A Glimmer of Hope for Taxpayers

03May11

PROPOSED DEMOCRATIC ADD-BACKS

$10,000 – Restore Arts Commission
$96,000 – Restore Highways Supt.
$236,000 – Restore Library Funding
$36,000 – Restore P/T Public Health Nurse
$20,000 – Restore Parents Place
$50,000 – Restore Clerk for Police
$150,000 – Restore (3) Public Works employees
$63,000 – Restore – Mechanic
$50,000 – Tree Replacement/Removal
$20,000 – Restore Reserve Weather Events
$65,000 – Restore Senior Center Clerk
$48,000 – Restore Tax Assessor Position
$43,000 – Restore Tax Collector Position
$42,000 – Restore Animal Control Officer
$4,000 – Sterling House

TOTAL ADD BACKS $ 933,000

PROPOSED DEMOCRATIC CUTS

($1,173,000) – Fire Dept Callback/OT
($ 785,000) – Contingency
($ 590,000) – Employee Benefits
($ 584,567) – Public Works OT/ Workmen’s comp
($ 205,000) – Town Attorney
($ 158,000) – Police Dept
($ 125,000) – Gas & Oil, Electricity (Town-wide)
($ 110,000) – Human Resources
($ 258,000) – Other Line items

CUTS PROPOSED ($3,988,567)

Net Cut to Mayor’s Budget Proposal ($ 3,055,567)*

Although we have certain reservations about the specific amounts proposed, we are truly surprised that the Democratic Town Committee members of the Council have generated this thoughtful proposal. It is not often that we see a reasonable effort to provide an alternative budget. Budgets, as with any plan, provide a vision of the future. This is a far better vision for Stratford residents and businesses than that proposed by the Republican Town Committee. It’s a start.

Update:

Harkins Kills All Hope:
“The Democrats’ budget proposal is not based in reality,” Mayor Harkins said…”
Way to move the conversation along there, John. Nothing like a feeling of cooperation all the way around.

Uh oh, here it comes:
“For too long, petty party politics has damaged this town in a way that is senseless and unfortunate.”
You mean like when you call a proposal “senseless and unfortunate”? You couldn’t just say “lacking in details” or “I look forward to working with them”?

And now for the hilarious punchline:
“But Mayor Harkins instead said his budget is based on a real numbers.”
John, you got those numbers from Susan Collier. Need we say more?

Sigh….

* Shamelessly stolen from Christopher Carroll at the Stratford Patch
Patch Article

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24 Responses to “A Glimmer of Hope for Taxpayers”

  1. 1 jezebel282

    I don’t pass them out as often as some people would like and perhaps I should. I want to take a few words and compliment Stephanie Philips (D), Councilperson D-2. Having watched her performance on the Council, she has done a frankly exemplary job of representing her district and Stratford as a whole. Despite one or two missteps (like proposing a single payment of personal property tax instead of twice/year), she has proven to be one of the most intelligent, erudite and effective members of the Council.

    Good job, Ms. Philips.

  2. 2 mikereynolds

    I can get behind that proposal.

    However, did the Democrats propose HOW to make those cuts to callback, benefits, contigency, etc?

  3. 3 jezebel282

    Mike,

    Not really. That is why I have some reservations about it. Perhaps, Ms. Philips or some other reasonable member of the DTC can explain it.

    Reducing callbacks would require additional staffing in some cases and negotiation with IAFF Local 998. I know where they could save $85,000 immediately.

  4. 4 mikereynolds

    My concern is that this is just a ploy. If they provide no plan and their cuts are not adopted then in two years during the election they’ll cry they proposed lowering taxes, etc. By then no one will remember that they didn’t explain how they were going to do that.

  5. 5 jezebel282

    Mike,

    “My concern is that this is just a ploy.”

    That is why I called it a “glimmer”. There is no doubt that $1.8 million for the Town Attorney is an absurd amount. There is no justification for raises for any salaried employee. There is certainly no justification for additions to the mayoral staff. But, as I said, it’s a start….

    Let us hope that the discussion continues.

  6. 6 sudds

    Cudos to Miss(?) Philips and the (D) team in Stratford!!!

    It’s about time that someone finally had the cojones to step up and actually look out for the taxpayers (you know… the ones who’s derrieres the elected officials kissed to get elected).

