Thursday, April 09, 2009

09/10 Town budget - my comments

Here's the outline I used for my comments on tonight's budget:

support Ruocco’s proposal B – better option

households cut spending, town must cut spending

we all must cutback, sooner better than later

problems just beginning

$13 trillion printed in the past year and a half

Washington’s Political Class has only delayed the pain

printing presses running 24/7

inflated money supply, inflated prices of consumer goods

maintaining services and minimizing taxes and spending


1) teachers’ union renegotiates.

Municipal and state unions are renegotiating

Cheshire’s teachers’ - do the same.

if they don’t, if inflation kicks in, don’t ask to reopen

2) Another option for the Council

increased use of the multiple reserves.

about $10 million

long-term liabilities and impending infrastructure costs:

$20 million pension fund deficit
$3 million heart & hypertension liability
$10 million for a sewer plant retrofit
the pool among other costly items

reducing the reserves with so many large expenditures looming.

3) the Council discussed cutting town government spending.

cuts would result in losing bodies.

disagreed and suggested an across-the-board reduction in hours.

35 hours per week becomes 33 hours per week.

reaction from staff was surprising, but nothing new.

“Annie Hall.” subtitles scene

the words that were spoken

subtitles were perfectly clear

comments not welcome.

idea won’t work.

shouldn’t even discuss it.

Just be quiet!

idea was dismissed.

fair enough.

one of nine.

another concern.

a hostile work environment

town employees - fear of encountering a hostile work environment - good cost saving ideas missed.

tone of the discussion was inappropriate

the tone starts with the Council.

4) People are making less money

Hourly employees are working fewer hours.

Contractors have fewer jobs

Retirees on fixed incomes are receiving less in dividends.

Earlier this year, one of Cheshire’s largest employers cut wages by 6%.

And as I mentioned before, many government unions are offering concessions.

5) With regard to the revaluation, smaller houses will likely get hit harder than larger houses. So the people who can probably least afford a tax increase will bear the largest burden.

6) Why are we still funding the conferences and seminars that occur all over North America?

Why have we taken no action on the town’s two dozen take home vehicles that all receive unlimited, free gasoline?

Why, during this fiscal year, did we give out raises to some employees in the range of 5-7%?

Why don’t we eliminate overtime for non-essential services?

Why do we still fund the stipend for an Assistant Town Manager?

People are hurting and we all need to cut back.

As I’ve been knocking on doors for the past month I’ve heard two basic themes:

people are worried and

they want to reduce taxes and spending.

I think Councilman Ruocco’s proposal does the best job of addressing those concerns.

I added one comment after Councilman Ecke suggested the GOP Council members "won't be happy until we're 168 out of 168"* in terms of education funding for CT towns. Mike has something of a reputation for being thin-skinned though. So I hope Mike didn't actually mean that and was just getting a little hot under the collar.

I thought most of the discussion was good though. Sure, I know a number of people think we talk too long (myself included!), but we've got points that we feel need to be made.

The only other thing that caught me offguard was one particular Council member who seemed very angry tonight. That really didn't make any sense to me considering that particular Council member attended zero budget workshops. I know we've all got busy lives. But I sensed anger and it seemed unfair when I looked at the past month of budget workshops.

And with regard to the pool and Jimmy Sima's request for a summer-only budget proposal, the notion that it's too complicated to prepare is hogwash. Following the April 2006 vote on the 06/07 budget, I offered these comments on this blog:

I asked about the pool budget for the past month, both during budget workshops and in individual conversations with the Town Manager and other town staff. I asked for revenue and expense history (in order to extrapolate likely revenues and expenses for a summer only pool) and I asked for engineering details related to possible negative effects of not putting the bubble back up… that process started for me a month ago. And there were reports from town staff that were distributed at budget workshops during the past week, as a result of my questions about the pool. And to make a long story short, those reports suggested that a summer only facility would require a subsidy of $12,000 to $38,000.

Those numbers could have been compiled for Councilman Sima. But staff had no interest in doing so because it wouldn't serve their purposes. Furthermore when I recently asked about the 2006 summer-only pool budget proposal, it was all denials. Staff "knew nothing" of the proposal. Total hogwash. As for asking the particular staff member who compiled the summer-only pool budget... what would you do if you worked in a hostile work environment that opposed good cost-saving ideas?

Tim White

* FWIW, schools are not considered in terms of towns in CT. They're considered to be districts. And while CT has 169 - not 168 - municipalities, it also has about 20 or so regional school districts. For instance, Prospect is part of Region 16 and Bethany is part of the Amity School District... a region that also includes Woodbridge and Orange. I think there's just over 140 school districts in CT.


