February 25, 2009

Rift developing between mayor and finance commissioners

A showdown is brewing between the city’s Board of Finance and Mayor Art Ward.

Janet Moylan, a finance board member, said she is getting the feeling that an adversarial relationship is beginning to flare up.

The powerful nine-member panel  that oversees city spending asked last month for Bristol’s department heads to detail what they’d do if ordered to slice spending by 5 or 10 percent.

But Ward told the supervisors to hold off on the scenarios because he wanted to “avoid a chaotic and panic situation” within city government if it isn’t necessary.

That didn’t sit well with at least some finance commissioners.

“It’s our budget process,” said Ron Messier, a veteran finance board member.

“The mayor doesn’t own the budget process. The Board of Finance owns the budget process,” Messier said.

But Ward produced a memorandum Wednesday from Richard Lacey, a city lawyer, that said finance commissioners have “have a duty to make detailed inquiries” about expenditures and budget proposals, but cannot “direct a department head to make a presentation to the board within present budgetary guidelines.”

Lacey said the mayor can require supervisors to take action, but not the finance board.

Ward said he’s not ready to do that. He’s already asked them to keep their proposed increases close to zero, he said, and he doesn’t want to cause problems for department chiefs who are already straining to cope with tough times.

“I gather you’re not really interested in having our support,” Moylan told the mayor during a budget hearing Wednesday at the library.

Moylan said the finance board needs “to look at the city as a whole” as it works out this year’s city spending plan instead of simply issuing an edict that everyone has to freeze spending, including the Board of Education.

“We need to look at some of the other departments as well as education,” Moylan said, because it may make more sense to slice purchases or programs elsewhere rather than hammering the schools to save money.

Holding the line on school spending would likely mean layoffs of some untenured teachers and staff and perhaps pare programs such as music, officials have said.

“I don’t think that we can cut the Board of Education’s budget that much,” Moylan said.

Ward said the schools are a separate entity and responsible for preparing their own budget. He said, though, that Superintendent Philip Streifer is working closely with him and the finance board.

Moylan called it “mind-boggling” that the school budget can lay out the consequences of major budget cuts, but there’s no way to do the same on the city side without the mayor giving the order.

Cheryl Thibault, another finance board member, said that the impact statements about cuts in other departments would allow decision-makers to know their options.

Without them, she said, “We don’t have the tools in front of us” to make choices.

“We need to do away with the word ‘chaos,’” Messier said. “There might be trauma,” but not chaos.

But given the hard times facing most taxpayers, he said, there’s no reason city employees should be spared the worry that everyone else shares.

Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski said the fiscal overseers can push the issue with the mayor.

“Obviously, you people are in favor of this. We can do this,” Miecznikowki told the board Tuesday.

Wednesday, Miecznikowski said the key to resolving the impasse is to avoid bickering and for finance commissioners to ask nicely for whatever they want.

“The mayor will work with us,” he said.

But it’s not clear that Ward will require the impact statements sought by the finance panel.

“At this point in time, I don’t feel the department heads should be made to resubmit their budgets,” Ward said.


*******
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cut where the fat is: education.

Anonymous said...

Does Ward have any idea as to running the city?

Or is he so confident that his union buddies will get him reelected that he feels he can do whatever he wants?

This certainly is no way to get good people to serve on City boards.

Maybe he wants to dumb the boards down to his level

Anonymous said...

Mayor Ward is a Leadager.

For the uninformed, that is a person in charge that confuses leadership with micromanagement!

Concerned Conservative said...

If I could grade people on their worth to the citizens of Bristol, I'd give Ron Messier an "A" and Richard Lacey an "F".

Anonymous said...

There is fat everywhere: some of it is called "supporters of Ward"

Anonymous said...

Screw the Mayor! Why do the BOF members need to hear it from department heads in the first place? It would create a much better atmosphere of cooperation with their help, but the Mayor is on a mission(re-election). Politics with the budget in an election yearhas no conscience.

