Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Dan Malloy told party leaders recently that things have to change in
“The mere fact that they almost chased ESPN out of town is amazing,” Malloy said.
The tax changes that ESPN opposed have been stripped from revenue plans developed by the Democratic-controlled legislature after critics howled, but Republican Gov. Jodi Rell never backed the tax hikes that lawmakers initially sought.
But Rell came in for plenty of criticism from the
Malloy said that Rell’s plans to shutter technical schools in
“She’s clearly after you,” Malloy said.
Rell’s spokesmen have repeatedly said that no town has been targeted. They said that Rell is trying to spread the pain of closing an $8 billion budget gap as fairly as possible across the entire state.
They said that Rell doesn’t want to hike taxes so there’s no alternative except to close some courthouses, schools and other services in order to fund more crucial needs.
Malloy said that
Focusing on the need to create more jobs, he said, is “how the Democrats are going to win” the 2010 governor’s race.
At least two other top Democrats -- Secretary of the State Susan Bysiezwicz and former House Speaker James Amman -- are also in the running for their party’s gubernatorial backing.
Malloy said that he would like to avoid a potentially costly primary fight this time -- he lost one narrowly in 2006 to
Malloy, who’s stepping down as Stamford’s mayor in November after 14 years at the helm, said he’s got a better chance this time around because “nobody knew me” in 2006. He said he’s ready this time to win.
Rell, whose standing in the polls remains high, hasn’t said whether she’ll seek reelection. No other Republicans have indicated a desire to take her place.
Jim Hopkins, a Democratic activist in
“If they’re not going to pay their fair share, who’s going to pay?”
Malloy said the state needs a more progressive income tax so that the wealthy pay more.
But, he said, the state also has to “fight for every job” and can’t afford to risk losing businesses like ESPN to cheaper locales.
“It’s easy for them to leave,” Malloy said.
City Treasurer Bill Veits is seeking a second term in the part-time post.
“I enjoy it,” Veits said. “I’m a numbers guy.”
Veits and city Councilor Cliff Block -- both Democrats -- recently declared their intention to run for reelection, resolving the last questions about the plans of incumbent politicians at City Hall for this year’s municipal races.
Veits said he loves working with the various departments in city government, serving on the Pension Board and overseeing “the girls in the treasurer’s office” who “basically do all the work.”
Block said he believes he’s making a difference on the council.
He said he hopes to stick around long enough “to spend some money one of these days” instead of simply figuring out where cuts should be made.
Veits defeated Republican Mark Anderson to capture the treasurer’s position in 2007 after the retirement of longtime Treasurer Patti Ewen.
Block took the seat vacated when longtime Councilor Art Ward opted to run, successfully, for mayor.
Also running in the 1st District is Republican incumbent Mike Rimcoski and Democratic newcomer Kevin Fuller.
Veits is a a self-employed enrolled agent and income tax specialist with a business in
The treasurer serves a two-year term for a salary of about $5,000. Councilors, who also serve two years, earn about $10,000.
With both the courthouse and the Bristol Technical Education Center slated for closure under Gov. Jodi Rell’s proposed budget, the governor is “really taking a sledgehammer to Bristol,” according to state House Speaker Chris Donovan.
The Meriden Democrat said that Rell’s call to shutter the last two significant state institutions in Bristol – while also slashing the family resource centers from Bristol – shows her lack of concern for the Mum City.
“They’re closing the whole town down,” Donovan said.
One of Gov. Jodi Rell's four spokesmen, Chris Cooper, said that the proposed spending cuts are spread across the state.
"There's no singling out of anybody," Cooper said. "The governor is trying to spread the pain as evenly as possible.”
State Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat who represents the 31st District, said that he’s not sure “if it’s just Bristol, but I know we’re getting hammered.”
“Bristol’s being targeted way too much,” the senator said. “How much more can Bristol lose? Why don’t they just make a ghost town out of us?”
Mayor Art Ward said he understands the need to share the pain “but it just seems that Bristol is being earmarked for more of the share than communities of equitable size.”
“I’m definitely not happy with the proposals that have been presented to us so far,” Ward said.
