Now the council needs to stand strong

The town council plans to hold a public comment hearing on how to revise the budget starting at 7:30 p.m.  The council itself will vote on Wednesday night.

“Residents are welcome to come and offer their views,” Mayor Scott Slifka told the Courant. “We want to make sure people know about it and that it will be televised.”

So what will happen? What should we tell the council? What should the council do?

My own suggestion is simple: don’t cut more from education.

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55 Comments

Filed under budget, education, referendum, town council, West Hartford, West Hartford Taxpayers Association

55 responses to “Now the council needs to stand strong

  1. Joe Visconti

    Wrong Again Whdad
    Cut from Education another $500,000 as well as the town side and send clear message’s to Francis and Sklarz that the party’s over. Francis and Sklarz or their soon to be replacements better not see another pay or bennie raise until after we weather the 5 year phase in storm. In fact all pay should be frozen on new contracts for all employees when they come back up since we know that next year (a non election year) West Hartford will see a 6% tax increase added to the second year portion of the 5 year phase in is coming.
    The Nurses deal was already done, like Blue Back but Light needs to be shed on the details of all Union Contracts and restrictions that Unions place on a Volunteer model of service from residents. The public also needs to be included Mr Slifka in those sure to be closed door negotiations/hearings which need to be televised.

    “Volunteerism” is approaching by the defacto loss of services for years now, we just call it something else when we dont get the service by the Town and do it ourselves.
    The Police, Fire and Public Works department’s should begin/increase programs for the public to join them in bringing Volunteer service’s to Residents. Training of resident volunteer’s should be a priority for West Hartford over the next 5 years replacing up to 25% of present services from Union/Non Union Town employees.

  2. Joe Visconti

    Reading for Union lapdogs:

    State Red Cross Seeks More Volunteers
    June 23, 2007
    By EZRA R. SILK, Courant Staff Writer FARMINGTON — The state chapter of the Red Cross is seeking more volunteers.

    The group, which has 7,000 volunteers statewide, hopes to attract about 150 people – a 2 percent increase – to help respond to disasters, assist at disaster scenes and work at blood drives.

    The new radio and print ads, created with the help of a $200,000 state grant, stress the fulfillment people get from volunteer work.

    Paul Shipman, the nonprofit agency’s state relations representative, said the chapter is hoping to attract enough new helpers to be able to match the demographics of a specific region with volunteers of similar demographics.

    “The need comes as the demand for our services continues to grow,” Shipman said. “Our volunteers respond to local emergencies, single-family house fires, apartment fires, floods and anything that forces people from their homes.”

    Volunteers also help with disaster preparedness training, CPR training and blood collection drives.

    At a press conference Wednesday in the state Capitol, state and chapter officials spoke about the importance of such agencies as the Red Cross.

    Gov. M. Jodi Rell and others briefly spoke.

    “The Red Cross not only helps here, but they help military families,” Rell said.

    “The Red Cross is perhaps the most recognized symbol next to McDonald’s,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero of Norwalk said. “What’s perhaps not as obvious is the need for volunteers.”

    Senate President Pro Tem Don Williams of Brooklyn said lawmakers decided to help the Red Cross after the Gulf Coast was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

    “Who knows when we are due next for a hurricane,” Williams said. “We know we need plans to evacuate people and keep people safe.”

    At the press conference, Shipman played the radio ads over his laptop computer – “You know that feeling you get when it feels like something is missing in your life? Well, that’s the exact feeling you won’t have if you join the Red Cross.”

    Contact Ezra R. Silk at esilk@courant.com.

  3. You think residents are going to volunteer to do the work of 1/4 of the town’s employees? Good luck with that, Joe.

  4. EJ

    Whdad, probably not, but if you can’t get the horse out of the starting gate you don’t even stand a chance.

    The schools want students to do volunteer work as part of their schooling. Why not let them help out around town. Most high schoolers are capable of planting, painting etc.

  5. Edith Folta

    Why force the cuts — further cuts — to come from the Education budget, when we are subsidizing Leisure Services to the tune of $1 million per year? Part of the town budget is looking at ways these facilities become self-supporting like they used to be — but surely more can be done?

