Budget “adjustments” promise pain

The town manager laid out for the council what it will take to reach different tax hike percentages. Here’s a PDF of the information that the council got.

I imagine that once the council picks how much it wants to cut, the town manager and school superintendent will lay out what specific cuts can be made to reach the target. That’s the point where we’ll see the blood and hear the screams. It won’t be pretty.

For those who can’t bear to see the details, to cut the increase for most homeowners from 6.6 percent — the level of the adopted budget that voters gunned down — to 4.5 percent this year would require slashing $3.4 million from the existing spending plan. To get to a 3 percent tax hike means wiping out $5.8 million from the budget. A tax freeze would take $10.6 million.

The numbers are just plain scary.



Filed under budget, News, referendum, Taxes, town council, West Hartford

75 responses to “Budget “adjustments” promise pain

  1. It would be great if someone could provide some decent/fair analysis and show were the specific increases are coming from. And I mean something more than “school budget”. I think the details (i.e. key line items) are necessary or else… all I and my neighbors see is 6.6% tax increase or 3% tax increase. To us an increase is still an increase. And the same last year and the year before – all increases.

    It’s scary that the taxes in West Hartford seem to rise every year and yet no one ever says that a freeze or a decrease is even possible. It’s a non-starter to suggest anything but a tax increase regardless of size here. Why is that? There is something wrong with the approach.

    Can someone shed some actual light on this. And I’d like to see something more than “merit increases”. Merit increases aren’t reasons for increasing the tax burden – most occupations in the United States do not see mandatory merit increases.

    Instead of viewing this as slashing millions from the budget, how about some justification that these millions are even needed. We seem to approach this budget battle backwards. You can’t really “slash” what you don’t have.

  2. Peter G.

    Yes, the fact that taxes seem to go up puzzles me too. After all, the price of everything else constantly goes down, doesn’t it? Why, I can remember paying $25 for a candy bar as a child and now the price is down to a buck! That’s what I call progress! If gasoline prices don’t stop their precipitous decline soon they’ll just be giving it away!

    Of course one of the driving forces behind this long history of price-dropping, as we all know, is the willingness of people to voluntary reduce their pay. I’m sure that The King, like all of us, looks forward each year to the opportunity to once again cut his salary, as he has done since college. Heck, who wouldn’t like to make less money?

    Given that driving force, the only explanation I could come up with for public employees’ salaries increasing would be if we were constantly replacing qualified, experienced employees with newer, less experienced ones who haven’t yet learned that they, like all of us here in West Hartford, delight in having our incomes go down each year.

    And I agree with him about merit increases, too. What’s THAT all about? As teachers, aides, administrators, maintenance workers and others gain longevity in such a highly successful and much-lauded school system, it would be utterly counter-intuitive to think that merit raises would be given out every year. Certainly if the school system were miserably failing you’d expect that the town would want to dish out lots of pay increases, but why give people money just for the combination of a job well done and a continued commitment to doing it? We might just as well be throwing our money out the window!

  3. EJ

    his thread is going nowhere fast

  4. Joe Visconti

    I suggested cutting $1,000,000 from the budget before the budget referendum and I stand to that number today. We should not cut more until we get new leadership in office who can run this town like a tight ship. The days are here when the Government Model of spending has outgrown it’s usefullness. New leadership needs to adopt new ways of budgeting.
    The Union’s are finished as well as binding arbitration and collective bargaining, it is only a matter of time before their corpse ( metaphoric) gets burried with the New Deal Model they were hatched from. Organized Labor has for too long played with it’s last Industry (Education). Contrary to what I heard about our children at the last School Board meeting I attended, our children are not Resources, they are Human Beings.

    If you love this Town lend a hand or your extra cash; Your charitable donations to the Town of West Hartford are Tax deductible according to our standing with the IRS which I inquired about last week from Pat Alair’s office.
    Volunteer to help West Hartford however you can call Town Hall to learn more.

  5. John Webster

    Personally I believe it appropriate to see some justification out of our Town Manager & Council. After all it is our money at the end of the day. I mean how many families increase their household budget YoY. I imagine few given that most of families see nominal changes in their income while costs of living continue to rise.

    n fact with the rising cost of everything gas to taxesits hard not to tighten ones belt these days.

  6. John Webster

    Forgot to edit that last sentence…sorry

  7. Peter, I don’t understand why you even post here. If you can’t carry out an adult level discussion, you should go elsewhere.

    Maybe someone else with a little knowledge could respond to my questions. If you leave it to the Peter G’s of this world, then you can guarantee more “No” votes. The idea that everything “goes up” is not a substitute for real thinking.

    So, let’s get back to the discussion. Can someone provide some real answers so that we can all be enlighted. What line items are causing millions in increases?

    If these increases can’t be justified or rationalized, then there is no alternative but to vote NO on the budget.

  8. Edith Folta

    I would like to second the King’s motion that we get a presentation from the Town Manager in the format:

    Line item 1: 2006 budget + % increase or decrease = 2007 budget
    Line item 2: 2006 budget + % increase or decrease = 2007 budget
    Line item 3: 2006 budget + % increase or decrease = 2007 budget
    …. etc.

    Right now, we are seeing:
    2006 budgeted expenditures
    2006 actual expenditures
    2007 approved budget (voted down)
    Proposed % decreases from 2007 approved budget.

    Regardless of where you stand on cuts, this is hard to follow. You can’t tell how any particular line item is proposed to be changed from 2006 budget to 2007 budget.

  9. WH return

    Have to agree with a number of posts. It is time to review each item line by line. I know I went to Town Hall last week to get my copy of the budget, and alas – the budget does not even have the BOE numbers in there (Just Summary Totals). For openers, they can eliminate the fancy binder and just staple the package and maybe include BOE numbers but I guess the BOE is not part of the annual budget. Anyone who believes there are not places to cut in the BOE then I have a swamp for sale. Lets start at the top of the Salary list and go down, I am sure we can find some staggering numbers if anyone is willing to post those numbers. One more cras comment, Bugbee outpaced Whiting Land in home values due to scores. Has anyone driven around Whiting Lane lately versus Bugbee? It starts in the home!!

  10. Harry Captain

    The material drivers in the school budget are labor (salaries reached by binding arbitration) and benefits. It’s not that actual benefits were raised, in fact the teachers are paying an increasing cost share of their healthcare each year. The overall cost of Healthcare in general has been rising faster than the teachers increasing participation and the net result is still a higher total cost to the Town. It would actually be worse had the teachers not increased their share of participation.