Ward said he’s not sure why Rell appears to be targeting Bristol “but I’m hoping our local delegation can step forward and present sufficient arguments to the governor whereby she can comprehend the effect on the community if these cuts are exercised.”
State Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose 78th District includes northwestern Bristol, said that he agrees on the need to preserve the technical school.
“It’s a good program,” Hamzy said. “It achieves the objective that we set out for it. That’s not just because it’s in Bristol.”
“That’s up to us to make that point” to the governor, Hamzy said.
Colapietro, an ardent technical school backer, said that losing the courthouse would hurt downtown, drying up business for restaurants and other enterprises that are trying to hang on in the city center.
Hamzy said that people need to keep the larger financial problem in context, blasting the Democratic leaders of the legislature for choosing to rile up residents with a series of press conferences rather than presenting a spending plan that would address the $8 billion shortfall facing the state.
“Beating up on Gov. Rell’s proposals is easy,” Hamzy said, but offering an alternative is tough.
Hamzy said the recently completed session marks the first time that the General Assembly hasn’t endorsed a budget, a move he said that leaves him “totally amazed.”
Colapietro said that people don’t realize how hard it is for the legislature to make cuts because everyone has different ideas about what’s worth saving.
“People yell cut, cut, cut,” he said, but they don’t realize the consequences.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Colapietro said. “You might get it.”
Targeted for closure
Targeted for closure
Bristol Technical Education Center
State social services office
State labor office
Division of Motor Vehicles office
The state targeted the Department of Motor Vehicles office in New Britain for a number of reasons, according to Michael Cicchetti, deputy director of the Office of Policy and Management.
Cicchetti said Saturday the office was picked for closure because it is leased rather than owned, which means the state can save on rent if it’s not open.
It is also reasonably close to the full service offices in Wethersfield and Waterbury, he said, along with AAA offices in West Hartford and Plainville that provide some of the services.
Moreover, Cicchetti said, more of the DMV’s business will be able to be done online soon, necessitating fewer trips to the actual offices.
Registration by mail and longer times between license renewals have already helped cut down on the use, he said.Because of those factors, Cicchetti said, officials thought the New Britain DMV could be closed “without having a huge impact on service.”
The Connecticut Clean Fuel Program last week awarded $72,000 to the city to help it may for hybrid public works vehicles.
The city got money to cover the difference between a conventional trash truck and dump truck compared with the hybrid version.
Mayor Art Ward said the new trucks will help save energy while bolstering the public works fleet.
Funded by the Federal Highway Administration, the Connecticut Clean Fuel program distributed more than $645,000 to municipalities across he state last week.
More than six months after school building committees picked architects to design two new schools, city councilors have endorsed the picks.
Though the contracts won’t be signed until the city completes the purchase of property on Matthews Street eyed for one of the 900-student schools, officials expect the deal to go through within a couple of weeks.
Councilors agreed to hire the Hartford firm of Tai Soo Kim, Partners and Architects for $2.14 million to draw up the detailed plans necessary to move ahead with the school slated for construction on the former Crowley dealership site on Pine Street.
The Massachusetts-based Drummey Rosane Anderson, Inc. was tapped for the West Bristol school. It will earn $1.8 million for its work.
Superintendent Philip Streifer said the school building panels each thought it best to hire different firms for the two projects, on the assumption that it would be best to have a firm focused on a single school.
City Councilor Mike Rimcoski, who serves on the Forestville School Building Committee, was the only councilor to vote against either architect.
Rimcoski renewed his plea for colleagues to award the Forestville contract to DRA as well because it would cost taxpayers $350,000 less.
With the economy struggling and a new fiscal year about to begin, he said, “I don’t think we’re starting out right by blowing through $350,000” for no good reason.
Ken Cockayne, the only other Republican councilor, said he would normally agree with Rimcoski but in this case, he said, councilors should take the advice of the committee members who actually slogged through the many applications from different firms.
Councilor Kevin McCauley said the Crowley site for the Forestville school offers a unique challenge because Greene-Hills School and Peck Park are next door and must continue operating during the construction period. That takes expertise, he said, that Tai Soo Kim offers.
Rimcoski said he plans to use the council’s votes against hiring DRA for both projects to his advantage during the municipal election campaign this year.
