Mind Numbing Numbers

07Apr14
Budget Reaction

Budget Reaction

We simply could not let this one go. Recently, Mr. Reilly of the Stratford Star took to writing this piece: Imagine: $1 billion in growth, lower taxes. By Greg Reilly on April 3, 2014 http://www.stratfordstar.com/19360/imagine-1-billion-in-growth-lower-taxes/

We weren’t sure whether to laugh or cry after reading it. For decades now every candidate for anything in Stratford has touted “economic growth” as the way to reduce the tax burden on Stratford residents. After elections of course you never hear that again. Harkins is no exception. This year he is touting a $29 million increase in the Grand List (taxable things). Nice. Except that is only 0.64% growth while he is increasing taxes more than ten times that amount.

The reality for the rest of us is that income and property values have gone down steadily in the last five years while the Town budget has steadily risen. In fact, the only group that hasn’t seen such a decline is every non-union member of the Town or Board of Education. They are doing quite nicely thank you.

Mr. Reilly goes on the say, “Stratford is Stratford. Costs go up, and taxpayers often do not want to give up services to reduce costs.” While the first portion is correct, the latter is not. The correlation between what we pay in Stratford for services and the cost of them is weak at best. We hear this a lot in Stratford. Every time a Council wants to shave a few percentage points from the Board of Education we would hear that the BOE would have to close a school. Similarly, every time the Council wanted a reduction in the Municipal Budget we would be told that solid waste or leaf collection would have to be cut. Sometimes they go so far as to say essential services like the Fire Department would have to be cut. It’s almost as if the end of the world will come if a single penny is left out of the tax bill.

Our favorite comment by Mr. Reilly was this one: “Of course, no two towns are alike, so tax rates would not be expected to be the same.” And yet, every time a non-union salary goes up or a “fee” is increased it always because some other towns are paying higher fees/salaries for the same job title (but not the same job description) or service. Never mind about actual costs. See the WPCA budget.

But the best line was saved for Mayor Harkins. ““The key to tax stabilization is to create a welcoming and customer-friendly environment for local businesses to grow and new businesses to relocate,” the mayor said.” That is completely false. The key to tax stabilization is for the RTC mayor and Council to act responsibly and treat tax dollars as if they were ours instead of theirs. The first thing to do is to start accounting for our money with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles instead of the “whatever” method.

Mr. Reilly’s position, of course, is that the Town Budget must be increased because $1 billion in the growth of the Grand List is impossible. Thus he justifies Harkins’ increase in our tax burden. While we agree that $1 billion in growth is not a reasonable expectation, we do not agree that nothing else can be done.

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74 Responses to “Mind Numbing Numbers”

  1. 1 jezebel282

    Just in case anyone forgot, Stratford had a very good Economic Development Director. If you have ever been to Home Depot, ShopRite or Walmart or your child has gone to a playground in Stratford or you are disabled and no longer have difficulty getting into a public building or using sidewalks it is because of her. This is not to mention the millions of dollars in grants (both Federal and State) that used to come our way. She accomplished all of this and every single cent was accounted for…and then Miron fired her.

    Her name was Diane Toolan.

  2. 2 pcsperling60

    In Stratford, we’re paying out the nose and every other orifice in our body! Whose fault is it that the pensions were underfunded? Whose fault is it that the two highest paid pensions weren’t called back for the fraudulent activity that got them those pensions (and they were police officers no less)? The proposed budgets of both the Town and BOE are outrageous! Our economy is still so fragile, and they think it OK to propose budgets where non-union employees are given raises. Our Town isn’t prospering, our Town is sinking! On Zillow, there are about 350 homes in pre-foreclosure – most in middle-Stratford and about 350 homes listed for sale (10 already foreclosed).

    We elected people who aren’t working for US. They aren’t looking out for the best interests or the residents or the children in our schools. They factor in their own raises, but don’t negotiate with any of the unions fairly when contracts come up for negotiation. So, they inaccurately say money is saved, give themselves a pat on the back by way of a raise.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to prepare our annual household budgets, with all the increases, and hand them in to our bosses. We’d be laughed out of jobs! Increases we can count on: mortgage and tax increases, insurances, utilities, food, gas and medications. What, no increase for me? Okay, so now that I’ve taken all enjoyment away from my husband and myself, I’m going to have to do the same with my child (I guess it’s good I only have one). Okay, what next? Oh, medications because we can’t afford the astronomical co-pays or costs. We have to keep food on the table, so we’ll need to forego those. Well, those increases are continuing, so we’re going to have to skip meals on Tuesday, next it will be Tuesday and Thursday. Before we know it, we will only be able to eat on Sundays!

    People, we’ve reached the world where it is “survival of the fittest.” Unfortunately, for a majority of middle income people, the gap between them and us is getting so wide, we’re underneath the “fittest” line!

    So, I’m really mad as hell at this point, and I don’t think I want to take it any more!

  3. 3 1cyclops

    Yes, her name was Diane Toolan. And all the time she worked as Stratford’s Economic and Community Development Director, (she served in dual roles) she never ever received a yearly 25.5% increase in salary as is being proposed by the mayor for the town’s current Economic Development Director who serves in only role. Pathetic…. doesn’t even touch it!

