Posts Tagged ‘Transparency’

Mill Rates

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

UPDATE: Here is a link to the municipal mill rates from the State of Connecticut. They offer it in excel and PDF versions.

Town
Mill
Rate
Next
Evaluation Year
Ansonia
32.30
2007
Beacon Falls
22.68
2011
Bethany
29.3
2008
Branford
22.33
2009
Bridgeport
38.74
2008
Cheshire
27.6
2008
Derby
25.5
2010
East Haven
22.85
2011
Guilford
24.32
2007
Hamden
29.10
2010
Hartford
72.79
2008
Huntington
17.47
2011
Madison
23.35
2007
Meriden Dist. 1
27.96
2011
Meriden Dist. 2
30.27
2011
Milford
31.77
2011
Naugatuck
41.3
2007
New Haven
42.21
2011
North Branford
23.70
2010
North Haven
25.44
2009
Orange
29.9
2011
Oxford
19.37
2011
Seymour
25.03
2010
Shelton
17.46
2011
Southington
21.88
2010
Stratford
30.12
2009
Wallingford
22.05
2010
West Haven Dist. 1
35.56
2009
West Haven Allingtown
33.96
2009
West Haven West Shore
33.85
2009
Woodbridge
29.96
2009
     

City Answers Many Of The Questions We Submitted

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Thanks again for the City offering to answer our questions and doing so in a timely manner. We certainly appreciate it. We would still love the documentation on Tweed monies and answers to Questions #3 and #4. Thanks.

GATEWAY TERMINAL — Question #1

(3/11/2010) Q: I am interested to know why the Gateway Terminal only pays a few hundred dollars a year on taxes instead of $235,000? If we plan on raising taxes, shouldn’t we be collecting it from all entities? Are there other similar/related instances in the city?

A: The City of New Haven has been actively and effectively seeking tax payments from Waterfront Enterprises regarding its property at Gateway Terminal. In fact, in 2009, the City recovered nearly half a million dollars in back taxes owed by Waterfront Enterprises.

PENSIONS, HEALTHCARE & WORKER’S COMPENSATION — Question #2

(3/11/2010) Q: What is the city’s plan to deal with the dramatically increasing costs associated with pensions, healthcare, retiree healthcare, and workers compensation? They are rising much faster then we can keep up particularly given the deficits with the State Budget?

A: If you review the City’s Legislative agenda the City is currently seeking State Legislation to change the Rules of Binding Arbitration where the majority of our contractual obligations as they relate to pensions and healthcare are ultimately determined. The City is also taking aggressive stances in our negotiation of contracts to reduce future burdens. In addition, the City has an active RFP process for the administration of all these funds. In the past five years the City has competitively bid Pensions, Health Care, Workers’ Compensation, Short Term Disability and Life Insurance Coverage. By bidding the administration of each service on a rotating basis the City can attract competitive bids for a reasonable period (average 3-4 years before re-bid) and give each RFP process the attention it deserves to guarantee the most competitive prices and service.

Question #3 — Not Answered Yet

#3: Why are we giving Chris DePino $50,000 a year as a state lobbyist when we have 8 Representative (2 senators and 6 reps) at the capitol? What have been the total payments to him for lobbying over all the years and what was the first year he was paid? What has his total ROI been from his specific efforts? Same thing with the about $100,000 we spend with William & Jennings our “Washington Communicator”?

Question #4 — Not Answered Yet

#4 Under current contracts, does the City have the power to unilaterally change the work requirements such that we move City Hall to a four day work week and cut all related expenses including a proportional amount of salaries and benefits? You might not be able to change the contract on the days they actually work, but can you indirectly deal with this by decreasing the number of days?

TRAVEL — Question #5

(3/11/2010) Q: Why not freeze all travel expenses? The Mayor’s budget proposes $724,333 to spend on travel expenses.

A:The City is not budgeting $724,272 for travel. The 5300s “Allowance & Travel” that totals $724,333 includes the Federally Required Mileage Reimbursement, Attendance to Professional Meetings and what could be termed “Travel” and can be used for both transportation, lodging and conference fees.

