Saturday, February 26, 2011

Governor Malloy's budget hits working families hard.

I have been reluctant to write or comment about Governor Malloy's budget for a variety of reasons. Mostly because it has taken myself and my staff about a week and half to pour through the numbers and  to listen to the rationale behind the policy decisions that were made in the budget.

It has been stated by the press and the editorial page writers that the budget protects cities and towns from significant cuts. This is only partially correct. Cities and towns have the same challenge that the state has as it relates to structural budget problems-- and the Governor has taken a pass on addressing those structural problems.

Malloy's budget does nothing to strengthen the bargaining position of communities that are going to have to make core changes to pensions and health care benefits for their employees. Without a recognition by the State Legislature that Mayors and First Selectmen do not have the flexibility to alter the contracts that are currently being negotiated, the municipalities continue the march towards financial calamity--even with the new revenue enhancers that the Governor's budget provides for cities and towns.

The Governors budget does not address the issue of unfunded mandates and their impact to Danbury and the surrounding communities. The Governor should have proposed a repeal of many mandates and should have agreed to veto any new unfunded mandates that are approved by the Legislature.

In addition, the Governor eliminated an important reimbursement program that the state provides called the Manufacturers Machinery Exemption. This grant reimburses cities and towns for a tax exemption that they are required to give for certain types of manufacturing equipment.

For Danbury, this is a $1.4 million dollar cut in state aid.

Then there are the taxes. The taxes, the taxes, and the taxes. For cities and towns the Governor has proposes increasing a little known tax that the state charges on municipal employee health care plans. Not sure what the tax is even for, but the cost for providing health care for municipal employees continues to escalate, the Governor just added to their problem.

Finally there are critical components to this budget that simply don't add up.

The Governor has proposed 1 billion dollars a year in state employee concessions. That will be a difficult task to complete. Concessions of that magnitude would amount to a give back of approximately twenty thousand dollars for each state employee. An almost impossible feat. Expect state layoffs at some point this year.

The elimination of the property tax credit and the addition of the earned income tax credit has left people scratching their heads.

The property tax credit is a much utilized five hundred dollar credit that the working men and women of Connecticut can take on their state income tax. This credit has been eliminated. What does this mean? It means that Governor Malloy just raised property taxes by as much as five hundred dollars on some of the hardest hit families during the current recession.

The earned income tax credit will require the State of Connecticut to, get this, give up to seventeen hundred dollars to people who don't pay any state income tax. That's right, we have a 3.5 billion dollar deficit, but, we can find the money to give tax dollars to people who don't pay any taxes to begin with.

Confused? Me too..

To be continued.....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weather has settled-for now.

The weather pattern is about to enter a quiet period.

Expect temps. in the 40's for most of next week.

That will give us time to shovel out and inspect the damage that December and January brought us.

Phew...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The pressure is on in the Malloy administration.

The pressure is on in the Malloy administration. The policy choices and decisions made by the Governor and his staff will set the stage for not this legislative session, but for the next four years.

Over the last several weeks the Governor has been traveling across the state laying the ground work for a major shift in spending. Talk of  agency consolidations, union concessions, and overall budget priorities has escalated dramatically.

Yesterdays announcement by the Governor that ECS funding will stay at the same level is a Pyrrhic victory for cities and towns. Most of Connecticut's cities and towns are being crushed by unfunded mandates, work place rules determined by a pro-labor environment that make it impossible for mayors and first selectmen to make the changes necessary to achieve greater efficiencies in the delivery of services and the ability to address the runaway costs of legacy benefits (pensions and medical insurance) of their employees.

Keeping the Education Cost Sharing formula flat while at the same time cutting other municipal funding is a tried and true trick of many past administrations. It allows both the Legislature and the Governor to say how they didn't cut funding to schools, and how they are being sensitive to the needs of children and staff.

Memo to the Governor and the Legislature: A cut is a cut. The reality is that a reduction in state aid-- any state aid, regardless of what funding stream it comes from, will have a negative impact on the children of Connecticut, and will continue the policy of pushing off costs that should be borne by the state onto local municipalities resulting in higher property taxes. It is a tried and true shell game.

Next weeks budget address will set the foundation for debate and discussion in the legislature for the rest of the session.

It will be the most important policy document of the Malloy administration to date.

The pressure is on..

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cold tonight-then a February thaw.

While it might look like a frozen tundra out there right now, there is a nice warm up on the way.

Tonight will be cold,  temps will be in the single digits.

But have no fear,  By this time next week, temps will be in the 50's.

Think spring.

Monday, February 7, 2011

School Roofs under Scrutiny.

Today marks the 10th straight day that our city workers have been clearing and inspecting our school roofs. Over the last two weeks we have inspected all of our city roofs and have been busy clearing drains and knocking down the drifts on our school roofs.
With over 50 public buildings in our inventory, we have been very concerned about the weight of the snow that the recent storms have placed on our roofs.
We have engaged private contractors, the Danbury Fire Department, and our Public Works staff in an ongoing basis to remove the snow.
In light of yesterdays long term forecast,  over the weekend, our Director of Public Works- Antonio Iadarola, Fire Chief Geoff Herald, and myself spent several hours on the phone coordinating our response to the threat of extra weight from any potential incoming storms on our school roofs.
I am proud to work with such a dedicated staff who truly care about Danbury’s children.
Special thanks to Danbury’s Volunteer Firefighters and our paid Fire Department for their hard work.
With a warm up on its way, we should be in great shape for the rest of the winter.
Can’t wait for spring.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

All Clear Today.

Looks things will settle down for the rest of the day. We are expecting some form of precipitation for later Monday as well as a more significant storm for Thursday-Friday. Still to early to tell about accumulations. I will keep you posted. Enjoy Super Sunday!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Winter Weather Advisory.

Mixed bag for most of the day. We don't expect much accumulation. There may be some localized flooding as we begin to see the snow melt. Stay dry and have a good day.

Boy it's chilly out there.

Aside from boiler problems at DHS, and our work clearing snow from school roof tops, we are managing the weather crisis fairly well.

We are expecting a minor storm tomorrow with 2-5" of snow. There should be mixing throughout the day so we don't expect a lot of snow.

We are watching a more significant storm for Thursday.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Be Patient.

I am working on setting up this new blog. It is a work in progress. I have eliminated the old blog and my goal is to use the mobile blogging function. Stay patient, it will get there.