    The same drivers that we all feel at home are also being felt in the education budget: Rising Health Care costs, Energy to heat/cool/power our buildings (electricity, natural gas, heating oil), and Transportation (gasoline for the buses).

    These are what I refer to, as a CPA, the material drivers. They have a greater financial impact than than any program changes proprosed this year.

  11. Another WH Teacher

    Harry & Joe, I wish you would stop putting it all on the teachers. There are lots of educational staff in this town: administrative, clerical, maintenance, IT, etc etc. Perhaps we are the largest in number, and so we become an easy target since our line item is so high. But we are the ones in the classroom with your children every day.

    We are getting a pretty bum wrap around here these days for choosing a very honorable, extremely stressful career. While it does have a nice pay scale, it does not compare at all with most others that require the same level of education, certification and ongoing professional learning. I don’t know if any teacher you ask would say they chose teaching as a career because it is so financially lucrative.

    I believe there was a “budget book” for the education side that showed exactly what people are looking for: last year, this year, and percent decrease/increase. Each school library had at least one and I thought they were available to the public. Of course that was published prior to the most recent cuts.

  12. Harry Captain

    Another WH Teacher: “Lighten up Francis”

    I’m not “putting it all on the teachers”. I was factually answering other blogger requests as to where “the specific increases are coming from”.

    Please read my earlier entry. There’s actually a compliment regarding teachers helping the Town by increasing their participation in Heathcare cost sharing.

    I am an advocate of public education and teachers. The costs are what they are.

  13. WH return

    I have a question! Who exactly falls under binding arbitration? Is it just the teachers or all employees of BOE? Do Principals, Asst. Principals, clerical support and administrative fall under arbitration or are they outside hires by the BOE/Town?

  14. Joe Visconti

    Another Teacher

    Please read the article in today’s Hartford Fishwrap from Denise Nappier and how we will now sell bonds to keep our promise to you. Your livelyhood and your retirement are tied to each taxpayer’s personal budget. You not only teach our children but you GET PAID to do it. Like all in the REAL WORLD, your jobs are subject to elimination as well as pay increase freeze’s. When was the last time teachers recieved no cost of living increase in West Hartford?
    As far as how things get cheaper Peter, the majority of items you and I purchased last week were made in China at the labor rate of less than our American Minimum wage; I didn’t here your complaints at the register.
    Distance learning, Young adult tutours for pay and other Wage Reducing Methods need to be defined and implemented in the New World Order of Education. Time to rethink how we teach and whom we employ.

    Don’t let Dibella get into Education when selling State Bonds to keep the promise.

  15. Joe Visconti


    Connecticut will again become a “Right to Work State!”

  16. Harry Captain

    Most BOE employees are members of a bargaining unit (union). There are few employees, maybe less than 10, that are NOT in a union.

    The WH Educator’s Assoc. represents the teachers. The WH Administrator’s Assoc. represents Principals, APs, and I think a few more administrators. There are separate and distinct unions for secretaries, custodians, paras, etc.

    Binding arbitration is a step in the negotiation “process”.

    Step 1: Management and union negotiatate a contract. Should this step fail –

    Step 2: Mediation takes place and a Mediator steps in to assist the parties in the negotiation of the contract. Should this step fail –

    Step 3: Arbitration takes place. There are 3 arbitrators – one each picked by the union and one by management. A third is the “neutral” and chairs the panel. Each side presents their case and their “last, best offer” (LBO). The arbitrators rule on which LBO will stand – not a middle ground – either the union LBO or management’s LBO stands and BOTH parties live by that decision.

    This is the law in the “land of steady habits” that is Connecticut.

  17. Another WH Teacher

    Sorry, but it’s kind of hard to lighten up when jobs are at stake. And previous posts have made it sound much like the teachers are the bad guys.

    If this is the way CT does things, how are they done elsewhere in the nation?

  18. Harry Captain

    I believe that the current teacher contract, covering budget years 07/08/09, is the only current contract that was reached by arbitration.

    And to be very clear: the only issue that went to arbitration was “Salary” for each of the three years. The arbitrator’s awarded the LBOs of the Union, BOE, Union in years 07, 08, 09 respectively.

    All other issues, such as benefits, we agreed to by the parties outside of arbitration.

  19. John Hardy

    Harry –

    Maybe you can clarify something. When I’ve asked about compensation and benefits benchmarking as part of the binding arbitration process, I’ve been told that only other municipal and school data is considered germane and allowed to be submitted (in other words, as an example, WH can’t compare the medical benefits to other regional private industry benchmarks as part of its LBO).

    Is this in fact true? De facto or de jure?

    Thanks –

  20. Joe Visconti

    The land of Steady habits at one time for over a couple of centuries did not have binding arb or such socialistic restrictions. Time to think like the Founding Fathers again where the pursuit of happiness doesn’t come with restrictions like Binding Arb or Union’s which represent their own and not all!
    Right to Work! Bids goe to the LOWEST, the Most Competitive and eager, the one’s who can outwork and outsmart the competiton. American Freedom? Ya ,we’re gonna get that back!

  21. turtle

    Has anyone driven around Whiting Lane lately versus Bugbee? It starts in the home!!

    Would you care to elaborate on this interesting passage, WH return? Thanking you in advance.

    As far as how things get cheaper Peter, the majority of items you and I purchased last week were made in China at the labor rate of less than our American Minimum wage

    Yeah, I hear the slave labor rate is pretty low.

  22. Harry Captain

    The de facto standard is to compare your offer/LBO to other school data in Connecticut.

    While private industry benchmarks can be presented as part of your argument on the communities ability to pay, it is my opinion that what other communities pay is the true benchmark.

    Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that when one district approves a contract that’s considered to be a “high” increase, that increase then becomes the floor, and not the ceiling for those districts whose negotiations have yet to be settled.

  23. Osemasterofdoom

    I remember a quote from Marvin Miller, former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Assocition, saying that his biggest victory for the players was not free agency or scrapping the reserve clause, but establishing binding arbitration as the means of resolving salary disputes. Unfortunately, just like in baseball, there’s no end in sight to the salary increases through this process.

