Budget Workshops The Stratford Way

Not Quite GAAP

Not Quite GAAP

The budget workshops have concluded. For now. We were actually quite impressed with the degree of cooperation between the Council and the various departments in Town. Of course, each department thinks they need every penny they are given to survive. We know that is not true due to the work by Councilman Dumas and the ridiculous stipends given out to a select few favorites along with take home cars to six figure employees. We are a bit surprised that the twenty seven or so sets of car keys haven’t been confiscated yet.

Nonetheless, we congratulate each and every Councilman for the hard work and attention they’ve given. With one exception, which we will get to shortly.

The BOE accounts for slightly over half of Stratford’s expense and yet not even a comment has been made by the BOE chairman Feehan, Superintendent Robinson or COO Zachary. Either they believe they are unable to save a single dollar or they believe that they are above review. Both views are completely wrong.

And now to the glaring exception. One Councilman has taken it upon himself to exact revenge for perceived personal slights that occurred over five years ago. That is Councilman Harden (4th District). Mr. Harden was a member of Stratford EMS before he was asked to resign his commission as a “lieutenant”. Mr. Harden has refused to volunteer as an EMT ever since. Now that he has been elected to the Council against almost zero competition, his only stated interest is cutting the EMS budget and exacting his revenge on the membership. Mr. Harden has made broad and specious claims about EMS operations, policies and commitments that we know to be untrue. He has made claims that he has been given exclusive power by his colleagues on the Council to decide the fate of Stratford EMS. He has already consumed hours and hours of EMS administrative time with frivolous demands. Of all the departments in the Town, it is sad that he would place his personal feelings above the citizens who are sick and injured. We can go further and state that he will seriously impact the ability of EMS to be a profitable enterprise that generates real revenue. We find his actions disgraceful.


44 Responses to “Budget Workshops The Stratford Way”

  1. 1 jezebel282

    There is a simple question that at some point some administrator at the BOE should answer: what is the correlation between a child’s education and an administrator’s salary?

    As we look at the BOE budget (after we scroll through the pretty pictures) we find that that are sixteen Assistant Principals/Administrative Assistants. The lowliest among them is compensated at $106,239. To put in perspective, the least paid Assistant Principal earns more that the Police Chief. (Not including take home car, of course).

    This does not include actual principals. There are thirteen of those. And they make much more. And then there is this mysterious entry: COO/PERSONNEL DIR/ACCT MNG/GRANT. You would guess that this is four people and you would be wrong. It is actually 3.6 people at $420,168/year. We have no idea what happen to 0.4 of a person. Nor does the BOE budget indicate where that part of the person was buried. But we do know that $420,168 is a lot of money for 3.6 people.

  2. 2 jezebel282

    Tonight at the Council meeting we will begin to see the direction the Town will take. There are many who believe that the new Council Chair would like to take the town back to the bad old days of Buturla/Miron. You must remember how that went? Apparently, the Council Chair thinks that those were the good old days.

    Tonight is the first test of this newly elected Council’s resolve. Will it vote for the Good Ole Boy method and leave the Registrars of Voters intact? Will it try to claw back some of the ridiculous salary increases like the $40,000 raise given to the Economic Development Director or the $20,000 stipend given to her assistant?

    Will it even have the nerve to collect some of the cars keys thrown about town?

    Here’s what we think won’t happen:

    No one will have the guts to convert the Town Attorney to a salaried position.

    Major cuts to anything.

    This council will, in all probability, nip around the edges and find $5 million worth of bloat to cut symbolically.

    Unless, of course, we show up at the meeting and demand the changes we voted for.

  3. 3 stfdprofessor1

    Not to mention cutting ALL THE BLOATED ASSISTANTS, DEPUTYS, AIDES and DIRECTORS POSITIONS. What the town manager did with one the mayor does with seven or eight.

    The police and fire chief need to do their jobs without all the staff too. We are a town of 50,000 not a city of 5 million, JEEZE!!!!!!! Not to mention the two paid registrars and economic development gal pal. CARVE THE FAT AND STRAIGHTEN OUT THE MESS, that’s what you were elected to do!!!