Anonymous said...

Let me try to understand a comment made in the Cheshire Herald. The mill rate is the lowest in Town since 2003 when it was 25.75 the year of the last revaluation. The new LOW RATE is 26.05. My house did not change during that time but my taxes will go up almost $200. Thanks for the lower mill rate. It will not take long for it to go back up the way we spend. When will this stop? Time to move?

Anonymous said...

When a town council member makes sarcastic statement, he/she should be reprimanded by the chaiperson.

I am tired of watching the eyes rolling and the heads shaking everytime someone speaks who they don't agree with.

If you're "thin skinned" you should get out of politics.

Tim, I don't even know why you waste your time (although it is appreciated my many of us. when the majority is going to do whatever they want.

It is too bad they don't have 1 free thinker.

Just curious, does DeCaprio look to Hall, Ecke or Altieri when it's time to vote? Many times she isn't paying attention so she needs someone to tell her how to vote.

tim white said...

IMO, the whole discussion of mill rates is kind of a waste. People pay taxes... and budgets (tax & spend sides) matter too. But mill rates mean little.

tim white said...

It is too bad they don't have 1 free thinker.

The 5 vote Rubber Stamp is gone. I intend to bring several things to a vote in the next couple months. And my guess is that Sheldon Dill will be supporting the ideas. Of course, who knows...

After years of being stonewalled by staff on my questions about all the town's take home vehicles, I finally decided to put the Council on the spot last June and force them to raise their hands. Sure, the Chairman tried to sugarcoat it with his I think it's a bad precedent to direct staff to give information to the Council routine, but they couldn't bring themselves to publicly opposing transparency.

I just need to do more of that. Council rules require three votes to put something on the agenda. So if I can find three votes, then I can force them to put their hands in the air.

Should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Everyone stays away because everything is decided before any public meetings. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

I would now like to tell that person who told us all that it was only "$153" and that we just need to "give up some of our frappacinos" that my new tax has gone up $240 this year. That is an additional $20 per month. My salary is frozen, heating oil is up, food prices are up, and now I have an additional expense each month.
Thank you town council!
Perhaps that person can buy me a coffee sometime since he seems to have an endless supply of money. I know that I won't be able to buy 1 for myself.

What happens next year when the next wave of this recession hits? Will my taxes go up another $240?
If that happens, it will be time to rethink living in this town.

Anonymous said...

It will go up, sorry to say . The BOE salaries are going up 4.4%(contractual obligations). We hear that line every year. 70% of the budget for less than 5000 of the Towns population. Many of which will never live here after high school or college because they can't afford the HOUSES. We have to make this Town affordable for everyone (young and old).

Anonymous said...

How many coffee shops do we have in Town?

Anonymous said...

That's the oldest scam in the book. Hold a reval, raise assessments, then use the higher assessments to hide a spending spree since " we cut the mill rate"

No one is buying Bernie Madoff economics this year, folks.

The reval was a joke. I doubt very much I could get today what my house was worth in 2003 and I 'm sure I'm not alone

tim white said...

My neighborhood (1200 - 1400 sq ft on half acre lots) was selling for $300k two years ago. About a month ago, it dropped to $240k with the sale of one house.

Anonymous said...

As for discussing hostile work environments does that include some of the not so nice things done in the past year by the TC chair and the TC majority? It looks pretty hostile at times.

It is nice to hear a home sold in the TW neighborhood. Keeping unofficial track of houses up for sale in some areas of town it has been noticed that many of them ranging in size from maybe 2,000 to 3,000 sq ft have been on the market for months and months with no offers. Others have been taken off the market all together and a number appear to be for sale by owner.

Could it be that in reality families are no longer moving into town for the town's wonderful school system? And could it be that fewer and fewer new people are moving to town all together at least during these very uncertain times?

tim white said...

It is nice to hear a home sold in the TW neighborhood.

That home must've been on the market for at least a year.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Mine is a coach who only cares about getting over priced, unhealthy turf on our football field.
He should be ripe for the picking.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of low down liars.

I am so mad that they think we are so stupid as to believe everything they say. Why do they have to resort to lying to us? The following lie is an excerpt from the now famous Florio play script that was included in his rallying of the troops memo.

"Cheshire is a well-run community. I am proud of our schools; however, spending less per pupil than 142 of the 166 school systems in the state indicates that there is not a lot of margin for error. Reductions to our budget will not be at the fringes, but at the heart of our mission – direct instructional services to children."