    As to some posts supposedly making teachers the bad guys, I think most (if not all) parents with kids in the system would say that the quality of our teachers is the biggest factor in the high quality of our schools. However, I think teachers need to understand the frustration of taxpayers (parents included) who are told that the budget needs to be cut, but the largest line item in the budget can’t be touched because of an arcane process in which they had no say.

  24. Peter G.

    There’s nothing terribly “arcane” about binding arbitration, though it may be unfamiliar to many folks. It is used in one form or another to resolve contract disputes for most public employees (that is to say, municipal employees, board of ed employees, and state employees) in Connecticut, and is also used in many private sector unionized environments. Incidentally, binding arbitration of contractual disputes is also routinely used between big corporations, so it’s not some sort of bizarre commie plot created by the Masons in league with the Trilateral Commission, as our friend seems to think.

    Don’t let Tailgunner Joe Visconti mislead you, the arbitrators who decide what to award in binding arbitration are chosen by both the employer and the union. By agreement, either both have to agree to a neutral, or both select pro-employer or pro-union arbitrators in equal numbers, or in some cases the arbitrators chosen by each side must then agree on an additional arbitrator to be the “tiebreaker.”

    As others have said, the process of binding arbitration is that both employer and employee present a “package” of contract proposals and the arbitrators decide between them. If the union’s demands are unsupported by factual data and the employer has presented a more defensible package, the arbitrator will pick the employer’s package (and vice-versa).

    Since both unions and employers are “repeat players” in arbitration, and since they are the ones who choose which arbitrators get work, it is reasonable to suppose that an arbitrator will endeavor to be neutral. By reputation, some certainly favor employers or unions, but it would be silly to allege that arbitrators are just running around handing out money to the unions (or routinely denying just demands of unions, either). To do so would be for the arbitrator to put himself or herself out of business.

    I think the legitimate concern that taxpayers often have is that it seems undemocratic that some third party, however they are chosen, should decide things like salaries and benefits for public employees in binding arbitration. The argument is that this deprives the public of the opportunity to make democratic decisions about how tax dollars are spent.

    On the other hand, for a town or board of education or legislature to agree to binding arbitration as a process is really an agreement that it wants steady and predictable outcomes. Without binding arbitration, contract costs for public employees could vary wildly from one contract to the next, depending on political pressures or subjective feelings. In the case of public education employees, a decision to abandon arbitration might very well produce the kinds of fluctuations and uncertainties that would make highly qualified and experienced teachers, administrators, and other workers leave a school district. That doesn’t sound to me like it would be a good idea for a successful public school system.

  25. Elmwoodian

    Peter G., I’m glad you (mostly) lost the sarcasm, because you really made a great point about why the system does work and is necessary and why the teachers’ salaries shouldn’t be subject to the year-to-year property tax cycle.

    The market very much comes into play in the educational system. It’s pretty simple: if we pay our teachers less than other towns, we will lose the talent, just like in the private sector.

  26. Joe Visconti

    Peter G String

    Tailgunner Joe says:

    The Town Charter needs to get changed to be able to hold a referendum on salaries, right now it protects Special Interest. Economy rules bud and Unions are dinosaurs, watch, the Ice Age is here economically to “Freeze” all Contracts next go around.

  27. Another WH Teacher

    Great, so then it would be up to Joe and the WHTA if we get a raise year to year…

  28. LXD

    Joe and other anti-union people,
    Don’t blame the teachers for having a union and negotiating good benefits. You should should say to yourself, “Good for them, I hope I can get those benefits in my job too.”. We should be raising the bar for *all* labor, not lowering it as Joe suggested. And don’t forget, Joe, that the next time you’re at Wal-Mart buying their “New Order” brand of clothing, that some of that is made in Chinese prisons where the labor cost is zero.

  29. Harry Captain

    Interesting article in The New York Times regarding “Merit Pay for Teachers”:


  30. Joe Visconti

    Good idea, when can we get Connecticut prisoners to start earning thier keep?
    And we shouldn’t want others to make more money, we should try to beat the competiton and drive them out of business to take the whole market for ourselves, don’t you participate in that activity with your no bid union only scheme’s?

  31. Sean McCann

    Joe Visconti: “the majority of items you and I purchased last week were made in China at the labor rate of less than our American Minimum wage; I didn’t here your complaints at the register.
    Distance learning, Young adult tutours for pay and other Wage Reducing Methods need to be defined and implemented in the New World Order of Education. Time to rethink how we teach and whom we employ. ”

    Well, that’s clear enough. Joe Visconti wants to pay public employees less than the minimum wage and outsource our schools to China. That should work well. Maybe they can “distance” vacuum our leaves, too.

  32. WH return

    Unions!!! Lets see, Chrysler, General Motors, United Steel, etc. I believe you get what you pay for in the end. These companies are dying – think about why. Talk about Wal-mart obviously LXD has been there buying product that is cheaper due to labor rates that aren’t driven by union stupidity. Go ask the Chinese about jobs and they will be glad to take what we consider a low rate because to them it is better than what they had.

    It’s not necessarily salaries but life long obligations that eventually can’t be met because the price tag gets out of line.

    I don’t think anyone suggested removing teachers or slashing educational needs. What I have read is there needs to be an accounting of where our money is going and why. Answers are not necessarily forthcoming and that makes people believe pockets are being lined at the expense of others. I think WHTA (Not a member) made some good points and to their credit, got people thinking before its to late. The current leaders and future leaders just cannot keep saying yes to everyone’s wants without recognizing the well is NOT endless.

    I would still like to know what % of salaries belong to teachers versus % of salaries to non-teachers.

  33. Harry Captain

    WH return: You can look here at the “adopted 2007/08” budget to get a picture of teacher / non teacher salaries – http://www.whps.org/business/budget0607.htm

    One caveat: This is the original budget adopted by the BOE. It has since been reduced by $1.842 M.

  34. Harry Captain

    Whoops – pardon the last post. That actually is the current 06/07 budget. Still gives you an idea though. I’ll try to find 07/08 – I don’t think it’s been posted yet since the $1.842 reduction.

  35. Joe Visconti


    Love to get quoted so often, it expands my sense of ME.
    Distance Vacumming, Actually that is a good idea, we could maybe get the government to allow immigrant visa’s to Chinese and South of the Border Latino’s to vaccum our streets at a fraction of the cost, like migrant workers do with Harvests, For a season, all across the Northeast!!!

