June 4, 2009

City budget approved with layoff and doubts

City leaders approved a $170.8 million spending plan Thursday that would freeze property taxes, ax 14 currently vacant positions, snatch $2.5 million out of the rainy day fund and lay off three public works employees.

“The economy and the taxpayers are at the edge of a cliff and I don’t think we should push them off,” Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski said.

The budget approval at a joint session of city councilors the Board of Finance locks in the mill rate at last year’s level and preserves municipal services.

Two councilors voted against the budget -- Democrats Craig Minor and Kevin McCauley. They said it took too great a bite out of public works.

“This was a tough, tough, tough budget,” Mayor Art Ward said, but one that takes into account the dire economy and sinking revenues coming to City Hall from a fiscally strapped state.

It calls for spending $108,000 less the city allocated in last year’s budget, which apparently proved insufficient to cover costs. Ward said a deficit looms as the fiscal year approaches an end this month.

To keep spending down, officials delayed bonding, put off nearly all equipment purchases, cut road paving in half and other measures that for the most part merely postponed spending that will ultimately prove necessary.

“We’ve made hard choices and difficult choices,” Miecznikowski said.

For city Councilor Mike Rimcoski, a Republican, it proved the first budget in four years he could support -- because it freezes property tax rates.

Minor, who is not seeking reelection, said a half a mill tax hike would have covered many of the needs in public works that are going begging in Ward’s budget, including building repairs and road fixes.

Public works is “taking big, big hits,” said city Councilor Cliff Block, who voted to make those hits. He said officials are merely doing what the public demands of them.

McCauley, who wanted a .39 mill hike, said that public works spending has reached “a dangerous and critical point of not being able to maintain our infrastructure.”

“It’s a safety issue,” he said.

Janet Moylan, a finance commissioner, said the city has to make hard choices just like families must when their income shrinks.

Ron Messier, another finance board member, said the budget process this year “brought everyone together” as a team in ways he hasn’t seen in recent years, when factions have clashed on spending priorities.

This time around, education, which has been a battlefield, provided few fireworks. Officials provided about half the increase sought by schools and nobody protested. School officials are working out how they’ll cope but have said they won’t let any cuts hurt classrooms.

Councilors and finance board members alike said they figure next year’s budget will make this year’s version look like a walk in the park. They promised to start working on it in August and keep at it all year.

Three layoffs likely in public works; police take hit, too

Unless the municipal union that represents public works employee agrees to wage concession that it has already rejected, three workers will be laid off this month.

Targeted for elimination -- in a bid to save $138,000 -- are a maintenance equipment operator, labor and solid waste driver.

Officials of Local 1338 of Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers said they don’t know if the union will reconsider its stance on concessions.

Mayor Art Ward said if they want to change their position on wage concessions in order to save the trio of jobs, they need to act swiftly.

The other city union that declined to make concessions, which represents police officers, won’t face layoffs.

But the police are getting socked under the new budget as well.

If the police union refuses to make contract concessions to save money within a few days, the budget would take both a lieutenant and a sergeant and return them to the ranks of patrol officers.

That would save $30,000 but would make it less likely that officers as a whole would collect overtime and limit their promotional opportunities.

The city is also planning to trim overtime by $78,000 as part of the move.

The result, the mayor said, would save enough money from the department while bolstering the officers who are out in the front ranks.

"That's not compromising public safety," Ward said.

Only one city councilor, Democrat Kevin McCauley, voted against slicing the jobs.

But Democrat Frank Nicastro abstained on the public works cut because his son, Frank Nicastro, Jr is the maintenance equipment operator.

The younger Nicastro wouldn’t lose his city job, however, because he has the right to bump more junior personnel in lower positions.

In the end, typically, the three newest hires wind up with pink slips in this situation, the city’s personnel director, Diane Ferguson, said.

City Councilor Ken Cockayne said he appreciates the concessions made by other city unions and hopes Local 1338 and the police follow suit.

“I don’t want to see anyone lose their jobs in these tough times,” Cockayne said.

