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Update: Council to Vote on Mayor's Proposed Budget Tonight

The budget pushes the average tax bill over $6,000 by increasing it by $67.78

Town Council members are expected to vote on Mayor John A. Harkins' proposed $191 million budget for next fiscal year when they meet at 8 p.m. Tuesday at .

The May 8 special meeting comes after several budget workshops and two public hearings.

During the first hearing held at , residents spoke in favor of maintaining the .

At the same hearing, a group of animal volunteers requested .

The appeal to Town Council members has since been a hot topic on Stratford Patch, with as well as a offering opposing views on the issue via letters to the editor. (See related 'In This Article' stories on the right side of page.)

This original report, published April 9, follows:

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Stratford Town Council members this week will start the process of appraising the for next fiscal year.

The discussion starts at 8 p.m. tonight when the Council will hold its first reading of the budget at . A public forum precedes the meeting at 6:45 p.m.

From Tuesday through Thursday this week, Council members will host a series of budget workshops with town department heads. Those meetings are open to the public and a full schedule is included at the end of this article.

Mayor John A. Harkins' proposed budget would increase the average tax bill by $67.78, which he deems in a letter to town officials as "an unavoidable consequence of the state's economic fortunes and the continually rising costs of municipal labor."

Harkins continues, "The cost per employee of municipal labor is far outstripping the taxpayers' ability to pay for a level of services to which they have become accustomed, which is something we continue to address through the collective bargaining process.

"In FY 2013 (which begins July 1), we will have to spend 10.4 percent of our total municipal budget on pension costs, an increase of $821,639 as recommended by our actuaries."

The mayor's budget represents an overall spending increase of .99 percent or $943,825 more than the current budget. makes up $550,347 of those monies.

Chart comparing FY 2012 adopted budget with Mayor Harkins' FY 2013 proposal:

2012 Adopted Budget 2013 Proposed Budget Amount Change Percent Change Operating Budget $188,538,591 $191,131,241 $2,592,650 1.38 Other Revenues $38,934,543 $39,266,130 $331,587 0.85 Grand List $4,511,422,766 $4,525,796,461 $14,373,695 0.32 Collection Rate 98.25 percent 98.2 percent Mill Rate 34.15 34.54 0.39 1.13 Tax Bill $5,977.03 $6,044.81 $67.78 1.13

A department-by-department look at the FY 2013 proposed budget:

Service Area Proposed Dollar Amount Percentage of Budget Administration $4,793,704 2.51 Contingencies $2,293,147 1.20 Debt/Capital $13,461,132 7.04 Employee Benefits $35,418,352 18.53 Finance $1,586,928 0.83 Fire $11,680,539 6.11 Health/Human Services $2,616,995 1.37 Library $2,824,214 1.48 Police $9,939,369 5.20 Public Works $12,564,332 6.57 Board of Ed $93,952,529 49.16 Total Expenditures $191,131,241 100

BUDGET WORKSHOP SCHEDULE

All meetings held on the second floor of Stratford Town Hall.

Tuesday, April 10 (6 p.m.): EMS; Emergency Management; Fire; Police.

Wednesday, April 11 (6 p.m.): Public Works-WPCA-Building; Recreation; IT; Human Resources.

Thursday, April 12 (5 p.m.): Sterling House; Finance; Health; Community Services; Library; Planning; Zoning; Economic Development; Mayor; CAO; Council Clerk; VNA.

PUBLIC HEARINGS TO FOLLOW

Two public hearings on the budget are slated for next week: April 17, 7 p.m. at B; April 18, 7 p.m. at .

What changes, if any, would you like to see to the mayor's proposed budget? Tell us in the comments.