    By the way distance learning was the wave of the future when the Public Broadcasting Network was mandated to go digital, they needed a reason in the 90’s to raise and spend billions and Education through distance learning was the lynchpin factor in the decision. Maybe we can get XBOX ( The choice of the new generation) accredited as an AP course with testing done in online competition.

  36. Harry Captain

    Okay, heres the correct address for the 2007/08 budget:

    Summary is on page 5/21. If you are thumbing through this, be sure to look at the top left corner of each page: General Fund pages reflect the expenditures funded by the Town of WH. Combined Fund pages reflect the General Fund + Grant Funded activities.

  37. Joe Visconti


    Is there a public speaking time at this evening’s Board meeting?

  38. Osemasterofdoom

    “ar·cane (är-kān’) — adj. — Known or understood by only a few”

    I agree that we need to pay our teachers well. As I stated in my previous comment, they are the main reason we have high quality schools. However, I think it’s undeniable that the binding arbitration process is slanted in favor of labor. If someone shows me an arbitration decision that resulted in a reduction of salaries, it will be the first one I have seen.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge teachers the advantage they have in this respect. Hey, if you can gain an advantage, use it for all it is worth. But as the people who pay the salaries, we need to recognize that the process by which compensation is determined is stacked against us, and we need to change it. If the teachers shouldn’t be faulted for leveraging the system to their advantage, then we the taxpayers shouldn’t be faulted (or labeled as “anti-union” or “anti-teacher”) for seeking to change the system that is obviously stacked against us.

  39. WH return


    thank you for the link! While useful, it leads to many questions. But first, let me reiterate. I am not suggesting nor do I think the majority are suggesting we cut teachers. We do need to look at how we compensate and how to think outside the box.

    With that being said, per the budget, teachers will get a 3.49% increase and an increase of 13.3% from 2004-2005 actual. Of this how many new teachers were hired?

    Principals & Asst. Principals will receive a 10.14% increase and 25.6% from 2004-2005. Once again, how many new hires? Why? Are they really needed?

    Dept. Supervisor salaries increase 11.97% with an increase of 38.2% from 2004 – 2005 actual. Once again, how many new hires? What are they doing and are they needed? This number alone seems to be way out of line compared to teacher numbers.

    Technical support increases 11.82 but shows a huge increase of 35% from 2004-2005. This may very well be needed as today’s scenario indicates greater use of technology but once again the question begs, how many new hires and are we truly taking advantage of what is out there?

    Paraprofessionals have increased 43.6% from 2004-2005 actual. Is this special education? How many new hires? When does this slot start getting scaled back?

    All these are nice numbers and its great everyone gets paid. What about future pension costs and related medical? Unless we get a handle on what we have, the future is going to be very ugly.

    The teachers slot looks very reasonable compared to the other slots mentioned. By the way, what is systemwide compensation?

    These are just some of the questions that have gone unanswered and/or overlooked as the years have gone by. What is the % of Supervisors, Princ. & AP are to the student population today versus 2004-2005? Have the scores improved that much and if so, is it the teachers who are responsible for the improvement or the Mgmt?


    Are we better off hiring more teachers for the classroom?

  40. Harry Captain

    Joe – Yes there is public speaking this evening. See agenda at http://www.whps.org/board/agenda.htm

    Unfortunately, I’m unable to attend tonight as I am working this week in Chicago.

    WH return: I provided the link mainly to give an idea to folks about the %/$ of the budget related to various employee groups. While your questions are good, many of them have been answered at either the BOE table or in direct response to the WHTA questions.

    The % changes are literal year over year math and that mathematical increase may not reflect what is actually happening…

    For example the 3.49% teacher salary is math in that account year/year. The effect of the teacher contract is actually ~ 4.75% increases next year. However, the $ and % increase looks lower because there was a surplus in that account LAST year (account was higher than what was actually paid). We take that surplus into account in the following year 07/08 budget so as not to “pad” the account, but to budget at exactly what we expect to expend.

    I don’t the data at my finger tips to answer your other questions as I am out of town. However, you can be assured that many of your questions were asked/answered publicly as the BOE deliberated.

  41. itnocsiV eoJ

    Thanx Harry

    Just a little thought from the Town Crank, it will take years to dismantle The Educational Cartel and their economically parasitic nature, so lets not get any Teacher’s or Yes for more Tax’s Voter’s worried about our schools, school jobs, perks or bennies; get some sleep already, for the rest of us taxpayers.

    PS :Just hope the Parasitic Ed Cartel doesn’t turn into a Saphrophytic one!!!

  42. Sean McCann

    Ah yes, the parasitic ed cartel. That would be the people interested in educating students and in seeing that public employees earn a decent wage and have health insurance. Their opponents are the people who feel victimized when that happens and would rather teachers were treated like migrant workers and Wal mart employees. Then, there’s the thriving Chinese automobile industry that WH return wants us to think about. Let’s see, where are the best cars made again? And what do the labor, social, and educational policies look like in those countries? It’s true, as WH return says, you get what you pay for. And some people just don’t want to pay the costs necessary for a decent educational system and a successful economy.

  43. WH Return

    Way to go Sean! Lets see first rant on the people who might like to see some accountability and then when that doesn’t work lets make things up. My guess is your liberal so I am waiting for your next comment, which is lets call them nazi’s since we are obviously looking to cut teachers and most likely burn books. Please read the posts! No one suggested cutting teachers or treat them like migrant workers. No one even talked about the Chinese auto industry (do they make cars?) but I certainly am victimized. Maybe we ought to keep saying yes to everything and then we can all be like San Francisco and promise to sing Kumbaya at every school meeting so no one feels left out.

  44. WH Return

    One more thing, where are the best cars made? Certainly the UAW has a lot of explaining to do.

  45. EJ

    Where are the best cars made? not in Detroit anymore. I’m turning in a Jeep that nothing seems to get fixed on, thank God I leased it, now it’s Jeeps problem or the next owner’s.
    My replacement vehicle is Japanese.
    BTW, it’s not just Jeep, my last GM vehicle had a tranny leak start at 30K miles, GM didn’t want to do anything about it. Great quality control from these companies and great customer care.
    But give the UAW all it wants as a reward!

