$5M Cut From Schools; Pension Idea Nixed

Thomas Breen photoIn a first pass at amending next year’s budget, alders recommended shifting $5 million from the schools to help cover public employee medical benefits, and they signed off on a proposed double-digit tax increase ... for now.

They also ditched a plan to borrow heavily to shore up city pension funds.

Those were some of the key outcomes of the Board of Alders Finance Committee’s final deliberations on the mayor’s proposed $547.1 million operating budget and $79.6 million capital budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The deliberations took place on Thursday evening in the Aldermanic Chambers on the second floor of City Hall.

After two months of public hearings and departmental workshops, the committee ended its portion of the budget-making process by unanimously approving an amended version of the mayor’s proposed general fund budget. They also unanimously approved the original version of the mayor’s proposed capital fund budget.

Those budget documents now go to the full Board of Alders for a first reading this upcoming Monday and a second reading (and final debate and vote) during a special full board budget meeting on Tuesday, May 29. Any alder can submit further amendments to the proposed budget for discussion during the second hearing. The alders must vote on the budget and send it to the mayor for a final sign off by the first week of June.

The Finance Committee decided not to vote on a proposal to issue up to $250 million in Pension Obligation Bonds (POBs), choosing instead to leave that item in committee with the hope that a future pension task force will provide more information on the best path forward for dealing with the city’s two underfunded pensions.

“Over the last several weeks, we’ve listened to a lot of testimony,” said Westville Alder and Finance Committee Co-Chair Adam Marchand at the top of the meeting, “and we’ve come to understand and appreciate the significant structural issues that we as a city face.”

He listed the city’s underfunded pensions, rapidly rising healthcare costs, $66 million in annual debt service, and continued struggles with police and fire overtime as bigger-ticket items weighing down the city budget.

“Many are not new issues,” he said, “but they are very serious.” He noted that all of these issues were exacerbated this year by a reduction in funding from the state.

He then took the lead in laying out the details of the committee’s proposed changes to the mayor’s general fund budget, noting that the committee’s first priority was to address a few of the proposal’s underlying financial assumptions.

“Fiscal responsibility means we have to make realistic assumptions,” he said. “We cannot have a budget based on assumptions for savings that are not going to happen. We found some unrealistic assumptions in the mayor’s budget, and these are holes that we have to fill.”

First and foremost, he said, the committee could not agree to the mayor’s proposal to flat-fund the medical benefits line item at $76 million. “That’s just never going to happen,” he said. The city’s independent Financial Review and Audit Commission (FRAC) has estimated that medical costs for New Haven, and for the market more broadly, are likely to increase by 5 to 8 percent each year.

The committee voted to increase healthcare funding for next year’s budget by $5 million, or 6.5 percent above this year’s funding level.

“That doesn’t fix everything,” he said. “There’s still more work that needs to be done here.” But, he said, it’s a start.

The alders also voted to approve a policy amendment to create a healthcare task force to investigate the quality and costs of medical benefits for city employees, retirees and dependents. The committee voted to allocate $25,000 in next year’s budget towards hiring a consultant to help get the taskforce off the ground.

Tough News For Schools

That $5 million addition to the healthcare budget, Marchand said, would come out of the mayor’s proposed $5 million increase to the Board of Education (BOE) budget.

“It is imperative that we halt the slide in the medical benefits fund balance,” Marchand said. The most readily available funds with which to do that, he said, just happened to be in the proposed education increase.

“But we also want to send a clear signal to the Board of Education that they have to make some changes,” he added. “This is a time when we have to exercise an extreme amount of restraint in our spending.”

The BOE is already looking at a projected $6.5 million deficit this year and a projected $15 million deficit next year, schools Chief Operating Officer (COO) Will Clark said after the meeting. He said this $5 million cut pushed next year’s prospective deficit to upwards of $20 million.

“That’s a significant challenge,” he said, noting that the school system’s deficit has been compounded by a recent decline in state grants. He said the BOE has started addressing its looming deficits through its recent decision to close three city schools. “Our work has only just begun,” he said.

“It’s a tough decision,” Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker-Myers said about cutting funds from the school system to shore up healthcare costs. She said she grew up going to New Haven public schools and cared deeply about their funding, but that she was also confident that a failure to better fund medical costs now would only result in higher and higher payments in the near and long-term future. “We have to stand by the decision that we made.”