  4. 4 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    Well, I didn’t get around to mentioning the professional Town Managers like Feeney and Branyan who could actually read budgets. They also managed to run the entire Town with no CAO, Chief of Staff (whatever that is) or a variety of assistants. I believe they had only had a lone secretary.

    Now budgets are meaningless. Can’t define it? Just lump it in with some other expenses. Can’t justify it? Don’t bother putting it in. Can’t find enough? Just take it from somewhere else. Whatever.

    PCS,

    This is what happens when no one ever asks a candidate for a plan. Did anyone ever ask Harkins if he had a plan to lower taxes.? Nope. If they did, he might have told them he wanted to sell a $60+ million dollar asset that generates $2 million in revenue every year (the WPCA). Voters would have thought he was crazy.

  5. 5 stfdprofessor1

    Sounds like a recall election is in order…better yet how about changing the town charter BACK to the way it was???

  6. 6 jezebel282

    Prof,

    If only.

  7. 7 stfdprofessor1

    While we’re at it could we get rid of Greg Reilly and bring the last guy back. I think his name was John but he seemed like a journalist instead of a cheer leader 🙂

  8. 8 stfdprofessor1

    Better yet can Jez write for the Star so there’s more than just us 6 or 7 people informed about this corruption???

  9. 9 stfdprofessor1

    OK Mike now its time for you to post that this corrupt town isnt corrupt.

  10. 10 pcsperling60

    Hey Professor ~ corruption? Really, in Stratford. Say it isn’t so (snicker, snicker). I could give examples, but I’ll just hold my tongue. I just might be called “crazy” and right now, I’m probably one of the most hated people in Town Hall and the BOE right now (because I refuse to be quiet)! Either you love me or hate me and if you hate me, I could care less. I’m not going to sit quietly and let the town just suck my life away anymore!

    There are soooo many issues that need to be addressed: why is Ronald Ing allowed to be so litigious. Why won’t he adhere to CBA’s when claims come across his desk. If it’s in the CBA – please, just get rid of it. No need to litigate it and lose – we’re paying a fortune for that!

    Why when someone retires (specifically in the BOE), are they hired back in new positions? Recently, one position was filled by creating two positions. So, a position that was done by one person, is now split between two, and we’re paying two salaries. It’s funny – looking through the names of employees – so many are tied somehow to Stratford politics (the non-elected ones). It’s really a who’s who of the friends and family.

    The list goes on and on…..

  11. 11 stfdprofessor1

    Well I love you PC…it seems Ron Ing is so litigious so he can drive the town atty budget. He causes the litigation, the lawyers collect the billable hour$$$$, the lawyers donate some $$$$$ back to the politicians and the politicians put Ron Ing for FAT pay increase$$$. It makes perfect sense to me…”follow the money”! An easy way to follow the money is to get a copy of the campaign donor lists for our elected officials. The only problem with this crony capitolism is ITS OUR MONEY!!!!…and now they want even more 😦

  12. 12 stfdprofessor1

    You’d be surprised to know how many of the town atty’s spouses and children; law partners and EVEN the law partners spouses and children donate the maximum amount to Stratford candidates. A very civic minded group indeed.

  13. 13 stfdprofessor1

    Can I get a KAAAAAAAA-CHIIIiiiiing!!!!!

  14. 14 stfdprofessor1

  15. 15 jezebel282

    Editor’s note:

    CBA = Collective Bargaining Agreement

  16. 16 mikereynolds

    “OK Mike now its time for you to post that this corrupt town isnt corrupt.”

    Corrupt? I wouldn’t go that far but its close.

    Corruption is defined by dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery. Dishonest? Certainly beginning to sound like it.
    Fraudulent, I’ll leave that up to you experts. Bribery? Anyone have any concrete examples or just internet here say?

    If you want to say the town is mismanaged I’ll agree 100 percent.

    I have already said in another thread that the raises are ridiculous. I’m not flag waving for Harkins on this one.

  17. 17 jezebel282

    Mike,

    It’s not just the raises. Among other things, it is the heaping of non-related expenses onto the WPCA, the mismanagement of pension funds, the violation of labor agreements and contracts, the lack of budget controls and reporting, the cavalier disregard of any citizen’s opinion, the total disregard of volunteer efforts and the lack of communicating any sort of plan. This is not responsible government on any level.

    Oh…I am sure the Council will scale back a few of the raises (not the Registrar’s outrageous compensation) and declare they “stood up” for the taxpayer. We still see large sewer use “fees” and the Town’s attorneys and the BOE’s administrators will all be driving new Beamers and getting on flights to places with palm trees. At our expense of course.

  18. 18 stfdprofessor1

    I predict the final vote 8-2 for with Phillips and Catalano voting against. With the lunacy at town hall they should have a full time Psychiatrist in the budget.

