December 7, 2008

'Every little bit helps'

A letter to the editor from former Mayor William Stortz:

Stortz wrote:
I apologize for the length, but in reality the economy is a critical issue for Bristol and hopefully action will be taken to alleviate the situation. Bristol couldn’t/can’t stop the global and national recession, but it CAN and MUST take action to mitigate the local impact. 
Clearly, there has been an impact on this years budget, and will impact next years also. The question is, just how much is that impact. The public deserves to know, in meaningful numbers, publicly and promptly.
Even though the mayor indicates that there won’t be any layoffs, many other steps are possible.
The longer we wait the worse the impact we will be facing.

Letter to the Editor,

The Global Financial Crisis has traveled from the International Arena, to Wall Street, to Main Street, and now to North Main Street here in Bristol.

I understand that the mayor has started to take some steps in addressing the situation, trying to reduce expenditures, and I commend him for that. I just wonder why it has taken him so long.

Last year, in August 2007, when the Sub-Prime problem surfaced, as Mayor, I asked certain Department heads for their input as to the possible impact on Bristol, especially the Revenue side.

I said, in part, “ The issue of sub prime mortgages, and resulting foreclosures, the acting of the Federal Reserve Board and interest rate changes, the rising price of oil, among other things, can all affect our budget, the current one, and next year’s also”. 

I pointed out a few areas that might be of concern: Interest Income, Conveyance Tax Revenue, Tax Collections, especially vehicle taxes, rising price of Fuel Oil and Heating Oil. As part of the concern, I mentioned the fact that our daily “surplus” might be lower could also reduce interest income. 

Other areas of possible impact were Building permits, and opportunities for state revenues.

At that time the impact had not been felt, which was the basic response from the department heads. But it should have been a “heads up”.

I concluded my letter to the Board of Finance and City Council suggesting that the situation was more problematical than it was 6-8 months previous, and that it will not recover overnight. I suggested that steps be taken early on to reduce the need for drastic steps in the future. 

For those that follow the overall economic situation, or should, there were many signs indicating possible problems on the horizon. Energy costs, the weakening of the dollar, foreign involvement were items of concern. Nationally, personal debt was increasing, the spread between income levels was increasing, and there were questions being asked as to the reliability of some of the economic figures that were being used. Reduced housing sales and prices were looked at as a possible sign of things to come.

Looking at ways to reduce costs is always good, but with those ominous signs, efforts should have been initiated and implemented promptly. Even small savings over a period of time are better than forced drastic ones in critical times. The question leads to “What are we doing to address this situation, are we doing enough”?

The question now is, do we know if we are facing a deficit this fiscal year. And if so, how much? If we don’t know, why not? If we are facing a deficit, how much do we have to make up? 

There are many other areas that should be evaluated also such as monitoring by Police and Fire of abandoned and foreclosed houses for break-ins and thievery, and a possible increased crime rate The likelihood of a reduction in the Grand list of motor vehicles, due to the purchasing a fewer new vehicles and of smaller vehicles. We know that he state is in trouble and that will affect state assistance to some degree.

While very little of the national and international economic impact is controllable at the local level, knowing how much and how we might be affected will better enable us to address the impact. If the public was to be informed of any shortfall, and of any need for reductions in the coming budget, they would certainly be more cooperative and understanding. But they must be made aware of the facts. 

At the same time, they might have some ideas for savings that are not apparent to those close to the action. I’m sure that others have offered willingness to help: has the mayor accepted any of the offers? I am sure we all have some possible suggestions to help us through these tough times. Bristol is our city, and I am sure we are all willing to help.

Other cities are taking some drastic action. Maybe we don’t have to be as drastic, but every little bit helps, and having a better and specific report on our situation will help all of us to better accept what has to be done.


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

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

What are the numbers here? How far in the red are we? Are we behind in all revenue sources, if so, which ones and how much? What is the size of the problem, if there is one? Only then can you take action, and without knowing that, how can the mayor decide there are to be no layoffs? Does the Mayor know anything, if so why has he not shared it, and if he knows nothing...how come and how can he categorically rule out layoffs?? The biggest expenses in this (any) budget are payrol expenses.

Anonymous said...

Cool your jets Stortz....

Anonymous said...

Bill has this unique ability to foresee the future - what a shame that he hasn't used this inate quality to render suggestions as to the realization of a solution, or is this politically motivated.

