The city owes companies that have received economic development grants about $70,000 more than it has in the account to pay the bills.
City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said the fund has $200,000 in it, but the city already owes $270,000 to companies that have been lured into expanding in Bristol or moving town during the past couple of years.
Klocko said it isn't really a serious problem.
He said the city's economic development director, Jonathan Rosenthal, plans to ask the Board of Finance for an additional $150,000 in order to replenish the account.
Klocko said it shouldn't be controversial since everyone has an interest in seeing more growth in Bristol.
What the problem does show, however, is how tight budgeting and a lack of oversight can lead to an embarrassing situation.
Klocko said the city hasn't put any money into the economic development fund for the past three years. That proved a mistake, he said, because Rosenthal has managed to beat the bushes far more successfully than officials anticipated. [Click here for a list of companies that have received grants in 2008 and 2009.]
All of the money involved has been fully accounted for, Klocko said.
The firms that are owned money, he said, will get it.
"We pay our bills," Klocko said.
He said the finance board will likely take the $150,000 needed for economic development from the contingency fund, leaving about $800,000 for other unanticipated needs.
The comptroller said that his office plans "to beef up internal controls" so it will know if similar fiscal issues arise in the future.
Klocko said that a couple of people in the Bristol Development Authority office will also be trained on the city financial database so they can track the spending better.
Klocko said that some have criticized Rosenthal for allowing the situation to occur, but that's not really fair.
He said the city is short because Rosenthal has been so successful in aggressively seeking new companies for Bristol. Klocko said his job is "to go out there and bird dog" potential firms.
In fact, the city is making sure it has more than $70,000 it knows it needs because it figures at least one other company is likely to agree to come to town in a few months because of Rosenthal's efforts.
Klocko said he knows the money situation appears to be a problem. But, he said, it's really not.
It's like spending $950 on Christmas presents with a credit card knowing that the paycheck in December will cover the tab.
Still, Klocko said, "we are immediately remedying the situation."
Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. update -- Read the full story that appeared in today's Press by clicking here.
I should point out, too, that some comments so far have missed an essential point: that the city gives out some money to help lure new businesses. If the account is short of cash, the city would be foolish to refrain from giving out more money and perhaps losing a new company to another town. Instead, it simply has to take the cash from a different account. That's just bookkeeping. It's not something intrinsically irresponsible.
If I had a jar where I was shoving bills to pay for a future vacation in Cancun, say, it wouldn't be crazy for me to grab a great deal that costs more than I have in the jar if it would ultimately save me money -- as long as I have the extra money somewhere else. The city, of course, does.
I, on the other hand, don't. So it appear Cancun will have to get along without me. I could, though, scrape together enough to get a hot dog and a beer in, say, Waterbury. It's not quite the same thing.
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