    The Red Cross is a fine organization — I worked for a time at their national headquarters — but their mission is emergency relief and planning for emergencies, not day-to-day operational services in towns. If you volunteer, you will be helping in blood collection and CPR training, all valuable things but not relieving the town budget at all.

    Finally, volunteer fire-fighting is fine is some little town with a population of 2000, but I for one am grateful that we have professionals on duty 24/7 in a town this size, and this densely populated.

  6. Citizen Kane

    What the Council needs to do is supply the citizens with the three page list of possible cuts that they are considering – so that people can speak to something at the hearing on Tuesday.
    Why are they hiding this information from the public? Why isn’t this posted anywhere on their website?
    Why aren’t they considering cultivating new revenue – perhaps increasing Leisure services fees to help LS be more self sufficient?
    Why did they even consider spending $700,000 more on trash collection? Where did they think that money would come from except to raise taxes or make significant cuts elsewhere?
    If people are pissed off that school programs have to be cut .. well they can lay the blame on a more expensive trash collection system for one thing.

  7. EJ

    That’s part of the problem, the secrecy.

    The Council wants comment tomorrow but they have given no information on their thinking for cuts, except for leaf pick up.

    Perhaps they should just go across the board to all departments and tell them what % to cut across the board

  8. Joe Visconti

    Edith

    Emergency tax relief is less dangerous than a Katrina Volunteer thing. The Peace Corp Model for our Youth and Elderly whom both have time and would want to tutour, plant/water flowers and a provide a host of other community services is a fine example of how to slow down The Union spending growth plan.
    Watch how the Cartel vaporizes with this type of post, they want everyone to go back to sleep and forget they are the major “hindrance” to volunteerism. Come out come out wherever you are!!!!!!!!
    They are Jackals pure and simple.

  9. EJ, that might be the best idea I’ve heard in a long time, particularly since the Council has been mum on what to do next. And besides, pushing the budget cuts to departments is generally how budget management is handled in the business world. Perhaps the departments should offer up what gets cut, and just get it done – once and for all.

    As for the meeting, I guess I’m concerned about what this is shaping up to be. I don’t believe folks showing up and grandstanding at the podium – one way or another – won’t amount anything productive, and will waste a lot of energy. But I’m sure everyone will feel better about themselves if they tell “the other side” off. Eh? Rediculous. I do hope we hear some REAL suggestions in the vaccum set forth by the Council. I mean, where the heck are they in all of this?

    The secrecy bewilders everyone. Will the Council make recommendations tonight or will this be a p–ing and moaning session by the public?

    When does the work begin to show the public what the Council plans to do to cut the tax and spend recommendations?

  10. Harry Captain

    You know folks, you can’t have it both ways.

    The BOE has had it’s potential cut lists posted with every rendition of budget reductions. And then when there’s a list, you bitch that the items are “threats” and “scare tactics”.

    Now, the Council is having a public hearing – to hear from you, where you want or don’t want reductions – and you bitch that “the Council hasn’t prepared you a list”.

    So BOE members and Town Councilors, volunteers mind you, are damned if they give you a list and damned if they don’t.

    And Joe, puhleeze, $1 million in cuts from the total budget, 50/50 town & gown – that sends your “clear message”? That’s what all this gnashing of teeth has been about, $1 million?

    Because $1 million brings the property tax increase a hair below 6%, and the actual spending increase a hair below 3% with the difference attributable to reval. And $1 million spread over a $6 billion grand list amounts to very little in actual tax bill savings to the homeowner – clearly not enough to keep a West Hartfordite in lattes for 6 months.

    So if ALL THIS has been about $1 million, then you folks need to let the Council know that at the hearing because they’re interpreting a 2:1 referrendum as a much larger cut. And if that’s all this has been about then maybe you should thank the volunteers for getting the job 99.5% correct in the first place.

  11. WH return

    Harry,

    Way to go! Now if you could take that passion and drive it home, I will have reason to celebrate.

    However, the lists the BOE disseminated was slow in coming and frankly doesn’t attack the problem.

    We need a long range plan and the idea of going back to the taxpayers for additional increases year in and year out without reasonable accountability is where citizens are frustrated.