Marchand said the committee also proposed to decrease the mayor’s proposed savings from vacancies and employee concessions from $3.6 million to $1.8 million. “That’s too high a figure,” he said about the mayor’s original number, “and unlikely to come to pass.”

He did say, however, that the committee would leave intact the mayor’s proposed $6.1 million revenue initiative, by which her administration plans to solicit additional funds from partners like the state and Yale University. The city’s $18.6 million revenue initiative for the current fiscal year is currently projected to bring in nothing, according to the latest monthly financial report from the city’s finance department.

The increased costs associated with these more realistic financial assumptions, Marchand explained, would largely be balanced out by cuts to almost all of the mayor’s proposed new services and personnel.

21 Positions Cut

The committee cut 21 new or reorganized positions from the budget, including the mayor’s proposed public relations specialist, a body camera specialist for the police department, and a new code enforcement officer for public works.

The committee also nixed the proposed $468,000 expansion of the Health Department’s public health clinic, as well as the $150,000 for the new family justice center.

The committee did vote to restore $18,226 to the City Clerk’s office on top of a technical amendment from the city that gave back an additional $20,074 to the department in anticipation of a busy mid-term election year.

The alders put aside $50,000 to help pay for operations for a not-yet-created Civilian Review Board, which they said they hoped to finally pass legislation on in the coming fiscal year.

Despite all of the cuts, Marchand said he did want to add a note of optimism to the budget proceedings.

“We’re doing tough things,” he said. “It’s not fun saying no. Oftentimes, more programs yield more services for city residents. But I am still bullish about New Haven. People are coming to our city. They’re investing in our city. … We haven’t fixed all the problems yet, but we have confidence that, if we work on it together, we will find a way forward.”

Marchand and his fellow committee members said now that they had laid a more responsible platform for the budget, they hoped to find additional savings to help achieve a reduction to the mayor’s proposed 11 percent tax increase.

“Our first priority now should be to reduce the mill rate increase,” he said.

“When we started this process,” Walker-Myers said, “we heard from residents about the tax increase. And when we approached this budget, we tried to find every bit of savings we could. That’s why we said no to things that might be otherwise be great.” She said she was committed to finding further savings in the budget to help cut the proposed tax increase before the full board holds its second hearing on May 29.

Acting City Budget Director Michael Gormany said that he needed some time to process the committee’s amendment to the budget, as Thursday night was the first time that he was seeing the proposed changes in detail.

Pension Bond Pause

The alders decided to take no action on Thursday night on one of the most discussed and debated proposals in the mayor’s budget: the proposal to issue $250 million in Pension Obligation Bonds (POBs) to help shore up the two city pensions, the Police & Fire Fund (P&F) and the City Employees Retirement Fund (CERF), both of which are currently funded at around 40 percent.

“The risk of bad outcomes is too great for the city,” Marchand said during the deliberations. “At this point the consensus opinion is that we are not in a position of confidence to approve the issuing of the pension obligation bonds.”

Edgewood Alder and Finance Committee Chair Evette Hamilton agreed.

“We need to make sure that these pensions are funded,” she said. “But for me, at this time, $250 million is a big, huge risk for us as a city. Everything is going by assumptions. Assumptions are not facts. You’re assuming this is going to happen, that is going to happen. But what happens if your assumptions are not proven? We cannot afford any more debt now.”

A recent FRAC report cautioned that the likely interest rate on the bonds will be 5.18 percent, and that the pension funds will likely return 6.5 percent on investment over the 30-year life of the POBs. City assumptions, on the other hand, predict a 4.85 percent interest rate and a 7.5 percent rate of return, which FRAC calls too optimistic.

The alders voted to take no action on the POB proposal, thereby leaving it in committee for future deliberation, and instead voted unanimously to approve a policy amendment to create a pension task force charged with studying and recommending strategies for funding the city pensions. They also voted to allocate $25,000 towards the new task force to help pay for any consulting fees.

After the meeting, FRAC Chair Mohit Agrawal said he was encouraged by the proposed creation of the new pension and healthcare taskforces, and said he was sure that FRAC would be involved with both.

“FRAC has made several suggestions regarding the pensions,” Agrawal said as suggested starting points for the pension task force, “including lowering the assumed rate of return, moving to passive investments, flat funding the contributions, and enacting a prohibition on trustees accepting gifts. We also encourage the city to discuss reforms of the pensions such as [City Controller] Daryl Jones’s suggestion of changing COLA [cost of living adjustment] calculations.”