DRA was not the low bidder on the West Bristol site either, officials said, so they’re not sure why Rimcoski favored it there.
With a push from state Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat, the state Department of Education has told city officials that the June 2010 deadline for beginning construction on the new schools can be waived.
Nicastro said the city merely has to ask for the waiver and it will get it.
Superintendent Philip Streifer said the extra time will help.
“With all these pieces falling together, we’ll be in very good shape,” Streifer said.
About the school project
The passage of a new law that allows the city to designate public streets and sidewalks as no-smoking zones clears the way for Bristol Hospital to push for a smoking ban along the municipal roads bordering its property.
Though the new ordinance approved unanimously by the City Council recently opens the door for smoke-free zones, officials say it’s likely they won’t see too many requests to impose the bans.
Bristol Hospital has led the charge on the issue because it wants to keep smoking away from its doors.
With no power to prevent people from lighting up on the city sidewalks just outside, the hospital’s executives said they were stymied unless the city made it possible to ban smoking there.
Marc Edelman, the hospital’s vice president of operations, said that establishing a smoke-free zone around the hospital would safeguard the health and well-being of its staff, patients and visitors.
City Councilor Craig Minor said that before an area can be designated as a smoke-free zone, the council would need to agree to send the request to the hearings and assessment committee that would review the pros and cons.
If the hearings panel recommended the creation of a smoke-free zone, Minor said, the council would again consider the issue, this time to back the decision or turn it down.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro said the hospital would be able to follow the necessary procedure to get what it wants.
But officials admit that it would take unusual dedication for smaller operations or individuals to seek similar designations for public byways bordering their property.
It’s possible that parks or schools might follow the hospital’s lead in a bid to keep smoking away, officials said.
The smoking ban that’s on the table includes language to ensure that Bristol doesn’t impose prohibitions in areas that state law specifically allows smoking, such as outside some restaurants.
This may not be the most appropriate location to post this, but the topic is reference and is all part of the same morass…
City of Bristol Budget 2003 $135 million
City of Bristol Budget 2009 $170.8 million
Average annual increase 4.2% over 6 years*
Total increase over 6 years $35.8 million
Total % increase in past 6 years 26.5%
Projected budget in 2012 @ 4.2%/year $193.2 million (3 years)
Increase from this year’s budget $22.4 million
These figures consider the fact that the budget for this year is a virtual duplicate of last year. In other words, the increases over the past 5 years have been spread out over 6 years, which lowers the total as well as the percent. Much rhetoric has been expressed that with this budget, Bristol is simply postponing expenses that will have to be “made up” in future budgets. Consequently, if the pattern of increases over the past reflects more ‘normal’ years, the budget will be increasing at an even more rapid rate.
It seems to me that trying to come up with another $22 million dollars over the next three years is likely to cripple this city. With State contributions to Bristol’s bottom line likely to be diminishing, with a pension funding dilemma still on the horizon, with landfill leakage cost issues and sewage infrastructure and treatment issues ready to rear their ugly heads and a $2 million ‘rainy day fund’ dip having been made, not to mention this concept that two new schools need to be built…wow. Hold on to your wallet. And the tax income from the ‘Technology’ park isn’t going to put a dent in things if it makes a contribution at all. And ‘Downtown’ continues to become an ever expanding wasteland. And the band plays on...
ESPN has been a very important force mitigating Bristol’s budget increases. If you take their assessed property value as determined in 2006 of $240.7 million, adjust for tax purposes (x.70 = $168,500,000) and multiply that by the mil rate of 25.99 (Please just round a number like that off. Gas stations have been pretending for years that folks are a bit slow and don’t understand that once you get to .99, it is time to bump it up to the next whole number. That increase in the budget is $17,800. Not worth the hint of deception it conjures.), they would be responsible for $4.379 million of the City budget. That would be close to a mil (approx. $4.176 million). They evidently get some tax breaks, but these numbers solely reflect their maximum possible property tax contribution at their listed valuation multiplied by the 25.99 mil rate. The other fees they pay, the property tax their employees who live in Bristol pay and other ways they indirectly contribute to the Bristol economy likely make it a low ball estimate that they are worth a mil on the budget. (I would love to see analyses of these kinds of data, since we seem to be so hard pressed to fund industrial parks and help businesses monetarily. It would be great to know if we get our money back. Seems we make all kinds of projections but I have never seen a cost/benefit analysis done in this regard ‘down the road’ to analyze whether projections panned out – perhaps I missed them.)
