Cann: Harkins offers failed strategies with budget

Greg Cann

Greg Cann

Despite saddling Stratford with the highest residential mill rate of any similar municipality, Mayor John Harkins has driven our town into near bankruptcy. He has depleted each of our cash reserve funds, and he has expropriated our capital improvement funds to pay for annual operating expenses. That’s what the bond rating agencies hate.

In violation of town charter and a state statute that requires Stratford to maintain a viable ambulance service, Harkins has withdrawn over $2 million from Stratford EMS, causing it to operate at a deficit every year until it is near bankrupt. Harkins’s last budget proposal removed funding for a required ambulance and mandated medical equipment. Talk about cutting services. That’s what the bond rating agencies hate.

After spending in excess of $4 million in salaries and overhead on his “economic development department,” the Town of Stratford’s grand list remains $100 million below its pre-Harkins value. All our neighboring towns are “profitable” versus fiscal year 2008. Harkins has “led” Stratford to comparative economic failure. That’s what the bond rating agencies hate.

Harkins’s answer to failed commercial development is to raise residential property taxes and fees over 35%. That’s four times greater than the rate of inflation. That’s what the bond rating agencies hate. 

While taking more money out of our pockets, Harkins increased the salaries of his appointed administrators by over 30% — and the people have experienced no improvement in services from Town Hall. Harkins expects families on fixed incomes to subsidize his personal fiefdom of patronage. The Mayor’s office costs the Town in excess of $1 million per year. Are you satisfied with the level of service you receive? Some Town Council persons were elected to “decrease opportunities for political patronage” that “bloat the budget”, but once in office — they joined up with the status quo.

Independent attorneys and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection have validated that sewer connection fees are to be expended for capital improvements to the sewer system and “for no other purpose.” That’s why it is called the sewer revolving fund. Harkins violated state statute when he expropriated $2.2 million from that fund under the guise of “tax relief.” In violation of the town charter, Harkins took over $9 million from the Water Pollution Control Authority by double billing for maintenance and employee benefits. Those are regressive taxes and fees that punish the most economically vulnerable households.

Harkins has the audacity to suggest our Board of Education cannot satisfactorily run our schools on the money taxpayers have appropriated. Our public school population has decreased by over 400 students — that’s 12 classrooms of reduced overhead. Over the past four years,  Stratford has increased its per pupil per year expenditures by over $3,200 — that’s a 23% increase. Using the State’s standardized formula, the Stratford Board of Ed now receives over $17,400 per student per year. All the while, the public continues to uncover operating inefficiencies that waste money and do not benefit students — over $ 3million of cost avoidance and right-size budgeting wait to be implemented. Our town’s poor scholastic performance is more about failed administrative leadership than about “not enough money.” Those who make six-figure salaries should be directly accountable for student performance, but they cannot pass the test.

Harkins budget counts on Stratford getting $33.4 million from the state, almost entirely dedicated for the funding of our public schools. Our state legislators suggest a 1% increase to that figure is realistic.  If it is a “wild assumption” to expect money from the state, then Harkins is 99% naïve, if not reckless.

Harkins’s budget eliminates the annual fall yard waste pickup service (page 47). He expects disabled and elderly to move their own yard waste to the town dump. Harkins amended his budget to also reduce staff positions in the Recreation Department. Recall he also eliminated EMS’s purchase of mandated medical equipment. Talk about cutting town services.

And notice everyone, when Harkins accuses the council approved budget of “cutting services,” he lists zero examples. The approved budget does nothing to violate contracts or financial obligations – no actual evidence has been publicized by the town’s finance department or town’s attorneys. Simply: unsubstantiated complaining from our town’s Mayor. Recall what truly risks a downgrade to our town’s bond rating: failed economic development, bankrupted enterprise funds, depleted cash reserves, exaggerated central office salaries and overhead, an administration dependent on violations of state statute and trampling town’s code of law (charter), a town hall that ignores the people’s questions and complaints, a town hall that repeatedly loses lawsuits, a system that rewards patronage but cannot measure performance.    Those are the behaviors which tarnish Stratford’s reputation and punish anyone who has invested in this town.

Harkins desires to perpetuate these failed strategies. I say, enough is enough. It is long past time for credible accountable leadership.

Greg Cann is the 5th District Town Councilman.