George E. Mulligan April 09, 2012 at 02:27 PM
To MAX - While out sourcing has good economic potential, the reality is that the thieves in government pass things to preferred venders who gouge the Public. I don't love Obama's lack of programs per Oil/Gas/Coal pricing or green energy which should re-employ America. Most of the people in Government & Rank industry + Military Rank + supergrade Bureaucrats belong in Jail for what was done by Bush - Cheney and all those since 1967. - Tom is partially right about the pension / politicians. However many of the politicians have relatives in unions and rank police. - Diane - I agree with your frustrations about political parasites / vampires. - I got a kick out of Obama's reference about NO SILVER BULLETS related to GAS PRICES. SILVER BULLETS are the mythical way to kill Werewolves, Vampires, and the like. Obama's last name looks like Osama's first name Obama's middle name Hussein was the same as IRAQ leader's last name SadDAM HUSSEIN. There are other Arab leaders with HUSSEIN last name. > Does it appear he was groomed and choose to be President? - > With Broadway hit "House of Mormon" was there a plan to groom "MITT" as the next President? - GHW Bush "Voodoo Economics." Had best resume to become President W Bush "Fuzzy Math" Destroyed USA economy fire and education. Politics is about jobs. Ordinary police / fire / education & others who aren't politically connected get pushed / harassed out, to make room for the new political connectioned.
Mike April 09, 2012 at 03:59 PM
So if we are to keep the level of services we are acustomed to, we have to pay this level of tax. In the South End, we don't get much service. Does that mean we don't have to pay the tax? Don't bet the rent.
Jason Bagley (Editor) April 09, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Mike: What are some of the specific services you feel the South End is lacking?
Diane Wirtemburg April 09, 2012 at 04:39 PM
All jokes and sarcasm aside. I would just like the town to communicate that everything possible is being done to operate within it's current means and justify in more detail the reason for any increases and acknowledge that most of us are struggling. I want the town to communicate to us that they realize that any tax increase would cause taxpayers a hardship. I perceive a lack of communication on a lot of details to the general public by our current local administration.
Jezebel282 April 09, 2012 at 04:57 PM
According to Harkins' proposed budget the Water Pollution Contral Authority (sewers) will have a 03.5% increase. BUT Harkins is also proposing a fee increase of 31.8%! Another bite at the apple?
Jezebel282 April 09, 2012 at 04:58 PM
*03.5% operating expense increase*
George E. Mulligan April 09, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Found on Jezebel's blog www.stratfordcharter.wordpress.com Wednesday June 6th, 2012 (Tentative) Ordinance for budget in effect Found on p. 68 of proposed budget: Sewer use fee increase of 31.8%. Sewer use expense increase of 03.5% I hope someone has a really good explanation for this. - Note above - I spoke up last year. Town Council voted down the increase. What would happen if there were hundreds of people speaking up against the thieves and liars in governments? Maybe the cowards sitting home might gain courage to speak and act like AMERICANS?
Mea April 09, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Our quaint Town of Stratford is fast becoming, yes, you guessed it, the "city" of Bridgeport. I was born and raised in Bridgeport, and sadly that city became run down and streets are not paved, bumps damaging vehicles, trash all over, rise in crime. I love Bridgeport and am not ashamed to say I was born and raised there. I moved to Stratford because of its "town" appearance, LOWER PROPERTY TAX, and LOWER CRIME RATE. Town Hall ? You need to move, think on your feet, and start looking at what this town is becoming......Trash all over the side streets of Walmart, abandoned cars, I never know when my trash is going to be picked up ?? Some days it is a day late, so .......higher taxes for Maintenance, and this is NOT the workers fault.......poor management of Town Funds ???? Something is not right in Paradise (and not the Green)
meg April 09, 2012 at 06:17 PM
do you think we get a lot in the north end for the 10 to 14K many of us our paying?
max April 09, 2012 at 06:33 PM
I totally agree, and by the way I don't work for a private co who offers town services, my ethical standards are higher than those..
max April 09, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Is there room in the budget to fix the potholes in the roads in Paradise Green? Where's Mr Stratford when you need him?