    All I read about from the budget proponents is that the WHTA and people opposed to the budget are for cutting teachers. No one suggested cutting teachers. We need to look at programs and find where we get the most value and in those situations where little value is achieved, we need to let it go.

    Unfortunately I think this meeting will bring out the other side with each individual craving for their specific program(s) and what it has done for their little Johnny. Then the BOE will turn around and say the same thing “see people were mislead and want all these programs.” Once again, where does it end and how much is enough?

    The frustration is just beginning and unless there is reasonable transparency, it is going to be a very slow and hot summer.

  12. Whitecar

    Harry – it sounds like you’re starting to lose patience with this whole dialogue on this site and if that’s the case it’s about damn time. Whether it’s people suggesting impossible cuts or that the town’s services be provided by volunteers (not even going to bother w/ that garbage) Harry has been the only one responding time and time again. Chuck C. has posted a couple of times, but by and large, the vast majority of accurate, and helpful info from the town is coming from Harry. Which leads me to a simple question – why the silence from the rest of the BOE and Council members? It’s not b/c they don’t read here – I know for a fact that they all do, with ridiculous frequency. Why haven’t they weighed in? Or did Harry draw the short straw?

  13. EJ

    Welcome home Harry,

    I don’t think your comment is quite right.

    The BOE listed cuts and yes people complained because they didn’t want certain programs cut. The BOE heard comments from voters on what cuts might be more appropriate than the programs listed. Obviously the BOE decided they did not like those ideas. The BOE then last week decided to stick it to the voters by rubber stamping the Nurses’ contract. This of course after telling the voters that salary contracts are the main expense of the BOE Budget.

    Now the Council wants ideas of what to cut without providing any guidance. The average person has not seen the budget and those that have seen it have had a hard time deciphering it. This makes it difficult for the average voter to figure out what to cut and what not to cut.

    Perhaps that’s the way the council wants it. Keep everyone confused until it is too late to figure out what is going on.

  14. WH return

    Good article in today’s WSJ about mainstreaming special ed and disabled students. It gets one to think about what role the public schools play in educating everyone who may not have the skills or capacity to achieve in the regular classroom, and how much are we spending to accommodate special situations because of political correctness.

  15. WH return

    EJ:

    That sums it up!

  16. Citizen Kane

    Harry – maybe it isn’t all about cuts.. maybe its about making programs that are supposed to pay for themselves finally do so. Maybe it’s about examining programs to see if they can be done with less money or done more efficiently with less staff.

    Do we need over 3,000 programs in leisure services?
    Do we need busing/transportation for summer programs?
    Why did we embark upon a $700,000 increase in trash collection ?
    Maybe certain town fees need to be increased.
    Maybe we should be examining our overall entertainment costs in Town and School “food, conference and meeting” budgets
    and maybe just maybe there are people who can be
    let go because an office can run just as well without them.

    I’m sorry – but if these guys come back with some plan to close pools instead of examining how we run our print shop, or how we can minimize our costs for overtime and temp services, or why we ought to be paying fees to organizations that don’t do jack for us.. then they are truly a sorry lot.

    It wouldn’t hurt to explain what some of these line items really amount to.. like what the heck is “special allocation” anyway Harry?
    It better be something good at the rate it is increasing this year .. 127% $840,000.

    Maybe – just maybe.. instead of a shopping list of stuff to cut.. how about we make Mr. Francis sit down with his managers and tell them to go back to their drawing boards to see how they can cut their budgets back by a few percent each.. instead of eliminating whole programs. Tell them to “manage” their own budgets with less money, that is what they are getting paid to do. Corporations do it all the time.

  17. Harry Captain

    Whitecar:
    And you wonder why other elected don’t weigh in?

  18. EJ

    Harry, I’ll give you credit for taking the heat. It’s a shame the others won’t. If more BOE/council members opened up perhaps progress could be made.

    These questions have been asked and never answered.
    At the end of May,Jim Francis still could not tell us what the snow savings were and when it would be credited to the new budget. There had not been a storm in over 2 months.

    I’m sorry despite the hollering that the WHTA has printed misleading info, the council has a credibility problem.

