Mortgages, Rents & Fees Go Up In Stratford. Again.

13Mar14
Harkin's Tax Plan

Harkin’s Tax Plan

Harkins looks at 5.7% tax increase
John Burgeson
Published 10:00 pm, Wednesday, March 12, 2014
http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Harkins-looks-at-5-7-tax-increase-5312646.php?cmpid=email-mobile

“STRATFORD — Mayor John Harkins said Wednesday that his proposed $204 million operating budget for 2014-15 would raise property taxes by 5.7 percent over what they are now and would increase spending by 6 percent.
The tax increase, significantly greater than what the mayor put on the table a year ago, is badly needed to fund ongoing pension obligations and other critical needs, such as ramped up school security…”

Significantly greater than when he was running for mayor? Although Harkins has not published his complete proposed budget yet, we can assume that our Town Attorney budget will still be in the $2 million range, the Registrars of Voters (if you can find them) will be very happy and those mean old pensioners are to blame.

“Harkins pointed out that all of the services that its residents enjoy — leaf pickup, large item pickup, refuse collection and collection of recyclables — will continue as they have in the past.”
Oh. We see. It’s all the fault of Public Works. We are all spoiled by having our garbage picked up. $204 million for leaf pickup, large item pickup, refuse collection and collection of recyclables.

It’s lucky that Harkins got his 30% raise since taxes are going up a lot. And it will be only three more budgets until taxes don’t go up again.

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41 Responses to “Mortgages, Rents & Fees Go Up In Stratford. Again.”

  1. 1 1cyclops

    My-oh-my!

  2. 2 jezebel282

    Update:

    http://www.townofstratford.com/filestorage/39879/43107/59670/Proposed_Operating_Budget_Fiscal.PDF

    Wheeee! Every non-union supervisor or department head gets a raise! Where’s the party?

  3. 3 Rockannand

    The funny part is that they just roll through this without a second thought what people think. Even the lone DEM on the COuncil (Stephanie) supported the registrar’s doubling of their comp. Next up is bull dozing 1850 Elm St to allow this commercial developer to put up a Holiday Inn Express on the shores of the Housatonic.

  4. 4 jezebel282

    $113,000 for an HR Director? AYFKM!

  5. 5 stfdprofessor1

    Can i get a sincere KA_CHINNNNNNG people- bend over here it comes…(grimace)!

  6. 6 jezebel282

    There are so many raises in pay in this budget…it just boggles the mind. It’s as if the mayor thinks taxpayers got nice 10-15% raises too

  7. 7 1cyclops

    Have these increases been council approved or is this the recommendation of the mayor? If the council needs to grant approval perhaps there will be some adjustments. At the very least, an explanation for such huge increases. Folks are not getting raises like this. Did they agree to increases in their health care contributions to offset this? And the Econ Dev Director, didn’t she just start? Where the heck do you get a 25% increase in only a few months on the job?

  8. 8 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    With a guaranteed 9-1 vote, I doubt Harkins budget will be discussed by the Council at all. I hate to say this, but this budget is worse than any Miron budget I’ve read.

  9. 9 jezebel282

    We’d like to state some obvious facts here. Stratford is 98% developed. There are no open lots for developing anything. There is not even enough land available for a new high school. The Army Engine Plant? Maybe in 10, 15 or 20 years if the EPA certifies the land won’t kill you. To be sure, the State and Town are already adding up the tax breaks they can give to incent anyone who wants to build there. There will be no great influx of of tax revenue from that site. If Sikorksy keeps laying off 600+ employees at intermittent periods the population will be going in a negative direction. The Shakespeare Theater? Even if a financial angel is found there is no evidence whatsoever that anything resembling taxable assets will be created.

    These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

    So, what is a “strong” mayor (Really? Who’s idea was that anyway?) to do? Reading this budget it is obvious what our mayor and his 9-1 majority intend to do. He is going to give all of his appointed employees a whopping raise. And we, the voters who gave him the office and his majority, are going to pay for it.

    The next time a “Republican” Town Committee member tells you about how fiscally responsible they are just give them the link to the Town Budget and walk away. It is obvious they have no idea what they are talking about and you are wasting your time.

  10. 10 jezebel282

    Unless, of course, we sell the shiny new Water Treatment Plant for a quick infusion of cash. https://stratfordcharter.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/wait-what/#comment-21392

    Our taxes might not go up for one whole year after that sale. But then again, we’ll be dealing with whatever the corporation that buys it wants to charge us every month.

    The way Harkins loads up the WPCA with unrelated expenses and still calls it a “fee”, in a weird twist we might actually pay less. For a little while anyway.

  11. 11 ronmoreau

    Our town fathers made a similar mistake in the past. The sale of Sikorsky Airport to Bridgeport. How did that work out?