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  • Allan DeRosa

    Mr. Cann: would you be so kind as to inform the public of your level of education? If you went to college, where and when you graduated? Also, what was your field of study? This is an honest question that has nothing to do with the merits of your opinion piece (we can debate that later). Thanks!

    • Inquiring Minds

      How is this relevant?

      • Angelo Antonio

        How is your comment relevant?

        • Inquiring Minds

          I had a friend growing up named Angelo. We called him Louie. nnThis comment is relevant because one’s education does not discredit their opinion. With one’s opinion you can agree or disagree with it and state your reasons why. nnSo please tell me. How was that question relevant?

          • Angelo Antonio

            Thank you for sharing your touching story about your friend Angelo, or Louie. How that is relevant is beyond me.nnSo, you are admitting that Gregger’s weak diatribe is nothing more than his opinion. Hah!

          • Connecticut Sam

            It is not.

    • Greg Cann

      Allan, your interest should be on the validity of issues presented and the potentiality of the available solutions. How does “level of education” effect the legitimacy of ideas and observations? How does that weigh against informal education and other “life experiences? Would you reject Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” due to his failure to hold an advanced degree? Do you reject the technical and market creating innovations of Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Henry Ford and Richard Branson? Or maybe you refuse the societal observations and literary contributions of William Faulkner, Charles Dickens, F Scott Fitzgerald, Ray Bradbury and Mark Twain aka Samuel Clemens because they lacked formal “college degrees”? Or the female empowerment and commercial success as represented by Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey? If political efficacy is your focus, would you reject the contributions of either George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Harry Truman? Seriously Allan, I have no idea what point you are trying to make. Certainly we can also list plenty of folks with a PhD level education who are failures as community leaders, who have self-destructive ethical bias, and cannot be trusted as eye witnesses to what’s inside an empty brown paper bag. So… what honest result are you hoping to obtain via this line of inquiry?

      • Allan DeRosa

        Mr. Cann,nnThat was quite a long-winded response without answering my question. I am not trying to use you education level against you or your ideas, as clearly stated in my post/question. Your opinions are questionable and debatable regardless of your education, I would just like to know, and feel that other people may want to know. Most people proudly say one way or the other, not angrily reply to the question. So again, instead of assuming from your post that you do not have a degree or formal education, I’ll ask again: did you attend college? If so, did you graduate? If so, when and I. What field? I don’t understand why you will not answer the question? Either way, there is no reason to not answer. Thank you.

        • Trevor

          ALLAN: That is because you CAN’T answer the question. You’re just a troll that is trying to control the election like Trump did to self better yourself and your party.

          • Angelo Antonio

            Trump? What are you taking about. You are all over the place. The way I read it, Allan asked the question, he doesn’t need to answer a question. Curious: why won’t Greggers say whether he went to college or not? His inability to answer the question only proves that he believes education attainment does have an impact on how one is perceived. If not, why hide? Tell us Greggers, please tell us: what school and when?

        • Connecticut Sam

          You are asking too many questions that are not important.

      • Allan DeRosa

        Oh, and please don’t tell me where my interest should be. I have my own interests. I will say this to you, though, as an elected official: your interest should be answering the questions of your constituents. Thank you.

        • Greg Cann

          I answer relevant questions. And I engage with people who demonstrate an interest in improving the state of our town. Mr Allan DeRosa, you have met neither criteria. If you are truly a constituent, then you know how to reach me. Otherwise, focus your blow hard on some brown paper bag.

          • Angelo Antonio

            Really? You are such a phony. Your response is as lousy as your opinion piece. Why won’t you answer his question? Don’t people deserve to know? Why are you so ashamed of your credentials? What a great leader you are putting people off like that. The guy did nothing but ask an honest question. He did not insult or attack you. You can’t even answer, but instead, insult and attack him. You, sir, represent everything that is wrong with this Town. You opinions above are just that; your budget is illegal and fraudulent; and you voted for a tax increase. Typical politician: lies, lies, and more lies. How about some refreshing honesty: did you go to college? You can’t answer that, yet you can compare yourself to all those people above and provide all those opined facts in your garbage opinion piece? Give me a break. Do us all a favor and just step down. Hah!