  19. 19 ronmoreau

    Jez, et al,
    I read with interest, the article in the Star. In regard to the comparison of taxes paid on the average value of $250,000 homes in each area town. One very important fact was left out. All those area towns are at least twice the size of Stratford and have much more land to develop commercially to increase their tax base. Stratford is only left with contaminated property’s. Costing tens of thousands to re-mediate.
    Developing any property’s for housing to increase the tax base has a negative affect. For each house worth $250.000 the town collects $6,000. To educate one child in that same household in Stratford costs approx $12,000. A negative affect of -$6,000. 2 or more kids. You do the math. More condos and other types of housing,to increase the grand list, is a loosing proposition for tax payers.
    The Mayor is absolutely correct. “The key to tax stabilization is to create a welcoming and customer-friendly environment for local businesses to grow and new businesses to relocate,” How he intends to do that remains to be seen.

  20. 20 ronmoreau

    Jez,
    You are also absolutely correct. “While we agree that $1 billion in growth is not a reasonable expectation, we do not agree that nothing else can be done.”

  21. 21 jezebel282

    Ron,

    “How he intends to do that remains to be seen.”

    It is not clear that Harkins intends to do that at all. Let’s recall that he went out and borrowed $162 million to stabilize the pension fund. He is proposing another $8.6 million in cash on top of that. (We must admit that we find that particular justification to be weak at best). He went so far as to hide $1 million of it in the WPCA budget.

    In addition, Harkins and Superintendent Robinson intend to give lavish raises to essentially every non-union employee. It strains any logic to justify these increases in the face of paltry 0.64% growth.

    As for Mr. Reilly’s article…well, maybe George Mulligan didn’t write a letter last week and Mr. Reilly had to fill space. It is clear that Mr. Reilly does not have an economics background. Someone should mention to the Stratford Star that they will continue to receive press releases from the Town whether or not they agree with Harkins.

    So what’s to be done? Plenty. The first thing to be done is to stop treating the budget as a a pile of cash shoved under a mattress. Strict budget controls must be put in place. Clear and understandable budgets must be approved and published. The BOE budget is a disgrace. The elected Board of Education members should be ashamed. Ultimately, the budget is their responsibility. That’s why they ran and that’s why they were elected. At least show up at the meetings, guys. We have an administration laden school system that costs us a fortune with pitifully little to show for it. We certainly have no need for yet more administrators. What we need are young, talented and eager teachers and smaller class sizes.

    It has become obvious after three terms of a “strong” mayor that the Council has abandoned its fiduciary obligation to the taxpayer. The Town Attorney spigot must be turned off. Someone has to realize that cases brought to the Department of Labor or even worse, Civil Court, are a bad thing for the Town. Having so many cases in front of the DOL is not proof that the Human Resources Department is doing its job. It is actually proof that they are not doing their job. Even with their $60,000/year “consultant”. And then we have the structural issues.

    On the Town side, we have a $12 million/year Fire Department not including overtime. Add another $1 million or so for that. We have, on average, 2-4 actual structure fires (You know, ones with smoke and flames?) per year. Conservatively, that’s $3 million per fire. To be sure, the FD also responds to vehicle and home lockouts, downed wires, activated alarms (usually false) and almost every single EMS response (needed or not). We are not detracting from the service provided by Stratford Firefighters. But we are criticizing their management. Call volume does not equal effective service. Fire management does absolutely no resource management. It is every Firefighter all the time, 24/7/365.

    And the list goes on. Are there things to be done to lower taxes? Absolutely! Are we doing them? Of course not, don’t be silly.

  22. 22 jezebel282

    Prof,

    “I predict the final vote 8-2 for with Phillips and Catalano voting against.”

    I think Phillips has given up. She even supported the outrageous increase for the Registrars of Voters.

    It will be 9-1 with Catalano as the sole dissenting vote. Had Harkins thrown him 20 bucks towards the theater, he might have gotten his vote as well. The other 8 councilmen are just going to go along with whatever. They really never had any positions or interest to begin with anyway.

  23. 23 1cyclops

    Jezebel,
    Based on your above-recited analysis, do you think a “volunteer” fire department would be a better fit? I am not giving up on Phillips. I realize she voted for the ROV increase but she was presented with some hard evidence to do so. The office has assumed all of the responsibilities associated with elections. Previously, the town clerk played a dominant role. This has all now been changed by statute. And, supposedly, the office will be working a full 7.5 hour day. (I know, you don’t believe that, and I don’t either) but those were the facts presented to her. However, she now has a clear factual basis to question the 22.2% increased proposed by the mayor for the town clerk. The ROV assumed all of the election responsibilities (except absentee ballots) formerly executed by the town clerk. I would hope she would quiz the mayor on this increase. And, all of the increases for non-union staff. These kinds of increases are unheard of.

  24. 24 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    “do you think a “volunteer” fire department would be a better fit?”

    No, I do not. The point I was attempting to make is the poor management of the FD. We do not need to send an entire fire crew because someone locked their keys in their car at Walmart. Similarly, every time an automated alarm goes off or a line goes down we don’t need to send what seems like the whole FD. Soon we will even have a “Fire Navy”. There should also be a healthy debate as to whether we need every station fully staffed with the maximum number of Firefighters 24/7/365. And then there is the ever popular pre-pension bulking up of overtime hours at the PD, FD and PW. But that’s another topic. And oh, by the way, Harkins is giving the entire Fire administration (as well as PD & PW) hefty raises.

