Saturday, May 22, 2010

Budget Update - 5/28/10

 BOA passed a Budget for FY10-11 last night.  I'll try to summarize the proceedings and the results soon... for now, this NHI article provides a good summary of the meeting and includes NHI's Thomas MacMillan's minute-by-minute blog of the 4.5 hour meeting.

Tuesday, May 18th, the BOA's Finance Committee held an additional Budget deliberation meeting.  This unusual addition to the Budget Season calendar was in response to an increase in Aldermen and City resident demand for more scrutiny, discussion and debate of the proposed FY11 City Budget.  Several amendments to the Mayor's Proposed Budget were introduced, discussed, debated and ultimately recommended favorably out of committee Tuesday evening.  While I'm not a member of the 10 member Finance Committee, I did attend all but one of the "Budget Season" Finance Committee meetings/workshops/public hearings. (I missed the BOE presentation ironically scheduled for the week of NHPS spring break.)

A truly important role of the BOA is to scrutinize, amend as deemed necessary, and ultimately pass the City's annual Budget, thus appropriating the money budgeted and setting the tax rate necessary to balance revenues and expenses.  This year there seems to be an increase in Alderman concern and participation in this oversight process.  There has also been an increase in the collaboration between the Aldermen and the Administration and City Departments in this budgeting process.  With concerns of their own and their constituents, many colleagues have worked hard to scrutinize the proposed budget and to propose cuts and revenue solutions.  From this scrutiny, listening to testimony from Department Heads,  and hearing concerns from the public, it became clear this year that all involved should collaborate to reduce proposed expenditures, find additional revenue, and thus mitigate the proposed tax increase.

The short summary for now of where we are after this week as we head toward next Thursday's (5/27) Special Budget session of the BOA...

Per amendments favorably recommended by the Finance Committee, the proposed budget to be considered next week has been reduced by $4.6 million down to $471.6M.  These amendments primarily came from small working groups of Alders, the Administration, and Dept. Heads. This represents a budget increase from FY 09-10 of 1.64% ($7.6M).  In comparison to the modest increase, significant cost increases include $7.7M in increased medical costs (which are contractual).

So, including these collaborative cost cutting efforts so far, the resulting residential property tax increase would thus be 4%.  This increase is the net result of total spending (decreased with numerous cuts from the original proposal), and offset by: other revenue (mostly State aid which decreases significantly from FY10), an increase to the Grand List, and the freezing of the revaluation phase in to Phase-in YR 2 (like last year).  The assessment value "freeze" sets residential values closer to today's fair market value and limits the effects of the revaluation done at the height of the market.  Instead of tax burden increases to residential tax payers from revaluation, any FY11 tax increase will be entirely based on the total budget that is not covered by other revenues like State aid, Payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), asset sales, non-profits' contributions, rents, fines, etc.

While a goal of a zero tax increase is desirous of all, there are many factors as to why this may not be achieved for FY11.  There has indeed been thoughtful collaboration and cooperation as the original proposed budget was cut significantly, other revenues added, and the assessment policy changed to more than halve the proposed tax increase yet still fund the City's commitment to schools, public safety and many, many other valued city services.

I did indeed contribute to the collaborative efforts (despite not being a member of the Finance Committee) and to many cuts contained in this amendment - as did many of my colleagues.

There is a lot more to this story and to this process.   There will also be efforts made to make more cuts as amendments are presented on the floor this week.  The work for a fiscally responsible budget will continue right up to the vote.  Most of my colleague and I believe it is our job to pass a budget that our constituents too would support.  I believe it is not our job to simply "reject" or "send the budget back."

Here's the pdf of the amendment.  Here's some explanation of this package of amendments...

Page A has the summary and also includes the 38% reduction in Capital Budget requests that represents CANCELING the last 4 school projects.  While this reductions doesn't really result in a tax reduction this year, it is still a positive CUT which will indeed help in future years.

The new Revenues and itemized cuts are shown on page 1, with more details/explanations on pg. 2.