ESPN has an assessed value that is greater than the next nine of the top 10 assessed taxpayers combined. So even if we give the top 10 a 2 mil impact, the other 24 mil (25.99 – 2) is coming from ‘elsewhere’. Your pocket is rapidly becoming a larger and larger source of the ‘elsewhere’ money. And that is not just through property taxes, but it will be reflected in state and federal contributions (and your funding of those entities will no doubt accelerate) as well that we cross our fingers will be ‘rebounded’ to us. Lots of luck…
With the last revaluation, I recall hearing from city officials that the over all tax burden in Bristol had shifted somewhat to the private property owner and away from the business/commercial sector. If that is the case, individual taxpayers will be asked in the coming years to contribute largely to the escalating costs of running the city. And even with the conservative increase projections of what will be needed listed above, the addition of another ‘sugar daddy’ like ESPN in that short time would not even fill the gap ($4.379 million x 3 = $13.137 million, the amount another ESPN might contribute if it magically appeared tomorrow versus the $22 million that will likely be needed.) Individual tax payers will be expected to take on a very large burden to maintain Bristol in the future.
I can’t comprehend this happening. The well is not deep enough. There is no other choice but to decelerate the rise in the budget, if not eliminate increases in the next three years all together. There is no other way to do this than to reduce costs. The gravy train has been derailed. We can wait until this is hammered home like the inevitable collapses of many private companies, or we can start facing reality now and get a head start on making Bristol an attractive place to live financially as well as service wise. If we don’t, people with sense will move to communities that do decide to do so. And the problem will be exacerbated.
This city critically needed a manager to run it, and an opportunity to move in that direction was lost recently. We now have an embarrassing situation regarding our Corporation Council office involving both personnel and budget matters. We have an ongoing joust between the city and its Economic Development Director, under whose direction exactly what has been accomplished to mitigate this fiscal bind we are in? We have an ever growing list of empty buildings and lots, most notably down town, and will contribute further to that dilemma ourselves when Bingham, O’Connell and Memorial Boulevard schools are boarded up. We can pound our chests all we want about the ‘ratings’ folks like Moody’s and Fitch and S&P have given the city, but please recall they had rated such corporations as CitiGroup, MBIA, Ambac, AIG… highly before they were impolitely flushed to the bottom of the financial sector cesspool. Our fiscal situation can turn on a dime, and unless something is done, it will.
There have to be workforce reductions and pay scale and benefit adjustments made. There have to be increases in efficiencies – people, equipment and technology have to work harder and produce more for less. There has to be better management of city departments as well as the city as an entity, and more realistic and innovative approaches implemented to get accomplished what needs to be accomplished quickly and efficiently. There needs to be a greater level of voluntarism and participation in government, and leaders should assist this in all manners possible and assure that any obstacles to allowing the community to assist in city affairs and/or directly contribute time and expertise be removed. We pay too much to get too little accomplished, and changing that reality is the only way this city has any chance of surviving in a manner we might all like and be proud of.
It is not really complicated. But it does mean that there must be people in charge who will make the hard choices, hold everyone accountable and have the opportunity to see things through. As nice as it would be if the good times kept rolling, the fact is they have contributed as much as anything to the depths of these bad times. An increase in laziness, selfishness, a sense of entitlement and the growth and spread of unrealistic expectations were a big part of those ‘good’ times, and ultimately put an end to them. It's time to get back to reality, and the quicker, the better.
Ps please excuse any inaccuracies in my numbers and set me straight if I am really off the mark. The city budget is not a simple thing to understand and the contributions to the ‘entire’ budget ($177.9 million vs. the $107.4 million we need to come up with – I think) from the state and other sources make it even more complicated and difficult to compare year to year. And I am not a ‘numbers guy’. I do think it is very important that we all start understanding the budget, revenue sources and debts a bit better, and that simple summaries and analysis be provided to us to facilitate that.