    “And, supposedly, the office will be working a full 7.5 hour day. (I know, you don’t believe that, and I don’t either)”

    I don’t. When was the last time anyone found Marcone or DeCilio in their office working? And Ms. Phillips has been involved in this Town long enough to know better as well. Let’s be real here. How often do you register to vote? Once in a lifetime? Twice maybe? When you move from another Town or state? Within 30 seconds I can find 6 websites with the voter registration forms to fill out. The rest of the “work” can be done with mediocre database management. Perhaps if there were some skill level involved in the job other than having only your name and no other candidate on a ballot. Honest to goodness! If no one at all voted for either registrar except for themselves they would still “win”.

  25. 25 1cyclops

    “honest to goodness, if no one at all voted for either registrar except for themselves they would still “win”

    Blame the statute that makes it the law.

    It is sad that this change of the office is really a pay- off to Decilio from the mayor for his loyal campaigning on his behalf……but why would Ms. Phillips not support it? It was going to be awarded to her contemporary as well, which is also the law.

    Even sadder is the taxpayer is paying the bill.

    But still, I’m not giving up on her. She has steadfastly supported the little guy and the taxpayer and I hope she is not going to let me down.

  26. 26 1cyclops

    You just gotta have hope.

  27. 27 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    “but why would Ms. Phillips not support it? It was going to be awarded to her contemporary as well, which is also the law.”

    Seriously? Who in Town honestly believes that either Registrars’ “workload” will increase? I will grant that the two assistants who actually show up every day and do the work should get modest increases. And just because the entire vote was for DeCillio’s benefit, it is no justification to cast a “yes” vote so that both would get the same enormous increase. A “no” vote to both would have been the ethical thing to do. For every Councilperson.

  28. 28 stfdprofessor1

    “A no vote to both would have been the ethical thing to do. For every Councilperson.”

    HAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaha!!!…ETHICS…this IS Stratford

  29. 29 1cyclops

    Again, I agree with you, the raises are enormous. But at least the justification can be made that they are suppose to work full time(disclaimer, I don’t believe they will) and have taken on add’l responsibilities. The other non-union raises have NO justification. The job descriptions have not been changed. The raises are proposed….just because, I guess. Unless the council asks some pointed questions for justifications other than the job survey done by “Ing”, we will never know why we are being asked to pay such enormous increases and all in one fiscal year. Increases unheard of in today’s economy.

  30. 30 jezebel282

    Prof & Cyclops,

    “ETHICS…this IS Stratford”
    “The raises are proposed….just because”
    “You just gotta have hope.”

    I suspect the ridiculous raises are a way for the Council to “prove” they are not totally useless. They will scale back some (but not all) of them. Loading up the expenses of the WPCA, backing truckloads of cash into the Town Attorneys office, rewarding more BOE administrators for their inept policies/performance and the rest of the usual shenanigans will be obediently ignored.

    Hope is in very short supply until we start electing ethical people to office…like Pat Sperling.

  31. 31 stfdprofessor1

    until we start electing ethical people to office…like Pat Sperling.

    And how do you suppose that is going to happen with the UNethical town committes of both parties? Unless a swarm of fresh ETHICAL blood joins each town committee only the UNethical party faithful will rise to a place on the ballot. It would be easier to start a third party in town and those are always an uphill battle.

    Stratford is screwed for a reason…laziness and apathy…the handful of responses on this thread is proof enough of that.

  32. 32 1cyclops

    You just gotta have hope…….you just gotta.

  33. 33 jezebel282

    Prof,

    “the handful of responses on this thread is proof enough of that.”

    Except that over 220 individuals read this blog yesterday. Which may be more than read Mr. Reilly’s unfortunate article… Why they don’t add their own voices is a mystery. Especially when you consider the lengths this blog undertakes to keep the identities of those who post private.

    “the UNethical town committes of both parties?”

    There are only two other viable options: 1. Just write the check and swallow it or 2. Move out of this Town.

    Actually, a surprising amount have chosen and are going to choose option 2.

  34. 34 1cyclops

    jezebel,

    ….220 individuals read this blog yesterday. That means a lot of folks are interested in what is being posted, particularly, the excellent well thought out by-line stories to begin the discussion. Not everyone is in to posting. Sometimes, when an issue piques my interest, I blog. Other times I just read. I’m sure many folks are the same. Thank you for bringing all of these issues to our attention.

  35. 35 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    Thank you. It’s a dirty job but……

  36. 36 jezebel282

    Update:

    The BOE Budget is almost meaningless. Look as you may, there is not a single explanatory note anywhere. You can pick any category or line item in the BOE Budget and just stare at it and wonder where the number came from or what it means.

    For example, lets take a look at ACCT #48 on page three of the Budget. There it lists payroll for kindergarten teachers in Franklin School. It says that in 2010-2011 the payroll was $92,581 and then in this budget it has gone up to $207,093 with a staff of two. No explanation at all. But that means that each Kindergarten teacher is bringing home a $103,546.50 pay check? Seriously? Are we requiring kindergarten teachers to have Ph.D.’s?

    Woe unto the two kindergarten teachers at Wilcoxson ACCT # 53 who only bring home $60,962.50 each. They must not be as good as the ones in Franklin School.