As for some issues to consider for the healthcare taskforce, Agrawal pointed to such reforms as reference and bundle pricing, the use of capitation rather than fee for service, adopting an intensive primary care and continuity of care model a la Yale Health, and potentially joining the state health plan.

“Medical care has become increasingly expensive and increasingly fragmented over the years,” he said, “so the city has a real opportunity to both lower costs and improve quality.”

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posted by: anonymous on May 18, 2018  8:56am

Trump-Boughton-GOP and the massive continuing cuts to public services are all connected. Boughton said he’d be honored by more endorsements from Trump.

Just as an example, Amazon just got a billion dollar tax cut from GOP. Almost all of that will go to the top 0.1%, even as Amazon pays more and more of their workers a poverty wage so they require food stamps just to survive.

posted by: LookOut on May 18, 2018  9:30am

@annonymous - there is not a single member of the GOP in the city legislative branch or the city executive branch.  There is not a single member of the GOP representing the city in the state house or state senate.  There is not a single member of the GOP representing us in the US House or Senate…and of course D Malloy is a leftist.  As much of a jerk that Trump may be, he is not responsible for 30 years of mis-management of our city and state.  The rhetoric diverts attention from the real problems and potential solutions (such as voting out those who are responsible)

posted by: Peter99 on May 18, 2018  9:39am

Finally pie in the sky estimates of budget income and consistent underfunding of line item expenses are being acted on. The Mayor is trying to ram through an unbalanced budget, and she got caught. We cannot nor should we bond to pay for current expenses. We either raise taxes to pay our bills or cut expenditures. Painful but necessary. There is a lot of fluff in the BOA budget. Close schools, get rid of retired consultants double dipping, and cut the administrative staff to the bone. Keep the classroom positions that directly benefit the students and strip out everything else that diverts money from the job of educating our kids.

posted by: wendy1 on May 18, 2018  10:12am

TAX YALE NOT US.  After reading this it is clear Toni and the BOA will raise taxes on the poor and middle class.  I will fight their reelection with my bullhorn.  You want big $$, New Haven, ask Rosa DeLauro, the multi-millionaire who wants reelection or Rick Blumenthal worth 86 million.

posted by: denny says on May 18, 2018  10:15am

Why isn’t the city considering layoffs?

posted by: quercifolia on May 18, 2018  10:20am

“Signed off” on a 11% tax increase for now…am I reading this correctly? Is anyone else outraged by this nonsense?! Tell me when we riot in the streets, I’m ready.

posted by: newhavenishome on May 18, 2018  10:30am

Not enough, we are still looking at an 11% increase for New Haven citizens.

We are still going to contribute 10m towards the Strong School construction when those children can be placed in other existing NHPS schools. This is a horrible decision especially after closing Creed.

Cut further. Demand furlough days from everyone at City Hall.  Harp needs to give up her driver. 

People,wake up! Hold the Board of Aldermen accountable. They are the only ones that can stop this tax increase. Vote them out if this budget goes through with this exorbitant increase.

posted by: NHVCyclist on May 18, 2018  11:21am

Forget re-election, how about a recall effort for the Mayor (who proposed a fiscally irresponsible budget with no regard for current or future taxpayers), and any Alder that supports an unreasonable tax increase.

The “reduced state funding” claim is a fabrication.  There was simply “less of an increase.” 

Let’s take a neighboring town which had it’s state assistance ZEROED OUT - Branford.
Last I checked they were working on a budget that was going to keep the mill rate within less than 1% of current - either up or down.  How is this possible? 
Also note their First Selectman’s town-funded transportation is a ~10 year old retired Police cruiser, which he must drive himself.
Here in New Haven, the mayor is driven with a security detail.  Top Brass drive brand new $55k+ Chevy Tahoe’s, and even city department heads have brand new midsize SUVs.
Branford also did not see a mid-year car tax increase last year, nor a property re-revaluation that punitively and unrealistically raised assessments on certain neighborhoods.