    ** note to Miss(?) Philips (in case she’s reading this)…

    You can EASILY get Catalano’s vote… all you have to do is (1) up the Arts Commission’s allocation to $50k and (2) promise not to shut-up independent contractors from the Shakespeare theatre!

  7. 7 1george1

    Why not completely eliminate the Town Attorney budget completely?
    It is not like the political parties care about the LAW or CHARTER?

    Why not eliminate all but $ 250,000 O. T. to POLICE + FIRE for the legitimate
    needs of each and demand a doctor note for each incident the 3rd illness
    and each one after, per quarter.
    > People can be out a few days with a cold, flu, or injury, legitimately

    Why not post the calculations which EVERY Defined BENEFIT Pensioner
    would have received if in a Defined CONTRIBUTION Plan, and BILL BMD,
    BKJ, FO, and other Town Attorneys for the DIFFERENCE?

  8. 8 jezebel282

    George,

    “It is not like the political parties care about the LAW or CHARTER?”
    As we realized in our discussions during the Charter Revision meetings, there is actually no negative result from violating the Charter. Nothing in it provides a sanction for an errant mayor. In fact, our sole interpreter of the Charter is an attorney who serves at the pleasure of a mayor. As long as that continues there will be continual violations of the charter. We even heard that from the judge in the Castater theft. The judge essentially bitched slapped our charter in public.

    Sudds,
    “You can EASILY get Catalano’s vote”
    Well, while we’re at it, we could reduce the Town Attorney’s budget to say, maybe half (it would still be well above surrounding Towns) and give Catalano a hundred thousand or so to turn that decrepit white house into….whatever.

  9. 9 1george1

    I agree with Jeze on part 1.

    I have some minor differences with Catalano On Shakespeare,
    however I believe he is sincere.
    I further believe the Shakespeare Theater can be very important
    in revitalization of Stratford.
    > Unfortunately, we have seen a form of “The PRODUCERS.”
    > We are now starting to see the “BLAZING SADDLES” game to
    drive down property values for the speculators to move in the
    games and then take it back for the COASTAL VALUES.

    The DTC / RTC backers are using the same playbook they used
    in Southport USPS and it appears they will hide their crimes
    behind EEOC purview and fronts…. sad.

  10. 10 1george1

    Bridgeport / Stratford is like New Orleans, in that it is PRIME REAL
    ESTATE, which I believe the very poor property values represent
    an opportunity for a huge score by the uncaring BIG MONEY and.
    the even less caring BIG POLITICS.

  11. 11 jezebel282

    ($1,173,000) – Fire Dept Callback/OT

    This issue seems to be addressed by no one. You can complain about staffing or you can complain about overtime, but you cannot complain about both. Once the FD is fully staffed you can legitimately complain about excessive overtime. It is a choice.

    Staffing levels have been agreed upon for years after considerable negotiation between the Town and IAFF Local 998. It is this agreement that drives staffing and overtime. Frankly, there is not a single member of the Administration nor Council that is qualified to make the determination of what constitutes adequate staffing levels.

    Talk of converting to a volunteer organization is distracting and irrelevant. We can’t even staff a small volunteer EMS service adequately. What makes anyone think we could staff an effective Fire Department with volunteers? How about a volunteer police department? They get less training than firefighters.

    Not only do I want trained and professional firefighters showing up at my house, I also want every single one of them to walk away without so much as a singed hair. Likewise, I want every police officer to go home without so much as a broken nail.

    A reasonable budget solution will be found in staffing requirements, not in the politics of hiring and who looks good or bad.

  12. 12 phineast

    Jez- did you know that greater than 70%…that is right 70% of fire departments in this country are VOLUNTEER? While I am not a proponent of a 100% volunteer department. I do believe the staffing issues could be solved with a volunteer section in the department. It is long past time the FD union sit down and address the items the town can no longer afford before their union puts them all out of paid jobs.
    Firefighters all get the same basic training whether they are volunteer or paid and in Stratford’s case there is no exceptional extra training -it is not like we are rated in the top percent in the state-not even close.
    Your comment is interesting about only have paid trained firefighters show up…do you believe the same about EMS??? If is a philosophy you are talking about, you should. If it is laced with politics you most likely won’t.
    You are more than correct when you say we want all of our public safety people unhurt. That is the item…all of us will agree on.

