Council to amend budget after WPCA sale halted

The Town Council will make significant changes to the 2015-16 budget as it waits for resolution in the Stratford Water Pollution Control Authority case.

Council members voted unanimously on Monday to send the approved $207.5 million budget for the next fiscal year back to the Ordinance Committee for discussion at a public hearing. The vote also included a review of the tax rate of 36.98 mills.

Town councilors were compelled to reopen the budget, approved last month, after petitioners challenging the sale of the sewer plant to the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority won a temporary injunction in Bridgeport Superior Court last Tuesday. The injunction prevents Mayor John Harkins from signing any paperwork to finalize the sale and prevents Town Clerk Susan Pawluk from accepting and recording papers related to the sale. The town plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.

Town Chief Financial Officer Stephen Nocera said the town will have to account for between $3 million and $3.5 million in the current budget as well as amend next year’s plan to fill an anticipated $5.2 million shortfall. Suggested cuts will likely include reductions in town services and employees.

No date has been set for the public hearing.

The fiscal year ends on June 30.

See this week’s Stratford Star for more coverage of this story.

About author
Editor for the Stratford Star. Former reporter for the Darien Times.

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  • Short & sweet, with no spin — thanks, Melvin. I’m sorry I could not be there, to witness the fireworks. Looking forward to the follow-up, as the mysterious Plan B budget finally emerges!

    • Melvin Mason

      We will have a longer story in this week’s paper as there were comments from Mayor Harkins and council members about the anticipated changes.

      But thanks for reading, Tom.

  • Javamama

    Just a question. Who EXACTLY owns Birdseye Complex? Why is the town paying rent for ALPHA – A necessary alternative education program, to be housed in an old SCHOOL? And I am still trying to figure out why pay increases for town employees and new facilities are done before the town knows what INCOME will be available for the upcoming year. I suspect the sale of the water treatment plant was a case of putting the cart before the horse. Unless Plan B involves another property assessment.

    • Patricia Clark Sperling

      The Town owns the Birdseye Complex and the BOE apparently “rents” the space utilized for ALPHA. In order to change that IPP, which is currently housed at Center School (still owned by the BOE) is moving to Honeyspot (still owned by the BOE) and ALPHA will move to Center rather than paying rent to the Town.

      • Javamama

        So it is basically “on paper only” and no actual rent is paid. It would be like paying yourself to live in your house. OMG what a cluster****,

        • Patricia Clark Sperling

          Well, insofar as the Town is the “parent corporation” and the BOE, WPCA and may be something else are “subsidiaries” of the parent, funds are separate. Might be easier to look at it that way. The BOE bills the Town for building rentals (e.g., Rec Department use for sports activities), the Town bills the BOE for building rentals (e.g., ALPHA), the Town bills the WPCA for rent since it owns the land, but not the facility itself.
          Yeah, one big cluster****!

  • George Mulligan

    I apologize for long post. however Details are important:

    Town Council held executive session in the middle of the meeting until waiting until the end of the meeting per usual.
    * Net result: Maybe 60 % of audience of maybe 100 left.

    Councilor Matt Catalano lit up the Town Council after Executive Session during period of questions to Mayor or Town Attorney, normally held earlier in Meeting.
    * Here is Mr Catalano: https://www.facebook.com/MoveStratford

    During Public Forum, esquire Mark Dumas and others, including myself raised pointed questions about possible “corruption or ethical conduct.”

    After Councilor Catalano R I P P E D the Town Council and Administration, Councilor James Conner countered and spoke about the 2013 Pension Bond
    of $ 162,900,000 and that the entire Council was “on board.”
    * I ran for Stratford Mayor in 2005, 2009, and 2013 primarily to get into MAYOR
    DEBATES to EDUCATE the PUBLIC about various issues like PENSION and BENEFIT COSTS far exceeding what I believe reasonable people believe is fair.

    * The chickens came home to ROOST, as Mayor Harkins, Councilors Conner and Kubic, as well as CAO Nocera ADMITTED what I believe is a FELONY.
    * They needed the $ 16.6 million from the WPCA SALE to bridge shortfall needs to
    2018, when $ 7.8+ million annual cost from 1998 Pension Bond of $ 95 Million that
    had been $ 9.1+ million annual cost, prior to 2010 Chair Tom Malloy council had
    refinanced.