The above is a boldfaced lie that Councilman Sima exposed last night. Mr. Sima explained that not all towns include all school expenses in their school budgets, and Cheshire is a town that has the town side of the budget picking up school expenses that other towns include in their school budgets. Mr. Sima explained that because the town picks up some of the school costs it makes it appear that Cheshire is at the bottom when it comes to per child spending, and it really isn’t true.

Now, Mr. Florio knows why Cheshire appears to be at low end, but he uses this bogus ranking to solicit more money and he also wants to get additional credit for running a school system with such low funding. He doesn't want to analyze why other towns are ranked higher, such as towns that include all education expenses in their budgets, or cities with inner city populations or high immigrant populations or towns that have very high living expenses such as the NYC commuter towns. He knows there are many reasons why the costs vary and it is disingenuous to accuse the Cheshire citizens of under-funding their school system.

Councilman Sima also stated that one of the most important factors why Cheshire students rank high in achievement is because the Cheshire parents take a very active role in their children’s education, and that is something Florio or teachers can't take credit for.

What makes this lie so painful is that the Town Manager, the Chairman of the Budget Committee, Michael Ecke, and Matt Hall also know why Cheshire ranked low and they just remained silent as a number of teachers regurgitated Florio’s false ranking of Cheshire’s support of its children. Are these the examples that we want our children to follow?

Thank you, Councilman Sima for providing us with the truth.

Anonymous said...

Let's assume the "$153/ year" increase is true.

Let's assume we do that every year for a decade

In 10 years your annual taxes will be over $1500/ year higher. In the meantime you cumulatively will have spent over $8000 in added taxes.

That's enough lattes to fill up a swimming pool

tim white said...

partially deleted from 10:27 and reposted here

If the Republicans can put forward a strong plan that reduces the budget significantly and FOCUS their campaign on it, they stand a good change to pickup (2) seats this Fall. My Council rep is a


(the comment was overly personal)

Anonymous said...

The problem with the GOP is that they allow outrageous statements like Ecke's and Altieri's to go unchallenged. All people will remember is what they read in the papers, Republicans = scorched earth = gutting the school budget. Where is the response from the Republicans?????

Anonymous said...

Give the Dems credit, they have managed to build support from the limo liberals that claim they only care about education. The same people that move here for the education and upon graduation move out. To stop this nonsense the Rep's need to get their support base out to vote and that is more difficult because of the demographics of the base. The liberals all vote and get unifies, the conservative have to figure this out. You see it when Florio puts out the call to arms. If the Republicans did this the turn out woould not be anywhere a big.

Anonymous said...

We are told so many lies and crap.

The Dems wanting to diminish the stark contrast between their budget and Republican alternative, said over and over how the two budgets were very similar. This could not be further than the truth.

The Democrats quickly rejected the additional cuts recommended by the Board of Education. Who knows better, the Board of Education or the 5 Dems on the council. So, inorder to fund the additional money they are allowing the superintendent to take money out of the medical trust fund and if they then spend the the money, the council will put more money into the trust fund. The Dems also want to fund more of the budget with other funds that were established for other purposes. It is obvious that the Dems want the support of the teachers and other unnions for this falls elections and instead of taking sound fiscal action for the taxpayers, the Dems would rather continue the level of spending and sell out the taxpayers.

The Dems claim they want to maintain the high level of education. They know that their action is not for the students, it's solely for the teachers. Hey folks, where is the money going? It's going directly into the teachers pockets and we all know that teacher pays has little if any affect on the level of education.

I believe that at the local level, the Repulicans understand the economic pain that businesses and residents are experiencing and I believe they better utilize our tax dollars and improve the educational system for the students. At the local level the Dems are against change, and are only interested in supporting the special interests that keep them in office. The Dems will only talk about helping the taxpayers at election time, but if they win again, they will forget all their promises.

Call your Dem council person and tell them, that you want change and not the same old spend and tax government.

Anonymous said...

I am an unionized state employee and anticipate giving back thousands of dollars to help balance the state budget.

Why are the Cheshire teachers exempt from this?

Why do the Free Spending Five place them above everyone else?

Anonymous said...

"Let's assume the "$153/ year" increase is true.
We already know it isn't tue. Most smaller to mid-range homes willl have over $200 increase.

Tim, just a question, do you or did you ever publicly challege Ecke when he makes arrogant statement? I don't know why he is allowed to get away with it. If I were the republicans, I would all get up and walk out until he apologized for such statements.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Florio:

Can you tell us where you are getting your information that Cheshire ranks at 146 out of 169 town in per pupil costs. We deserve to have to have the complete report.

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