  13. 13 jezebel282

    Phin,

    “did you know that greater than 70%…that is right 70% of fire departments in this country are VOLUNTEER?”
    Yes, I did. If you do further research you will find that almost all of them have staffing troubles. Some at dangerous levels.

    “do you believe the same about EMS???”
    To be honest, I haven’t made up my mind about that yet.

    “If it is laced with politics you most likely won’t.”
    Politics? Moi?
    I hope you never actually have the need to call 911. I have on more occasions than anyone should. I must tell you that in less than 3 minutes, the FD was there with their oxygen every time. Then we would all stand around staring at each other waiting for EMS to show up. In the majority of cases, it was an AMR ambulance. It should be noted that most of these times were in daytime and during the workweek. On weekends, Stratford EMS would arrive with the FD.

    I can tell you from personal experience that nothing relieves a family member more than seeing someone with a stethoscope and a white vehicle with lights and sirens show up. (And in case I forgot to do it this week my thanks again to Kevin Giasullo, Kevin Saranich, Steve Parise, Gavin Forrester and the rest of SEMS).

    However, back to the issue, staffing with volunteers is a serious problem. Training for firefighters and EMT’s is expensive and requires a lot of dedication. To go through that and then work for free is an extremely difficult thing to ask someone. When you add the number of seniors in this Town who require emergency medical services the issue becomes more critical.

    In answer to your question, I don’t know. My gut feeling is that Emergency Medical service shouldn’t be a hobby.

  14. 14 1george1

    Staffing levels have been agreed upon for years after considerable
    negotiation between the Town and IAFF Local 998.

    It is this agreement that drives staffing and overtime.

    Frankly, there is not a single member of the Administration nor
    Council that is qualified to make the determination of what
    constitutes adequate staffing levels.

    I disagree:
    JAMES CONNER heads HR in a Stratford Company (over 100 Employees).
    WILLIAM CABROL heads HR in a 65 person Seymor Company.
    BoE VINCE CARBONE headed HR for DRESSER, when it had 1100 to 600
    employees. Now has about 200 – 300.
    Former Town Councilor James Feehan was very expereinced in the
    STAMFORD FIRE DEPARTMENT in the late 1990s, early 2000s, besides
    owning a Stratford Fire Truck company, moved to North Haven.

    There are several past Fire Chiefs and assistants available to consult.

    However it is an excellent point.
    Either the people are incompetent, or dishonest?

    What changed from Fire Department not having thes issues under past
    Fire Chiefs, like Macy or his successor?

  15. 15 phineast

    Jez- ” I hope you never actually have the need to call 911″ — actually I have had the honor to answer those calls as well as sadly having to make a couple of the calls for needed service.
    The FD now arrives first because they are now designated first responders. The calls are dispatched separately-which is ridiculous and a colossal waste of time. It isn’t because EMS is slower-they are waiting to get an need assessment from the first responders and dispatch. The Fire dept wasn’t always the first responders-and the calls didn’t always go out separately.
    I know this because I was there. While staffing wasn’t perfect, we had enough volunteers to man 2 ambulances and overflow to run a third periodically third shift was the most difficult to fill. It was the management of the volunteers and the appreciation and energy coming from management that motivated the recruitment of more volunteers. It wasn’t an incestuous political battlefield–because the volunteer’s eyes were ALWAYS on the service that was provided with honor and the camaraderie that that evolved on the shifts that served together in their desire to help the community. It disgusts me to see what has happened to EMS through political sniping and internal mismanagement.

    Staffing shortages that you speak of are interesting when you research the types of locales they are seen in. There is a lot more to it than just a number revue-it is a complete community demographic review. It is my personal belief that volunteers and paid staff can work together very well in our town. It happens in other communities-it is all based on the leadership of the organization and the amount of civic pride people in the community have as well as having a civic mentality. There are tons of demographic factors that play in to those numbers both positive and negative. When you have a shortage of workers and you have people that want to volunteer but are blocked by a union contract(like with the FD), it has a domino effect and not a winning one(in stfd it costs the taxpayers $40k a week in Ot). There are many ways to make a network like this work…we just have to find the one that works for our town and protects the taxpayers as well as the volunteers. The taxpayers have come to expect certain services for their tax dollars-those being done efficiently and properly staffed is more important than frivolities…golf pro=waste of tax dollars. Let the golf pro work on commission only. It would certainly motivate a person to drum up business…….