  46. Yesterday, I watched some of the WH budget discussion on Cable Access, in particular re: West Hartford Nurses pay increases. Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted what I saw, and maybe someone – in fact based manner – could either correct me or help me understand that what I saw was a sample of how the budget process is being conducted.

    The dialogue seemed to imply that:
    1) WH Nurses are the highest paid nurses in the district, and at one of the highest levels in the state.
    2) Many of the nurses are in the 9th tier(?) or highest paid tier due to tenure (as it was explained)
    3) Notwithstanding, their high wages the nurses are seeking a 3.7% or 3.8% increase in their wages.
    4) The increase was being justified as “cost of living” increase. Not for salary adjustment for low comparison against other towns or cities, etc.
    5) Some interesting dialogue ensued between the participants; one concerned about what the Hartford Courant might print today, regarding increasing the nurses salaries even though they are paid the highest in the district, etc. (something to that effect).
    6) Despite consensus that they are being “well paid” as stated by the folks in the chamber, taking into account budget concerns, referredums, etc – they opted to “approve” the pay increase in a nonchalant voice vote.

    When I see this behavior – particularly when we are trying to find ways to reduce the burden on taxpayers – where the evidence and discussion err on caution and point to above standard wages and YET the increase simply passes, I begin to realize that those of us who feel that the boards and councils will not make tough decisions are 100% correct.

    Now I will admit if I am wrong here. Perhaps what I saw didn’t happen. And the Board rejected the salary increase on the already fairly compensated nurses. Did anyone else see this? Was anyone else there in the chamber?

  47. EJ

    That sounds about right to me. It was a bit hard to hear in the back, but that prettty much sums up what I was able to make out.

  48. Sean McCann

    In fact, WH return, there’s plenty of barely veiled suggestion throughout this thread that teachers are coddled and should be treated less generously. There would be no point to complaining about unions otherwise or to bringing up the example of Wal-mart and Chinese labor–examples that you and Joe Visconti raise. Understandably, you don’t want to come quite clean about your implications, but you also want to make them, and they are quite evident.

    Here’s your paragraph:

    “Unions!!! Lets see, Chrysler, General Motors, United Steel, etc. I believe you get what you pay for in the end. These companies are dying – think about why. Talk about Wal-mart obviously LXD has been there buying product that is cheaper due to labor rates that aren’t driven by union stupidity. Go ask the Chinese about jobs and they will be glad to take what we consider a low rate because to them it is better than what they had.”

    True, the paragraph is barely coherent. But there seems to be a contrast drawn between the failing American car industry and brute labor exploitation in China. The best cars are made in Japan, Korea, and Western Europe–where, as it happens unions are strong, social policies are generous, and there is wide social commitment to education.

    p.s., as it happens, I have heard one member of the WHTA suggest that WH students could do with fewer workbooks.

  49. WH Return

    Let’s see GM is half the size it use to be, Chrysler has been through numerous buyers, plus a taxpayer bailout, US Steel is not even worth commenting about. The main reason for the current condition of these organizations is “Unions”. If you don’t want to believe that, then there is no further point in discussing what most sound business people and economist already have stated.

    “Social Policies are generous” – wow lets move to a communist system where these countries take a healthy % of one’s pay check and tell their constituents how to live.

    To King & EJ, thanks because I thought I missed something. Once again, I have yet to hear the BOE say no. Be careful though, because the next statement will be we are trying to eliminate nurses in the schools. On second thought maybe not a bad idea since the last two times my child went to the nurse all they did was call and send her home.

  50. Joe Visconti

    Your a 501c3:

    Lets give our homes to charity
    Cause we can’t make no Profit see
    They never stop the lunacy
    They just keep raising all the fee’s
    They’ll blame it on the communists
    Who make much better socialists
    They take away competing ways
    And give them just to those who pay
    We’re tie’d up by the bureucrats
    Who make us recite mandate raps
    The system all has gone to Hell
    But only you and I can tell
    Invest in Public benefits
    Then watch them all just throw a fit
    That isn’t quite enough you see
    They want to see our savings bleed
    But Phd’s can save the day
    They’ll tell us all what we must say
    With 3 card monty politics
    The Feds and State play all the tricks
    The little local Councilors
    Can only tax and blur our world
    The Media then joins right in
    And spins the truth to see us grin
    There isnt much else left to say
    Just pay the man then Pay Pay Pay!!!!

  51. Thanks for confirming what I saw and heard. I have to say – speaking directly to those concerned about the budget, that the example I provided above should concern everyone.

    This was a case where the BOE could have legitimately said no or pushed back. I can see where the union or employee might fight back if they are clearly underpaid (based on experience, statistical analysis, competative analysis, etc), but in this case – they are highly paid, in fact – the highest paid in the region, and the BOE didn’t see fit to draw a line in the sand or factor in the taxpayer’s needs.

    Given this situation, isn’t it clear that the BOE has no intention in pushing back when it comes to public employee demands? No concessions seem possible, even in the most reasonable of circumstances. I find this hard to believe.

    Without getting into a long diatribe about the differences between private and public sector jobs and payscales, I have to say that there is a lack of balance in the BOE when it comes to serving the public need.

    Surely, even those advocates of the budget should see that there is a problem here. And if this is the kind of shoulder shrugging – rubber stamp we can expect from the BOE and Council, then the budget battle will be worse the second time around.

    If they can’t see fit to fight where ground SHOULD be held, then they will never budge on the incrementals.

  52. Elmwoodian

    WH Return, I’m pretty sure Mr. McCann wasn’t exactly calling for the hammer and sickle, but rather defending your argument that somehow labor is the sole blame for the plight of US Car Co.’s by pointing to the relative labor strengh of the top car-making countries.

    As a driver of a string of American cars for at least the past 17 years now I can say with confidence that the reason that the US Car Co.’s are in their spot is that they make crappy cars (both mechanically and aesthetically).

    The social policies and labor strength amongst the US Car Co.’s pale in comparison to the Europeans and Japanese–and those cars are markedly better. My mom’s Camry lasted 10 years and never had a problem. My Blazers (2 of them) broke down in the exact same ways at the exact same times. (At least they were predictable!)

  53. WH return

    Elmwoodian, I agree we make lousy cars as compared to other countries. The question is why? Obviously, US domiciled car companies have had to cut corners in order to keep as competitive as possible to their foreign counterparts. Per unit cost are staggering as compared to Japan, Korea, etc. and a good part of this problem is finding ways to alleviate costs (cut corners) to make up for the increased labor costs.