  12. 12 ronmoreau

    Hundreds of acres that could today be on the grand list as taxable property.

  13. 13 1cyclops

    Top 6 Salary Bumps for Non-Union Department Head/Elected Personnel as Proposed in Mayor’s 2015 Budget Proposal:

    (1) ROV from 1.6 Positions to 2.0 from $64,812to$94,000+$29,188=+45%

    (2) CAO from $88,000 to$113,000+$25,000=+28.41%

    (3) Econ Dev Dir from$90,000 to $113,000 =+23,000 or +25.55%

    (4) Finance Dir from$93,375 to $113,000=$19,625=+21.02%

    (5) HR Director from$96,863 to$113,000=$16,137=+16.66%

    (6) Town Clerk from$72,000 to$88,000=$16,000=+22.22%

    All in one year from 2014 to 2015 according to General Fund Salary & Wage Schedule from budget proposal.

  14. 14 1cyclops

    Correction: CAO from $88,000 to$108,000+$20,000=18.5% increase.

  15. 15 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    We are still waiting for the other shoe to drop. The BOE budget is nowhere to be found. We still have no idea how many administrators have been added (The BOE never adds teachers or supplies…only administrators.) or how much they compound our burden. With a Republican Town Committee majority on the Board of Education as well, it is doubtful there will be much discussion of that budget either.

  16. 16 1cyclops

    Top 7 thru 11 Salary Bumps for Non-Union Department Head/Elected Personnel as proposed in Mayor’s 2015 Budget proposal:

    (7) Health Director from $88,150 to$103,00=+$14,850=+16.84%increase

    (8) Deputy Fire Chief from $80,000 to$93,000=+$13,000=+16.25%increase

    (9) Operations Coord from $53,000 to$65,000=+12,000=+22.64%increase

    (10) Assts.to Mayor (2) from $51,562.50 each to$62,550each+$19,987ea +21.3%increase.

    All in one FY from 2014 to 2015 according to General Fund Salary & Wage
    Schedule from budget proposal.

  17. 17 1cyclops

    Top 11 thru 15 Salary Bumps for Non-Union Department Heads/Staff/Elected Personnel as proposed in Mayor’s 2015 budget proposal:

    (11)HR Generalists (2) $58,000 to$64,480ea=+$6,480ea=+11.17%ea

    (12)HR Generalist(Jr) $32,832 to$45,400=+$12,568=+38.28%

    (13)Fire Chief $100,000 to$109,000=+$9,000=+9%

    (14) Police Chief $100,000 to$109,000=+$9,000=+9%

    (15) Dep Police Chief $96,000 to$104,760=+8,760=+9%

  18. 18 mikereynolds

    Wow…those raises are ridiculous.

  19. 19 stfdprofessor1

    I would have said criminal

  20. 20 jezebel282

    Update:

    And here it is. Harkins feeble attempt at explaining the outrageous raises he is giving to almost all of his non-union employees:

    Harkins told The Star: “The proposed increases are based on a salary survey of other municipalities in our state.” http://www.stratfordstar.com/18794/town-proposal-would-raise-pay-8-to-25/

    Yet again, why would Stratford want to be a town that paid a penny less for than any other municipality in the State? Harkins is obviously on a mission to make Stratford #1 in the State when we pay for anything.

  21. 21 stfdprofessor1

    “Mr. Mayor, how bout doing us all a favor and get a real job somewhere. After almost 20 years of being on the public “dole” in one way or another dont you think its FINALLY time FOR YOU to get out there and make it on your own instead of sponging off of us (AND LYING TO US WHILE YOU DO IT)???”

    Oh and spunging off you Dad’s business doesnt count 🙂

  22. 22 jezebel282

    “The proposed increases are based on a salary survey of other municipalities in our state.”

    You think maybe we can finally lower what we pay the Town Attorney since his budget is 300+% more than any surrounding Town?

    Nah….

  23. 23 1cyclops

    And, why wasn’t there transparency in each of these budget proposals? Why wasn’t there an explanation for the huge salary increase on all of the intended, very fortunate, recipients budget pages? I noticed the mayor explained his increase on his page but no explanation anywhere else. I think it was an attempt to be dishonest and hope it would not be noticed. But, how could the authors of this proposal think the taxpayers are so dumb? I am so disheartened and sad. Where is this not like the habits of the first mayor, where?

  24. 24 stfdprofessor1

    “You think maybe we can finally lower what we pay the Town Attorney since his budget is 300+% more than any surrounding Town?”

    An argument can be made that perhaps gross incompetence by the department heads have led to increased litigation costs…in which case they should be getting pay cuts NOT pay raises!!!

    If thats not the case the town attorney budget needs to be cut…BUT YOU CANT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS if your justification is to be “on par” with other municipalities in CT.