  19. Whitecar

    Harry – Touche.

  20. Joe Visconti

    Harry, Harry
    The public can have it both ways, they pay the bills.
    As for cutting just a million, as though it was nothing, it’s a start, if you think we can cut deeper with the Union Contracts in place then be my guest and cut up to 2% more, just don’t blame the No Voters for destroying the schools, cause it’s the past actions of the lay down Board of Ed on the Binding Arbitration sofa that has destroyed people’s lives and their abiltity to retain a West Hartford address.
    As for the Council, they have to be silent while waiting for Senator Harris and Company to let them know (as I am sure he now knows) how much more ECS bacon he will be bringing home.

    If we do not see another 1-2 million in ECS funding then it will be time to replace the State Reps; I know I know the Dems love their own and will keep voting the Union Lapdogs into office.

  21. Joe Visconti

    Harry

    I represent myself only in my suggestions of cutting just $1,000.000 ,not the No Voters or the WHTA
    Thank You and Relax, we all Love you, your doing a great job fielding the issue’s!

  22. Citizen Kane

    KP PTO announced today that we’ll be $273,000 short on state funding from what we expected.
    So much for that Mr. Visconti.
    Harry.. looks like the nurses maybe should have waited on their raise.
    How is the BOE going to absorb this $273,000 loss? Aw shucks looks like there will be no swimming this summer or gee whiz, maybe they can take it out of “special allocation”.

  23. Joe Visconti

    Citizen Pain

    If true then it’s curtains for some programs, probably wont see many jobs cut though. Wait for the Hartford Fishwrap’s reporting tommorrow for real in depth analysis.
    My suggestion of cutting 1 million from the budget looks pretty good if the ECS bacon gets shipped to academic losing towns like Hartford and Bridgeport.

  24. Joe Visconti

    Oh and Citizen

    The KP PTO must have some real insiders, does Harry know this about ECS? Harry? Harry?, where’s he go? where’d he go????

  25. Harry Captain

    Joey, Joey – Who loves ya baby? (I’m Greek and I miss Telly Savalas – Jenifer Aniston’s God Father for you young people)

    I don’t have the exact numbers… I’m told WH took a “haircut” (# less than expected) but I don’t have exact figures yet. The Council actually gets the ECS (Education Cost Share) money directly.

    The good news is that the ECS “cap” is gone and WH will get the full formula. Finally.

  26. Quest4More

    If the State is going to insult the taxpayers of this Town by not even allocating what had originally been budgeted for ECS funding this year, isn’t it time that the leaders of this Town grew a spine and stood up the State on the following two unfunded mandates:

    (1) No more Sheff students without full reimbursement; and

    (2) No additional enhancements to the Charter Oak and Smith magnet programs.

    As I’ll remind anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, at least five U.S. Supreme Court justices are about to up end the obsolete rules of the game for racial imbalance plans.

    So unless the State or someone else is willing to pay for these two unfunded mandates, I say enough is enough! Restore Quest and tell the State to take a hike.

  27. Chuck Coursey

    For those who are looking for a list of potential cuts, please go to the town home page at http://www.west-hartford.com. Click on “Budget Reduction Options and Spending & Tax Scenarios” under Direct Links on the left hand side of the home page.

    Perhaps someone with a bit more web know-how can post this list directly in the comments.

  28. John Hardy

    Lest anyone forget that the Board of Education could be further decimated by all of this irrationality, here also is a new list from the WHPS website:

    http://www.whps.org/board/Budget%20update%20-%20June%2025.pdf

  29. John Hardy

    Also for clarification as I understand it (info obtained from someone with direct access to the data provided to the General Assembly), the ECS increase for WH for 07-08 was just over $4 million, but shy about $125k from the forecast in the WH budget.

    The rest of the shortfall shown in the link Harry posted results from other non-ECS state grants coming in less than anticipated.

    Nonethless, total state grants increase around 27%, so at least we’re getting somewhere……

  30. Joe Visconti

    27% increase in ECS is fantastic, why not we happy? No cap anymore? why not we happy?