    In my humble opinion, we start cutting corners (infrastructure, trash, elderly services, police, fire, etc.) and all of a sudden we are no better off because those cuts were needed to account for increases in a run away BOE.

    Once again I repeat I am not suggesting we cut teachers but look at other areas within the BOE where we might make some adjustments. As previous posters mentioned, last night was a start with the nurses and we saw no action.

    We have created our own problems and it will take our doing to unwind what we have created. It doesn’t mean total reversal but it does mean being responsible and accountable. I believe the current members will see the consequence come election time. Hopefully the new members learn a lesson.

  54. LXD

    WH Return, you don’t know me. If you did, you would know I do not shop at Wal-Mart for the very reasons you cited. As far as American cars losing sales, it’s because the cars they make are junk. It has nothing to do with the union labor. I was “buy American” up until 2004 when my GMC was costing me $600.00 a month in repairs that never fixed the problem. I was talked into buying a Toyota, and I’m glad I did. Virtually no problems. And it is made in the USA, although I don’t know if that (or any) Toyota plant in the USA is UAW.

  55. EJ

    I am pretty certain Toyota plants in the USA are not UAW.

    On another note, as I’ve been thinking over last nights meeting and comments here. I am arriving at the conclusion that the BOE and Town arfe not taking the current budget dispute seriously.

    1- Rather than sit down and talk to the WHTA to resolve any misunsderstandings the Council depends on the Courant to try to discredit the WHTA.

    2- There was a referendum last week. Whether you like or dislike the result, the outcome was an undisputable “NO”. One would think this would send a message to the BOE and Council.

    3- BOE meeting last night. Meeting starts with kids begging for their programs not to be cut. 45 minutes later the BOE is rubber stamping a 3.8% pay raise for the nurses who are among the best paid in the State and at the top of their pay scale.

    4- Once again the BOE sends the message give the Unoins all they want and let’s scare the parents by threatening to cut programs.

    Why do I get the feeling no one is listening!?!

  56. turtle


    Harry Captain has responded to you anti-tax people on this blog all along. You have not been listening.

    Considering that the West Hartford Taxpayers Association engage in smear tactics and propaganda, I credit the BoE with a high level of civility. The Courant coverage is muted. And the town council took “the current budget dispute seriously” enough to the tune of $1.8 million on the education side, a callous move that I assure you has already affected our school profoundly.

    Your organization floats a lot of rhetoric about how you care about education, how you are not anti-teacher, and so on. Excuse me if I find the assurances of a bunch of homeschoolers and anti-tax ideologues unconvincing when it comes to public education.

    Many of us who are willing to pay extra taxes to support West Hartford’s superior public schools are also intolerant of waste in the system. I personally have not studied the education budget line by line, but the scrupulous individuals who have done so and continue to insist that there is precious little fat in the budget have been drowned out by the noise machine of the WHTA.

    Your complaints are even more laughable in light of the obnoxious behavior of WHTA representatives at town meetings. I believe it was one of yours who heckled Alex Nardone over a point of protocol during his last official appearance before the BoE, and after his exemplary service to the people of this town. Disgraceful.

  57. EJ

    Wow! would have been nice had you addressed the point.

    I guess it is fine with you that the BOE will continue to give uncontrolled raises and cut programs for students.

  58. Turtle,

    If we can’t get you to concede that the BOE’s decision to vote for the nurse’s increase was completely rediculous considering everything that is on the table, and the will of the residents to see cuts made to the budget, then where does that leave us?

    The WHTA is not the issue here. I really don’t even know these people. And they don’t make budgets, pass increases, or even vote on budgets, so let’s put the real work to be done on the shoulders of where it belongs – the BOE and Council.

    And if you want to put us in a category – “anti-tax people” is a little extreme – how about “fiscal responsibility crowd” or pro-accountability crowd”, or even – “tax fairness crowd”.

    I think from reading some of the comments, its not the “anti-tax people” who aren’t listening – with an overwhelming margin in the last referendum and watching the activity of the BOE this week, its more likely that the PRO-tax crowd and our elected official may be the ones who aren’t listening, or perhaps to go a step further – don’t want to listen to the will of the residents.

    Please concede that the nurse’s increase was wrong. Please show that someone on your side of the budget battle recognizes that, at least, that vote was a bad decision.

  59. turtle

    I believe EJ is a member of the WHTA. That is why I reiterated my complaints about the organization.

    I do not consider a 3.8% increase “ridiculous” for professionals who are in demand, and it may be the Board determined that to challenge the union at this point would be pointless. I don’t know. Perhaps Harry Captain could pipe in with his always invaluable insights?

    I entirely support the need for fiscal responsibility, but I also support ambitious objectives for the town. I don’t think we have a runaway town government as some of you keep suggesting.

    I should not have commented since I don’t have the time to pursue this debate any further.


  60. EJ

    So what if I’m a member of the WHTA, who did I smear here? Although I hear you guys smearing the WHTA constantly.

    I made a valid point about the BOE meeting. If salary raises are not on the table than I guess that leaves programs. Or find other source of funding.

  61. Harry Captain

    My insight to the nurse vote is limited as I am/was on a business trip in Chicago and was unable to participate in the vote.

    Unfortunately, what I have to say is with 20/20 hindsite. Had I been there, I would have questioned the size of the increase for nurses relative to where nurses are being paid in the market and voted accordingly.

  62. I appreciate your reply. Please pick it up when you have time. I am actually interested in what you have to say…

    And we do disagree on several points, which is perfectly fine.

    The 3.8% increase for the nurses is really a sticking point for me (for the point aforementioned). I work on the private sector and we often don’t see any raises for people who have skills that are in demand. And the raises, when they do occur, are often less than 3%. That being said, turnover occurs, which is perfectly fine in a free and open market. People have the right to come and go in any occupation.

    The public sector vs private sector wage increases really require a bit of discussion. In the private sector, I am reviewed by my manager, peer reviewed in the form of anonymous feedback, rated, forced ranked, force ranked again, and they use (and as a manager I use) a lot of criteria to determine who gets what, if anything. Bottom line is that there is only so much money in the “pool” and not everyone can get something. Force ranking is hell on Earth for managers, believe me.