    The WPCA Sale was about COVERING UP what I believe are ongoing CRIMES that go back to 1996 related to the very expensive DEFINED BENEFIT PENSION,
    compared to Defined CONTRIBUTION Pension Plan.
    * 2002 Pension Obligation about $ 3,000,000. It grew D R A M A T I C A L L Y

    5-15-2015 Defined Benefit annual obligation and growing
    > > “$ 20.895,224.73” TAX PAYER must PAY – NOT the PENSION BONDS
    > 94 PENSIONS “over $ 60,000”
    + 34 PENSIONS “$ 50 to $ 60,000”
    + 62 PENSIONS “$ 40 to $ 50,000”
    + 103 PENSIONS “$ 30 to $ 40,000”
    + 41 PENSIONS “$ 25 to $ 30,000”

    * I do NOT believe a SINGLE PENSIONER would get over $ 30,000
    UNDER a Defined CONTRIBUTION Pension.

    I believe I could negotiate lower TAX PAYER obligations with PHASED DOWN, while creating a PHASE UP of legitimate level above Defined CONTRIBUTION
    and badly overdue increases for the lowest PENSIONERS.
    * Net result:
    1 – Fairer Pensions for work from top to bottom
    2 – Badly needed lower Debt for Town = better bond rating
    3 – Badly needed lower Taxes / Mil rate for Business / Resident
    4 – Protects Pensioners from completely losing Pension unless system implodes
    5 – Makes Stratford more Business Friendly and raises property values, which grow the Grand List, which automatically lowers Mil rates if apples to apples cost
    6 – Improves equity of all property owners, assisting retirement nest egg or getting from underwater value
    7 – Frees equity for ROI reinvestment into Education, Infrastructure, and lower cost
    of Energy and Utilities for Government, Business, and Residents, which become like a Tax break.
    I believe in Adam Smith, Keynesian, Milton Friedman, Laffer Curve, and other affirmative economic policies. I especially believe in stated purview in Marshall Plan
    and the “rising tide raises all boats.”
    Economics 101: Higher mean incomes of general population lowers federal and states costs and raises federal and state revenue.

    Top to BOTTON the PENSIONS have had MASSIVE inequities. My unique plan:
    There are ways OVER PENSIONS can be recovered, without IMMEDIATELY
    attaching present assets of those who wittingly abused the system.

    Although likely WARRANTED …. I do NOT want any arrests, no RICO confiscation, no REPUDIATION nor TOTAL LOSS of PENSION, nor DISBARMENT.
    * I believe DOD + FBI + State Police + Police + U S Attorneys + States Attorneys + Town Attorneys + elected at each level have been at least derelict of duty and at worst certain ones have been ACTIVE CRIMINALS.
    * I believe the EAGLE is plagued by parasites and allowed by systemic cowardice
    and ignorance.
    -.
    * USPS-NALC (Union): The purpose of discipline is supposed to be corrective rather than punitive in nature.
    * Also John 8:32 to 8:39 KJV

  • George Mulligan

    Not mentioned in the Article was conversation between Mayor Harkins and Finance Director Collier about the logistics of having property tax bills to residents on July1.

    BIGGEST ISSUE overlooked was discussion about MINI-BUDGET which Buturla’s
    1989 Town Council committed. Caused 1991 Town wide Petitions + Referendums
    create by the GREAT Diane Buda and Eleanor Burke.

    By law, there needs to be 2 readings about: Budgets, Mil rates, Sewer Fee rate, any BONDING and possible MINI-BUDGET (extra TAX which was discussed).
    By law, there needs to be Public Hearing each, about: Budgets, Mil rates, Sewer Fee rate, BONDING, and possible MINI-BUDGET.

    I was under impression there is 30 window for Council to rescind decisions?
    However, by Statute, the Budget needs to be done by July 1 so the State can do their Budget taking into account of needs of the State and 169 municipalities.
    Then the Federals commit their Budget to 50 states, all municipalities, and others.

    I KNOW BONDING can be done for CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT.
    I have NO IDEA how Bonding can be done for effectual CREDIT CARD DEBT?