On second thought, we should have a recall effort regardless.

posted by: Patricia Kane on May 18, 2018  11:46am

Any riot opposing this budget should be in front of the Yale Corporation. With $27 billion in its accounts, it not only could provide a free education to every student, but it could pay its fair share of taxes to the City of New Haven.
  Only its dedication to using its enormous wealth and clout to block a rescission of its exemption (dating to the 1700s when it was the ONLY college in Ct and therefore merited subsidy) stops this mal-distribution of wealth from citizen residents to the Principality of Yale. Harp and Looney gave it a try. Harp should be as persistent on seeking tax fairness as she is on pumping up Tweed.
    When 40% of a municipality’s land is untaxable, that creates a heavy burden on the rest.
    PILOT has never been fully funded - but then why should the people of CT also subsidize Yale and YNHH?
    My sympathies to the Board of Alders. It is a no-win situation.
    Please let me know the date and time of the riot.

posted by: 1644 on May 18, 2018  11:49am

Mr. Breen:  What is a “revenue initiative”?  Begging the state and Yale for money?  Are you saying that new Haven budgeted $17 million in non-existent revenue for the current fiscal year, presumably creating built in deficit, and is doing the sam,  albeit $8 million, for next year?
  By “the state health plan”, do you mean the CT Partnership, which won’t reveal its financials?
Overall, the boA’s revisions are a step in the right direction, but still seems to be deeply flawed with lots of wishful thinking.

posted by: Noteworthy on May 18, 2018  11:49am

Disappointing and Disgusted Notes:

1. Citizens were given a maximum of 15 minutes over three months to advocate for cuts, limited spending, limited debt. Department heads, the mayor’s staff dozens of hours pushing for more spending and higher taxes.

2. This is the result so far - and it’s underwhelming. This committee has the best knowledge of the city budget. Most alders don’t attend these hearings - my alder attended none. I’m not even sure he reads the budget book or would know what he’s looking at if he did.

3. So the idea that the remaining low information alders will be able to suggest or embrace further cuts, reorganizations and reductions of consequence is de minimis at best.

4. The $20K pay raise to the pet remains - $150K a week in overtime for the cop/fire shops remain; over-budgeting the cop shop remains; no hiring freeze, virtually no reductions of any real consequence outside of the schools.

5. But the 11%, $30 million tax increase like a cockroach survives. People should remember in #NOvember.

posted by: FacChec on May 18, 2018  11:59am

The BOA’s action here which they called deliberations is not only immature and unpractical fiscally ignorant.
Moreover, the budget moves by their own admission does nothing to reduce an excessive mill rate tax increase to property and automobiles. What they have done thus far is to move reductions in one line item and place that reduction into increasing another line item for a wash. Their reasoning is that they are waiting for the state of CT. municipal aid true figures including education, before adjusting the mill rate. That reasoning fails the smell test.
If the BOA were actually waiting for state aid figures, then how is it they prematurely cut the BOE by $5M, and transferred it to health care benefits and not pensions. According to the article the finance committee through its city spokesmen Adam Marchand, voted to approve amendment #1 without even knowing the total revenue and expenditures. They have no idea what and if Yale will increase its pilot payment. (New dorms).

To compound the committees bad judgment and actions they went ahead and voted to approved a 16M bond fund increase which includes questionable items such as public-works(10M +) and a Scott Lewis replenishment bond ($8.4M) @ thirty year bond which duplicates the $8.4 taken from the bond fund in the current bond budget @ thirty year bond, doubling the bond interest cost..Brilliant….. Although they held the $250M pension bond pending a commission hearing, they went full ahead and approved the $50M bond for the third year representing $150M approved but not appropriated. (Pensions anyone). Representing a Tax increase to bond and capital debt without the $250M. 

These budget genies also unanimously approved the permits licenses & user fees without debate again representing a tax increase. 
If you can provide a reasonable explanation for the BOA’s actions please fax or email it to the FRAC.

BOA grade D-.

posted by: repmd on May 18, 2018  12:30pm

There is twenty five million dollars going to transportation cost. Since children do not learn on buses, I continue to wonder why this issue does not have any traction in the conversation. 25 million going up in smoke and no one cares. Why.

posted by: Noteworthy on May 18, 2018  1:25pm

And Another Note:

1. The level of bonded debt - $79 million also remained. This is a toxic and stupid level of debt that bonds on the city credit card that looks like department heads went shopping for Christmas presents with a stolen ID and CC number. This is obscene amount of new debt far in excess of what’s really needed.

posted by: Dennis Serf on May 18, 2018  1:31pm

We need more taxpayers involved in the budget process, and much more transparency. Apparently the BOA has not been given the complete budget in excel format. I sent the FOIA Request to the city last evening:

I attended the Financial Review and Audit Commission (FRAC) meeting last evening. Alder Steven Winter requested from Controller Daryl Jones a soft copy of the Mayor’s proposed 2018-19 operating budget in EXCEL format. Apparently the Board has only been given the summary page(s) in Excel, and the other pages are in PDF format and as such are unable to be edited or easily analyzed. The only way the budget can be analyzed and reviewed properly, thoroughly, and efficiently would be to have the complete line-item budget in excel format - the same version the Controller’s office has. Controller Jones told the people in attendance, including a Yale PhD Economics candidate and several CPAs, that the complete Excel version of the Budget would not be provided because we might not ‘understand it’. Controller Jones suggested the Board of Alders could create their own budget from the information the Mayor’s office had provided. I believe Controller Jones is a talented, hard-working, and dedicated City employee, but I don’t believe Controller Jones’ option is a good use of our Alders’ time, or that the City’s taxpayers are incapable of understanding the excel version of the budget. As such I am respectfully requesting the following information:

A complete copy of the Mayor’s proposed 2018-19 operating budget in EXCEL with all formulas intact, including all schedules and sub-schedules in Excel format with all formulas intact. To remove any doubt, I would like to receive the same version of excel as is available to the Controller.
A complete copy of any analysis the Controller’s office has conducted with respect to the 2018-19 budget, including but not limited to analysis for year-over-year changes, and year-to-year trends

posted by: Anonymous_13 on May 18, 2018  1:32pm

We should eliminate city, town, and state health benefits. The only way they will truly understand how much of a “gift” it is to receive such benefits in this day and age is to ask them to experience what everyone else is. That money should then go directly into the School system!  We are going backward. Raising taxes forces current residents out and is incredibly unattractive to those looking to buy and settle. Improving schools and early education is why young people with children purchase homes where they do.

posted by: OutofTown on May 18, 2018  2:55pm

Thank God the $250m pension fund loan was nixed.  Hallelujah - the City has a 5-year reprieve from becoming Hartford’s financial cellmate.  Why isn’t anyone talking about how Amistad Academy was ranked the #1 school in Connecticut by USNews & World Report (https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/connecticut).  None of the City’s public schools came close. 

New Haveners need more schools like Amistad - not costly, ineffective institutions.  Why fund pensions for failed institutions?  Cut them, just like General Motors and others.  We all wish Dr. Carol Birks the best in reforming a difficult enterprise.

posted by: brownetowne on May 18, 2018  4:06pm

I don’t know why some commenters love to say “tax Yale” - as if that is helpful in any way at all.  The educational institution is tax exempt, for the most part.  It would be illegal to tax them.  Yale is also not obligated to bail out the city of NH for bad financial decisions or planning. 

Like all of you, I was also disappointed this article concluded with the Alder’s preliminary acceptance of a large i.e. double-digit mill-rate hike, but let’s remind ourselves that if Harp submitted an honest balanced budget for the city the mill-rate would (should) have been required to be raised even more to account for the large budget shortfalls. 

It’s maddening to conclude that the substantial cost-savings proposed by the Finance Committee will likely result in a balanced budget where the mill-rate is increased by “only” 11%.  For this I blame Harp.

posted by: Noteworthy on May 18, 2018  5:30pm

Apology Needed Notes:

When will Mayor Harp admit she lied, that her campaign lied, that her spokesman lied about balancing the city budget as a reason to vote her in another term? When? Why not?

Harp has not balanced a city budget since she’s been in office. She’s avoided paying into the pension fund the amount that is needed; the legal settlement fund has been in chronic deficit and the health account has also been out of balance by some $13 million. Not paying the bills is not a deficit mitigation plan. Using next year’s revenue from Yale’s building permits, from its PILOT payment to pay down the previous year’s expenses is not a balanced budget.

We need honesty and integrity in the budget process and we need the voices of citizens and taxpayers across the city. Stop the lies.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 18, 2018  6:08pm

posted by: OutofTown on May 18, 2018 2:55pm
.  Why isn’t anyone talking about how Amistad Academy was ranked the #1 school in Connecticut by USNews & World Report (https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/connecticut).  None of the City’s public schools came close.  was ranked the #1 school in Connecticut by USNews & World Report (https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/connecticut).  None of the City’s public schools came close.

Fake News.I wonder if Amistad is still doing this?