  31. Mike

    The town is getting over $4 million more in state assistance this fiscal year over last – A very significant jump of some 40%. I would assume that would help – but just curious as to how much WH was expecting and forecasting into budget projections?

  32. TWC

    Joe and Harry, I agree that a 27% bump and the elimination of the “cap” sounds like good news. And I guess we shouldn’t be too disappointed if we counted 125,000 chickens before they hatched.

    But for those of us who are new to the ECS funding controversy, could one of you provide a brief primer on how this number gets calculated and what the elimination of the cap probably means for future budget years?

  33. WH return

    TWC:

    Thank you.

    I would like a greater understanding of how all this works. If I look at the initial proposed budget, page f-13 it looks as if the budget expected $18.78 Million from the State, yet the town forecasted $14.8M or a variance of $4.0M. Now according to the Courant, West Hartford will receive $18.79M. What is the story behind all this? Have we received our full compliment of this State Aid in the past? If not, why not? Is all this information I posted, gargage? If so, will someone tell me what I should be looking at?

  34. WH Homeowner

    I read in this morning’s Courant article about tonight’s Town Council meeting that tax revenues are only going up 2% this year, yet most residential taxpayers are being asked to swallow a 6.6% increase. The explanation for this fiscal slight-of-hand is that the “…revaluation last October shifted part of the tax burden from commercial to residential properties…”

    With Blue Back purportedly fueling significant increases in rental rates throughout West Hartford, I’ll admit that I’m a little suspicious that the revaluation of the commercial properties in this Town didn’t keep up with residential values. Is it possible West Hartford assessors are a little to cozy with the business interests in this Town?

    But even if you ignore that these revaluations might have been a little too “business-friendly,” has it dawned on anyone else that dumping a larger proportion of what would otherwise be a very palatable tax increase on residential homeowners should be revisited? More specifically, would it be unreasonable to ask the commercial interests in this Town to share in a proportionate tax increase this year, just so we can get through what is otherwise shaping up to be a very contentious and divisive year?

  35. John Hardy

    I don’t pretend to be an expert at all this, but what you can do is to bump up the WH adopted budget revenue summary showing what they anticipated: http://www.westhartford.org/TownServices/TownDepartments/FinancialServices/GeneralFundRevenueSummary_2007-08.pdf against the highlights report issued yesterday by the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis: http://www.cga.ct.gov/ofa/Documents/BudHlts/BudgetsHighlights2007.pdf

    I’ve been doing that instead of what I’m being paid to do :>) and have found most of the pieces.

  36. WH Homeowner

    I read in this morning’s Courant article about tonight’s Town Council meeting that tax revenues are only going up 2% this year, yet most residential taxpayers are being asked to swallow a 6.6% increase. The explanation for this fiscal slight-of-hand is that the “…revaluation last October shifted part of the tax burden from commercial to residential properties…”

    With Blue Back purportedly fueling significant increases in rental rates throughout West Hartford, I’ll admit that I’m a little suspicious that the revaluation of the commercial properties in this Town didn’t keep up with residential values. Is it possible West Hartford assessors are a little to cozy with the business interests in this Town?

    But even if you ignore that these revaluations might have been a little too “business-friendly,” has it dawned on anyone else that dumping a larger proportion of what would otherwise be a very palatable tax increase on residential homeowners should be revisited? More specifically, would it be unreasonable to ask the commercial interests in this Town to share in a proportionate tax increase this year, just so we can all get through what is otherwise shaping up to be a very contentious and divisive year?

  37. John Hardy

    And to clarify my comments last night:
    – Overall grants are up +27%.
    – ECS itself is up +35% (from $11,372,329 to $15,399,029).

    ECS is the biggest grant, but others grew at lesser rates or in a few cases shrank, hence the overall weighted increase lower than the ECS growth.

  38. WH Return

    Wow:

    After reviewing these numbers, estimates and expectations no wonder people are pissed off. What is right and what is wrong? Have we received all the money promised by the State? If not, how does one even begin to budget? Also Investment Income is significantly up – makes sense – but how has the surplus been accounted for and how is moved into the actual numbers? It looks as if there is approximately $.5M more in investment income.