          • Angelo Antonio

            And I bet you determine relevancy too. That’s poor leadership. I bet you also decide what opinions – err, what you call “facts” – are relevant. Your opinion piece is fake and not worth the time it takes to even read who wrote it.

          • Jon

            I’m very concerned how many in the community seem to divert from the issues and try to discredit the significant realities that exist in government both locally and nationally as it relates to budgets and spending.nThe reality is that educated formerly or not doesn’t diminish ones ability to recognize and manage debt appropriately.nExperience and understanding of cause and effect and ones resources plays the biggest role.nThe majority of government at every level have degree’s of many types and we still have astounding debt everywhere we look. Traditional education may provide the additional tools and basic understanding but experience ultimately gets the job done.nGoing back and forth name calling or setting each other up for debate (argument) particularly after calling out ones credentials is obviously not going to solve the issue.nMy point is this.nThe current council is trying to make practical sense of what’s going to remedy the Towns budget issues and they are spending a great deal more time immersed in the budget than many complaining.nI also don’t believe that many other than Jay Wahlberg in the current administration have advanced degrees in municipal finance. So both sides are grappling with a complex issue outside their own expertise. nObviously they know more about the details than most.nThere are always going to be disagreements.nFor those of you so negative and convinced of wrong doing put your effort into getting involved so you can make your claims based on factual reality.nIt doesn’t matter whose side of the table you are on . Once you have the facts your educated decision can be made.nNegativity is counter productive and cheats us all out of the energy that can be recognized to solve our problems.nA compromise is going to inadvertently have to be recognized to move forward.

          • John Anderson

            Jon, your comment was a waste of both your time (to write) and my time (to read and respond). With that, I’ll respond briefly by analogy: to quote you partially, “educated formerly or not doesn’t diminish one’s ability to recognize” that someone is having a heart attack. So, would you allow just anyone, lacking credentials, to operate on you? I hope not. Same thing here. And how do you know he education levels of the administration? Do you know Cann’s? Please tell. In fact, you are so smart, why not tell us all admin staff who do not have “advanced degrees in municipal finance.”

          • John Anderson

            Mr. Cann, you don’t answer any questions. You tell lies and avoid questions. Want proof? Read the garbage opinion piece you wrote. What a joke. L What are you hiding? Why not just tell Stratford residents where you went to school. Did you even graduate high school?

          • Connecticut Sam

            The petition candidate running for council member in the Third District serve in the Air Force and graduated from HCC.

        • Connecticut Sam

          Not relevant questions.

      • Angelo Antonio

        Woah, woah, woah, Greggers. Did you really just compare yourself to our first president? Hah!

        • Greg Cann

          Read it again. Content not complicated. Certainly does not warrant your conclusion. We have enough comprehension related issues from our town’s administrators “… I don’t know what those taxpayers are upset about?”, “what do you mean the budget does not reconcile with actual expenses?”, and “… I am an elected official, therefore laws codes statutes and ordinances do not apply to me!”.

          • Angelo Antonio

            What? Your comment makes no sense. Try again when you are in full possession of your faculties.. which is likely never.

  • Frank Parady

    His “vision” for Stratford: to rob us blind!

    • Angelo Antonio

      Did Mayor Harkins rob you? Quite a claim. Did you file a police report? Hah!

      • Frank Parady

        “Us” troll….. he has been consistently robbing US, the people of the town…..

        • Angelo Antonio

          Easy, Frankie, easy……. … ..

  • Kenny

    Mr. Cann may not have even been elected if the town had not made the Registrar’s office full time with increased pay and benefits for all. Bond rating agencies love to see that, it’s great service to the residents.

    • Angelo Antonio

      Kenny: Google where to buy a clue, because you really need to get one. Hah!

  • Thayer

    Really!!! We already have educated individuals leading all aspects of our Town and how has that worked out so far ???!!

    • Allan DeRosa

      Thayer, I don’t have a problem with how our Town is operating. You apparently do. So do us all a favor, and why don’t you tell us how it’s working out? Oh, and maybe you can answer my question about Mr. Cann’s education. Thank you.