Fact Box

Proposed spending:  $170.8 million

Education share:  $102.3 million

City share: $67.7 million

Proposed mill rate:  25.99


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


Anonymous said...

CIty has 14 vacant positions? Which ones are going?

Anonymous said...

Roads at Ward's house are repaired - God forbid his new car hits a bump. Screw the rest of us who have to miss the pot holes and deal with roads in need of repair. Ward is doing what Nicastro did - trying to hold down taxes so he can get re-elected. If he does, then 2 more years for him to fill his bank account and then he will hit us all with higher taxes.

Must be nice Mayor lining up your bank account on the backs of taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

All along Kloko was saying the city would have a surplus.
Now Ward says ther will be deficit.

Which is it?

Anonymous said...

Start the layoffs and cut the overtime now.

Anonymous said...

We live in a real world we need serious cuts now. Or next year will be a diasastor.

Anonymous said...

Moving Back Ward!!!

Ward the politician, not a manager for Bristol!

Anonymous said...

Ward talks about a defecit this year: no wonder, he is spending about 5 MILLION more than originally budgetted!

So much for good fiscal management in bad times.

Anonymous said...

If next year will be worse, why not bite part of the bullet now?

Delaying doing anything, which Ward has done up to now, has put us in the hole we aree in now.

Why repeat the mistake?

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Art Ward.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the potholes on Art Ward's street and Rich Mizer's many many streets are fixed? I know Mizer has at least 1 newly paved road for some of his properties.

Anonymous said...

Don't let it scare you. Trust me they will find money and roads will be fixed and paved. Otherwise the new City Attorneys will be busy with lawsuits from people that get their cars messed up by the potholes. Smallclaims court only costs $35 to enter a case andsue someone up to $5k. Its a liability issue really. And I would file a suit if my car was damaged from unkempt roads.

9:01 has a good question. But in addition I'd also like to know- How long have these positions been open? Have we saved money by not having replaced them thusfar? If so, where has that money gone? Have the lack of these positions caused any major issues as to work getting done on time and done properly? And why haven't the jobs been posted on the City website like they should have been?

Oh and I wanted to mention...there was a post a while back talking about union workers in Bristol and how they are overpaid. I commented that most school janitors start off getting paid $20 an hour to be janitors.. and that the job could be done by a Vendor for 1/2 that price,as well as not having to pay benefits and other employment taxes for these folks. Or even just make two part time positions out of every one full time position and not pay the part-timers benefits. This would still same money as well.
Many of you didn't want to believe me and said I had no clue what I was talking about because "janitors do not make that much money" according to some folks (that are in denial) At that time I told you that when I see it online again, I will post it. This posting is for an elementary school. But I believe high school workers get paid even more. In any case, its close to what I said. With benefits included their total compensation exceeds $25 an hour. Here is the link so you can see for yourselves: http://www.applitrack.com/Bristol/onlineapp/jobpostings/view.asp?internaltransferform.Url=&category=Maintenance%2FCustodial

Anonymous said...

The public works guys are getting exactly what they deserve for not giving concessions at a time like this. I hope these people remember that they paid their union dues so the union could protect them. When they do the walk of shame home to their families, pink slip in hand, and tell them they don't have a job, they should call the union leaders and thank them for their help and for putting their dues to good use. The union leaders knew what would happen, but they aren't worried because the union officials can't get laid off. Keep paying your dues, they are working hard for you.

Anonymous said...

"Screw the rest of us who have to miss the pot holes and deal with roads in need of repair."

Looks like putting food on the table and making sure your light bill gets paid isn't a problem for you if all you need to whine about is pot holes...Get a life, would ya?

Anonymous said...

It looks like 9:07 has never spent a night tossing and turning trying to figure out how he's gonna pay the mortgage now that his spouse is laid off...nope, not him...he's worried about them pot holes. Lucky, lucky 9:07. Must be nice!

Anonymous said...

Ward is just playing the shell game with the vacant positions - don't fill them, save money, then fill them later. All smoking mirrors. Time for real leadership in this town - get rid of Wardie Boy - Union Master.