    Personally this is my biggest gripe with government at whatever level. There seems to be no end to spending and when surpluses seem to be available, they are pissed away. There just does not seem to be any accountability for what goes on.

    One last thing, in all the suggested recommendations to cut, I have yet to see a decrease in the Management / Supervisory level. Why? There was a suggestion to cut an Asst. Principal at a school but was this after an addition for a new A/P or was this a/p already on board?

  39. Joe Visconti

    Kevin Sullivan is most likely the best non active politician in Town who can answer most ECS Funding questions since he used to be knee deep in it. What say you oh grand Pupa of ECS?

  40. John Hardy

    ECS changes as described by the Office of Legislative Research bill analysis for the education “implementer,” HB8003.

    §§ 61-64 – ECS GRANTS

    ECS Formula Factor Changes (§ 61)

    The bill changes the following ECS formula factors starting in FY 08:

    • Foundation. The bill increases the ECS foundation from $ 5,891 to $ 9,687 per student. The new foundation applies through FY 12. Raising the foundation increases grants to all towns.

    • Minimum Grant (“base aid ratio”). Minimum grants ensure that all towns receive a minimum grant regardless of wealth. The bill increases the minimum ECS grant from 6% to 9% of the foundation for most towns and to 13% for the 20 school districts with highest concentrations of low-income students, as measured by the proportion of their total populations aged 5 to 17 who are eligible for federal Title I funding.

    • State Guaranteed Wealth Level (GWL). The bill raises the GWL from 1. 55 to 1. 75 times the median town wealth. This change increases the state share of education funding.

    • “Need Students. ” By law, the ECS formula weights student counts for educational and economic need. The bill makes various changes in these need weightings.

    1. It increases the weighting for limited-English-proficient students not participating in bilingual education programs from 10% to 15%. This change increases aid for towns with low concentrations of students with non-English dominant languages. (The law requires schools to have bilingual programs if they have 20 or more students with the same non-English dominant language. )

    2. It increases the weighting for low-income students from 25% to 33% and changes the basis of the weighting from students on welfare in 1997 to children eligible for federal Title I aid as of each October 1. This change updates data used for the low-income student weighting.

    3. The bill eliminates the 25% weighting for students who perform below proficiency on mastery tests (“mastery count”).

    4. In FY 09, the bill reduces “need student counts” by 25% of the full-time students who attend interdistrict magnet schools receiving state magnet operating grants. Under current law, all such students are included in ECS student counts. This change reduces grants for towns with students attending interdistrict magnet schools on a full-time basis.

    • “Hold Harmless. ” The bill eliminates a requirement that, for FY 08 and each subsequent fiscal year, a town receive an ECS grant that is at least (1) equal to the grant it received in the previous fiscal year or (2) 60% of its full ECS entitlement.

    ECS Grants and Phase-In (§ 62)

    The bill phases in full funding of the new ECS grants and, for purposes of the phase-in, changes the term used to signify a fully phased-in ECS entitlement from “target aid” to “fully funded grant. ”

    It establishes the first two years of the phase-in as follows:

    • For FY 08, each town receives the ECS grant it was eligible to receive in FY 07 plus 17. 31% of the difference between that and its fully funded grant, but no less than a 4. 4% increase.

    • For FY 09, it gives each town 23. 3% of the difference between the FY 07 base and its fully funded grant, but no less than 4. 4% more than its FY 08 grant.

    The bill eliminates the density supplement to the ECS grant. The density supplement provides additional aid to towns with higher-than-average population densities.

    Minimum Budget Requirement (§§ 63 & 64)

    Current law requires any town that receives an increase in its annual ECS grant to increase its local budget for education by at least the amount of the increased aid. The bill modifies this minimum budget requirement (MBR) as follows.

    • For FY 08 and 09, the bill requires most towns to spend for education at least their budgeted appropriation for the prior year plus an amount ranging from 15% to 65% of their ECS increases.

    • The MBR percentage is determined by the average of the difference between each town and the highest-ranked town in the following categories: (1) current program expenditures per student, (2) per capita wealth (equalized net grand list adjusted for income), and (3) percentage of students who score below proficiency on state mastery tests.

    • The bigger the average difference, the higher the percentage of its ECS increase a town must spend (i. e. , the closer to 65%).