Charter Suspension Rate Prompts Call To Action
Amistad Academy suspended 20 of its 96 kindergarteners last year, a rate 15 times higher than in traditional New Haven public schools.

The high rate of suspensions among Achievement First charter schools across the state prompted “alarm” among members of the state Board of Education, which conducted an emergency review of statewide suspension data at a meeting in Hartford Wednesday.

The meeting came on the heels of a report by the Office of the Child Advocate, and subsequent news stories, that called attention to the hundreds of kindergarteners suspended across the state in the 2011-12 school year.

“For our youngest students, these are rates that are just unacceptable,” state education chief Stefan Pryor said Wednesday. He called the data “alarming.” Pryor ordered an express analysis of school suspensions, which was presented at Wednesday’s meeting.

http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/alarming_charter_suspensions_prompt_call_to_action/

Mass Walkout At Amistad High
Administrators overseeing the Achievement First Amistad charter high school promised to “do better” Tuesday after hundreds of black and Latino students walked out in protest to air longstanding complaints about racial insensitivity.

http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/mass_walkout_at_amistad_high/

posted by: FacChec on May 18, 2018  8:09pm

So, the BOA finance committee wants an at-a-boy and slap on the back for their tireless efforts reducing the Mayors alleged $8.1M spending increase in the general fund, to $1.8M of the entire $547M GF spending budget. This action, or lack of, defy’s the intelligence of Taxpayer testimony and the recommendation put forth by FRAC.

https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/Audit-commission-says-Harp-has-unrealistic-New-12923385.php

If their idea of a spending cut is even remotely so, they failed to announce where the $1.8M cut will be reapplied, with possible exception of these:
The committee did vote to restore $18,226 to the City Clerk’s office on top of a technical amendment from the city that gave back an additional $20,074 to the department in anticipation of a busy mid-term election year. The alders put aside $50,000 to help pay for legal consulting for a not-yet-created Civilian Review Board, which they said they hoped to finally pass legislation on in the coming fiscal year. ($68K). What?.. Really?

“Marchand and his fellow committee members said “now that they had laid a more responsible platform for the budget, they hoped to find additional savings to help achieve a reduction to the mayor’s proposed 11 percent tax increase.”
“Our first priority now should be to reduce the mill rate increase,” he said. You really mean third priority Marchand. After the POB rejection and the $1.8M spending reduction.

Marchand is not the President of the BOA nor is he the chairman of this committee, yet he speaks for both the Mayor’s office and the BOA.

posted by: 1644 on May 18, 2018  9:07pm

OutofTown:  Pensions are legal obligations, like bonds.  Like bonds, they can only be reduced through negotiation or bankruptcy.  As for General Motors. while non-union employees’ pensions were reduced,  the Obama/Steve Rattner plan ensured that federal TARP dollars were used to prevent the reduction of any UAW wages or pensions.  Particularly in the Chrysler bailout, unsecured pension creditors were prioritized above secured creditors at the insistence of the Obama administration.  This was a change to over a century of settled bankruptcy law.  GM constituted the biggest loss for TARP, while bailouts for Chrysler and community banks also caused losses.  TARP made a profit on its loans to big banks like BoA, Wells Fargo, Citi, et alia.  In the Detroit bankruptcy, Rhodes also prioritized pensioners over bondholders, though bondholders had the stronger legal claim to city assets like the art collection.  The result of the protection of pensioners, and the Hartford bailout, is a moral hazard where unions have little incentive to negotiate pension reductions, and the city will continue to sink into insolvency expecting the state to bail it out as it did Hartford.

posted by: robn on May 19, 2018  6:26am

Alders who vote for a tax increase imperil their office.

posted by: Callisto on May 19, 2018  7:08am

The attempt to instil curiosity in a young person about the world around them and the ideas that govern it is no easy task. The transfer of knowledge intergenerationally is not akin to a chuckie cheese or wal mart. Anyone who thinks a school is “just like General Motors and others” attacks the very idea of public education and is merely a shill for the dying charter school scam of raiding public money for corporations. Get ready for it - they’ll invade from “OutofTown” turn your public schools into profit centers for the wealthy then move on to the next town.