    One thing you definitely don’t want to be is a BOE Custodian or Secretary. They are the only employees in the entire Town of Stratford that are getting a pay cut.

    These examples were picked at random. We had already previously discussed the “enormous” amount of $382.00 spent on kindergarten supplies at Lordship School for the entire year.

    What are the six RTC majority members of the Board of Education doing anyway? Did they even read this jumble? You should ask them. Here’s their contact information:
    http://stratfordk12.org/Content/Members_1.asp

  37. 37 pcsperling60

    Jez ~

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I am so PO’d at that BOE budget, I don’t even know where to begin! The entire document is ludicrous! I emailed the entire Board of the BOE (I’m sure they hate me), and I emailed the Superintendent, COO and one of the two “personnel” people. Speaking of that, the former personnel guy retired and now we have two bodies in his place. So, get rid of one, gain two…. And so on.

    What is sad is that our children DO NEED better education; however, it’s not going to happen. The Town must give the BOE no less than what they got last year, so, if that’s what they get, the first on the list that they will dole out will be the non-union raises. Our kids (including my daughter) will see very little improvement.

    Neither the Town side nor the BOE side negotiate fairly with the unions – sure they negotiate sometimes, but really? Let’s just wear these poor workers down, take more away, pay them less, but hey, they’ll be okay, they’ve got a job, right? But our administration is like a stepping stone for everyone – e.g., aren’t we on our third COO? Of the three, the first ran when it was discovered that the health insurance, that was supposed to save money, wasn’t going to save and in fact, was going to skyrocket a couple years after it was gotten. It is just nauseating! And, my husband is a custodian, and in my (humble) opinion, that poor guy pretty much has to sell his soul to make what he does. He takes everything he can get just so we can continue to pay everything that keeps going up on us.

    Yeah, it’s safe to say that I’m really ticked off and when I’m ticked off about stuff like this – my fight is extremely “passionate.”

  38. 38 jezebel282

    PCS,

    “health insurance, that was supposed to save money, wasn’t going to save and in fact, was going to skyrocket a couple years after it was gotten.”

    OK. This is just crazy. The way it stands now the BOE would save a ton of money and each employee would have better, less expensive coverage if the BOE would cancel ALL of its health insurance and just reimbursed employees for their premiums on the Affordable Healthcare website. An ACA Gold plan with lower premiums and deductibles is actually cheaper.

    I’d say that the BOE budget is out of whack, but to be honest, after reading it I have no idea. It’s just a jumble of numbers.

  39. 39 jezebel282

    PCS,

    “when it was discovered that the health insurance, that was supposed to save money”

    The more I think about this one the crazier it gets. It took literally seconds to go on http://www.accesshealthct.com and calculate the cost for a gold family plan with a high income. No matter how I varied the age, income or number of dependents on the individual marketplace, it came out to less than the BOE pays for it’s High Deductible plans. In fact, for some employees of the BOE there would be a tax credit involved. But the strangest thing of all was that one of the less expensive Gold plans with a lower deductible and premium was offered by the same company “servicing” the BOE.

    Using…Let’s see what do they call them?….Oh yeah!…”facts”, something is seriously wrong with the BOE’s deal with their health insurance company.

    It boggles the mind why the BOE would choose an expensive high deductible plan when all of the employees of every other Town department have a normal plan (and less expensive for the Town and the employee). All payroll checks are issued by the Town of Stratford. There are no BOE checks. So why two different health plans?

  40. 40 1cyclops

    Jezebel,

    Doesn’t the employee have the option of declining the town offered insurance and if so, receive a stipend in lieu of? Then the employee could take that stipend money and purchase under the affordable health care program. I thought I saw under the new salary plan voted for the ROV, for insurance that they had a choice of opting out and receiving a stipend.

  41. 41 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    Not that I’m aware. I think it’s take it or leave it. I’ve never heard of anyone at the BOE getting cash instead of premium deductions…like Harkins.

  42. 42 jezebel282

    Update:

    Does this count as responsive to all taxpayers? (Hint: it was forwarded to me).

    Join us for a Webinar on April 10
    An opportunity to educate yourself on the Board of Ed Budget Requests
    Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

    https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/310302288

    .

    BOE Budget Forum
    Date:Thursday, April 10, 2014
    Time:6:30 PM – 7:30 PM EDT

    After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

    Webinar?

  43. 43 1cyclops

    I guess it is a perk only offered to the non-union and/or elected personnel.

  44. 44 Rockannand

    These budget hearings next week ought to be great theatre. If all the PO’ed peeps here show and simply repeat their rants it could be a real barn burner. I think i have forwarded the link to this post to all of my PO’ed friends the past few days.

    You can’t make up the highjinks this admin and BOE have actually “documented”. They must think we are mushrooms (keep us in the dark and feed us $h!t).

  45. 45 jezebel282

    Rock,

    I’ve given up trying to make sense of the BOE budget. The numbers are just crazily posted in meaningless columns and rows. A Family/Consumer Science (Home Economics) teacher earns $95,000/year? Substitute teachers will get $481,000 less this year? That must be an awesome Wellness Program the BOE has.