  4. 4 missgreeneyes118

    Why would the new council expect Harkins to step up into a leadership role on the budget?
    For the past 5 years with a Republican majority he didn’t have a clue on how to lead or prepare an austere budget.
    Now he has even less credibility and support after the Sewage Plant sale debacle.
    Harkins political career is circling the drain.
    Too bad Lauretti did not offer classes on how to be a successful mayor through accountability, lower taxes and great grand list growth with the low cost of a Volunteer Fire Department.

  5. 5 jezebel282


    The question is no longer about Harkins. We already know that he can’t govern his way out of a paper bag.

    The question is about the ethics of this new Council and it’s ability to save our Town.

    Will they succumb to the same old deal making that got us into this hole? Will some new councilman pursue vendettas from years far in the past?

    And most importantly, is the new leadership concerned about our future or hers?

  6. 6 jezebel282


    Stratford mayor proposes budget-gap solution
    By John Burgeson

    “…The mayor was needled at times Monday night; council members accusing him of not giving them enough information, for not reining in leased cars, for making recent hires. There were other banderillas…”


    “…Finally, after nearly two hours of the this, Harkins decided that he had enough.
    “I heard a lot of negative comments tonight about how things have been run in town,” he said. “Let me say this — things have never been better in Stratford. Our parks are in better shape. Our services are being delivered more efficiently. Crime is down. Our pension fund is being funded …”

    Oh boy. Never been better?

    “We’re all on the same team, and you’re the team leader,” 10th District Councilwoman Tina Manus said, approvingly, “and we look up to you.”

    We are sure Ms. Manus’ parents were frustrated with her as well for bringing stray cats and dogs home.

    The fact is that taxes have never been higher. Fees have never been higher. There have never been more town employees making above six figures. There has never been more superfluous and expensive Town equipment. Property values have never dropped as significantly and now the Town can’t pay its bills. Maybe we should all move to the town John Harkins lives in. We don’t think it is Stratford.

    “It’s hard to build things. It’s hard to have success. It’s easy to criticize. It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s change it,’ ” he said, raising his voice.

    It is hard to have success when you give your….umm, “Economic Development Director” a $40,000 raise and a car (OK, a couple of cars.) with no benefit to residents. It’s equally hard when you pass out town vehicles as if you were Oprah. Or establish a Stratford Navy with expensive boating equipment for PD and FD to race each other to the most minor incidents. It’s hard to have success when you give raises to everyone that is paid to say “Yes” to you. That’s when you dig holes so deep you have to sell off assets for peanuts to cover your debt. The only problem is that you’re using our money to do it.

    It’s actually not that easy to criticize. All the information has to be dug up and examined carefully. Harkins, and for that matter, Robinson do their very best to cloud and muddy budget items. It takes a lot of work to criticize Town Hall and 1000 East Broadway. Thankfully, there are citizens willing to do it. And 7,823 voters willing to say no.

  7. 7 jezebel282

    Oh. We almost forgot!

    Closing the budget gap by underfunding Workmen’s Comp? That’s the great idea? And you wonder why we criticize what you do?

  8. 8 1cyclops

    Why was Beth’s Council proposal for cuts not made public? I thought this was going to be a transparent town council?

  9. 9 jezebel282


    There seems to be a lot of confusion about Beth’s memo. It clearly doesn’t deal with substantial cuts and may not have been intended to do so. It is inexplicable.

    But the clock is ticking and our dollars continue to be spent unwisely.

  10. 10 missgreeneyes118

    Why is it that town attorneys go and sit at meetings waiting for a question?
    Often two are there on stand-by?
    Are they on retainer?
    So is this just more billable hours – eating away against that retainer?
    I wonder how many would be sitting there if they were on salary and there was no extra compensation?
    It seems that most of the time when a question comes up, their response is “they will have to research it and get back to the committee”.
    So why can’t the committee chairman or the secretary submit legal questions to the town attorney’s office as needed?
    How about just sending a legal clerk, who does not make the same hourly rate as a town attorney?

  11. 11 1cyclops

    missgreeneyes118. Excellent idea!

  12. On the OpenStratford.com tape of the last Council meeting that Mark Dumas provided, I think I heard Asst. Town Attorney Florek say the Town Attorney’s office is paid a flat fee (isn’t that a novel idea?) of $650/month to sit in on these meetings. I suspect the reason they respond to questions by needing to research the answer is so when they do that, their billable hours will have a chance to kick in. There is such a culture of opportunism (greed) that exists at multiple levels in this Town.