Anonymous said...

Of course McCauley voted not to get rid of jobs, he's a union boy! Working for the best of the union.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me if Ward didn't give the raises months ago, he wouldn't be asking for them back.

Guess Cockayne was right!

Cockayne for Mayor 09

Anonymous said...

What I find interesting and troubling about this post and the subsequent comments is that it appears our residents and politicians care more about potholes and public works then public safety. This sort of sums up the "blue collar" thought process that has been plaguing Bristol for years. The priorities in this city are extremely twisted. If this were Farmington, West Hartford or Litchfield, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

Anonymous said...

Keeping the city in good shape, pot holes included, is the mayors job.
Putting food on the table is your job.

A one mill increase would cost most people (home owner) less than $3/week.

While we would like to not have to pay that, if that amount is going to break anyone, the problem is much bigger than that.

That is a half pack of cigarettes, that is @20 miles week, that is 1-2 beers or soda/week and so on.

Besides, youi will be paying it and more next year!

Anonymous said...

"Guess Cockayne was right!"

Guess again!

Anonymous said...

while every one was woking hard at city hall getting the final version of the budget in order, the highly
paid Comptroller Klocko was seen
on the golf course. Another example of good leadership: you people work while I play.Good for Klocko,bad for Bristol

Anonymous said...

10:09 poster,

I'd like to know how you say "guess again"? If the raises didn't go out, no one would be laid off. All ward is asking for is exactly what he gave them back, nothing else.

Anonymous said...

First layoff should have been Rosenthal! Wonder how much he will raise for Ward this election? He is just another lazy department head hiding behind his union.

Anonymous said...

Is this budget balanced?

Anonymous said...

How come the lawyers budget went up 25%?

If it was for a settlement, then maybe the city should modify the budget structure so that we get a clearer picture as to how much it cost to run each department.

Seems like a lack of transparency here.

Steve Collins said...

11:49 -- Yes, it's balanced.

11:56 -- The money isn't for a settlement. It's to pay the expected cost of the lawyers involved in known cases.

11:04 -- I'm quite sure Rosenthal won't be raising any money for Ward this year.

7:52 -- The 14 vacant positions the mayor referred to were axes from the budget. They no longer exist. To restore them would require the City Council to vote to create the position again, which may happen someday, but it almost certainly won't be anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

"Keeping the city in good shape, pot holes included, is the mayors job.
Putting food on the table is your job."

Would seem that making sure the citizens of our city can put food on the table should be the #1 priority...it's a hell of a lot more important than pot holes.

Anonymous said...


How much did the teachers and/or BOE give back? Were they even asked for concessions?

Steve Collins said...

I don't know what concessions, if any, were sought or made on the Board of Education side. I know people were talking there, but am unsure what was decided, if anything.
The city government can't ask for concessions from school employees. They answer to the Board of Education.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, let me see. Our infrastructure, which was just beginning to get to where it needed to be after ten years of no tax hikes under the Nicastro administration, is now going to be back in the tank again!

Oh yes, Art, you may get re-elected in the fall, but let's see what next year's budget looks like. Let's see if you can avoid raising taxes next year! It would have been more prudent to raise them a little and deal with the consequences than have to raise them substantially in order to keep us in the black not to mention there will probably be more layoffs.

I guess it's easier to try to pass the buck to the next mayor just like Nicastro did and attempt to look like a hero when all it takes is a little investigative work to find out just how badly Bristol suffers when the pubic works budget it not properly funded. Look what happened to Couture after Nicastro left. He couldn't keep up the front and had to raise taxes.

A small increase every year is better than no increase at all and then being hit like Hartford was this past year ... Economics 101.

Anonymous said...


I trust that the positions were eliminated as a result of BOF action, not the mayors! I do no belive that he has that authority.

Also, has anyone come up with a figure as to what that action is worth in the coming budget: salaries, benefits etc?

Anonymous said...

How come Parks got away scot free?

Who do they know, or does Nelligan and Ragaini have that much influence?

Anonymous said...

Couture and Stortz tried to redirect the city after the Nicastro debacle: now Ward is driving us BACK WARD!