    Oh, and by the way, how about a new High School for $90+ million? As if Harkins is not sticking us with $170 Million (give or take) pension obligations and raises all around.

    But hey, not to worry. Lou Decilio is on the case!

    “Lou DeCilio, chairman of the Republican Town Committee, attended the BOE meeting and told a few of parents who were upset with the vote not to worry, because he predicts the recommendation will die at the Town Council, which is comprised of eight Republicans and two Democrats.” http://www.stratfordstar.com/19746/board-of-ed-says-build-new-high-school-at-longbrook-park/

    I am sure he will berate, intimidate and threaten any Council member to dares to have a differing opinion.

  46. 46 Rockannand

    “I think Phillips has given up. She even supported the outrageous increase for the Registrars of Voters.

    It will be 9-1 with Catalano as the sole dissenting vote. Had Harkins thrown him 20 bucks towards the theater, he might have gotten his vote as well.”

    I think Phillips never was on the right side of a lot of issues, but it is abundantly clear that she votes when it served her purpose. If she really was with the opposition, she would not have voted for the registrars ridiculous raise. Her excuse was a joke.

    NO the DTC has a little clique that protect their personal power for positions that serve them and not us. Petruccelli and those that elected him as head of the DTC are as much in your themselves as DeCilio and his RTC Mill Rover crew. Taking shots at Joe Paul only reveals how selfish and clueless they are on the supposed “other side”.

    Did you see Len’s “piece” in this week’s Star?? There are good people on the DTC, but they are being deceived and manipulated by Len and Burturla.
    http://www.stratfordstar.com/19607/democratic-chair-responds-to-new-political-committee/

  47. 47 Rockannand

    “Stratford is screwed for a reason…laziness and apathy…the handful of responses on this thread is proof enough of that.”

    Professor, actually we are screwed because the people that could actually do something are the ones that have thrown in the towel. George can’t present a convincing argument to save his life, BUT he sure can dig up the facts to put one together.

    I would like to see the 6 or 7 serious people here om this blog and elsewhere in town band together and attack them in a focused way where they are weak. Frankly they have so many weak spots to exploit and the DTC has no clue, no stomach and no motivation to pursue them.

  48. 48 ronmoreau

    Rock,

    “…they have so many weak spots to exploit and the DTC has no clue, no stomach and no motivation to pursue them.”

    I’m not sure who you mean by “they” or “them.

  49. 49 jezebel282

    Ron,

    I’m pretty sure he means “they” that made an $8.6 million flub of the pension fund, that want to give every non-union employee an 8%-45% raise, and raise sewer use “fees” at the same time. That would be Harkins and the RTC.

  50. 50 ronmoreau

    Jez,

    Your criticisms are misdirected. As I suspect Rocks are as well. It should be directed towards Our Mayor and The Board of Education who sets the
    direction and proposes a budget. The Town Council that can adjust and approve a budget. Not the RTC or the DTC. The ‘rank and file’ of these 2 committees have no more input to the budget process than the general public does.
    I give much credit to the DTC ‘rank and file’ for at least questioning the direction of their leadership. I’ve heard this phrase spoken many times over the years, from both sides of the aisle. “To the victors goes the spoils”. The ‘wink,wink’ ‘nod, nod’ occurs across the isle with certain individuals and the money behind them. A 200 million dollar budget with no oversight can be a tempting amount of cash to pilfer.

  51. 51 jezebel282

    Ron,

    No one makes it to the mayor’s office, Council chambers or BOE without the support of either the RTC or (in the olden days) the DTC. If these members are too cowed by the rants of Lou Decilio or the subtle threats of Buturla, well, who’s fault is that?

  52. 52 ronmoreau

    The Stratford Voters.

  53. 53 ronmoreau

    Aren’t they the ones that voted all these people in power?

  54. 54 ronmoreau

    Well, they all voted themselves in, because the other 17,000 are to busy, but that’s beside the point.

  55. 55 ronmoreau

    As you were. That IS the point.

  56. 56 pcsperling60

    I have heard that the Town Council does not and will not support this. Not sure who’s bright idea it was but thank you Len Petrucelli and Chris Barnaby for voting against it! In the years she has been on the Board, I had hoped for more from Andrea Veilleux but now that she’s stepped into Gavin’s old shoes, the kool-aid must be a bit stronger, because there appears to be some blurred vision happening here. Remember BOE members – we, the people, voted you in! You are supposed to be working in OUR bests interests, not the best interests of the people whose elbows you brush up against these days! Get your heads out of your rears and start making your job about our children and the people who voted you in!

    I also saw a posting somewhere that this “special meeting” occurred on a Friday, at 4:00 p.m., at the beginning of the spring break. I had heard about it and I think it was printed in the Stratford Star a few weeks ago. No other notice was given. So, again there is a lack of transparency and we get blindsided. We got a bit blindsided with this. And I also heard that money was already spent on architectural drawings. So, the cart goes before the horse again. Let’s continue to frivolously spend the people’s money!
    Connecticut isn’t named “CorruptiCut” for no reason…… and it all trickles down!

    I do have hope for Stratford Democrats though. I think they will come back stronger than ever. It is a new day in Stratford…..