  13. 13 missgreeneyes118

    The least the Town Attorneys can do is turn off their smart phones and laptop computers to give full attention to the meeting.

  14. 14 jezebel282


    According to our Charter, the Town Attorney serves at the pleasure of the mayor. As long as the mayor is not talking what makes you think the Town Attorney is interested?

    The key feature here is the $650. Not silly citizens’ issues.

  15. 15 missgreeneyes118

    I saw this on WPCA get answers facebook:

    The amount paid on legal fees for the WPCA sale provide by the administration to the town council in response to my question at the 1/11/16 meeting was misstated. According to the administration,
    “Further review of the legal expenses related to the WPCA sale has resulted in [the] estimate changing from $420,746 to $469,613.”

    10% of the budget shortfall is attorney fees for the WPCA issue.
    The Town Attorneys are a cash cow run amuck.

  16. 16 jezebel282


    “The Town Attorneys are a cash cow run amuck.”

    Let’s see. Who’s fault might that be?

    Oh right! It was the mayor and his 9-1 council that we voted out.

    3.1.1 Town Attorney
    The Town Attorney may be removed by the Mayor for any reason at any time.

    3.1.4 Legal Assistance
    The Council shall provide for such funding and resources as may be reasonably necessary to conduct the legal business of the Town and to maintain records within the Town offices of legal proceedings and legal opinions concerning Town affairs.

    The question is does this new council have the courage to exercise their clear authority to turn the legal money spigot off. Or will they allow Berchem Moses & Devlin to simply point the hose in a different direction?

    Either way, the blame for outrageous legal fees falls clearly upon the Town Council.

  17. 17 missgreeneyes118

    So the Town Attorney’s budget of $1.5 million is supplemented by another half million from the WPCA cash reserves?
    Who approved that extra payout?

    And how much additional from the Board of Education or other budgets?

    It’s not just a cash cow…it is more of a cash cow stampede where the taxpayers are being trampled.

    The more information that comes out the worse it looks for us taxpayers.

    And isn’t the mayor is supposed to be a steward of our tax dollars.
    What is he doing?
    He has all this information at his fingertips, no?

    Of course we are not the only clients of these lawyers.
    Amazing how much lawyering they can squeeze into their days….. and out of our wallets.

    Harkins political career is over unless he grows a backbone and stands up to the continued big money grabs by the “legal service providers.”
    It would be nice if he really did put Stratford first and courageously stop the outrageous hemoraging of tax dollars to the Town Attorneys.
    Both parties have been complicit in this ridiculous lack of oversight.
    Harkins needs to be honest and reveal how much is really paid for all legal expenses each year.

    The Town administration likes to be compared to similar towns…like West Haven.
    West Haven corporation council budget for this year is $600,000.
    What does their mayor know that Harkins doesn’t?

  18. West Haven has always known enough to stay away from the GNHWPCA, even though they are neighboring towns. That alone saved them $473,000.

  19. 19 stratfordvillageidiot

    @jezebel282 “Will it try to claw back some of the ridiculous salary increases like the $40,000 raise given to the Economic Development Director or the $20,000 stipend given to her assistant?”

    Given the circumstances that everyone seems to be aware of, I’ve always wondered why there wasn’t a resignation or laying someone off (hmmm…bad word choice). Makes you wonder what type of opinion Harkins sought from the town’s legal counsel before he gifted the $40K and a car?

  20. 20 missgreeneyes118

    I have to plead ignorance on this.
    For a long time I did not know Mr. Buturla’s first name.
    I thought he was called “Rich” Buturla because he was getting rich off the legal fees charged to our Town.
    I stand corrected.

  21. Just finally catching up on watching budget workshops. Wish the sound was better. Wish I could tell who was asking what. Impressed by the fire chief not taking any BS from the people asking questions. He is a real old time chief standing up for his department and showed the distain for he had for the questions on his face. He showed them he wasn’t taking their BS. On the other hand he did look like he was coming off a week long bender. I would like to see the ladder truck staffed with more people so it can do what it is supposed to. The chief talked about that it should have 4 to 6 people on it. That seems like a stretch for Stratford. What I can’t understand is the last thing he said. He said it could be operated by 1 person. How can that be? He had talked about 4 to 6 people. Confusing to say the least. The rest of the people that were questioned really seemed disorganized and unprepared. At least the fire chief had his helper next to him whispering in his telling him what to say.