Cuts Highlights include:
$1.5 from BOE including: $300K in non-academic summer programs, $800K for half of TAG (the current form of the district wide program), $200K athletics reorg. which will cut certain sports and related transportation), $200K of the "double dippers."
$736K for all of the new to FY11 proposed positions (no new hires)
$1.185M from NHPD including delaying new police class, OT reduc, eliminate mounted unit
$294K by delaying fire class (additional paramedics)
$500K by reducing trash (we have to pay to get rid of our trash) through more recycling (we get paid for recycling)

Note: the Technical Amendment on page 3 accounts for errors in the original budget and unfortunately those errors are slightly positive, $40,879

The Mil Rate... Yes, it goes up with this budget.  HOWEVER, it goes up because we are freezing the assessment valuation at YR 2 levels (same as last year) and the budget has gone up modestly (1.64%), but other revenues (State Aid) decreased drastically.  The assessment freeze though truly benefits residential tax payers and the net result is that any tax increase won't relate to inflated valuation (from reassessment done at the height of the market) nor the shift of the tax burden from commercial to residential.  Also worth noting:  comparing the mil rate to other towns in CT is NOT possible or fair as other towns assess in different cycles and "fair market value" is very often very different from town to town.  It's not supposed to be, but it is for many reasons, including the timing.

For taxes to not go up at all, we would need to cut another $10M+.  This may seem simple to some.  Simply cutting this amount from the total appropriation by means of % reductions for departments as some suggest may be just too blunt.  Budgeting usually appropriates $ to described line items (actual, planned expenses).  So, the cuts made so far (in the "favorably approved Finance Committee amendments") are a $ amounts attributed to a defined/described expense that has been cut.

Budget "holes," "place holders,"and "non specified expenses" are also in this budget.  To account for this approx. $11M would require much deeper cuts.  +$6M however is accounted for as targeted cuts that are in development, and in some cases will require negotiations (that is be realized throughout the year).  There is an itemization for $4.4M of these types of cuts outlined in a 5/17 press release (link here).  The other $5M is a whole other story for another Blog (not written yet): Monitization of a Revenue source (borrowing against future parking meter revenue was what was proposed) or sales of other assets.  I've included this explanation that there are "holes" in this budget for transparency and as illustration that there is indeed more hard work to come.  Not all budgeting can be done for a whole year at one instant; it is a dynamic process, there are contractual obligations, new negotiations, new technology to implement, reorganization, etc.  While many, many expenses, and then cuts to those proposed, have us where we are today, getting all the way to a zero tax increase requires truly thoughtful and truly difficult decisions.

As I said, most of my colleague and I believe it is our job to pass a budget that our constituents too would support, and this effort will take us right up to the vote on Thursday.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

BOA meeting report - 5/20/10

The May 20th, 2010 meeting was moved from Monday to Thursday to insert an unprecedented additional Finance Committee budget deliberation meeting Tuesday night.  With Budget Season rightfully monopolizing most Alder's time, the regular agenda was light.

The meeting opened with the unanimously approved order for Tax Refunds due (usually filer's errors) and the acceptance of US DOJ grant money to go to NHPD bulletproof vests.  Also a few City sliver lots were disposed per recommendation of the LCI director.

Next, with favorable recommendation from the Aldermanic Affairs Committee, the BOA unanimously approved the appointments and reappointments of several residents to City Commissions .

Then, with favorable recommendation from the City Services and Environmental Policy Committee (I'm Vice Chair; but missed the 4/22 meeting for NHPS spring break) several items also passed unanimously including: the establishment of an "ON-Street Parking Working Group" to explore how to maximize this City asset, the naming of a Wooster Square street corner after the late Battalian Chief Anthony P. "Dicky" Gambardella," the "adoption" of the Haitian City of Port au Prince and establishment of a volunteer Haitian Resources Relief Center modeled after Bridgeport and to continue to help the Haitian people here and in Haiti connect and rebuild after the earthquake tragedy, approval of a sign for Wireless Wizard at 786 Chapel St., the acceptance of Greater New Haven Transit District grant money for bikeway markings and signage, the acceptance of EPA grant money ($200K) for Brownfield Cleanup (earmarked for lot at Wall & State), and the acceptance of EPA grant money ($1 million) for a Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Program (money not allocated yet but sites along River St are a possibility).