    In the public sector, there are reviews, ratings and such, but salary increases come across the board because of unionization. I’ve found that this is both and advantage and disadvantage because sometimes un-derserving people get the same increase as those who work harder or smarter. And although its been tried, incentive style bonuses for over-achievers get mixed acceptance by unions – because it moves to a more private sector (individualistic reward approach). And Yes, I’ve worked in the public sector too!!

    We all make choices to go into either private sector work or public sector work. Everyone who goes into private sector work knows that most companies can legitimately fire you for just about any reason they want to. There is recourse, but its a waste of time unless its discrimination based, or some illegality transpired. Private sector jobs start on the low side salary-wise for beginners, but earning potential is higher over the long run.

    Public sector jobs have greater security, better benefits, and hiring starting salaries for jobs as negotiated by the unions, but are subject to public funding and needs – so elimnation And on the average, salaries which as mentioned start higher, tend to level off – because there is no profit margin to work with in the budget.

    So everyone knows “the limits or pros and cons” going into whatever occupation they decide to go into – limits, benefits, what-have-you. So, when I see threats that someone may leave or find a new job or do whatever they need to do to find satisfaction, then I don’t stress over it. In fact, I cheer them on. Going into the public sector means salary limitations, whether you’re a state mechanic or a secretary/admin or whatever.

    And nurses working in a school system can be easily replaced. It’s nice to have skilled veterans in every aspect of the workforce, but obviously that’s expensive. And you have to ask in the case of the school nurses, who don’t engage in solving major medical crisises, and often send the kids home or call an ambulance for true medical emergencies, I think we can find suitable replacements if these public servants wish to exit for more lucrative spots in say — the private sector. All that being said, that nurses should decide whether they want to work in the warm, cushy school at X salary, or trade it for more money and a spot in the ER or nursing home.

    Do we need local and state jobs? Yes. Are there expected limits to earning potential in these roles – Yes.

    Is it fair to compare private and public sector positions side by side? Probably not. When it comes to money in the bank – private sector wins every time. When it comes to benefits and security – the public sector win.

  63. Joe, I know, I know – I get minus 10 for grammar and spelling errors.

  64. WH Return

    To the King,

    Well Said!

    I have one more question for all parties who believe the tax increase is fair and/or needed.

    What amount of taxation is enough? Whether it is income base, property tax, ad valorem, whatever. When is enough, enough? Is 3.8% year after year the right amount? Is 5% enough? Government no matter at what level can’t seem to satisfy their demand for taking more and spending on programs that may or may not be worth it. That is all I ask, is an accountability of where every dollar is going and is it indeed worthwhile.

    Just look at the State of Conn. We have a surplus, yet there was talk of a tax increase. Why? If these entities turn around and gave the money back in good times, then most individuals would not complain as much when the plate needs to be passed around. The problem in my opinion is they keep spending with the belief they can get away with it.

    Change the process and I think that is what most W. Hartford residents are looking for.

  65. Joe Visconti

    Ok, here’s a nice politically correct Joe Visconti ( for once, maybe)
    Read George Will from yesterdays Hartford Courant (not Fishwrap) and also the Courants Op Ed take on the Teachers group of young elite graduates helping in inner city schools as well as Mr. Cohen’s article from today and you will see what’s ailing America, CT and West Hartford; Democrats & Unions and lots of em here in the “Heart of Blue America”.

    The Dems wield hypocrisy like a ninga with a ginzu knife, they are against the Patriot Act with the Habeus corpus issue but for the abolishment of secret Ballot’s. Secret ballots during Union Voting protects the identity’s of those who do not want to get intimidated or muscled by Union Thugs (oops) and cannot utilize pseudonym’s like many here. The Dems cherry pick Right’s to suit their Agenda’s and do not employ fairness or equality across the board.

    NCLB, from Cohens view smacks (oops) the Union Lapdogs as he puts it (Senor Kennedy) and their non economically sound agenda against taxpayers. With NCLB Bush has already won at home and if the Iraq – sabatuers (Dems) gets squashed here at home, Iraq will have the opportunity to transform into a democracy .

    Mr Cohen nears my own soundbite of “Educational Cartel” with his own version “Education Empire” or such.

    Whats this got to do with West Hartford and Taxes? It’s in the air, the people have had enough, why? because they are not flush anymore, rising interest rates and fuel, no more equity in their homes after renovations, college loans and other debt reduction grabs at their home equity supply over the last 5 years has landed most leveraged.
    Of course they want to know why taxes can’t be controlled and then most who work in private jobs hear Union Agenda rhetoric out of the Union mouthpiece’s (their elected officials) (oops).

    Whether we surrender in Iraq as Democrats want us to, or surrender our houses to the “Educational Cartel Agenda” here in West Hartford, it’s all the same. With little opposition to stop the Dems, West Hartford Taxpayers feel victimized, angry, desperate and taken.
    It’s time for Democrats to wake up from the Union Spell’s and time to bury the Union Lies through Myth Making. It’s also time to Vote for Candidates who are not owned and controlled by Special Interest and who represent the Ideals of True Freedom (Binding Arbitration Free) , True Equality (Right to Work for All) and True Brotherhood (Golden Rule Economics including the open/transparent bidding process).

  66. Another WH Teacher

    Just thought I’d point out… though from the outside it may look like most of the nurses “just call home” or give kids a little TLC and send them back to class, at least in some of our schools we have heavy populations of special needs students with physical handicaps and they often require tube feeding and diaper changing or bathroom assistance. They also have to be well trained/experienced in handling an emergency situation like allergic reactions, broken bones and such prior to help arriving. All schools have emergency plans and the nurses are key players in them.

    I just spoke to a friend of mine who is a hospital nurse and she had trouble understanding why anyone would doubt they are worth their weight in gold to our kids.

  67. Joe Visconti

    Fireman, Policemen, Nurses and other Safety Orientated Municipal Employees should be given preference for wage increase’s due to the risk’s they encounter in their obligation to public service.

    Anti Union Rhetoric should not pertain to the above Employee’s. They are given full Political Amnesty for the dangers they place themselves in.

  68. Another WH Teacher,

    I believe you oversimplied the point.

    Compairing hospitals financed by regular billing structures, insurance, financial funding, and large endowments with school nursing on the taxpayer’s dole is a tad bit disingenous. And no one belittles what any employee in the school district does from a career standpoint, from the janitor to the secretary to the teacher to the crossing guard. Everyone works hard, everyone is doing a wonderful job. It just doesn’t mean they get an increase every year.