Anonymous said...

Well, guess who doesn't get my vote...again

Anonymous said...


I would like to know too. It appears that Ward snowed the people as to what the shortage was.

Would be interesting.

Anonymous said...

hey economics 101 this is Bristol not the brightest group. They would rather elect their friends(to screw them) then someone withelse. Unless we clean all of Bristol(from the mayor to all his dept head boys)Bristol will remain in the red. These guys aren't college educated to know about economics and nor are the residents who vote for them. Everyone could care less whats going on until it affects them.Look around Bristol, if you think it's ugly now wait it will only get worse.

Embarrassed for you said...

"These guys aren't college educated to know about economics and nor are the residents who vote for them. Everyone could care less whats going on until it affects them.Look around Bristol, if you think it's ugly now wait it will only get worse."

Obviously "these guys" aren't the only ones who are educationally challenged, and please don't underestimate the IQ of the voters. Most of us really do care about our city and we've chosen a leader who has successfully kept Bristol on an even keel during this recession. Oh, and if you think Bristol is ugly...MOVE. That'll definitely improve the neighborhood!

Anonymous said...

Ward hasn't kept the city on even keel, he has dragged it down.
He has done virtually nothing to address the situation except take advantage of all the work his predecessors have done.

He had plenty of warning and chose to sit on his hands.
Now we are paying for hisineptness.

Anonymous said...

Dear 5:20 ,Mrs. Ward please dont tell us how well your husband is doing. We all know. It shows. Broken windows,empty buildings.Have you driven downtown at all? If thats what you call good,then you move to New Britian.

Anonymous said...

5:30 Sweetheart, even with all of the warnings the sharpest minds in the country couldn't stop our economy from going into the can. Ward's done a great job dealing with the recession...and it's just killing you, huh?

Anonymous said...

"Dear 5:20 ,Mrs. Ward"

Ah yes, more of the typical assumptions and innuendos we've come to expect from some of the anti-Ward crowd...also typical of their comments - WRONG!

Anonymous said...

Too late. Bristol has turned into New Britain.

disgusting said...

5:48 - you have really lowered the depth of sleeze when you stoop to involve the mayor's wife into this cesspool of slime - if you don't have enough decency to not involve families then the message that you send is loud and clear - you are nothing but a lameless puke.

Anonymous said...

Please dont spend time worrying about potholes the new people coming to bristol are walking in. DRIVE AROUND. The wezt end is filled drugs and booz and cops on cell phones. Within three years you wont want to be here.

Anonymous said...

What the hell is going on frank cant vote the mayors kid is a cop mcauly is firemann. who else has family in the union. What a joke.

Anonymous said...


Jusy WHAT has he done to deal with the recession?

Anonymous said...

Did Ward really cut the Veterans Service Officer position?

Anonymous said...

7:18 poster,

If I remember right, Ward involved Cockaynes son in the newspaper not long ago. It's real low when you involve young children when talking to the news reporters.

Then again, that's all Ward and his people know. Low dirty things. Wouldn't expect anything else from a bunch of Union Hacks!

Anonymous said...

After all that huulabulloo, only 3 layoffs, MAYBE?

Art, all hat and no cattle.

Anonymous said...

"Well, guess who doesn't get my vote...again"

Ken Cockayne? I know...me either!

raindrops keep falling on my head said...

one has to be a glutton for pain to run for office in Bristol.
no matter what an elected or appointed official does, they can count on being pummeled to death on this site by people whose only reason for breathing seems to be to bash the hell out of someone else.
I surely don't agree with every decision of elected or appointed people but I also don't believe that every action needs to be negatively disected to the bone either.
I think that even the odds would dictate that even a tiny, minute fraction of decisons might even qualify as rational; but not on this site, which is probably the reason that very little credibility is ever given to these postings.
Oh well, must be that some of you posters even crave the results and personal effects of peeing in the wind.

Anonymous said...

"We made hard choices and difficult choices" Mize said.

Guess English isn't one of your strong suits either.

Anonymous said...