      • Thayer

        Listen Allan, I’m overwhelmed with happiness that you feel our town is operating properly and headed in the right direction. You and many others with this perception of Stratford doing all the right things is the problem! There is so much room for improvement. If you are happy with taxes that will continually climb and property values remaining at the lower end of what they should be, then fine that’s your problem. An over budgeted BOE that uses favoritism to hire teachers and staff while maintaining an AVERAGE education for our children. An Economic Deveopment Dept. that has and will continue to fail!! Plenty of auto stores though when we need something!! If Sikorsky was not staying we would be done! There is no leadership nor is there any real vision for Stratford!! Status quo for Stratford and in the next couple of years we will reach 40 mils you watch and see!

        • Angelo Antonio

          Love your opinion. No fact. It’s easy to make anything up and say whatever. Watch: your posting name is not Thayer, it’s Oldsmobile. Hah!

          • Thayer

            Wrong again, teachers hired strictly because they new the right person! Fact! Our economic dept has failed this town. Fact! nMany of our friends and family are leaving this town based solely on its future! FACT!

          • Angelo Antonio

            Fact: You are wrong! Fact! Fact! Fact!!!

          • Connecticut Sam

            The new budget is nothing to laugh about.

    • Angelo Antonio

      So are you saying that an education is not worth the paper a diploma is printed on? I feel sorry for you, and any kids you may have. Education is very important. It’s not for everyone, but then again, nor is holding elected office. But hey, Greggers holds office, so I guess anyone can. Hah!

      • Thayer

        You are wrong with your opinion, my wife and I are both educated. While I chose to work in a field where an education is secondary to hard work I make a nice living. My wife holds several degrees in teaching and does very well. I personally know quite a few people with only a high school education that are quite intelligent, so a fancy education is not needed to see how this town is faltering!

        • Angelo Antonio

          Thanks for your input, Oldsmobile… hah!

        • Connecticut Sam

          So true,

      • Connecticut Sam

        College education did not much good for our governor, mayor and our town council members.

    • Connecticut Sam

      Not good so far.

  • Angelo Antonio

    Greggers: you are like fake news. Let’s call you fake facts. I’m convinced that you make everything up. Nearly everything that you say can be refuted. Why do you continually lie to the public? Stratford voters do not suffer fools gladly: we are going to vote you out of office very soon. Hope you enjoy your last few more months of lying and damaging our Town. After that, you’ll be even less relevant than you already are. Hah!

  • Andrea Veilleux

    What degree do you need to see the increased funding to the boe budget ,which hired additional staff, yielded lower sat scores, lower SBAC scores, eliminated district wide elementary world language program only to replace with dual language program serving one school (vss -240 students), hired more spanish teachers after cutting spanish teachers, displaced current staff and eliminates the advanced learning program, has not improved the district or student achievement? Where is the oversight for budget and metrics for curriculum? nWhere is the accountability?

    • Angelo Antonio

      Why don’t you tell us? After all, you used to be part of the problem. Hah!

      • Andrea Veilleux

        ??? When I served on the boe, Stratford was number 1 and 2 in our drg for ela and math unlike today. We held monthly meetings and held the administration accountable. The district had a plan that had metrics to measure success. There was also a curriculum work plan. nIs there now? Obvisously, something’s not working.

        • Angelo Antonio

          I guess you are perfect, and everyone else is not. I feel bad for you, always being right and all… hah!

          • Connecticut Sam

            Are you writing about our mayor and our ten council members?

  • Alta Vista

    The problem with the ability of anyone to write anything they want to on the Internet, especially in forums like these, is there’s zero accountability and even less respect.nnPersonal attacks do not change reality. They just distract from actually engaging in the substance of Mr. Cann’s argument. The result of all this is that the power structure in place remains there while people squabble meaninglessly with each other over nonsense.nnThose individuals who are personally profiting over Stratford’s mis-management rely on the inability of voters to focus intelligently on what truly matters. nnAnd they want you all to keep up the good work… while they fill their bank accounts with your money.

    • LorraineCecile Benoit

      Alta vista – you are correct but look even deeper, look at some of the candidates running not MR Cann and how they are related to and how they have benefited from this town. nnThose individuals who are personally profiting over Stratford’s mis-management rely on the inability of voters to focus intelligently on what truly matters.

      • Allan DeRosa

        Oh look! Ms. Long-Name has chimed in, and she has once again added absolutely nothing useful to the conversation. Not only is it off topic, but it makes no sense (kind of like her over hyphenated name). like your name, you should take a ‘long’ vacation from Stratford (aka move if you do not like it here). See ya!