  22. 22 stfdprofessor1

    Is that fire chief the same idiot who spent all that money on pumper ladders with no pumps and a million dollar fire yacht…who gives take home cars away like Hertz. I’m not sure if that was distain on his face or indigestion, isn’t there a mandatory retirement age for these guys. He and his “helper” looked ancient!!!

    Isn’t he the guy who has a septic tank and wanted to sell the WPCA to save on his taxes???? What a winner! He he has me impressed too…lol!

  23. 23 mikereynolds

    “Is that fire chief the same idiot who spent all that money on pumper ladders with no pumps”

    What’s wrong, your pinochle game at the Baldwin Center get canceled?

    You moron, there is no such thing as a pumper ladder. There’s either a engine/pumper or a ladder truck.

    Perhaps instead of being a crotchety old fart you’d get out and take a look around and you’d see that Truck 1 has a pump on it. They use it to power the water cannon at the top of the aerial ladder.

  24. 24 jezebel282


    I think you’re confused with Truck 2. That’s the “old” one they were supposed to sell but hide up in Oronoque instead. That one has a pump on it.

    The new one that they keep breaking doesn’t have a pump on it. That’s why they are ordering a $549,000 brand new pumper truck. Which, of course, they will have to man with additional staff.

  25. 25 mikereynolds

    Wait, they’re ordering another engine? For what??? E1, 2, 3, and 4 aren’t that old and they have at least E6 and E8 as spares.

    I looked at the new Truck 1 and it looked like it had the machinery in place to pump water up to the cannon.

  26. 26 jezebel282


    Maybe you should ask those guys playing pinochle at the Baldwin Center?

  27. Jez is right Mike that is Truck 2. But truck 1 looks like a smedley crane with no pump. Truck 1 is a real nice truck and looks just like the ones in FDNY. I can see why they wanted to buy that one. The boat also is beautiful and with those huge motors it must fly across the water. I wish I had become a fireman so on those hot boring days in the summer I could go to the dock on the bay and ride around the sound on million dollar boat. How cool to have a job like that. Only cops and firemen get to do that. The chicks gotta dig them. That police boat is a beauty too

  28. 28 stfdprofessor1

    Whose the moron now 🙂

    I couldnt care less Mike, I’m only concerned with my tax dollars being eaten up by 2 FDNY trucks, water cannons, multi-million dollar boats and the rest of that unnecessary crap while I cant even afford to eat lunch at the Baldwin Center. For christ sake do you realize this is just a medium size new england town with 50,000 residents NOT CHICAGO!!!!!! You call me a crotchety old fart and I’m not a much older than those two idiots that are wasting all my money at the fire department. Keep apoligizing for these fools if you like but I’M NOT THE MORON!!!!!

  29. 29 stfdprofessor1


  30. 30 mikereynolds

    ” multi-million dollar boats”

    First it was a million dollar fire yacht now its a multi-million dollar boat.

    Wow the price of that keeps going up. Why don’t you share with us the actual price since you know so much?

    I’m not apologizing for them, they need more oversight. But you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about. How much is that fire boat going to be tomorrow? 5 million? More? You must be confusing real life with The Price is Right. Remember, if you go over, you lose.

  31. 31 jezebel282

    Gentlemen (We hope),

    The new tower ladder, also known as Truck 1, was purchased new at $1.1 million in cash. As we know, that did not include a pumper for water. The “old” tower ladder, also known as Truck 2, was supposed to be listed with a broker and sold to defray some of the cost of Truck 1. At least that’s what it said in the proposal.

    Of course, FD didn’t do that. They chose to hide it in the Oronoque station instead. So now we have not one but two 95-100ft tower ladders. We are more than ready for someone to build something 100 ft tall. What the Hell, go ahead, build two! And we now have the added pleasure of paying full price for Truck 1.