    Finance Director Collier has extra work and likely extra mailing because from
    June 8 to July 1 is only 23 days.
    FOI mandates 48 hour Public Notice before Public Meeting like readings for Budget, Mil Rate, Sewer fee, Bonding and Public Hearing, etc

    FYI Town Clerk Susan Pawluk is on 2 week vacation in France.
    FYI Last Friday, after working 4 days, including OT, the Town Clerk office was told about noon Friday to cease counting. Sources indicate range of 2,000-2,200 petition signature were confirmed after pains taking, labor intensive confirmation of
    petition signatures or addresses and that they are registered voters.
    * Handwriting is sometimes tough to decipher.

    If petition signatures don’t get finished by the Judges assigned date, the Judge has the right to find the Mayor, Town Attorney, town clerk in “contempt of court.”
    * I’m unsure. I thought the cutoff date was June 12? Today is June 10.
    * Lawyers for the GNH group and petitioners were to meet June 9.
    * Results? Maybe Mr. Mason can find out from Esq, Proto?

    Who could imagine from the 2009 election choice between gentleman John Harkins
    and mercurial James Miron, myself, and Dom, that Mr, Harkins might be in JAIL in 2015?
    * I absolutely believe Esq. Buturla, Florek, Gilardi, Kelly, Bishop and other attorneys are all effectual partners. What a mess?

  • Roger Roger

    Has it ever been proposed that we outsource trash collection like surrounding towns have? Would that relieve some of the town burden to employ trash collectors, maintain equipment and trucks? As far as I know both Shelton and Bridgeport have done so, at least it would seem that way based on the fact that someone has supplied all town/city residents with garbage cans that can be picked up by the truck itself rather than 2 collectors plus a driver times however many crews we currently have collecting trash.

    • George Mulligan

      Hi Roger Roger is that you Jason? The council / mayor want to sell the Sewer Plant, and whoever you are, suggests Stratford should sell trash collection?
      I think both ideas are GARBAGE & very possibly “CONFLICTS of INTEREST”
      Stratford Taxes include a VERY FINE, but BADLY UNDERSTAFFED PUBLIC WORKS Department.
      * Why not post how much home owners and business owners pay for private garbage collection in each town?
      * Whenever Stratford garbage collectors finish their route, their day is done,
      weather it’s 5 hours or 9 hours. I’m fine with that.
      – Garbage stinks in HOT and MODERATE weather.
      – They work in DOWN POURS of RAIN, in MOST SNOW, BITTER COLD,
      and SWELTERING HEAT / HUMIDITY.
      – They can be available to do other Public Works jobs, ergo efficient

      • Javamama

        Home owners and business owners pay very little toward “private collection”. AND the mil rate in surrounding towns is considerably LESS.

      • Roger Roger

        George, you can call me any name you please. Are you a garbage collector? it’s not SELLING our trash service, its eliminating the burden. Do you really think anyone is lined up to buy Stratford’s garbage trucks etc.? absolutely not.you seem very passionate about a seemingly innocent idea. Remember when garbagemen came TO your garbage regardless of where it was kept on your property? I do. We pay more for less service than was previously provided. Like I said it is not as if other surrounding towns haven’t already gone this route. Javamama made several additional solid points. Have you never had to walk down your street to retrieve your garbage can after it was carelessly tossed maybe in the direction of your driveway? and how does it benefit me, a citizen, that the garbage collectors could be done in 5 or 9 hours? I see no benefit to anyone in this scenario. if they are paid hourly, well then they made less that day, if it is salary based then there goes three hours wasted in which they were paid. How would I know what a citizen from another town pays for their trash collection? I can assure you anyone in Shelton is paying less than anyone in Stratford regardless of the service. and as you say, if they can be available for other public works jobs, what difference does it make? you just admitted yourself that no one would lose their job over the issue that could save tax payer dollars.

        P.S. Thank you for reminding me that garbage stinks in the summer!

    • Javamama

      Thank you, thank you for posting this. This has been a itch in my pants for some time. All surrounding towns have either invested in their own propane-powered collection trucks (Shelton) or services that same time and mess (Trumbull/Milford). I suspect there is reluctance from those who have made a cottage industry out of manual trash collection but there is a serious environmental/quality of life issue involved.Trash is never fully removed from some cans or often is left blowing around on lawns. I can’t tell you on how many busted cans I have purchased over the years. Rolling cans in the streets are dangerous. Animals (Raccoons especially) are drawn to plastic cans which are gnawed through and garbage dragged about. Seems the town raises money but has poor planning for it’s use, 3 drivers vs. 20 employees…..doesn’t take a CPA to see the cost savings.

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