        • LorraineCecile Benoit

          .Your post added alot. Everytime I see your name and think about the kind of people who live in this place, i realize how lucky i am to have no ties here and to be able to go as soon as i can… thanks for reinforcing that Allan

          • Angelo Antonio

            Lol!!

        • Connecticut Sam

          Your insults are useless and not welcome here.

    • Angelo Antonio

      Oh come on… There is no substance in Gregger’s argument. It’s nothing but a personal attack against the Mayor, all based on false statements and lies. And what’s with the conspiracy theory at the end of your comment. Want to talk about substance? Unreal. Hah!

      • Alta Vista

        Actually, Mr. Cann’s letter is filled with facts, as opposed to name-calling. nnOf course, it’s unlikely you can do this but… the appropriate response would be to challenge what you term ‘false statements and lies’ with a fact-based response. nnIdeally, providing the provenance of your own claims. Argue the facts, not the personality. nnIs our grand list down $100 million dollars from where it was 8 years ago? That’s a fact that can be easily checked. nnHave we not increased per pupil spending by 23% over the past 4 years while student enrollment has dropped? nnThese are not opinions, this is the economic reality of Stratford in 2017.nnBut I suspect you’re the non-thinking, name-calling type. Prove me wrong and show u2013 with evidence u2013 that Mr. Cann’s numbers are incorrect. Thank you.

        • Angelo Antonio

          I guess, if you call lies facts. Tell me, why won’t he answer such a simple question about his education? Greggers can attack everyone, question anyone and everything, yet he won’t ever answer a question. It because he is clueless and likely unable to understand the complexities of budgeting. Hah!

          • Alta Vista

            Once again, Mr. Antonio, you simply call people names. nnMr. Cann is, I believe, a certified financial planner and quite capable of understanding a budget. His writing (above) contains information. Your posts do not.nnYour case, if you have one, is in refuting Mr. Cann’s statement of facts with primary source information that proves his information is incorrect.nnIf you do that, you will win the argument. nnSince you don’t even attempt to do that, it seems like all you want is attention.

          • Connecticut Sam

            What is your education?

      • Andrea Veilleux

        Not so. Enrollment has gone down. In 2012, enrollment was 7400 for Stratford students in district now it’s 6800. I am looking forward to posting the new state enrollment data in October 2017 that will concur with Mr Canns number. Stayed tuned!

        • Andrea Veilleux

          Apologize for grammar and spelling errors. Working on ipad and it’s changing words, etc.. Look forward to new state data for Stratford in fall as it will show enrollment data and new per pupil expenditure as stated by mr cann.

          • Angelo Antonio

            Sure, blame the device….. hah!

          • Andrea Veilleux

            ????

          • Connecticut Sam

            Looking forward to ten new council members and of course a new mayor.

        • Angelo Antonio

          Thanks but no thanks. No one cares about the pointless information you are trying to make into important facts. Data is great! So is manipulating the data. Greggers manipulates data, not because he is playing smart politics, but because he doesn’t understand how it all works. Maybe if we knew what his background was it would explain a little more about his lack of knowledge – sort of like how one council member is a masseur, yet thinks he’s the next coming of Einstein. Give me a break. Hah!

          • Andrea Veilleux

            The information you call pointless is collected by the state to use for funding purposes.

        • Connecticut Sam

          There are new schools all over the Third District.

      • Connecticut Sam

        You want substance, our town budget raise taxes too high.

  • Charles E.

    Very well stated, Mr. Cann. I find it amusing some childish posters to this thread have the time to attempt to distract from your facts because they can’t refute them. Weakness hides behind a keyboard and attacks what it cannot disprove. A person of substance steps out in public and contributes to the solution, like Mr. Cann. Doughy little trolls snivel behind a screen and attack the messenger to hide the truth of the message. Hah!

    • Alta Vista

      Charles E. u2013 Your description of “doughy little trolls sniveling behind a screen” has made my day. Wonderfully descriptive writing!

      • Frank Parady

        Agreed…. a doughty little troll or two here….. hiding behind their keyboards and fake names!

  • Connecticut Sam

    Most of us in our town have the same opinions of Mr. Cann. The council member in the Third Distrust is not good for our town who also voted for this latest budget and in increasing the property taxes too high. We need a another council member in the Third District.

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