stratford’s Grand List went down $58 million due to the recession. That must mean every Town’s grand list went

    SHELTON — The city’s grand list continued to grow last year, though at a rate that was half of what it has in the past.

    The 2008 list increased by $108 million, and by $109 million the year before that. But the 2009 list increased by only half those numbers — $53 million, the lowest amount in years.

    “Overall it is positive news that the grand list continues to grow during this difficult economic time,” Mayor Mark A. Lauretti said.

    up?

    DOH!

  21. 21 cstratct

    And does Shelton have an Army Engine Plant that the town has no control over or brownfield issues galore?

    While the politics that have plagued this town in the past have a lot to do with where we are today, there are a number of issues which the town has little, if any, control over and is at the mercy of other entities or municipalities.

    If what I saw at the town council meeting last night is any indication, it appears the town may finally have a Council and Mayor that can work constructively instead of trying to tear one another down. I think they (the Council and Mayor) were wrong on the animal control facility, but they otherwise appear to be moving forward in a constructive manner.

  22. 22 jezebel282

    Cstrat,

    “And does Shelton have an Army Engine Plant that the town has no control over or brownfield issues galore?”

    Have you ever driven by that LARGE mountain of trash in Shelton? Can’t use that for anything either.

    The difference is that Shelton has an administration that has a (let’s face it) dominant economic development program. They are also not hobbled by Berchem Moses & Devlin and have decided to have a corporation Counsel versus a Town Attorney.

    Mayor-for-life Lauretti has produced results and the residents of Shelton will benefit for generations.

    Could Harkins do the same? That’s up to Harkins.

  23. 23 cstratct

    Every dog has its day Jezebel (no pun intended – at least when I first wrote it). To think that Shelton won’t encounter difficult times for “generations” is a bit naive don’t you think?

    Even the best managed municipalities and companies encounter difficulty. Who would have predicted even a year ago that Toyota would encounter the problems they have. Of their own doing certainly, but nevertheless Toyota was sitting at the top of the car industry a year ago and now is staring down the cliff. It can happen overnight and it can be a precipitious fall.

  24. 24 jezebel282

    Cstrat,

    “It can happen overnight and it can be a precipitious fall.”

    Which is probably why Lauretti keeps pushing economic development year after year. Stratford has always been dependent on one or two companies. Avco is gone and if Sikorksy sneezes we catch pneumonia. Shelton’s commercial development is extremely diverse. People will not stop writing with Bic pens, they probably won’t quit drinking tea and using medical diagnostic equipment either. The point is that Lauretti has done an excellent job developing Shelton and the taxpayers appreciate it. We can do it too.

  25. 25 sudds

    Shelton = Robert Scinto

    Stratford = James Miron

    Any more questions???

  26. 26 cstratct

    One is a developer and one is an attorney. What is your point?

    We have Christopher Allen coming to town (hopefully).

    At least compare appples to apples.

    Stratford is not about one person, nor is Shelton. So your “Stratford =” statement is ludicrous. Miron was Mayor for 4 years, at some point you’re going to have to give up your fascination with blaming everything on one individual.

    And Jezebel, I agree that economic development is possible in Stratford, but can you honestly tell me that Shelton has similar (or as widespread) brownfield and remediation issues as Stratford?

    While politics play a part in economic development, there are a myriad of issues that contribute to the rise and decline of towns and cities throughout the country.

  27. 27 1george1

    I regret that I raised the Shelton – Scinto growth 4 years ago in
    my unknown Mayoral campaign, kept off ballot, except as write in.
    I got 2 votes. 😦 8)

    It is 2 more votes for Mayor than anyone else got on this blog,
    except for Miron, Dom, Harkins, O’Brien, Carroll. 😉

    I believe there is a need to increase many commercial buildings from
    1 story to up to 60 feet.
    I no longer want towers, due to Stratford’s character.

    It hit the B UTTER NUTS and MIRON CURTAIN as a revelationto build the
    potential swag.