Anonymous said...

"is this politically motivated"

Ya think?....Bill didn't need a psychic to foresee this recession coming, but it sure seems he thinks he deserves some sort of prize for stating the obvious.

No-Bill said...

11:55am - we can call it the "No-bill" prize, which will state the obvious.

Ralph Pierce said...

11:55, 1:06

Yea, but he pointed out the warning signs over a year ago, and gave the city a heads up.

I do not recall anyone on the BOF or in the City Financial area saying or doing anything about it.

Anonymous said...

Bill wants the GOP nod for mayor in 2009, fortunatly it is Johnson's for the taking.

Bill=Ralph said...

enough already Ralph, I mean Bill

Anonymous said...

Sorry 2:53, but the warning signs were already flashing a year ago. There was no need for Stortz to point em out....any schmuck could see the writing on the wall and the truth is that he couldn't do anything to stop it either.

Anonymous said...

Yes there were warning signs, yes Stortz pointed them out, but the real concern is that this administration doesn't seem to have done anything about it.

It isn't a matter of stopping it, but taking steps to reduce the impact on local taxpayers

Anonymous said...

The warning signs were even given by then Councilman Ward. Now that he is Mayor what has he done to save tax payers from having to pay more taxes?

We know he gave his favorite sister Myra 3% and further socked taxpayers with having to pay 95% of their helth insurance premiums.

Ward wouldn't know a finacial crisis if the newspaper in town closed down.

Has he asked city department heads to trim their staffs or cut their operating costs? Of course not because the unions have him in their back pocket. Can't say that about Stortz or Johnson.

Anonymous said...

9:35 - if you honestly think this administration could reduce the impact of the recession on taxpayers with lay-offs, you're truly delusional. It would be like slapping a band-aid on a gaping wound....The problem is much, much bigger.

same game said...

9:35 - stop it bill, it's not going to make up for "what" you did as mayor, which was "nothing."

Anonymous said...

Once again, this isn't about the UNIONS it's about the RECESSION. It's just a favorite political ploy of some of our clueless wannabes who don't have any honest answers (most don't even know what our problems are), so they go for the old tried and true "evil boogie union story" where they'll be the conquering hero, rid us of the evil union monster and then line Bristol's streets (and our pockets) with gold....yawn. I can't speak for everyone, but this is one bedtime story that's getting really, really old....

Anonymous said...

Now I know why people are reluctant to identify themselves on this blog: the ISSUE gets shunted aside and THEY become the butt of the responses.

Things can be done, from identifying and informing the taxpayer as to the extent of the problem, to making cuts, no matter how small or large.

Keep in mind that $300,000/yr in cuts equal about .1 mills. Surely there is that much that can be cut, and I would believe, a lot more can be cut.

But, the city has apparently wasted many months of savings, but should act now and not waste any more.

Bill, keep the pressure on: all of us will benefit.

Anonymous said...

6:25

I do not recall Ward, as Councilman, or as Mayor pointing out the fiscall problems.
Certainly as a candidate, he would have publicized the issue, if only to criticize Stortz and/or to look good.
He also did not stress it after he got elected, even though he was made aware.

Now we will be paying for it.

Anonymous said...

Even if we started with cuts, lay-offs, etc., etc, etc. years ago, it still wouldn't amount to a piss-hole in the snow for the taxpayers who are suffering from the very real catastrophic effects of the recession....foreclosures, bail-outs, unemployment....

Believe me when I say that we've "identified" the problem and it's definitely NOT the union. Once again, Bill is just spinning his wheels.

Anonymous said...

11:46

As the heading says. every little bit helps.

And, we have to work with what is available to us.

We cannot control the banks, congress, other companies, but we do have some control over our expenditures.

Or, maybe you are like Artie, and don't think we can or should do anything.

With that fatalistic attitude, heaven help us!

Anonymous said...

5:43

When did Artie say he didn't think we could or should do anything? Sounds like he's been working on trying to save the City money from the start. It's sort of silly trying to blame him for the recession.

As far as every little bit helps....it's kinda like sticking your finger in the leaky dike and hoping it's gonna stop the deluge. Now maybe you'd consider that a "fatalistic attitude"....but unfortunately, it's the truth.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Arties damage control is working full time!

But then, what is new?

P. Revere said...

I see that Stortzs letter made the Observer.

Hope people read it and take heed.