    But if we can get the same value out of someone waiting in line for a job – who doesn’t need $15,000 more a year to do the same job, then why not hire that person? If the skills and qualifications are similiar, then what’s the beef?

    Salary rewards in the public sector just aren’t there. It’s nothing personal, that’s just the way it is.

    And Joe, no one eats for free. Sorry, not even the nurses.

  69. Joe Visconti


    The risks to certain Public Servants will never truly be covered with Workmans Comp. The level of anxiety and preparedness needed continually can take a toll on these employees. Nurses may be at the bottom of the risk pool, but I feel comfort knowing my kids have a first response team right in school to handle god knows what.
    In the long run over the life of these jobs, I believe the investment for these public servants is wise and the best insurance we can buy.

  70. That’s fine. But let’s be clear – I’m not calling for the withdrawal of the nurses from the school, or for cutting their salaries, or even reducing the number of nurses. Not at all. Going back to the issue – considering the budget crunch, and that the nurses are the HIGHEST compensated in the region, that the voting, carte blanche, this week for 3.8% pay increase was a bad decision on the part of the BoE.

  71. Joe Visconti


    The Nurses Deal was done, probably back door style as usual with really no choice from the Board but to send it back to binding arbitration, I believe they have a Union? I’m going out on a limb here but it is the same old same old with dealmaking as other unegotiated negotiations. There are no hardball players I have heard of defending the taxpayers, if they’re were they would have made press already.

    The idea of what Nurses deserve long term as with Cops and Fireman really needs exposure with a much longer term contract including flexible options to readdress.
    On another Front, the old retire after 20 years and get another job with double pension gig must cease for all Municipal employees. Look at Dana Hallenbeck our director of Public Works, wasn’t he a cop for West Hartford? Did he retire with his 20 years? Is he working on a second 20 years under the Public Works department? Could there be substancial savings the Town could find with people like him if the Pension system was changed so that the structure for any employee who jumps jobs within a Town can’t collect pensions from the other job until he retires from being a Town Employee at 65 or 70 years of age? Can someone define more of the above for me, such as Mr Francis?
    So it isn’t just about giving those in harms way a better advantage for pay increases when the time comes, but all the other 2nd and 3rd tier perk and bennie shennanigans the Unions across the board have lobbied for, over the 20th century.

    The Unions are a Cartel, check Websters 2nd definition for more insight. Who or what Group works as hard for equality for all taxpaying residents of the Town, the State or the Government?
    Lastly Unions fought in the early years against child labor and unsafe working condiditons which was much needed at the time. Today we have OSHA and the Department of Labor to handle those issue’s. What do Unions really provide today for their members other than demanding more pay and benefits from Corporate employers?
    Go to UnionFacts.com for more info on just how they get the job done.

  72. Quest4More

    A speaker at last Wednesday’s School Board meeting suggested that we would all wake up one morning and find a headline story in the Courant announcing that the State had saved the day in West Hartford by bumping up our share of State educational funding.

    I retrieved my paper this morning hoping that today would be the day, but was disappointed not to receive conclusive news about how West Hartford fared in the budget passed by the House early Saturday morning. The only encouraging news is that a legislator from a town that should have no cause for complaint (since his town will probably continue to receive a disproportionate share of State educational funding) voted “No” on this budget “… saying that he had a disagreement with how education money was being allocated.” (Right–enough is never enough, is it Hartford, Bridgeport and West Haven.)

    See Senate Readies For Budget Vote.

    What really concerns me is some news that got forwarded to me that was shared by the head of the West Hartford PT Council Friday afternoon:

    “…the budget compromise negotiated by the governor and legislative leaders provides $180 million in additional ECS funds for 2007-08 [now $181 million, according this morning’s article] and $80 million for 2008-09 [now $81 million]. While these are certainly larger increases than towns have been receiving in recent years, they fall far short of what the governor promised in her budget address in February and also short of what the Democratic leadership proposed for next year in its Appropriations Committee budget…

    …This has serious implications for West Hartford right now because, if our ECS grant is reduced by the same factor as the total grant, we will receive approximately $400,000 less than the town council anticipated in its April 24 budget. The council will have to make spending cuts in that amount to compensate for this revenue loss on top of whatever cuts it decides to make in order to reduce the property tax increase…”

    Does anyone have any better news to share about this important topic this morning? Please tell me that the State hasn’t put our Town $400,000 further in the hole!

  73. Quest4More

    A speaker at last Wednesday’s School Board meeting suggested that we would all wake up one morning and find a headline story in the Courant announcing that the State had saved the day in West Hartford by bumping up our share of State educational funding.

    I retrieved my paper this morning hoping that today would be the day, but was disappointed not to receive conclusive news about how West Hartford fared in the budget passed by the House early Saturday morning. The only encouraging news is that a legislator from a town that should have no cause for complaint (since his town will probably continue to receive a disproportionate share of State funding) voted “No” on this budget “… saying that he had a disagreement with how education money was being allocated.” (Right–enough is never enough, is it Hartford, Bridgeport and West Haven?) See Senate Readies For Budget Vote (which I would have been happy to provide a link to if your “spam comment catcher” didn’t keep rejecting comments with embedded hyperlinks).

    But what really concerns me is some news I had forwarded to me that was shared by the head of the West Hartford PT Council Friday afternoon:

    “…the budget compromise negotiated by the governor and legislative leaders provides $180 million in additional ECS funds for 2007-08 [now $181 million, according this morning’s article] and $80 million for 2008-09 [now $81 million]. While these are certainly larger increases than towns have been receiving in recent years, they fall far short of what the governor promised in her budget address in February and also short of what the Democratic leadership proposed for next year in its Appropriations Committee budget…

    …This has serious implications for West Hartford right now because, if our ECS grant is reduced by the same factor as the total grant, we will receive approximately $400,000 less than the town council anticipated in its April 24 budget. The council will have to make spending cuts in that amount to compensate for this revenue loss on top of whatever cuts it decides to make in order to reduce the property tax increase…”

    Does anyone have any better news to share about this important topic? Please tell me that the State hasn’t put our Town $400,000 further in the hole!

  74. Joe Visconti

    Wait, as the Council is for the final data, thats why they postponed their decision on the budget by a day.

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