    HEY “MR. MAYOR” HOW ABOUT YOU GET OUR TAXES “ON PAR” FIRST.
    😦

  25. 25 1cyclops

    Top 16 – 21 Salary Bumps for Non-Union/Staff/Elected personnel as proposed in the mayor’s 2015 budget proposal:

    (16) PW Dir $99,425 to$113,000=+13,575=+13.6%

    (17) Secretary to the Finance Director $57,690 to$$64,151+$6,461=+11.19%

    (18) Legal Secretary $68,808 to$75,936+$7,128+10%

    (19) Asst.Fin Dir $$85,000 to$93,100=+$8,100+9.53%

    (20) Mayor $$101,538 to $110,000=+$8,462+8.33%

    (21) Asst to CAO $50,000 to $53,880+$3,880=+7.80%

    And, I have been told that the Railroad Clerk will be going from $44,000 to$64,000+$20,000+45% Disclaimer on this posting as I did not actually see it on the 2015 Salary schedule.

    This concludes the analysis. I hope the elected-council who represent the taxpayers will be asking pertinent questions to the mayor and those in his administration responsible regarding this salary proposal.

  26. 26 1cyclops

    TOWN CHARTER: Sec 2.2.5 Salaries and Wages.
    The Council shall fix the salaries of the Mayor and of all Council or Mayoral appointees prior to the first day of July during the year in which the regular election of the Mayor is held,……..The Council shall further have the power to approve or disapprove wage and salary schedules recommended by the Mayor for administrative department employees.”
    I ask: Where is the approved Ordinance for these salary increases? Where is the salary schedule approved by the council for these increases?

    I wonder if I asked my boss for a 20+% salary increase because it would have nominal impact on the company’s overall budget, what would he say to me? That comment by the municipal mayor is ridiculous and a slap in the face at the taxpayers who pay his salary and all of these other salaries. I want to know where the positions had a change in their responsibilities to warrant such increases. I want to see the salary study and what benchmarks were used to determine where the salaries fell? I want to know what the personnel gave to get these increases? Did they agree to pay more toward their health insurance? Bottom line, I want to know a lot more about all of this because I’m paying for it and the council better want to know as well.

  27. 27 1cyclops

    Further:
    5.2.1 Administrative Departments. There shall be six(6) administrative departments as follows:Public Works,Safety,Health,Economic and Community Development,Finance and Office of Town Clerk…….”
    5.2.2 Directors. The Fire Chief,Chief of Police,Administrator of EMS,Human Resources director and the heads of each administrative department shall be a director….”
    5.2.4. Appointment of Directors. Each director shall be appointed by the Mayor.

    Source Town Charter.

  28. 28 1cyclops

    If I recall correctly, the last time a mayor put forth department head salary increases on a scale of this magnitude he was a Democrat and the council was controlled by a Republican majority. The salary schedule was soundly rejected, and the Democrat mayor had to take back all of the increases, because, he too, tried to just “put it through” without abiding by the charter. It will be interesting to see what this super-majority Republican council will do since they have now been made aware.

  29. 29 stfdprofessor1

    cyclops, your efforts warrant much appreciation…THANK YOU.

    Aside from the fact that they will no doubt pass this outside the charter there will also be the hidden impact of raising the pensions and/or 401 contributions to “the mayors 20” the same percentage as their raise.

    Sad part about all of this is there does not seem to be much backlash about it from the viewers of this blog.

  30. 30 stfdprofessor1

    It can be difficult to tell the difference between burglary, robbery and larceny.

    Burglary is when a person enters a place with the intent of committing some kind of crime like taking something that belongs to someone else.

    Robbery is when someone takes or tries to take something from a person with a threat or by force.

    Larceny is like burglary but in that case, the person doesn’t illegally enter a building. An example of larceny would be the behaviour of STRATFORD POLITICIANS.

    It doesnt become robbery until they take your home because you cannot afford to pay their inflated taxes.

  31. 31 jezebel282

    Unfortunately, as we learned with Mayor Moron, the Charter holds no penalty for a mayor that violates the Charter. Not even making him sit in a corner. Nothing.

  32. 32 jezebel282

    Voting for these increases in salaries, fees and contributions is now entirely on the Council. We will have to wait and see whether they have any regard at all for the residents that voted them in.

    Probably not.

  33. 33 ronmoreau

    HUGE raises for the Mayors staff?To keep up with the Jones? THIEVES.

  34. 34 jezebel282

    Prof,

    “It doesnt become robbery until they take your home because you cannot afford to pay their inflated taxes.”

    I know that this discussion will continue. Especially among residents and businesses that don’t operate out of Town Hall or the BOE (anyone seen that budget yet?).

    One thing we cannot forget is what this 6% increase actually means. If you’re the mayor and you say “a six per cent increase” it doesn’t sound like a lot.

    When you are a taxpayer and you say “an $11,567,119 increase!” it sounds like plenty.