$649,858 of the $724,333 is attributable to the Board of Education of which the Mayor’s Budget and Board of Aldermen’s Budget do not have line item control. That said, the majority of this is for Athletic Transportation, Security, Field Trips and Professional Meetings, only $52,858 is for “Travel” an average of only $1,000 per school.

The General Government travel and allowance budget is $74,475. This includes $12,500 for the Board of Aldermen for Travel to the National League of Cities Conferences and $18,000 for the Mayor’s Office which includes the cost of conferences and delegation visits to D.C. The remainder of these funds cover Mileage ($25,492) and the registration for professional meetings ($18,483) which include Assessor, Tax Collector, Finance, Registrar of Voters, Health, Police, Fire, Building and other related required professional conferences where current regulations are discussed, the majority of which are in state.

ELM CITY RESIDENT CARD — Question #6

(3/11/2010) Q: The citizens of New Haven were promised by many Alders and the Mayor that the Municipal ID program would only be paid for by grant funding yet we see $53,833 for a staff member (does not include pension and benefits, or unassigned managers who oversee this project) and $190,372 (in the general fund Form 106 for the CSA) in operating expenses totaling about $1/4 Million dollars. I have no philosophical problems with this program. I did state before it was approved that I didn’t think we could afford to add a new program into the budget. I still feel that way. Why is this in the general fund budget?

A:The $190K in the General Fund CSA was a request that was not accepted by the Mayor. The budget recognizes that the ID card has become a standard City Document and as such transfers the responsibility to the Office of Vital Statistics. The Office, which has been understaffed, will see the addition of one new staff position $35,351 (the second position was previously funded with special funds).

TWEED LANDING FEES — Question #7

(3/11/2010) Q: Why haven’t we raised the landing fees at Tweed to be at minimum close to what Waterbury charges? Why not a small increase in the fuel flowage fee?

A: Landing fees are set by a complicated formula, based on the Authority’s costs. They must be approved by FAA and cannot be arbitrary. Unlike Oxford’s rate structure (which the higher charges exceed), Tweed uses a sliding scale of landing fees so single-engine planes pay $2.50 and heavier aircraft pay more.

The scale is as follows: 0-5,000 lb. $2.50

5,001 – 7,500 lb. $6.75

7,501 – 10,000 lb. $9.00

10,001 – 12,500 lb. $11.50

Raising the fuel flowage fee would be counter-productive and would cost the airport revenue. The fuel flow fee is already not competitive with State-owned airports and White Plains. The Airport have solid recent knowledge from Net Jets that they are happy to land here to drop off or pick up passengers, but they arrange things so they do not have to gas up here because it is too expensive.

CITY CLERK — Question #8

(3/11/2010) Q: Why do we pay the City Clerk $46,597 a year, when we only pay aldermen/women $2000 a year and they clearly work harder and vastly more hours? They are both elected positions. Can we cut City Clerk to $2000?

A: This City Clerk’s duties are detailed in Article VIII Sec. 36 of the City Charter. As per Article XXXVI Sec. 208 of the City Charter, any salary increase or decrease be for the full term of office of said elected officer and shall become effective only on the first day of January next succeeding the date of the election of said elected officers, Therefore, as set by ordinance, to change the City Clerk’s salary, this would need to be done on the 1st day of January after the next election– January 1, 2012.

TWEED — Question #9

(3/11/2010) Q: Do you have an official legal opinion from our Corporation Counsel and from the FAA that specifically and unequivocally states we are responsible to pay them back if we close Tweed? If so, can you please send a copy? How much would we exactly owe them? How long must we keep the airport open until that debt is forgiven(if it is forgiven), and under what terms is that debt forgiven? If we closed the airport, on what schedule of repayments would we have to pay the FAA back? What happens if we don’t pay it back (refuse to pay it back)? Why does this liability not show up in any Budget or related documents such as the bond offering statement? If we owe something, even a huge number, we should have it spelled out in detail so as to make informed decisions and if we owe them something, this is a liability that must be reported, no?

A: The approximately $29M in FAA Grants are not liabilities of the City. These grants were made for the development of the Airport to the Airport Authority. If the Airport does not continue to operate as per the Grant Agreement the Grants would need to be repaid just like any other Grant that the City defaulted upon.