  57. 57 jezebel282

    Ron,

    As I was?

    Are you under the impression that I missed a chance to vote?

  58. 58 ronmoreau

    “as you were” is a Marine Corps expression meaning. “Forget what I just said.”….

  59. 59 jezebel282

    Ron,

    “because the other 17,000 are to busy, but that’s beside the point.”

    Local election turnouts are always dismal. People are effected by the news they see & hear. They never hear about the actual goings on in Town Hall or at the BOE. What’s more, they don’t think any of it is important until July or January when they get their escrow letters or their property tax bills. And they are always surprised.

    Even more important, they continue to think that running Stratford is an easy job and the people in the job are doing their best or at least performing adequately. Were that true, the cost of running Stratford would not be north of $204 million/year.

    Admittedly, there was not much to vote for in the last election. Neither John Harkins nor Joe Paul would commit to anything and despite numerous pleas, neither put forth any sort of agenda. (Well, there was Decilio’s “Joe Paul Bashing” contest.) And given the lack of credibility of any DTC candidate, there really wasn’t much to choose from for voters.

    On the other hand, if Harkins came out and said he made an $8.6 million mistake in the pension, wanted to give every non-union employee a hefty raise and increase the sewer use fees again we would all be writing our letters to Mayor Paul now.

  60. 60 1cyclops

    Too bad Joe Paul did not have hindsight. I have been talking with many Stratford people the last few weeks and all of them are as “mad as hell.” If the plan goes forward as the mayor has put forth, he is looking at his last term.

    Jezebel,
    you said the council will scale back some of these exorbitant pay increases, but I don’t think the council has that power. It can only accept or reject the proposed non-union pay scales, I don’t think it can decide who gets what and how much and who doesn’t. But I could be wrong.

    The proposed increase to the sewer use fees will be the icing on the cake.
    Unfortunately, the DTC is hoping all of this goes forward because it will be very good talking points for it at the next election.

    There doesn’t seem to be any justice for the taxpayers.

  61. 61 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    “exorbitant pay increases, but I don’t think the council has that power.”

    I suppose it depends upon whether any Council person has ever read the Charter.

    “2.2.5 [Amended 11-4-2008] The Council shall fix the salaries of the Mayor and of all Council or Mayoral appointees….The Council shall further have the power to approve or disapprove wage and salary schedules recommended by the Mayor for administrative department employees.”

    But you are correct. With this rubber stamp Council, there is simply not much hope for a taxpayer.

  62. If both the Mayor and the BOE want to show good faith to the people of this Town, they will agree to a freeze of all non-union salaries. If they insist that these raises must occur, then there is no good faith to work on behalf of the people of this Town. The BOE insists they need money for the children – for education, but has blatantly said if they don’t get their full funding requested, the only thing that will be gotten is the raises! Stop treating Stratford taxpayers like they have bottom-less bank accounts please.

    Both the Town and BOE need to get creative in the cuts made. I’ve seen two jobs created to replace what was formerly done by one. When we had a Town Manager – it was a Town Manager and secretary, now it’s a Mayor and an entourage of sidekicks. It’s INSANE. And, the Town Council and Board of the BOE need to remember they are working for the people, not the bank accounts of the BOE and Town administrations! And a majority of the people cannot continue to fund their retirements.

    There is a group of “Stratford Ladies” on FB who want help in getting what the BOE is asking for. They are blind to what Stratford politics is really all about. They really think the BOE is looking out for the best interests of their kids, but if all they get is what they got last year, the kids won’t get anything. So, they should be pushing for a salary freeze for the next little while. They need to push the BOE to put whatever money they are give to the children – but we know that will never happen! Somebody there (or maybe someone’s wife) probably needs a new Louis Vuitton accessory……

  63. 63 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    “I don’t think the council has that power.”

    We have been thinking about this. Although the wording in the Charter is pretty clear, Stratford has a way of turning the obvious into the obscure. What is likely to happen is that the Council will call upon the mayor’s $2+ million attorney for an opinion. The Town Attorney will issue a twisted legal opinion stating that the Council can do nothing about salary & wage schedules. The Council, of course, will treat the Town Attorney’s opinion as if it were a Supreme Court decision and pass the raises with a 9-1 vote.

    This is what happens when the Town Attorney serves at the pleasure of the mayor.

  64. 64 1cyclops

    Jezebel,

    I hope you are wrong. If you are counting Stephanie as the 1 no vote I know of at least 1 Rep. who will not support it. i was talking with him last week. Jez, if they all want to go down, so be it…but the people are fed up with these wreckless actions – everywhere I go, it is the topic of conversation.

  65. 65 jezebel282

    Cyclops,

    “If you are counting Stephanie as the 1 no vote”

    Actually I was counting Catalano as the lone no vote. Phillips drank the KoolAid with the Registrar vote. If she voted yes for that, she’ll vote for anything.

    I hope I’m wrong too, but I have lived here long enough to know how it works.