Joe Paul April 10, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Put a Freeze on all tax increases to the home owners of Stratford. If we have to under fund the pension fund to keep taxes flat then so be it. The fact is we can not afford to continue with over spending on penisons, health beneifits, excessive overtime, and other costs that this town can not afford. The 2013 proposed Budget demonstrates that this Administration has failed to fiscally manage this town.
George E. Mulligan April 10, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Mayor was paid $ 111,000 despite $ 90,000 salary. Unpaid vacation, sick, etc. $ 2,500 for not having Town Health Insurance? Amazing how RANK personnel, attorneys, etc never take time off and cash out near maximums. In some cases exceed credible maximums.
Jim Ravis April 10, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Unpaid vacation? Isn't that included in his salary already? How about vacation carry-over? The Sewer Assessment going up? Why? Does the town need more money to pay its Attorney - or $180K a year Dispatcher? Enough already - Will this ever end?
Craig Budnick April 10, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Max, I am still here. No one has sent a request to me regarding potholes but I would be more than happy to forward the information. Regarding all the other comments above.......I am wondering what it will take to see a more positive tone one of these days. I agree that we are over taxed and that our pension system is broken but we are far from the difficulties facing Bridgeport. What many of you fail to recognize is something I have discovered as a new Councilman. There are many hard working town employees who come to work, don't complain, do not ask for "more" from the system and help keep Stratford running as well as it does. Not speaking for any of my fellow politicians that seem to be thrown under the bus all the time.....I am talking about the average fireman, policeman, public works, town hall employee, etc......they are great people, many of which work for underfunded, understaffed departments. However, we ALL should expect more for our tax dollars and you have EVERY right to complain. But in all fairness, please recognize that Stratford is far from the worse town in Connecticut.......but of course it can be much better. So Max please let me know about those potholes....so "Mr. Stratford" as I have regretfully called myself can help make the town better. Thank you, Craig Budnick 7th District Town Councilman cbudnick@townofstratford.com
Jim Ravis April 11, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Mr. Regretfully, How can you say the town departments are underfunded when there is such a gross usage of overtime? Really, a town like ours where the average dispatcher makes $100k per year? Time to cut the fat. Each school should only have one vice principal. Any other help could be hired at a much lower rate than 110k per year. What do you think about the proposed $200k salary for the new head of the board of ED?
Dom DeCicco April 11, 2012 at 08:03 AM
I would like to know how much Lone Pine Capital has given the BOE to date. I would like to know if any employees (past) are now emplyed in some fashion by Lone Pine -- maybe as an adviser. I would like to know that if an employee were to have brought a Lone Pine progam/grant in (bla,bla,bla); whatever the psychopaths call such things these days and then were to take a job with them, would that violate any code of ethics. Is charcing someone well over a $100 for a FOI request right when the information provided was all electronic records? I would like to know if any others once emplyed in the BOE are no working in some form and fashion with Lone Pine?
Dom DeCicco April 11, 2012 at 08:09 AM
Garbage truck drives in front of my house. I guess it was so early in the morning that they two guys operating it never imagined that I was awake, drinking a coffee, and watching them from the living room window. As they both have a good laugh, one of them releases the billdge valve on the side of the truck and drains an estimated ten gallons of waste right in front of my driveway -- where my children play. After endless calls to the yard that go unreturned, I am given some half-whitted response that the trucks don't have that capability; however, I try explaining to the Mayor's office that they do by sending a ling on the internet for the truck involved. Nothing happens -- nothing ever happens in Stratford.
Dom DeCicco April 11, 2012 at 08:11 AM
I would like to know why we are paying so much for energy in our area. What has the mayor done for that? Why is my oil bill, as well as my neighbors, so much higher than those in Milford? Why is that Mr. Mayor -- will you respond?
Dom DeCicco April 11, 2012 at 08:18 AM
Is anyone ever going to step up to the plate and admit that the eco-friendly garbage is an epic failure -- it is a fraud, and it will ultimately leave us with much less money and a failed economy. Care to talk about that in the budget. Puppet heads -- the psuchopath has no ability to feel the pain they cause. The psychopath lives one way and then forces others to sacrafice. The psychopath is juvenile in his view of the world -- wanting merely to feed his desires and advance to the next step of authority. Why are we having a GREEN anything pushed down our throats when the honest scientists are clearly stating that the thing is a hoax, a fruad, a money scam to reditrubute wealth from us back to them.