All the BOF members need to do is to take out the excel spreadsheets and cut cut cut to their hearts desire. Pass the budget that reflects the level of cuts and have the department heads figure out how to implement it.

Of course it would be INTELLIGENT to have department head input...but then again Wardie boi isn't the brightest baulb in the box and he is protecting his unionites...it is an election year!

Anonymous said...

There is FAT, and Ward is right to ask the BOE to trim the FAT from their budget.. Pepperoni pizza, anyone?
Lacey is doing his job.

Anonymous said...

If Zoppo were in office she would have anticipated the need for budget cuts and asked the dept. heads to cut 5% off the budget from the get-go like every major corporatation mandated from their dept. heads. Maybe that's because she has a degree in government affairs and recognizes the fat in city government. Ward is trying to run the city like he ran his bar --being everyone's buddy and never taking a stand. Then he finally takes a stand with the finance board and makes himself look foolish. You get what you voted for.

Anonymous said...

Ward was warned by the then outgoing mayor of the need to closely monitor the fiscal situation.
He ignored that heads up, and now he is scrambling, AND being held hostage by Kloko.

We got what we voted for, and now we are paying for it!

Pot calling the kettle said...

"Screw the Mayor!"

Real classy 6:33. I sure hope that you're not a politician (unfortunately, I suspect you are). Anonymous insults and name calling are the tools of a bully and a coward (which I also suspect you are). Looks like maybe YOU are not the "brightest baulb in the box" either.

Anonymous said...

"Mayor Ward is a Leadager.

For the uninformed, that is a person in charge that confuses leadership with micromanagement"
________________________________

9:32 PM is cephalocolonic.

For the uninformed, that is a person whose head is so far up his...er...well, you get the picture! ;0)

Anonymous said...

Once again Ward protecting his union boys!

Ward...moving Bristol Back-Ward

Anonymous said...

Maybe Stortz wasn't so bad after all.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see some BOF Commissioners showing some backbone. And two are women!

Some of the others are poster boys for Term Limitation.

Anonymous said...

Where is Bob Dunlop when Ward needs him?

Anonymous said...

My Way or the Highway

Ward hasn't changed.

Anonymous said...

7:55 poster,

If your talking about being "classy" take a look at your mayor! Not very classy when your walking around representing the city with a beer in your hand!

Anonymous said...

8:03

I agree, Ward is both!

Anonymous said...

"Not very classy when your walking around representing the city with a beer in your hand!"

If you're honest (it's a stretch), you'll admit that you've NEVER seen him walking around with a beer in his hand while he's "representing the city." Besides, with your foolish insults and childish comments, I'm guessing you wouldn't recognize class if it walked up and slapped you in the face anyway!

Anonymous said...

11:12 AM Poster

Actually, I was referring to 9:32, but I guess he's not the only one who's cephalocolonically challenged. Good luck with that!

Anonymous said...

12:35

We are all entitled to our opinions no matter how wrong yours may be.

Anonymous said...

12:35

We are all entitled to our opinions no matter how wrong yours may be.

Anonymous said...

When he is introduced as the Mayor of Bristol, is asked to say a few words on behalf of the city, I would say he is representing the city.

And, Yes, I have seen him with a beer a number of times! As have many other people!

Anonymous said...

3:07 - Once again...He never has a beer in his hand when he's "representing the city." What he does on his own time is none of your business.

Anonymous said...

3:04 - 3:04

I think you just proved my point!

Anonymous said...

First of all, he is always representing the city.

And second, I have seen him with a beer bottle in his hand at functions where he was representing the city.

Anonymous said...

7:27,

Pretty juvenile of you to keep trying to beat a dead horse (Ward's more than a decade old DUI) every opportunity you get, but hey, if that's all you've got...beat away!

Anonymous said...

12:38

How about since JANUARY 2, 2009?

Maybe if you were more involveed within the city, and attended some/more functions, you would see him as many others do.

He is lucky that his competition is Ken Johnson!

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that the Republicans can't/won't come up with some one better than Ken Johnson?

We need to take our city back: Johnson IS NOT the answer!