The requirement to keep the airport open appears in the Grant Assurances attached to every grant issued by FAA to the Authority. Grant Assurances are taken very seriously. Grant Assurances have been provided to the Board of Aldermen many times.

Closing an airport listed on the national system requires direct personal approval from the Secretary of Transportation, on advice of the FAA Administrator in Washington, D.C. To the best of our knowledge, voluntary closing of an airport with scheduled commercial service has never occurred. As a result, there are no precedents for questions about timing and forgiveness of debt.

If the FAA did approve a request to close the Airport, the Airport must pay the FAA the value of the remaining life of FAA funded improvements or reinvest the amount into another airport in the local system. The Airport would be required to reimburse the FAA or reinvest tin another airport an amount equal to the pro-rata share of the current fair market value of the land.

Ask your budget questions at City Website

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

You can ask you budget related questions at the city website and I was told they will work hard to get you an answer within 24-36 hours. Here are the questions I submitted. What are the questions you submitted?

Dear Jessica:

I am submitting my budget questions at the suggestion of Sean Matteson and as offered on the City of New Haven Website. I am cc:ing my fellow FRAC commissioners although these questions are coming from me and not the commission.

I would like to first say thank you for adding this feature to the city website and for the modifications to the City budget document (it still needs formatting improvements), which whether or not done for this reason, feels like it speaks to some of the changes I have been asking for and I appreciate that. Same thing for the voluminous Forms 106, which are a major improvement over recent years. I think it would be great for you to annually add the availability of Forms 106 and the excel version of the budget onto the city website for those of us interested in reading it.

Here are a few of my budget questions:

#1: I am interested to know why the Gateway Terminal only pays a few hundred dollars a year on taxes instead of $235,000? see attached advocate article. If we plan on raising taxes, shouldn’t we be collecting it from all entities? Are there other similar/related instances in the city?

#2: What is the city’s plan to deal with the dramatically increasing costs associated with pensions, healthcare, retiree healthcare, and workers compensation? They are rising much faster then we can keep up particularly given the deficits with the State Budget.

#3: Why are we giving Chris DePino $50,000 a year as a state lobbyist when we have 8 Representative (2 senators and 6 reps) at the capitol? What have been the total payments to him for lobbying over all the years and what was the first year he was paid? What has his total ROI been from his specific efforts? Same thing with the about $100,000 we spend with William & Jennings our “Washington Communicator”?

#4 Under current contracts, does the City have the power to unilaterally change the work requirements such that we move City Hall to a four day work week and cut all related expenses including a proportional amount of salaries and benefits? You might not be able to change the contract on the days they actually work, but can you indirectly deal with this by decreasing the number of days?

#5 Why not freeze all travel expenses? The Mayor’s budget proposes $724,333 to spend on travel expenses.

#6 The citizens of New Haven were promised by many Alders and the Mayor that the Municipal ID program would only be paid for by grant funding yet we see $53,833 for a staff member (does not include pension and benefits, or unassigned managers who oversee this project) and $190,372 (in the general fund Form 106 for the CSA) in operating expenses totaling about $1/4 Million dollars. I have no philosophical problems with this program. I did state before it was approved that I didn’t think we could afford to add a new program into the budget. I still feel that way. Why is this in the general fund budget?

#7 Why haven’t we raised the landing fees at Tweed to be at minimum close to what Waterbury charges? Why not a small increase in the fuel flowage fee?

#8 Why do we pay the City Clerk $46,597 a year, when we only pay aldermen/women $2000 a year and they clearly work harder and vastly more hours? They are both elected positions. Can we cut City Clerk to $2000?

#9: Do you have an official legal opinion from our Corporation Counsel and from the FAA that specifically and unequivocally states we are responsible to pay them back if we close Tweed? If so, can you please send a copy? How much would we exactly owe them? How long must we keep the airport open until that debt is forgiven(if it is forgiven), and under what terms is that debt forgiven? If we closed the airport, on what schedule of repayments would we have to pay the FAA back? What happens if we don’t pay it back (refuse to pay it back)? Why does this liability not show up in any Budget or related documents such as the bond offering statement? If we owe something, even a huge number, we should have it spelled out in detail so as to make informed decisions and if we owe them something, this is a liability that must be reported, no?

