May 19, 2008

City budget passed after two-hour standoff

The city has a budget, but it wasn’t easy.
On six different budget votes Monday during a joint session of the Board of Finance and City Council, officials split right down the middle, racking up one 7-7 tally after another.
“We’re spinning our wheels, people,” said Janet Moylan, a finance commissioner who tried unsuccessfully to find middle ground.
“It’s a farce,” said Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski.
In the end, though, a first-term city councilor, Democrat Cliff Block, found the key to resolving the increasingly frustrating two-hour long standoff, proposing some minor additions to a spending plan that Mayor Art Ward created in a bid to pare the proposed tax cut.
The $170.9 million dollar budget approved on a 9-5 vote will hike property taxes by 1.04 mills, or $1.40 per thousand dollars of assessed value.
The fight was mostly about that 40 cents tacked on to the mill rate hike, which Block pushed in order to pump another $100,000 into education, $30,000 into code enforcement efforts, $30,000 into community promotions such as the Mum Festival and a couple other small increases.
“It’s amazing, the elder statesman, even though he’s a freshman, has come through with the tiebreaking vote,” Block joked afterward.
There was, however, an element of a power play involved, with Block and two more senior councilors, Democrats Craig Minor and Kevin McCauley, opposing the mayor’s preferred budget until they were able to add in a handful of items they had championed.
Ward was among those who voted against the budget, opposing it even though it almost mirrored his own, with a relatively paltry $190,000 added back in.
The finance board had backed a $172.7 million spending plan three weeks ago that would have hiked property taxes by 6 percent, or 1.5 mills.
Ward said that after hearing an outcry from residents struggling to pay their bills now, he revisited the spending plan with department heads and the school superintendent, winding up with a new proposed budget that would have hiked taxes less than 4 percent, or .98 mills.
But Ward’s budget drew only a few votes because most members wanted either less spending or more.
Following that, a series of votes that basically offered the finance board budget and a one mill increase budget split down the middle.
“It’s obvious everyone has dug in their feet,” said city Councilor Frank Nicastro, a former mayor who wanted a lower tax hike. He said he’d never seen anything like this in two decades in city government.
“We’ve got to come to reality here,” Ward proclaimed. “I’m getting a little frustrated.”
At one point, Republican city Councilor Mike Rimcoski told the city clerk to “make a mistake on the count” and bring an end to the divisiveness.
When one official left the room briefly, the mayor joked, “Quick, he’s gone. We can take a vote. 7-6.”
But Block’s compromise drew the necessary majority at last.
Had finance commissioner Cheryl Thibeault been there the two-hour long stalemate would have been virtually impossible because she would have provided one side or the other the winning vote. She told colleagues she couldn’t make it because of her mother-in-law’s death.
In an email, Thibeault said she thought a property tax hike of about a mill was appropriate.
The new budget takes effect on July 1. It preserves existing programs and isn’t expected to result in any layoffs.
This will give you a flavor of the 7-7 votes:

Vote on the Final Budget
YES: John Smith, Don Soucy, Rich Miecznikowski, Ron Messier, Kevin McCauley, Mark Peterson, Janet Moylan, Craig Minor, Cliff Block
NO: Ken Cockayne, Frank Nicastro, Art Ward, Mike Rimcoski, Roald Erling

First Vote on Board of Finance Budget (with 1.5-mill property tax hike)
YES: Cliff Block, Kevin McCauley, Craig Minor, Janet Moylan, Ron Messier, Don Soucy, John Smith
NO: Ken Cockayne, Art Ward, Frank Nicastro, Roald Erling, Rich Miecznikowski, Mike Rimcoski, Mark Peterson

First Vote on slightly revised Ward Budget (with one mill property tax hike)
YES: Art Ward, Rich Miecznikowski, Roald Erling, Mark Peterson, John Smith, Ron Messier, Janety Moylan
NO: Don Soucy, Ken Cockayne, Kevin McCauley, Frank Nicastro, Mike Rimcoski, Craig Minor, Cliff Block

Vote on proposal for budget with 1.1-mills increase
YES: Cliff Block, Janet Moylan, Mark Peterson, Rich Miecznikowski, Ron Messier, Don Soucy, John Smith
NO: Art Ward, Roald Erling, Frank Nicastro, Ken Cockayne, Mike Rimcoski, Craig Minor, Kevin McCauley

More details to come.