    The shiny boat they bought cost $400,000. The $300,000 almost new boat it replaced was donated to Shelton for zero dollars. Aren’t we great? Our FD personnel who live in Shelton that we train at great expense can now donate their time to Shelton’s volunteer FD and use the boat that we bought.

    Oh. And the $400,000 boat that we bought only costs $1,200 to fill with fuel so they can go out for practice cruises. How many rescues have the FD made with either boat? What a silly question. We have to have it “Just in case!”.

    According to Deputy Chief Gottfried, this is all about bringing Stratford’s Insurance Services Office’s rating to a higher level. To date we know of absolutely no citizen of Stratford this has ever affected. But then again, according to Gottfried, we should have sold the sewer plant he’s not hooked up to. That guy is always looking out for us, isn’t he?

  32. 32 stfdprofessor1

    Mike you’re trying to use my purposeful exaggeration to deflect from the point of my argument, which was “the rest of that unnecessary crap (bought by the fire dept) while I cant even afford to eat lunch at the Baldwin Center. For christ sake do you realize this is just a medium size new england town with 50,000 residents NOT CHICAGO!!!!!!”

    You are an apologist for Harkins and his cronies and have been ever since he was elected. Then YOU resorted to name calling and comments about my age and senility…GROW UP! This town needs more than “oversight”, it needs a fleet enema!!!

  33. 33 Rockannand

    Now its time for Jezebel’s favorite part of the budget process: The BOE half of the $207.5 million. Its a Robinson affair at special BOE budget workshop tonight. I wonder if any questions will be asked asking for details behind the $100mm proposed for next year?

  34. 34 jezebel282

    We can hardly wait to see Robinson’s awesome PowerPoint show. We are sure we won’t be bored by any relevant numbers because they won’t be there.

    It’s about the Administrators raises. Err….we mean the kids. It’s all about the kids.

    Parents will only look for a bigger number. Somehow that will magically result in a better education for their kids.

  35. 35 Rockannand

    “Truck 1 is a real nice truck and looks just like the ones in FDNY. I can see why they wanted to buy that one.”

    Yes GregCove, and James Feehan, chair of the BOE and president of the company that we bought the unnecessary 2nd truck from is sure glad we did.

  36. 36 Rockannand

    Thanks once again to Mark Dumas, we can see exactly where our tax dollars are going. http://www.openstratford.com/2016/01/30/open-checkbook-2015/

    As stated by Mr. Dumas: “Stratford’s disbursements for all of 2015 are now available on openstratford.com. Now you can find out who is cashing all those checks coming out of Town Hall. Ironically, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim announced earlier this week that Bridgeport would post its checkbook online too — fulfilling a campaign promise. In October 2010, Stratford Mayor John Harkins made the same promise, but has yet to live up to his word. On Monday, I plan to file an ordinance, co-sponsored by Joe Gresko and Mitzi Antezzo, to force the Town to do what John Harkins promised to do five years ago. It is a sad day for Stratford when a neighboring mayor who is a convicted felon is more trustworthy than our mayor. Now it is time for the Town Council to do something about that.”

  37. 37 Rockannand

    The latest in how to fix the $5.1mm budget hole.
    The $1.38mm revenue piece was easy with the WPCA not being sold. They’ve been stealing that money from the WPCA to fund the General Operating Budget for years. The $3mm from the self-funded benefits fund was also easy. Frankly they should also be able to enact an across the board 3-5% roll back of every town department budget and STILL not have to lay anyone off. We should be seeing a mill rate REDUCTION next year as there still is considerable fat in the mayor’s budget. that show die cut in 2016-2017.

    Now let’s see if the Town Council with Mitzi at the WPCA helm rolls back the $50 increase in sewer fees that was simply a fear tax to get us to vote YES and a payoff to the GNHWPCA folks in the form of sewer fee credit to be uses against next year’s sewer fees. And then cut sewer fees to $375 and stop this ridiculous stealing of funds from WPCA to the tune of $1.38mmm annually.

  38. 38 jezebel282


    The only problem with Councilman Dumas posting the payment data http://www.openstratford.com/2016/01/30/open-checkbook-2015/ is that it creates so many questions and begs to hear the stories behind the payments. One thing is for sure though. It is good to be a lawyer and bill the Town of Stratford for legal services.