  66. Jez ~ you asked why the line item for kindergarten teachers (specifically at Franklin) was over $200K for two teachers. What I have heard is that one teacher is not able to handle 20+ kids on her own so they need help. When I was in kindergarten, we had one teacher, when my husband was in kindergarten, he had one teacher….. now, because of the children who misbehave and disrupt the classes, one teacher can’t handle it. It is too distracting, too disruptive! Well, that’s where parenting comes in. That’s where holding the parents accountable for their children’s behavior comes in. Why do we, as taxpayers, and parents who discipline our children, parents who teach our children how to act property, have to pay for the children of parents who don’t? Send a bill to the parents of the disruptive students – let them pay for the additional teachers or aides that are needed because their children disrupt the learning of others – the many have to pay for the sins of the few! Maybe, just maybe, parents will start teaching their kids right from wrong!

  67. 67 jezebel282

    PCS,

    “What I have heard is that one teacher is not able to handle 20+ kids on her own so they need help.”

    I wasn’t actually pointing out that anyone who monitors 20-22 5 years olds doesn’t deserve adequate pay.

    I was pointing out that the BOE budget looks like it was put together on an Iphone while driving. A 50% cut in substitute teacher pay? $103K for a kindergarten teacher at Franklin, but only $60K for a kindergarten teacher at Wilcoxson? The entire BOE budget is like that.

    And the end of the process, it is a bill that is presented to us for payment. Would you tolerate any store that would sell you a box (for a lot of money) and you had no idea what was inside?

  68. 68 jezebel282

    Update:

    “We are writing this letter to ask for you to fully fund the school budget requested by Superintendent Dr. Robinson and the Stratford Board of Education.” http://www.stratfordstar.com/20214/for-town-to-grow-strong-schools-are-a-must/

    This is heart-wrenching. Here we have parents who are doing what parents are supposed to do; supporting their child’s education. It goes on. “Most people understand that home values increase with strong school systems.” As if high property taxes don’t drive families away.

    The heart breaking part of this is that most of the increase requested in the BOE budget is for higher administrator salaries. The rest of the BOE budget is almost unintelligible. There is just no way to tell from this budget where the money is going. $481,000 less for substitute teachers? Really? But $733,000 more for classroom tutors? WTF? Can’t substitute teachers be tutors too?

    Parents should question where the money is going instead of how much more there is.

  69. 69 Rockannand

    Jez, let’s also remind the readers that in our DRG group for Education, Stratford is funding schools at about $1000 LESS per pupil than the average for towns we are most like – Manchester, East Haven, Bristol, Vernon, etc. That’s almost $7.5 mm LESS funding than the average. So its a combination of mis-managing (too much overhead salary expense) and under-funding overall. The more you read and uncover the worse the story gets. We need more adult supervision from “been there, done that” people. We had them but we changed the charter to this form of govt and get Harkins highjinks.

  70. 70 jezebel282

    Rock,

    The BOE has always been a separate kingdom. Most non-parents never read the BOE budget. The difference this year is that no one is able to read it.

  71. 72 jezebel282

    Update:

    We have pointed out previously and often that the BOE budget is incomprehensible. It appears that we were not the only ones:

    School committee finds not enough detail to allocate spending
    Questions on large issues remain
    By Greg Reilly on June 4, 2014
    http://www.stratfordstar.com/22747/school-committee-finds-not-enough-detail-to-allocate-spending-2/

    “The Finance Committee of the Board of Education…postponed a decision because it was not satisfied with the level of budget details that was received from schools’ central administration.”

    Apparently the BOE Finance Committee finally decided to read the BOE budget. It is clear that this is the first serious attempt to do so. Budgets are supposed to be an ongoing process usually taking months of preparation and detailed discussion. This budget, as we have noted, appears to have been created on a smartphone while driving.

    Congratulations to the BOE Finance Committee for demanding a real budget. Keep it up!

  72. 73 jezebel282

    Update:

    “postponed a decision because it was not satisfied with the level of budget details that was received from schools’ central administration.”

    So what level of detail was required? Apparently not much. The BOE decided to extend the Superintendent’s contract by 1 year after only completing 1/3 of the current contract. Why even bring it up? It must be the stellar job she did in this year’s budget presentation. The one where nothing made any sense at all….

    Oh, and what did the BOE decide to do with the money approved by the Council and mayor? Why they granted substantial raises for all non-union administrators of course. What else would you do with our tax money?

  73. 74 jezebel282

    Update:

    In case you haven’t already noticed, the tax bills have gone out and should have been received. You will also be hearing soon from your mortgage company or landlord to increase your payments. Notwithstanding, the Board of Education has yet to publish an approved budget. We literally have no idea whatsoever what we are paying for. Not that we had any idea with the budget that was proposed.

    Our elected Board of Education members seem to have disappeared leaving it to no one to tell any taxpayer how their money will be spent.

    If you see Andrea Veilleux (R), Robert Chaloux (R), Jancee Pust-Marcone (D), Christian Barnaby (R), James Feehan (R), Leonard Petruccelli (D) or Theresa Sheehy (R) around Town you can ask them. It may be the only way for anyone to find out what they did with our money.

    On the other hand, you can save some time. Since the Republican Town Committee has five members on the BOE and the Democratic Town Committe has but two you can just ask Lou DeCilio the Republican Town Committee Chairman. We hear he now has a full-time job at Town Hall busily registering voters every single day. He should be easy to find.


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