Next, with favorable recommendation from the Community Development Committee, came the unanimous approval establishing a 20 year lease agreement with Christian Community Action for the family shelter they run and have run for many years at a City owned property (acquired through tax foreclosure 30+ yrs ago) at 124 Sylvan Ave.  This formalizes a "hand shake" agreement from long ago with the City and moves capital improvements, maintenance, and insurance responsibility from the City to CCA.  These costs will be covered by State grants to CCA, and these lease terms in lieu of monthly lease payments will serve the City and those served by CCA well for the next 20 years.

The meeting then ended with those Alders present unanimously voting for a resolution condemning AZ Senate Bill 1070 and urging the AZ legislature to reconsider this ill-advised and extreme "anti-illegal immigration" measure.  This resolution will be forwarded to the AZ legislature, and it is also the hope of those voting to condemn this type of legislation, that New Haven residents will see that similar policy will not be enacted in New Haven.

And so concluded the last "regular" meeting before next week's special budget meeting... stay tuned...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Yale Field Use - Summer Schedule 2010

The following is from a letter to me (Alderman Dildine) 
from Yale’s Asst. AD, Facilities Operations, Scott Griffin:

On May 22nd and 23rd Yale will be hosting the first of our annual Youth Lacrosse tournaments. This is the Eli Lacrosse Jamboree that we have hosted for the past few years. We are expecting around 100 teams to participate which is approximately 1,500 competitors and spectators whom we will park around the Yale Bowl. They have been instructed to access the parking lot through Gate A at the corner of Yale Ave and Chapel. We will have a Police Officer stationed across from the Armory on Central Ave. to assist with the safe crossing of everyone. We will be putting up signage on all telephone poles on Cleveland, Central, Roger and Alden stating that there is No Parking for Lacrosse past this point and we will do our best to enforce this. In addition as we did last year we will be posting someone in the mornings at the corner of Central and Cleveland to direct lacrosse individuals to the Yale Bowl.

The following Thursday and Saturday (May 27th and 29th) Yale will be hosting the SCC Baseball tournament at Yale Field. This is a rather small event consisting of 2 games on the 27th and 1 game on the 29th. West Haven Police will be on hand throughout the event.

On Friday, May 28th the Southern Connecticut State University Commencement will be taking place at the Connecticut Tennis Center. They will be parking primarily around the Yale Bowl with overflow going to F-Field and D-Special off of Central Ave. SCSU will be coordinating the entire event with assistance from our department and the University Police.

May 29th Yale will also be hosting the Connecticut High School Rugby Championships that consists of 9 teams playing a round-robin format tournament on the D-North Fields. This is the second year that we are hosting it and last year we had very few issues.

The next three weekends, June 5th and 6th, June 12 and 13th as well as the 19th and 20th we will be hosting the CONNY Lacrosse Tournament. This event is a much larger event, with competitors and spectators expected to reach up to 2,000 per day. Again we will be parking inside the Yale Bowl with overflow down on Lot A by the Connecticut Tennis Center. We will again have an Officer stationed on Central to assist with the safe crossing of everyone. A large tent will also be placed outside of Johnson Family Field that will serve as a store for the group’s main sponsor. They will have the tent monitored 24-hours while merchandise is there. The last weekend of the tournament, June 19th and 20th, has been set aside as a rain date for the event in case there is poor weather conditions one day. A few All-Star games will be held on the last weekend, but unless there is rain the attendance will be significantly smaller. Two Yale Police officers will be on hand for the all of the dates to assist with the safe crossing of Yale Ave. as well as on patrol throughout the parking lots and playing fields. We will again be putting up signage on all telephone poles on Cleveland, Central, Roger and Alden stating that there is No Parking for Lacrosse past this point and we will do our best to enforce this. In addition as we did last year we will be posting someone in the mornings at the corner of Central and Cleveland to direct lacrosse individuals to the Yale Bowl