  39. 39 missgreeneyes118

    You are right Jezebel:


    113633 01/11/16 213835 725076 P 01/22/16 01103 6459 Legal Exp/ Collective Bar 1,055.00

    VENDOR TOTALS 197,115.15 YTD INVOICED 277,384.15 YTD PAID 1,055.00

    104474 TIMOTHY A. BISHOP, ESQ.

    113511 12/29/15 213710 725077 P 01/22/16 01104 6381 Legal Salaries & Fees 14,025.00

    113511 12/29/15 213710 725077 P 01/22/16 01103 6459 Legal Exp/ Collective Bar 975.00

    VENDOR TOTALS 111,050.00 YTD INVOICED 131,050.00 YTD PAID 15,000.00

    INVOICE: 142227 INVOICE: 2015-12 INVOICE: 2015-12


    113517 01/11/16 213716 725097 P 01/22/16 01104 6521 Liability 705.75

    VENDOR TOTALS 153,199.26 YTD INVOICED 263,844.86 YTD PAID 705.75

    115539 COHEN AND WOLF, PC

    113526 12/03/15 213725 725098 P 01/22/16 01104 6381 Legal Salaries & Fees 1,605.00

    113527 12/03/15 213726 725098 P 01/22/16 01104 6381 Legal Salaries & Fees 645.00

    INVOICE: MICH01-11-16

    INVOICE: 641912


    113519 01/11/16 213718 725131 P 01/22/16 01104 6381 Legal Salaries & Fees 275.00

    VENDOR TOTALS 1,625.00 YTD INVOICED 1,625.00 YTD PAID 275.00


    113513 12/09/15 213712 725132 P 01/22/16 01104 6381 Legal Salaries & Fees 1,645.00

    113514 12/09/15 213713 725132 P 01/22/16 01104 6381 Legal Salaries & Fees 2,805.00

    VENDOR TOTALS 40,164.70 YTD INVOICED 46,839.70 YTD PAID 4,450.00

    INVOICE: 01-11-16

    98132 PETER VIMINI

    113528 12/19/15 213727 725184 P 01/22/16 01104 6510 Court Costs 3,925.00

    113529 11/24/15 213728 725184 P 01/22/16 01104 6510 Court Costs 6,925.00

    VENDOR TOTALS 17,775.00 YTD INVOICED 17,775.00 YTD PAID 10,850.00

    INVOICE: 3163

    INVOICE: 3146

    And the only oversight is the town attorney

    it works for them

  40. 40 jezebel282


    You missed a few…..

  41. 41 jezebel282


    “BTW how’s the new town council doing collecting all those car keys”

    We are sad to report that it is not going well at all. In fact, very recently the Town took delivery of a brand new fully equipped big ole Ford Explorer. We think the Fire Chief got the floor mats dirty in the “old” one. We are sure some junior firefighters will be washing it by hand soon.

    We heard that some are even attempting to cling onto a few for “emergency” personnel. We can think of no reason anyone, and we mean anyone, needs to return to Town from wherever it is they actually live and pay taxes to Stratford with lights and sirens going. With the amount of training and redundancy we pay for, whoever returns to Stratford with lights and sirens going should be immediately fired when they get back to Town because they are clearly incompetent and cannot manage their own department.

    If we can’t even manage the symbolic cutbacks, how can citizens be expected to have faith in anything Stratford’s leaders do?

  42. 42 stfdprofessor1

    Perhaps we should be happy they havent started issuing luxury SUV’s to the town attorney’s…YET!!!!

    Since Mr. Dumas’ site (www.openstratford.com) is a “read only” site…and…since Mr. Dumas is an attorney…and…since Mr. Dumas probably is a regular reader of this site…perhaps…Mr. Dumas could make a guest appearence here and explain some of these HUGE checks being written to the lawyers employed By the Stratford town litigation factory???

  43. 43 jezebel282


    Of course one of the things a new council could do that would demonstrate some sort of independence would be to appoint Patricia Sperling to the Short Beach Commission.

    It’s not like she is a favorite with the RTC or DTC, but she has always been a favorite on this blog.

  44. 44 stfdprofessor1

    That would be a rational decision not a political one Jez, remember this IS Stratford!!

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