Dom DeCicco April 11, 2012 at 08:23 AM
Just wait until the fake tension between the Gov and the Teachers Union get into the back room. They'll be grading each others with A's. The scam that is playing out in front of us is merely a ploy to make him look tough with unions. Just wait until we get the private capital groups in and the school boards out.. Radical change of how education is delivered in the State.
max April 11, 2012 at 10:38 AM
Thank you for the reply, here's my request: drive around the Green for a bit and experience the roads, your vehicle will know what's wrong.
Jezebel282 April 11, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Mr. Budnick, The budget process should be contentious. Without discussion or disagreement the process becomes a political formality. The Council's main function is to review and discuss the yearly budget as representatives of the constituents that elected it. To simply pass a budget without reasonable examination and discussion is a complete abandonment of its fiduciary responsibility. "Business as usual" is not what voters deserve. An Administration proposes a budget and it is your function to eliminate, amend, augment and modify it through serious open discussions and vision. And by the way, there are many hard working voters who go to work, don't complain, do not ask for "more" from the system and pay lots and lots of taxes to help keep Stratford running as well as it does. How about a little respect for them as well?
Ed Orris April 12, 2012 at 07:38 PM
In 2002 the budget was $129,218,159. $191,131,241 is the proposed 2013 budget. Thats an increase of 48% in 10 years. Education expenses are up 24.4% from $67,749,446 to $84,310,065, while the rest of the list is up 104%. The Connecticut Economic Resource Center groups everything else into the category of "other" "Other" is UP!!! 104% from $40,886,221 to $83,640,232 in just 10 years. Put a bright light on everything that's not Education and lets see what shows up. Population is decreasing therefore social services should as well. 5671 less people are calling stratford home from 49976 in 2000 to only 44305 by 2014. Less students, less seniors, LESS PEOPLE!!!
George E. Mulligan April 13, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Mayor's budget up $67 on $ 6k house. Yet sewer fees 2b up $95, only because funds are transferred. Mr. Budnick is decent guy & many decent people in Stratford. However the PENSIONS are a SCANDAL. Some people contributed LESS (NET) in their ENTIRE CAREER, than they TAKE from their ANNUAL PENSIONS ????????????? Are Police / Fire / Attorneys quid pro quo with certain ...?
libertarian April 17, 2012 at 02:21 PM
dont get much service? the south end is subsidized so that low income families can move in and live cheaply. elaborate on services, please.
Noreen Calgreen April 17, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Really mike, what service don't you get. Trash pick-up, snow removal, leaf pick up, police protection, children's education, free participation to play high school sports, fire and ambulance. we do get a lot for our taxes. I don't think it matters what part of town you live in.
George E. Mulligan April 17, 2012 at 04:45 PM
PENSIONS higher than BASE PAY or LIFETIME net CONTRIBUTIONS? 5 samples TAKEN from 2009 list - FOI top 100 of 5/2012 Dept.- - - - PENSION - Base Pay - life contribute - cash out - - net life contrib Police - $ 134,525.28 - $ 84,850 - $ 140,107.79 - $ 44,438.94 - $ 95,668.85 Police - -$ 98,368.44 - $ 81,588- - $ 131,692.21 - $ 45388.38 - $ 86,303.83 Police - -$ 84,683.28 - $ 63,711 - - $ 97,526.32 - $ 25,529.37 - $ 72,003.05 Police - -$ 83,784.96 - $ 63,711 - $ 108,437.23 - $ 27,731.14 - $ 80,706.09 Police - -$ 81,701.28 - $ 81,588 - $ 109,696.55 - $ 41,696.30 - $ 68,000.25 If you subtract CASH OUT from LIFE TIME (GROSS) PENSION CONTRIBUTION, you get LIFE TIME (NET) PENSION CONTRIBUTION COMPARE ANNUAL PENSIONS, which are higher than 1 - BASE PAY 2 - LIFE TIME (NET) PENSION CONTRIBUTION Are Police / Fire / Attorneys quid pro quo with certain ...? Is there mitigation and exculpation due to entrapment from NATIONAL & STATE CRIMINALS looking to seduce LOCALS and then DOUBLE CROSS or BLACK MAIL THEM? What legitimacy do police and lawyers have if they > committ crimes? > allow crimes?
Tom April 17, 2012 at 05:49 PM
The front end of your car will let you know when you've found one.
George E. Mulligan May 08, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Please check the blog www.stratfordcharter.wordpress.com Sewer Fees or sneaky tax?

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