Sunday, June 6th. Yale will also be hosting the Major League Lacrosse Combine and Draft on This event will bring in 35 of the top collegiate players in the country as they try to make the professional squads. The Combine is scheduled to begin at 10:00am with a game against the US National team scheduled for approx. 2pm. All individuals will be parking around the Yale Bowl, in Lot A and if necessary I am making arrangements with the City to utilize the Marginal Drive lot. Police will be on hand to assist with the running of the event. The Draft will take place later that night back downtown at the Payne Whitney Gym. They are anticipating approx. 1,000 people in attendance for the Combine.

On the afternoon/evening of June 12th we will be assisting the Hopkins School celebrate their 350th anniversary. That day the upper intramural fields will be used for parking of visitors for the event. Hopkins will then bus the visitors from the field to the school grounds for the celebration. Details are still being finalized and I will make sure you are made aware of what is going on once more is known.

The weekend of July 3rd and 4th we will be hosting a small Youth Softball round-robin tournament. Again games will not begin before 9:00am and will be done no later than 7:00pm. Parking for this event is still being finalized, but it looks like it will also be around the Yale Bowl.

All of our rental groups have been instructed that no play can begin before 9:00am on any of the fields located near our neighbors’ houses. Play should conclude around 6:30-7:00pm each day. I will be on hand for each of these days to make sure that the procedures that I have outlined are adhered to.

In addition to all of these events we have our normal Summer Camps and general field rentals. Please let me know if you have any questions. I appreciate everything that you have done for us in the past and again if there is anything that I can do please let me know. I try to minimize the effect that our events have on the neighborhood, but I know that something will always come up. Please do not hesitate to give me a call should you have any questions or concerns or should something happen during one of these events or at any time out on the fields. I look forward to working with you moving forward.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

speeding enforcement

  Here's the answer to my recent question of the new Police Chief at a recent BOA Public Safety Committee mtg:

NHPD currently has 8 lazer guns which are used for speed enforcement. The traffic unit is equipped with them(Note-Traffic Unit is Motorcycles.) The units are also available to Patrol Officers who wish to sign them out per shift. We do have several fixed radar units which are not being used do to certification lapses/costs.
    As to the b-squad traffic unit the Officers are in training beginning May 17th and Graduation being June4th. Upon graduation Officer will be assigned to b-Squad and assigned Motorcycles for more traffic enforcement.e have 6 new bikes ready for the squad in June. Money came from federal grants.Officers  will also be assigned a B-Squad Sgt.
    Stats show that M/V enforcement was up by over 10 thousand last year. Proactive enforcement goals along with proper used of DUI Grants / and enhanced enforcement zones to stop motorcycle noise, racing , speeding and or any moto vehicle problem. The New Motor vehicle hotline number is 203-946-6306 to report any MV problem in the city.

Monday, May 3, 2010

BOA Meeting Report - 5/3/10

The May 3rd, 2010 meeting opened with Divine Guidance from Alderwoman Castro (16-D).  She addressed the recent May Day rally for Immigration Reform and denounced the new AZ law trying to address immigration issues facing that state.

A very short meeting, only attended by a couple reporters and seemingly no one from the public, only had a few items on the agenda.

Unanimously approved were Tax Refunds (usually filer's errors), the acceptance of Federal grant money ($20K) for the NHPD to use for OT and equipment for speedy forensic processing of seized firearms, and the acceptance of CT Econ Dev grant money ($2.8 million) to support the River Street Municipal Development Project.

Also, quickly approved unanimously were Tax Abatements (deferral of collection) favorably recommended and vetted by the Tax Abatement committee for four city residents.

The meeting then ended after a short discussion and amendment to a resolution supporting the 47th Freddie Fixer Clean up.  The original resolution was to support both the clean-up and the parade.  But, due to recent gun violence in the neighborhoods along the parade route, and a lack of dialogue between parade organizers and local Alders, colleagues decided it was best not to overtly endorse the parade this year.