    • Any town whose school district is in the third year or more of failing, as a district, to make AYP in math or reading, must add 20 percentage points to the share of its ECS increase that it must spend on education.

    By September 15, 2007, the bill allows local school boards to ask the education commissioner to defer part of their aid increases for FY 08. If the commissioner approves, the deferred amount must be added to the town’s FY 09 grant. Deferred funds must be spent in compliance with the town’s MBR for FY 09. The bill bars a town from deferring aid increases that it must spend based on its failure to make AYP for three or more years.

    The bill defines “current program expenditures” and “current program expenditures per student” for purposes of the MBR. Under the bill, those expenditures are the same as the existing “regular education expenditures” plus expenditures for special education and student transportation.

    The bill also makes a conforming change to repeal an old penalty for a town that does not meet its ECS minimum expenditure requirement (MER). Under current law and the bill, this penalty is part of the MBR. (The penalty is twice the amount of any shortfall. )

    EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2007

  41. Quest4More

    John, many thanks for digging up this information. But is there any chance of getting an “executive summary” of these ECS changes before tonight’s meeting?

    Also, why no response to WH Homeowner’s idea? Are both political parties so entrenched with the business interests in this Town that having them pick up a larger share of this year’s tax increase doesn’t even deserve a response?

  42. Well, at least I had the opportunity to see some of you characters live and in action!

    Good job everyone!

  43. Elmwoodian

    To Quest4More, we’ve tapped our businesses for plenty already. Not that I’m generally quick to defend the interests of institutions over individuals, but I think that most owners of commercial property in town would respond, and rightly so, by saying that they have been carrying more than their fair share for 8 years now while residential property prices have risen at a disproportionately faster rate.

    Also, we can’t forget that “commercial property” doesn’t just mean big ol’ Blue Back and Westfarms. It also means Halls Market and the Quaker Diner. And there’s a lot more of the latter than the former out there. We don’t want to keep asking more and more of our businesses or we risk putting them in the same position as those that are in Hartford currently–scraping by because of onerous commercial property taxes–and discouraging new businesses from moving here.

    Let’s not be so shortsighted as to step over a dollar picking up a penny (or penny wise, pound foolish, yes?). Looking to the commercial property owners to give more is not the answer.

    The plain truth is that it’s our turn. Residential homeowners have all known that they have been living on borrowed time for quite some time now. We all want to party like it’s 1999, but the fact is that it’s 2007 and the residential grand list has exploded while commercial property prices have grown at a much steadier rate. It’s time to shoulder our load already.

  44. Art Halloran

    Can someone explain why Barbara Carpenter is sitting there making decisions on a budget when she is the president-elect of the WH Teachers Union.

    She has said on more than one occasion that she would step down from the council if elected to the union post. Does she really believe there is no conflict of interest as president-elect, that it only begins when she actually takes office?

    You’ll recall she abstained from voting on the original budget. Now what is she going to do?

    Remaining on the council while president-elect of this union seems to be a very selfish and arogant act. Ever the opportunist, first she’s a Republican, then she’s the independent woman of the people, then when it’s politically beneficial she’s a Republican again.

    She should have stepped down the day after she was elected to the union position. Since she didn’t she should step down now.

  45. EJ

    Art, I couldn’t agree with you more. I guess that’s politics and Ethics in West Hartford.

  46. John Hardy

    Quest4More –

    Unfortunately, what I posted is the General Assembly’s “executive summary” of the ECS changes (this is what they gave to the legislators to help explain the bill). It does take a few readings to digest it – I’d bet that within a few days the CT Conf. of Municipalities or someone else will release a condensed version. I’ll keep an eye out.

  47. Beth Bye

    Good Morning from Old Saybrook today…sunny and very warm.. but not as warm as WH.

    West Hartford got over $4 million in additional ECS money over last year. This is the largest increase in a generation.

    It was not easy as the leaders had to fight for every dollar as the Governor backed off her original ECS increase. That left us fighting to keep proposed increase.

    WH certainly did not get cut… this very large increase and helped the Town Budget quite a bit.

