June 9, 2009

Stortz urges quick action on budget

Letter from former Mayor William Stortz:

Now that he city has agreed on a budget, and emotions and personal agenda can be put aside, the city should start, TODAY, looking at what has to be done to address the financial issues the city is facing.

While the international and national situation aspects are out of our control, there are many things that we here in Bristol can control, do control, and should do something about ASAP.

No matter how and when the economy improves, and it will, the city has dug themselves into a financial hole. Working to freeze local taxes is a nice goal, and certainly influenced by local election cycles, but sometimes it is not realistic. Since it was done, we must go from where we are and bite the bullet.

This year the city opted to draw 2.5 million (actually the budget in the paper said (2.895 million) down from the fund balance, to balance the budget. While it may not all be used during the coming year, it is being “encumbered”, and therefore not available. What hasn’t been mentioned is that the fund balance at the end of 2007 was $17,319,000, and at the end of 2008 it was $15, 435,000, a reduction of 10.9%. Calculating the now draw down of $2,500,000, the Fund Balance will have been reduced at least over 25% since 2007. I say at least 25%, because if there is a deficit this year, that will probably be made up from the fund balance. These numbers are based on the assumption that nothing has been drawn down already for the current years budget. It would be nice to know where we really stand in that account.

The question now is, how and will this continued use of Fund Balance affect out bond rating, even if we don’t draw down more in the near future?

A recent article in the media indicated that our neighbor, Southington, who will be bonding 15 million in the near future, estimates that they will be saving $750,000 in interest payment because they opted not to tap their fund balance. With the likelihood of bonding for schools, how much might our use of the fund balance cost us over the years? At the same time, any reduction in the Fund Balance reduces our opportunity for investment income, one of our Revenue sources (which has already dropped considerably)

Other steps taken this time to reach a zero tax increase may not be available next year. How long can wages be frozen? Or clothing allowance not awarded? How long can the city do half a job with road maintenance by keeping the budget low? What happens if the State does close the Court House ($140,000 as revenue in the city budget)?

With fewer new cars being bought, that area of property tax will probably shrink more than it has already. Another reduction in Revenue.

The use of Fund Balance money in the recently approved budget, which will be hard to do next year, will have to be made up somehow. Police cars will have to be replaced, as will other equipment. It appears that many accounts that have been used to balance expenses year by year, were tapped, again to reach a zero tax increase. If so, they won’t be available next year, thereby compounding the problem. One also has to question just how conservative some of the revenue projections really were.

Real reductions will have to be made. The Board of Finance says that they will start in August working on next years budget, which is good to hear.

But, WHY WAIT to start effecting changes? Also, the role of the Board of Finance is limited, outside the budget process. It really is up to the Mayor and the City Council to change the way the city operates. With the next council having at least two new members, we should maximize and utilize the many years of experience of the departing councilmen. The Mayor and Council should start now, soliciting ideas, BIG and SMALL, and implement them as soon as possible. These ideas can come from staff, bargaining units, the public. All ideas should be welcome; all should be carefully reviewed and if workable, implemented as soon as possible. One quick suggestion is that budget activity and status be made more transparent, on a monthly basis.

If significant changes aren’t made to address the hole that has been dug, and to address the impact of new and increasing costs, the impact on the taxpayer next year will be huge. Use of one time gimmickry should be avoided for that only makes things painful longer, as we all know. We must insist on real, ongoing savings to keep Bristol financially stable. 

The city was given a heads up at the beginning of the fiscal downturn back in September/October 2007and apparently did very little about it. I don’t think we can wait any longer without seriously impacting the city and its people.

Bristol is a great city, it has wonderful people, and I am sure that they are willing to help, and would understand if some tough decisions have to be made. It is too late to go back, we can and must go forward.

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


Timing, timing, timingt said...

too bad stortz waited until all of the budget decisions were made but I guess that is the political way of doing things, right Bill?

Bill Stortz said...


Thanks for printing my letter.

To set the record straight, the letter was submitted to the Press, and to the Observer, early Monday eve. (June 8).


Anonymous said...

All layoffs should be made now - and all layoff potions should not be filled for at least 3 to 5 years if at all. Next, all City permit fees should be increased effective immediately, as should all City clerk fees.

What about shutting down town hall one day a week or maybe the dump one day a week? What about furloughs for some public work workers? Or is that a Union no-no?

Also, has any ideas been put fourth on maybe shutting down some city street lights and what finical savings that would be for the city (tax payer)? Just some ideas - but I am only 1 person, I am sure there are a ton more to explore!

Anonymous said...

Apparently, Stortz seems unable to fully realize he is NOT the Mayor anymore. He was defeated.

Why does he continue to put in his two cents as if it will matter to anyone?

Bill: Face it, you have no power or influence. You had your chance to shine, but squandered it. Time to ride off into the sunset with some self-respect still intact.

Steve: Please stop publishing these meaningless psuedo press releases.

Anonymous said...

Stortz was not defeated this past time, he did not seek reelection.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Stortz for your opinion. Now why don't you sit back, relax and let the mayor and the city council do their job.

Anonymous said...


I guess Bill isn't sitting back, BECAUSE the Mayor isn't doing his job!

And he gave them the opening to do their job without butting in.

It is about time someone blew the whistle.

Anonymous said...

If the mayor and city council did do their job responsibly and with the taxpayer in mind, we would'nt be in this hole now. Or we wouldn't be in as much of a hole. The time to aviod problems like this is to "think ahead." Great job on that one guys....

Anonymous said...

"And he gave them the opening to do their job without butting in."

Why the heck should he be butting in??? He didn't pay this much attention when he was mayor, now suddenly he's got all the answers? What a hoot!

Anonymous said...

The mayor and city council are doing their job just fine and we taxpayers appreciate it! Great hob on that one guys!

Anonymous said...

Wait until 2010-2011....The best is yet to come!

Anonymous said...

@ June 9, 2009 5:57 PM

So what are you saying...

Bristol taxpayers are getting a hob job?

If so, I agree!

Anonymous said...

It is clear that the Mayor and City council are just putting off addressing the real problems.

The BOF alluded to that, Stortz made it even clearer.

Lets hope that our officials get their heads out of the sand!

Anonymous said...

I think Stortz just scratched the surface, but covered more than the city officials did.

The drawdown on rainy day fund is worse than we have been told.

Anonymous said...

Storts for Mayor!

Anonymous said...

The city of Bristol is way to big and needs to be trimmed. I can careless if the Unions made concessions! The rainy day fund should never ever had been touched to keep taxes down! The fund is for city emergencies! The laying-off of employees is not a city emergency!

The Democrats and you 2 Republicans need to get your heads out of your ass and start thinking about the future and not this year! Do you really think the state is even going to give anything close to what they gave you this year for cash? Geez the Governor and all the Bristol State Reps are already saying NO!

Why isn't Hamzy ,Wright and Nicastro talking more about what the future holds for its Constitutes?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the mayor put Stortz on the Finace Board.

Anonymous said...

Is there enough money left in the Art Ward slush fund (rainy day fund) to get him reeelected in 2011?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see Stortz back as mayor.

Anonymous said...

Has Ward started to do ANYTHING?