posted by: 1644 on May 19, 2018  10:52am

NHVNCyclist:  Branford’s grants were not zeroed out for the coming year, but in the current year they were reduced from $2.5 million to $89K, with an additional $500K set aside for a possible Teachers’ retirement levy.  The reductions and added costs from the state meant an increase of 4.9% in property tax revenue, with more being pulled from Branford’s budget reserve.  The large increase in the current year’s budget has meant that the next year’s budget can have almost no increase.
http://www.branford-ct.gov/filestorage/141/185/2017-2018_RTM_Approved_Budget.pdf
In most recent years, Branford has seen moderate tax increases, never zero as New Haven has had.  New Haven’s zero mill rate increases, are of course, the result of wishful thinking and bad long range practices.  In contrast, Branford is conservative in its budgeting,  consistently underestimating revenue and overestimating expenses.  The result is perpetual surpluses, some of which are used in the next year’s budget, and some of which go into reserves.  Branford also: (1) always makes its actuarially required contributions to its pension and OPEB funds (2) sets up special savings accounts for recurring big expenses, like tax revaluations, vehicle and apparatus replacement, etc. (3) all positions are fully funded whether or not vacant.  Though it lacks a high average income like Darien or Greenwich, Branford enjoys a AAA bond rating due to decades of sound fiscal management.  It has a budget reserve of about 20% of current expenses.

posted by: agor on May 19, 2018  5:06pm

why don’t they close a couple of more schools like the old Quinnipiac school and move the children to other schools. Building a new strong stree school should not go through for now. They need to look at a lot of the schools that have staff that really don’t do anything. Two or three asst. principles at some schools seem excessive not to mention the money they get.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on May 19, 2018  5:33pm

1644, thanks for the info. BTW, any connection between your handle and the year Branford was founded?

Robn, I’m willing to bet you a beer (or other beverage of your choice) that (1) most of the alders will vote for a substantial tax increase and (2) most of those alders will run unopposed in the next election. Assuming all of the committee members attended the meeting, 11 of the 30 alders have already voted for an 11% increase. These are empirical, not normative, statements. An increase anywhere near 11% will impose a real burden on renters as well as homeowners; it will happen nonetheless.

Anonymous, public sector employee benefits are indeed more generous than those for private sector employees. But for the vast majority of public sector employees, those benefits were negotiated as part of collective bargaining contracts. (Full disclosure - while I was legally precluded from joining a union, I received benefits that were similar to those received by unionized state employees.)  Going forward, there will have to be further reductions in public sector benefits. But existing contracts are contracts, and the BOA cannot unilaterally eliminate health benefits provided under them.

posted by: 1644 on May 20, 2018  1:08pm

Kevin: Regarding my user name, it’s either that or the number of brain cells I have.

Regarding your response to Robn, you are making a very safe bet.  New Haven is a one-party town, and folks like Robn will vote Democrat for reasons other than the budget.  As I have said before, most towns have guaranteed minority representation,  with the result that their are elected selectmen, council members, etc., to call attention to the shortcomings of the majority party, no matter how dominant that party is at the polls.  Most towns also have an Board of Finance, often unelected, made up of professionals who control the revenue side of the budget, and often the spending as well.  By statute, Branford’s board is evenly split between the parties, with the First selectman breaking a tie if need be.  Currently, it is led by Democrat Joe Mooney, Acting DRS Commissioner. Other members are two bankers, and three businessmen.  In many towns (although not Branford), budgets go to town meetings where not only residents, but non-resident property owners vote.  Even in suburbs like Branford, with a large population of renters, the voting population is dominated by homeowners who are directly affected by tax increases. In New Haven, the electorate seems to include many renters, many of whom, living in subsidized housing, are largely untouched by tax increases, but are hurt by service decreases.

posted by: OutofTown on May 21, 2018  3:58pm

Three-Fifths - Fake news to some, but real for most of us.  Amistad does not accept bad behavior in the same fashion as the City schools.  That fact some teachers or parents have objected does not change the reality that Amistad provides a consistently superior service to New Haveners. 

1644 - Neither Obama/Rattner nor Trump will be there to assist New Haven.  Don’t expect State of CT to help as it did the City of Hartford.  Obama also had political motivations to help a national company.  New Haven does not rate with politicians nationally.  Remember that old chestnut, “Toni, Toni, where’s Toni?”  Yes, pensions are legal - but bankruptcy or distress changes things.  If the money ain’t there, pensioners can sue all they want.  You can’t beat a dead horse.  If New Haven placed its bet for $250m of bonds, you can be sure that bankruptcy was not too far away.  New Haven cannot manage its current finances.  Why should we expect the added expense from debt service on $250m will make it better?