    What could you do with eleven and a half million dollars?

  35. 35 jezebel282

    In the meantime, the CT Post continues to shill for Harkins.

    “Property owners in Stratford, many of whom already complain that their taxes are too high, will quite likely see their tax bills go up again….More than half of this increase is needed to pay down the town’s ballooning pension obligation debt.” http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/For-Harkins-a-tilt-to-reality-not-politics-5348298.php

    We know this is tedious, but try to bear with us. In fact, we’ll type this real slow so that even a politician can keep up.

    Let’s talk about the “ballooning pension obligation”. Ballooning? Wait a minute here. It was about a dozen years ago under Town Manager Mark Barnhart that every employee in Town Hall and BOE was converted from a pension to a 401K. (Teachers’ pensions are managed by the State). Recently, the last hold out (the FD) was converted as well. In addition, the Town bonded the shortfall in the existing pension obligation. Bonds are like mortgages. You pay back the loan at a certain interest over a long period of time.

    Have there been problems with the pension fund? You betcha. While Town employees had 9% withheld from their paychecks for their pension contribution, the Town was supposed to match it. Did we? Nope. Thus the shortfall. You may ask “Why not?”. The answer is “Don’t ask”. There ought to be a few former Councilmen doing jail time right now for their misappropriation of funds and malfeasance. But since this Town will never conduct a forensic audit, we will never really know.

    So then what? Well, the bond was renegotiated saving about $2 million. For the past five years or so the Pension Benefits have been between $18.5 and $19.5 million. This year, something strange is happening. Harkins is bumping the Pension Benefits to $25.8 million*. An increase of $7.5 million!

    “the Harkins administration sees taxing remaining at the relatively high 2014-15 level though the 2017-18 fiscal year.”

    Right around the time Harkins is up for re-election? Here’s the problem; many taxpayers in Stratford own their home and make their mortgage payments on time. We would wager that every single one of them would like to pay off their mortgage now and no longer make those monthly payments. They can’t do that because of other things like food, utilities, transportation, clothing and…taxes. The Town can’t pay off the mortgage all at once either because it depends on the homeowner for the Town’s revenue and the homeowner is still paying for mortgages, food, utilities, transportation, clothing and…taxes.

    In addition to adding another $7.5 million to our bill, Harkins for some unknown reason also decided to give everyone he hired whopping raises at the same time. And we haven’t even examined the things the Town just throws money away on….like Short Beach Golf Course which will have a loss of $170,401. Tell me again why we pay a golf “Pro” $70k/year plus benefits?

    Back to the point. There is no evidence whatsoever that indicates any justification for raises. We have not experienced a slew of resignations in Town Hall of employees leaving for better paying positions. (Although in some instances that would be a good thing). We have heard nothing about any requirement to pay off any bond on an accelerated basis.

    At the end of this story we have an $11.5 Million increase in taxes plus another increase in sewer use “fees” without a single cut anywhere.

    If any current Councilmen were unable to keep up with this, please send us a quick email at jezebel.anonymous@gmail.com and we’ll explain it even more slowly.

    *It’s actually $26.8 Million when you count the $1 million Harkins snuck into the WPCA budget.

  36. 36 stfdprofessor1

    …and the only sound back from our residents is drowned out by the chirping of the first Robins of spring…

  37. 37 jezebel282

    Prof,

    Maybe readers of this blog think that they don’t pay enough Town taxes and need to pay more?

    Or maybe the union employees in Town think that their non-union counterparts work so hard that they are entitled to 8%-50% raises.

  38. 38 1cyclops

    I pay way too much in taxes; I don’t want to pay a single cent more and I want an explanation for 8 to 50% pay increases for town employees as recommended by the mayor. My council representative had better be planning on asking a lot of questions regarding these matters.

  39. 39 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    I’d like to know how the WPCA accrued $1+ million in pension fund obligations. What kind of pension do these 16 employees get anyway?

  40. 40 1cyclops

    I hope there is a least one councilman who is also asking that same question.

  41. 41 jezebel282

    Update:

    State Senate approves reval-delay bill
    Ken Dixon
    Updated 12:08 am, Thursday, May 1, 2014
    HARTFORD — Bridgeport and about two dozen other communities would be able to delay their local property revaluations under a bill that passed the state Senate on Wednesday after five hours of debate and eight failed Republican amendments. http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/State-Senate-approves-reval-delay-bill-5443461.php

    Rather than face the truth that homeowners’ property values have plummeted over the last five years, towns in Connecticut have sought and will receive permission to delay reality and kept grand list totals artificially high.

    What does this mean? It means that towns like Stratford can keep the assessed value of your home at a level that has nothing to do with its actual value. And, of course, tax you more than they should.

    To be sure, when home values rose towns couldn’t wait to re-evaluate your house. Now, not so much.


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