    Jeze is correct on both counts.
    It was Scinto, not Lauretti, responsible for Shelton Grand List
    It was Mirons/Burturlas/bUTTER-NUTS responsible for Stratford Grand List

    Chris
    It was nice talking to you last night 😉

    As far as Allen Christopher, I always wrote Stratford is on a timetable.
    Based on a recent presentation to Econ Dev politboro subcommittee ….
    Now on towards the Arts Commission apparatchik ….
    I fully believe Allen Christopher was always the designated Shakespeare
    savior, which has yet to come to fruition…

    NOTE: Robert Hargus last week was published by PRAVDA ooops CT POST
    as suggesting a trade of LBW for AIRPORT.
    In my mayoral campaign I predicted
    > LBW to F & W – NEVER HAPPEN
    > trade of LBW for AIRPORT.

    Last night Louie passed me at TC mid row.
    I almost slipped on the Snake Oil trail.

    Does Louie wear the same cologne Dickie and Norm wear?

  28. 28 1george1

    If the HANNEY CONTRACT was a PRETENSE?
    If Miron’s position on the HANNEY CONTRACT was a PRETENSE?
    If Burturla’s position on the HANNEY CONTRACT was a PRETENSE?
    If Hanney’s position on the HANNEY CONTRACT was a PRETENSE?
    If Knott’s position on the HANNEY CONTRACT was a PRETENSE?
    If Henrick’s position on the HANNEY CONTRACT was a PRETENSE?
    If Juliann’s position on the HANNEY CONTRACT was a PRETENSE?
    If Kubic’s position on the HANNEY CONTRACT was a PRETENSE?
    If Gavin’s position on the HANNEY CONTRACT was a PRETENSE?
    If Moores position on the HANNEY CONTRACT was a PRETENSE?

    etc.

    Then why continue to ….
    Matt Catalano’s position on the Shakespeare Theater, where it
    incorporates virtually or almost everything a reasonable and
    intelligent person would want for the Theater, Town of Stratford,
    and people of Stratford, within reasonable variables

    is a direct beneficiary of all of the LIES and NON SENSE and FAILED
    BIDDERS, delays, delays, Attorney Billings, delays, delays, smoke and
    mirror diversions from the MORE COSTLY IMPORTANT ISSUES that
    needed DIVERSIONS like Shakespeare, LBW, Main street-Airport.

    I suspect Chris and Matt vision of the Theater is only slightly different
    than my preferences, but far better than Hanney carp and where I
    prefer some Summer Shakespeare, with defininte spring / fall matinees
    of Shakespeare for School Children and Wed – Sat nights for adults,
    our mutual bottom lines include Shakespeare, getting property tax,
    getting licensing fees, creating varied venues, and raising the curtain
    where the remodeled Theater will be a vibrant cultural asset.

    Whereas I like Matt …..
    I think Matt is real, unlike many others ….
    They know who they are ….

    This is Stratford
    Malloy, Conners, and Bishop recent decisions disappointed me.
    I do not exclude Matt from those decision related to what I believe
    are carp F. A. C. appointments:
    Moore, Angelo, Rodriguez, Stengel, Fahan
    I thought Malloy and Conners were more intelligent, independent,
    and responsible than I now believe, because of career backgrounds.
    Bishop, like Florek in amiable.
    However certain ommissions and commissions by Bishop, Malloy, &
    Conners … well my remarks will reinforce thier positions with the
    “avid fiend” (TBA)

    Louie Stoogie was particularly pleased with himslef Monday night.
    Stratford politics is the Monkey’s Paw, waiting to happen.

  29. 29 1george1

    In Harkins Mill river Country Club acceptance speach, he referred to
    something hARKINS STATED NORM ALDRICH reminded him of related to
    “personal property taxes” as a REVENUE SOURCE.

    Ron Moreau and other Republicans were present.

    The RTC + DTC has been robbing the general population for decades,
    while they underpay their fair share.


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