    (I do agree with your comment from another thread about dumping the golf pro. You are on target with that one!)

  16. 16 1george1

    Excellent Post Phin.

  17. 17 jezebel282

    Phin,

    “It isn’t because EMS is slower-they are waiting to get an need assessment from the first responders and dispatch.”

    I’m sorry, but that is incorrect. The calls are received simultaneously by EMS and FD. You can listen for yourself at http://svemsassociation.com/ Stratford EMS ambulance usually start with “8”.

    “which is ridiculous and a colossal waste of time.”
    You are absolutely correct about that! Thank God they don’t do that. That strategy will kill someone. However, I can see the need for EMS and the FD to respond together. Access to the patient may be an issue. EMT’s carry tape and gauze and Firefighters carry pry bars and axes.

    “It was the management of the volunteers and the appreciation and energy coming from management that motivated the recruitment of more volunteers.”
    Which has been my point for quite a while. When Dispatch (who is ALSO not fully staffed) has to call mutual aid (AMR), the primary reason is that there are not enough EMT’s/Paramedics on duty. That happened $600,000 dollars worth in one year.

  18. 18 phineast

    interesting you say the calls go out at the same time-because in the last month i unfortunately had need to call for an ambulance. once the fd arrived they were the ones that actually determined the need for transport and THEN asked dispatch to send EMS. just saying…apparently there are some variations on how they handle things-is it because of who is in charge, because of how the call is called in, or who is in dispatch or just policy?
    you were there for you situation and i was there for mine…the difference was how they were handled-why is that???

  19. 19 jezebel282

    Phin,

    “you were there for you situation and i was there for mine…the difference was how they were handled-why is that???”

    I don’t know. It certainly is a huge problem if that is the case. Let me restate that there have been times when I have initiated 911 and only the FD showed up (very quickly) and then we all just stood around waiting for an ambulance to show up.

    Dispatch does what dispatch is supposed to do. It is they who decide to dispatch resources like PD, FD or EMS. It is not that difficult (as you must know) to determine the difference between a crime, MVA, fire or medical/trauma. In addition, now that they are next door to each other, you can actually watch the FD and EMS pull out at the same time.

    In your particular case it would be interesting to note whether SEMS or AMR showed up.

  20. 20 phineast

    it was definitely SEMS and our original 911 call specifically asked for an ambulance.

  21. 21 jezebel282

    Phin,

    “it was definitely SEMS and our original 911 call specifically asked for an ambulance.”

    I don’t know what to tell you. If it were me, there would have been a very angry call to…hmmmm….who’s in charge of EMS anyway?

  22. 22 phineast

    ahhh but a call to whom????? admin for the FD, dispatch or EMS?????
    The FD responders did an excellent job as did EMS…someone dropped the ball somewhere…or maybe ems was at another call? who knows.

  23. 23 1george1

    I don’t know what to tell you. If it were me, there would have been
    a very angry call to…hmmmm….who’s in charge of EMS anyway?

    ahhh but a call to whom?????

    1) MAYOR is in charge of ALL ADMINISTRATIVE ..
    2) COUNCIL is in charge of MONEY
    3) Police / State Police / FBI in charge of Public Safety
    4) Justice / Chief State Attorney – Attorney General / Town esq. – in charge of LAW interpretation
    5) State Reps in charge of State money + legislation
    6) Congress = in charge of Feds
    7) Press = needs news content
    8) neighbors and town citizens in charge of everyone

  24. 24 1george1

    I realized that Jeze used the word “TAXPAYERS” in the headlines
    of a (this) blog post.

    I compliment Jeze on transition of ascribed blog posted priorities.

    I miss Chris and Portia, debating.

    Portia had superior debate style, reference points, vocabulary &
    writing style (over everyone).
    Chris often had superior humane substance.

    Portia political polemics = Pyrrhic.
    But then, so are mine.
    Diference? Mine are intentional.

    Reference: U.S. Army 442nd Infantry Regiment – Nisei


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