You said it best, all these comments are childish, unproductive slams.
If this is politics, no wonder this country is in the shape it's in, and if these comments are coming from commissioners, council people and other board members, hang your heads in shame. You are the bigger problem.

Anonymous said...

Ken C for Mayor! He is the only one with the courage to vote against approving the contracts b/c we couldn't afford it. I guess he was right after all!

Say what you want about Ken, but he is the only dissenting voice on the counsel, that is he is the only Republican with any stones! Rimcocki is a RINO. He talks the talk, but walks with Ward only. Thank god for Ken. Maybe if he gets some other Republicans on the counsel with him next year we might see some real issues get tackled.

GASB 45 anyone?

Anonymous said...

"Say what you want about Ken, but he is the only dissenting voice on the counsel"

Sometime being disagreeable is simply being...disagreeable. I know he thinks he does, but maybe Ken really doesn't have all the answers (at least not the right ones)!

self praise said...

Ken C should hope that others praise him rather than writing his own pats on the back.

Anonymous said...


I agree that Ken may be a dissenting voice on the council. maybe the only one.
But, what positive ideas has he offered, what possible solutions has he put forth?
I have mentioned this to him many times, but unless he comes up with positive things, he will be looked on as a negative person.

Hope he listens to more than the people that are using him to get their ideas out there, but are unwilling to come forward.

ANd, where is theepublican leadership, the Republican Party in all of this?

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with 7:36, 7:43 and 9:30, Ken's ONLY claim to fame is that he usually disagrees (loudly) with just about everyone (well that and the fact that he proclaimed himself a "mad dog'). He offers no solutions. No new ideas. No real communication ~ just lots and lots of barking ~ kinda more like a cranky little poodle than a "mad dog."

Anonymous said...

GASB 45 was an alternative to this mess.

The COO was an alternative.

Voting no on the contracts was a pretty novel idea too and in hindsight he is looking pretty good right now.

Going after Rosenthal as hard as he did early in his tenure looks pretty good right now too.

Shoot him down all you want, but he has offered solutions and alternatives. You may not agree with him, but he has offered up some new ideas. You know like accountability, fiscal restraint, and transparency in our government. Oh yeah, and he seems to love rattling the cages of the old guard which has been desparately needed for years.

Cockayne for Mayor in 09!

Anonymous said...

Ward gets mad when you use his kid the cop in the papers, but its okay for Ward to attack Ken's kid? Ward is such a two-face.

snow blow said...

when did ward attack ken's kid? never heard of it, seems like another snow job by someone eating yellow snow.

Anonymous said...

So many Republicans are corporate leaders and white collar workers. How come none of them ever want to step up to the plate and run for office in their hometown of Bristol? The candidates the Republican Town Committee offers up for city council and mayor leave much to be desired. Why are the Republicans so apathetic when it comes to running for office, but always the first to throw stones when the Democrats do something they don't like? Put up or shut up!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Stortz wasn't so bad after all!

Anonymous said...

hey 7:40,
Ken has not been the only dissenting voice on the council. That's a bunch of bunk! I suggest you show up at council meetings. He approved this budget even though he knows very well, and just stated in the article today, that it will be a tough go in 2010. Of course it will! We will now have to swallow a large tax increase instead of going up in small increments.
Let's face it. Taxes have to go up. You can lay off all you want, but in the end, unless you want to totally cripple the city, there will have to be taxes that are raised. There's no way to avoid it. Might as well do it a little at a time.
Let's see what happens to our roads and services now that the PW budget has been decimated. Yeah, great going, Ken! By the way, anytime I see a "Go, Ken, Go" posting, I know it's Ken. How shameful!

Anonymous said...

12:03 Poster,

McCauley go back to work!

Anonymous said...

7:40 Poster,

You don't see to many Reps. running for office because they are to busy working for a living. Not everyone can sit back and have a union protect them so they can just collect a check.

Besides, many of the qualified Reps would have to take a pay cut to run for Mayor. Then what would you do when they arent paying such high taxes to pay for all the handouts the Dems want to give.