Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Discussions Get Ugly On Milford's 2011 Budget

Budget season has to be the most challenging and stressful time of year for everyone in Milford. Some in town just do not understand why the budget cannot be the same every year. One would think that the cost of goods and services in a depressed economy would not fluctuate much. Unfortunately that is not the case.

The onset of budget season has begun with our Mayor Jim Richetelli being concerned that the year is "starting off with many unanswered questions." Former RTC Member, and insurance Guru, Tom Byrne has been in contact with Aldematic Chairman Greg Smith. The nature of their discussion is marked by disagreement from the onset regarding the creation of an efficiency committee as suggested by Hartford.

Every year the austerity measures aimed at city services and municipal employees are of serious concern, especially to those individuals whose jobs are on the cutting block. None have decried the protection of city jobs more than James Whittaker who is frequently seen at City Hall protesting cuts that affect his staff.

The balance of services, and responsible government rests in the hands of our leaders and Tom Byrne feels our leaders have fell short of their responsibility. He points out in several local newspapers that city spending has increased in tandem with the Bond Debt. Such a combination without a meaningful or serious approach in the coming budget year is a recipe for disaster.

The increase in our public debt raises our debt service payments, these are also going up with health insurance costs, building and maintenance costs, and  routine contractual raises that virtually every local labor union expects to get. Last budget season many concessions were made by some labor unions including reductions in COLA's and reductions in infrastructure.

This year is marked by a 1.5 Million reduction in Federal education funding. This reduction was one Rep. Rosa Delauro failed to fight for. The propensity for balancing our budget is further complicated by the fact that nearly 20% of all homes listed for sale in Milford are in foreclosure. Driving up taxes to pay our bills will be an exercise in futility and will not work. This hard lesson was demonstrated in Hartford, Bridgeport, and many other cities who, in my opinion mismanaged their budgets in favor of tax exempt 501C3's and inefficient government jobs.

It's my opinion that Milford cannot tax its way out of this problem come 2011. Attempting to tax our way out of this problem will not work, especially if inflation is low, local unemployment is high, COLA's are suspended by pension recipients and Local Real Estate continues to stagnate.

The showdown is going to be between the Paid elected city leaders and City Union employees who have been funding and supporting local elections with entitlement motives. Crossing the city unions, who have doled out Tens of Thousands of dollars to local municipal races could mean significant losses of votes come the 2012 election.

Placating the Labor Unions in Milford will be a very delicate issue that has to be gingerly handled by the Mayor himself during the upcoming contract negotiations. Bad contracts will reflect poorly on the value of every one's real estate and create further pressure to force those individuals living "paycheck to paycheck" to seek out government assistance and sustenance to avoid going into default on their homes and their new taxes.

Every person out there this budget season, especially those who cannot afford to pay an additional $500.00 to $1,500.00 every year should speak out at city hall when the time comes. Without your voice being heard this year, the Mayor and his staff may end up going along with the proposed demands of the towns labor unions instead of looking out for you. Greg Smith and the board of Alderman also needs to hear your thoughts, because they finalize and approve the budget in conjunction with the Board of Finance.

The year 2011 may seem a long way off, but assure you the time goes fast. Start thinking about you and your families financial needs now before your new tax bill arrives and you are in a bind you cannot get out of. Best of luck this Holiday season and wishing all my friends, readers and supporters a very happy holiday.

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