*******
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are a helluva manger Art.

Anonymous said...

Good job mayor

Anonymous said...

We need some changes on the Board of Finance!

We need some leadership from the mayor!

Be careful of what you pray for, sometimes your prayers get answered.

The worst is yet to come.

Anonymous said...

This budget and re-evaluation made my taxes go up $232

Anonymous said...

Incredible lack of leadership from the mayor. its really too bad it came to this but I am happy that the cuts were added back a little bit.

Anonymous said...

Leadership by Moylan, Block, Minor and McCauley. I like what I see. Thanks for doing what was right, as opposed to what you think people want to hear.

Anonymous said...

This is embarassing. Does the mayor know how to count?

Anonymous said...

There will be changes on the BOF. Word is Soucy is out because he didn't support Art Ward for Mayor. Very unfortunate because Soucy makes the right calls on the subjects that matter, like education.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see Block is his own man. Someone has to show leadership. I like the guy more and more.

Anonymous said...

What a farce! Who's in charge here, people??? Anyone, Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Anonymous said...

Uh oh, Artie is going to have a hard time going out for a beer without his zero percent increase. He might hafta pay for his own!

Anonymous said...

Never mind replacing the Board of Finance - what about Klocko? He is something else. Actually, he thinks he is the COO.

Anonymous said...

I guess the city will get me even when I sell my house w/ the conveyance tax.

I'm out of here.

Anonymous said...

Klocko thinks he is the mayors boss!!!

Anonymous said...

The mayor needs people to help him. If it isn't Klocko, it's Nicastro, of Clift or even Krawicki.

Anonymous said...

Block is a Blockhead!

Anonymous said...

Re: 10:21.

You are correct. Soucy is history. The Mayor will not reappoint him to BOF. He'll survive, as will the person he supported for Mayor - Zoppo. The better question is, will Mayor Ward survive?

When's the last time the Mayor voted against the City Budget in Bristol - Never.

Anonymous said...

Thank God for..... nevermind, they all suck.

Anonymous said...

YOu can tell by the votes what people are out for themselves, and what people are out to do what is right. Is Frank Nicastro in favor of anything?? How can you vote no on all school sites, and then vote no on all budgets?

Thank you to the finance board and council members who did the right thing. The next time Arty's friends attack the counselors on this blog for lack of leadership they better go look at their guy first.

Anonymous said...

Why should the Mayor care about his taxes going up - he got a nice raise when he became Mayor. Screw the citizens trying to make ends meet. Way to go Mayor.

Anonymous said...

Gotta agree that Klocko is behind this - he had other options, but didn't want to consider anything but his own agenda. He should be Rosenthalled!

Anonymous said...

Zoppo rules!

Anonymous said...

If I did the math right...my taxes will increase from $5,665 to $6,513..almost 15%...you have got to be kidding...Help!!!

(Assessed Value/1000 x mill rate)= annual tax???

Anonymous said...

Is this a Board of Finance or a board of fluff?

Can you say LIGHTWEIGHTS?

Anonymous said...

McCauley..it's time for you to go.

It's easy to pay a few hundred more in taxes every year when you get a nice fat raise being a fireman every year.

You may be a great fireman, but hands off the budget for now on!

Anonymous said...

These are tough economic times and coming up with a budget that is fair and equitable must be a phenomenal task. It sounds like our mayor and council members did a great job. Although they may not have agreed on every aspect, it sounds like they were all trying to do what they thought best for Bristol. Good job guys!

Anonymous said...

To the last poster: Where do you get the idea that firefighters or any city employees are getting big, fat raises? I'm a city employee and I haven't a clue what you are talking about. Why don't you get your facts straight before you make false statements. McCauley is getting his taxes raised like everyone else, but knows that the city will suffer if services are cut too drastically.

Ward, Nicastro, Cockayne and Rimcoski are only looking to get re-elected and will do ANYTHING to accomplish that ... even if it means lackluster services because on paper, boy, it looks great, but in reality, you're screwing the citizens.

Mark my words ... this paltry sum that was given back will make no difference. If you thought our city was deteriorating before, just wait and see what happens. You can't get blood from a stone. So don't complain when your streets aren't being plowed or sanded properly or crime goes up because they put a freeze on hiring police officers or needed city projects are put on the backburner because there's no money, or long lines at city hall because personnel has been cut due to layoffs. The list goes on and on.