Forms 106 – Line Item Detail

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Here are this year’s Forms 106. They are much longer than years past so we are hoping to learn more about the budget.

2010 Forms 106 – Line Item Detail

Updated Citywide Brainstorm Spreadsheet – Excel
Updated Citywide Brainstorm Spreadsheet – PDF

Blue Ribbon Budget Panel Reports to BOA

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

The final recommendations to the New Haven Board of Aldermen from the Blue Ribbon Citizen’s Panel on the Budget is ready. Its a worthwhile read. Thanks to all the panelists and city staff that contributed to its construction.

Citizens Budget Commission – NYC

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

The NYC Citizens Budget Commission provides an interesting website reviewing NYC finances. Their mission: “The Citizens Budget Commission is a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic organization devoted to influencing constructive change in the finances and services of New York City and New York State government.” Check out their Myth of Uncontrollables, which directly confronts the notion of “its all fixed costs,” the mantra of the New Haven BOA and Administration.

Freedom of Information Commission Hearing – Part 1

Friday, May 1st, 2009

There was a hearing at the State Freedom of Information Commission today. You can read the background in the New Haven Independent and The New Haven Advocate. Here is the sanitized version of the city’s projections. The attached version is different then the one Jeffrey saw in July 2008 and the one he requested under the FOIA. Notice that the City’s projections keeps taxes completely unchanged for five years. I don’t think anyone believes that taxes will remain completely flat for five years. Things inherently cost more each year. More updates forthcoming.

One Thing You Can Do Right Now To Improve Education

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Write an email to our state delegation. With one click, you can email them all. The link is just on our right hand side of this page. Here is the letter Jeffrey sent:

Help make Education actually educate our children!

Dear New Haven Delegation:

I am writing you from New Haven. As a progressive democrat, I am outraged by a system that continues to provide barriers to reforming education. For too long, we have accepted failing schools over special interests and have made excuses for non-performance. For instance, why on earth would we turn away some of the most talented young people in the world from teaching in our classrooms? Although not the first source for progressives, read this maddening WSJ article that is spot on: Teach for (Some of) America, Too talented for public schools: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124061253951954349.html#articleTabs=article.

Right now, you are in a position to start eliminating some of these barriers through your powers on the CGA. You can promote data transparency (S.B. 1014) which would allow a better understanding of which schools work and which fail. For too long, we allow people to manipulate fungible numbers. The second opportunity to be a true progressive for transformative education lies in letting smart people teach, no matter what undergraduate education they have pursued. S.B. 939 allows a friend of mine, someone who got a full scholarship to Yale Business School (SOM) due to academic achievement, and who has worked as some of the top companies in the world, to work in the classroom. He loves math and would enjoy teaching in New Haven schools but has not been able to do so despite several unsuccessful attempts to navigate the process. This is shear madness!

Here is a summary of each bill:

The first bill (S.B. 1014) promotes data transparency in schools by requiring that the Connecticut State Department of Education allow nonprofits and universities to use education data the state already collects to improve instruction and help parents make smart choices.

The second bill (S.B. 939) helps improve teacher quality. It removes roadblocks keeping excellent math and science candidates from teaching without a specific college major, instead giving them the option to prove their subject knowledge through a rigorous exam. This bill also establishes a teacher certification pathway so that Teach for America can continue to provide its teachers the long-term professional development and support that has proven so effective. The bill also aids interstate reciprocity for experienced teachers.

Thanks,

Jeffrey Kerekes

With A Shortage of Quality Teachers, Why?

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Read this interesting article from the WSJ, Teach for (Some of) America, which describes the barriers keeping out high energy, smart college students, from teaching in the poorest schools. Does this make sense to you? Is our school system itself the barrier to a quality education? Are these sorts of barriers happening here in New Haven? Believe it.

What They Make.

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Check out the New Haven Register Article on municipal employees. Be sure to check out the graphic at the top of the page that lists the top ten BOE employees and the top ten City Employees.