Friday, May 11, 2012

Budget Passes With Bipartisan Support, Schools To Get $1.8M Increase

The Common Council passed a budget for the next fiscal year which makes significant changes to the budget proposed by Mayor Drew last month. The Council added $1.8M to the School's budget, and yet reduced the overall budget, so that the mill rate will increase by 0.8 from the current year, instead of the 1.0 that was proposed by Drew.

The Council was able to do this by projecting lower employee health costs (reduced by $450k) and workers comp (reduced by $326k), lower property insurance (reduced by $125k), by increasing the contribution from the general fund ($670k), and by projecting higher revenues from taxes, licenses and permits ($200k), and from parking ($140k).

In addition, the Council eliminated an administrative aide in the mayor's office (saving $28k), decided to outsource a grant writer (saving $20k), and projected lower electricity costs (saving $150k).

The Council decided to pay for the costs of revaluing property in the city with a bond. This revaluation must take place in the next fiscal year, and is estimated by the tax assessor to cost $700k. $180k of this was set aside in this year's budget. The rationale for bonding the revaluation is that the data collected might be useful for more than 10 years. Council members agreed that if the bonding was not approved by the city's bond counsel, the money for the revaluation would come from the general fund.

There was considerable discussion over an issue that all council members agreed with the mayor on, namely the reduction in the contribution to the city pension fund. During the public comment section, former Mayor Giuliano argued against this. He said budgets were always difficult, "We never had a Common Council face a budget and say it wasn't a trying time... Once you open a door, it will be very difficult to close it, so I would suggest you don't go down that road."

The pension fund contributions are set entirely by the Pension Board, which voted 6-2 in favor of Mayor Drew's request for a lower city contribution. Several Councilmen noted the extensive experience on the Pension board, and said that their wisdom ensured that the lowering of the pension fund contribution would not jeopardize city pensions. Councilman Tom Serra said that he supported the reduction for one year only.

All of the changes ultimately enacted in the budget were proposed by the Democratic caucus, which enjoys an 8 to 4 majority on the Council. The Republican caucus also proposed budget changes. The most significant difference between the parties was in funding for education--the Republicans agreed with Mayor Drew's proposal of flat funding for the schools. This was important enough of an issue for Councilwomen Deb Kleckowski and Linda Salafia to vote against the Democratic caucus' budget. Kleckowski called the Board of Education, "too risky of a venture.... I will not be supporting the budget."

Republican councilmen Joe Bibisi and Phil Pessina joined the 8 democrats, and the budget passed by a vote of 10-2. This is the second year in a row that the final budget has received bipartisan support.


Anonymous said...

Bibisi and Pessina are a disgrace to the Republicans and only care about themselves! Stand up for less spending for once guys or just join the Dem's and be done!

Anonymous said...

The BOE refuses to give a line item budget STILL even under new leadership-

Anonymous said...

AMEN! Why give the BOE more money to spend on administrators and mileage! It never makes it to the children it just gets lost like the last million! Thank you Kleckowski and Salafia for being the only ones with common sense enough to try and lower people's taxes and remove some of Drew's ridiculous requests! Too bad too many people in town drink the kool-aid!

Anonymous said...

Wow - Republicans are down to only two seats on Council. Wonder what it really means to be a Republican to Bibisi and Pessina - clearly not fiscal responsibility and accountability. They sign their names to an alternative budget flat funding BOE then vote against it in favor of Dem budget. It's flip-flop season!

Anonymous said...

Go to the BOE web site and you will find a detailed line item budget.

The Blue Cat said...

Commenter 8:49 made this same comment on the Patch, Press, and here.

This is my response.

Someone stated to me on Patch that 'there is a line item budget on the BOE website'. Yes here is the link below.

However the details get lost after money is broken down into 'object codes'. I would suggest you start your reading of the budget on page 70. There you can see your 'missing million'. Read the transportation budget line,

The big problem with the schools budget is that it stops short from providing complete details of purchases made. A great example I found of this was on page 167. In the Maintenance Budget details you see Purchased Services. In 09-10 you see $0 spent. Then in '10-11 you see $56,623. Wow one year zero then the next year 56k. Why you may ask? Well you wont ever know cause the budget doesn't get that detailed.

Compare that to the City of Middletown's budget.

Heck on page four the city posts how much it spends on envelopes.

A line-item budget is easy to make.

"From a technical standpoint, it's easy to create a line-item budget. With a piece of lined paper and a pencil, you can list all expenses, giving each item its own line and specific dollar amount. This is why many organizations, especially very small businesses, choose line-item budgeting. It is straightforward and does not require linking budgeting to advanced accounting, such as activity-based costing, or management practices, such as performance-based budgeting."

Why cant the BOE just do the one extra step so we can see ALL the details.

Object Code 116 - Stipends. Total $359,231.59. To who? How much? When?

I guess those details are on a 'need to know' basis.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful - higher property taxes. In addition to a completely corrupt water department and paying for three fire departments. There are at least five houses on my street for sale - including my neighbor's and no one's buying. I couldn't get out if I wanted to! When will the next property revaluation happen??? Oh, wait, everyone's homes are worth crap now which would mean significant LOWERING of most taxes. Can't have that! It's a real shame that with times as hard as they are for so many in this city the concern isn't for its struggling citizens, instead it's for the damned status quo. I'm so sick of it.

Jennifer Peifer

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, you are not paying for three fire departments dear.You only pay for the one which serves you.