The reality is that taxes are going up approximately $17 a month on a $200,000 home. That breaks down to about 5 cents a day. Do the math. We're not talking about breaking the bank here, but we are talking about an overall detriment to the city in the longrun.

You can't run a city without money and you can't get money without raising taxes. No one likes it and it's not a popular political move, but at least three councilmen have their heads on straight and are willing to do what it takes to keep the city from falling apart. I'd rather have them go up gradually than have them jump up in one year 50 percent like Waterbury or Hartford.

What's done is done. It's time to move on, but come election time let's look at the people who did what was right and not whatever it takes to get re-elected.

Anonymous said...

May 20, 2008 9:20 AM:

Keep your dillusions to yourself. You public employees have it better than almost everyone in the private sector. If you don't know this, you are ignorant. Be thankful and shut up, or better yet keep talking and keep pissing us all off with your lies and false rhetoric.

One last thing. va fa napoli!

Anonymous said...

geee and we still don't know what the rate is going to be ??? with reavals hitting this year..

Steve Collins said...

The mill rate for this year is 25.99.

Anonymous said...

If the city employees got paid like everyone else in the private sector and weren't getting such generous pay and benefits, there would be less taxes and money available for services that help EVERYONE!

Anonymous said...

The cost of fuel and energy is killing everyone. It's almost impossible to insulate yourself from the increases. The city is not immune from these costs either.

At $4 per gallon according to Federal Transportation figures of average annual miles driven of 12,730.7 x 23.7 average vehicle mpg each driver will spend $2123. For a 2-person household that is $4146. The average US household burns 730 gallons of oil per year. At $4 that is $2920. This amounts to $7166 for gas and oil.

The median US household income (2005) was $49,207. Gas and oil is 14.6% of the median income at $4 per gallon. This is unsustainable. The percentages are even worse for the bottom 40% accounting for over 20% of household income.

Today oil hit $129 per barrel. Based on the future contracts we could realistically be looking at $4.50 to $5.00 gas and oil by July 1st.

It is time that we send a message to Washington that something must be done to develop alternate energy sources, greater refinery capacity and better mass transit otherwise all our costs of living including our taxes will continue to rise faster than personal incomes.

Anonymous said...

It is time that we send a message to Washington that something must be done to develop alternate energy sources, greater refinery capacity

May 20, 2008 4:42 PM
``````````````````````````
Place the demented environmentalists into asylums and start drilling here in America where we have located oil fields the envy of Saudi Arabia , and build modern refineries .

Problem solved .

Unfortunately they own the democrats in control of our beloved nation so don't expect things to get anything but worse .

Odin said...

was it "the demented environmentalists" who got us into the Viet Islam? No, it was the White House whose mortgage is held by Big Oil.

Anonymous said...

Where do you get the idea that firefighters or any city employees are getting big, fat raises? I'm a city employee and I haven't a clue what you are talking about. Why don't you get your facts straight before you make false statements. McCauley is getting his taxes raised like everyone else,

But you guys get raises EVERY YEAR from MY tax dollars. And yes, McCauey's taxes are going up, but so is his salary....BOTH of his salaries from the City.

If you aren't getting a raise every year anymore than it's because you have capped out on the salary appropriated for you position.

Or are you one of those lucky ones that fell through the cracks like Glenn Klocko's Secretary that worked for the City so long that she was able to retire when her salary was OVER $52,000 a year????

Who ever heard of a SIMPLE SECRETARY making $52K a year??

The private sector is lucky if they get raises once every two years - - and even then it's very minimal.

Anonymous said...

Oden:

Yes I'm sure you've been riding a horse to work and heating your house with firewood.

Take your hypocritical neo-hippie "big oil" rhetorical crap and stuff it.

Anonymous said...

And they still did not know what they were doing.

Anonymous said...

City Hall! City Hall! City Hall!

Odin said...

May 21, 2008 9:59 AM
"Yes I'm sure you've been riding a horse to work and heating your house with firewood. Take your hypocritical neo-hippie "big oil" rhetorical crap and stuff it."

Four thousand American servicemen and women have died in Viet Islam because of Big Oil and all you can say is "stuff it". That's why you Republicans are going down big time in November.