    The cap is gone, we are getting what we deserve this year. Rep. Fleischmann was the one on the inside on this issue and he fought for WH $$.

    And other WH Reps. found Reps. from like Towns who were also getting shortchanged — to push for increases as well.

    And WH gets over $600,000 additional in next year’s state budget.

    John — thanks for the formula info and Harry — you are indeed the one out here speaking for local officials and – as usual – willing to take the heat.

  48. Whitecar

    Beth – thanks for checking in, you and your fellow legislators should get some latitude for not being around on this blog given the demands in hartford, but wouldn’t you agree that it’s about time that local officials other than Harry (and chuck too) got on here and shared some info? Or perhaps tried to make their case? I wouldn’t suggest they get into a back and forth that takes all day, but this blog has become a pretty big place for substantive discussions on the town and their absence is pretty noticeable.

  49. Beth Bye

    I do think the blogs are a very good source of info — and as press covers less and less, it is more vital than ever.

    I do not check as much as I should. Life will be quieter now that the session is over.

    Any way to hear from the public who you do not interect with regualrly is important to try to access as an elected official. We need to hear from those we represent. I hear often from friends and family and folks at the ball fields about issues — but they are by no means a random sample — nor is this blog. But put all the non random sources together and it all adds up to a more diversified source of info.

    I was reading today because I am very worried about further cuts to the school budget. There is no way, in my opinion and based on knowledge of the budget to cut more and not affect the classrooms more (the $4 million cut to date already will have a real impact).

    And it is frustrating to see the large ECS increase and see schools getting cut significantly in that same year. It is a function of the tax burden — I get that. And the public did speak.

    But there is a very fine line here — the schools are the reason folks move to Town (They are the # 1 reason I came for sure).

    The last round of cuts and the loss of an Assistant Principal at Smith – then lost us a principal who saw the cuts coming and quit before she even started.

    The cuts also mean that, in hiring, the schools will be recruiting less experienced teachers who are lower on the pay scales to replace retiring teachers. Good for the budget — not so good for the classroom quality. When staff are such a large % of the budget — class size and teacher experience are the way to shrink the budget.
    So as a parent and rep…. I came to the blog to read the sentiments.

    I bet I will get more now too! (just guessing)

  50. WH Return

    You are right, you will get more. I don’t know where to even start. We lost a Principal because she saw the budget cuts – you know what, let her go. I am sure there are exceptional (even young) talented people who will take that job not because of the tax cuts, but because of the salary being offered.

    I do not want to rant on teachers because there is plenty of places to cut without sacrificing teachers. You know it and I know it! To date, other than the one A/P (which I’m still not sure if this was a new A/P in the budget or an existing A/P position) there has been no mention of supervisory / management staff at BOE. It is over bloated!

    Tonight the mayor was correct. He did not go on a teacher binge years ago but now the tax (pension) bill is coming due and if we don’t take action now, then in the future there will be no teachers because we will be servicing pensions and health costs due to excessive management salaries.

  51. Beth Bye

    WH Return

    The budget is done. But I will say — the admin is not bloated. We are one of the Town’s with the lowest Administrator to pupil ratios and expense amount. Go to the data — not the rhetoric.

    It is easy to say it is all administration… but that is not where the savings are — savings are in the classrooms. And that savings has a big cost to the quality of the schools.

    As for no problem losing a principal… that was the third search for that principal position, with a school that has experienced principal turnover already… and the parents and teachers and admin had found the right person. These searches are not cheap. And the right leader is key. Year 3 without a consistent leader – not encouraging.

  52. WH return

    I would love to get the data. If you are reading these posts, getting the data and trying to figure it out is one of the loudest complaints. I have also not heard one argument for eliminating supervisory and/or mgmt position at BOE or the town other than the one a/p (which again is that a new position being dropped or an existing position being terminated). From what I can determine there does seem to be an increase in admin / pupil over the years. Has this been worthwhile – don’t know?
    I will agree with you that the Smith Principal scenario is negative to the Smith community but I have a hard time believing the potential new principal was clueless to the budget scenario taking place. Maybe the question is the status of the school (Magnet) and is that a town decided issue or state decided issue? But once again she had to be aware of what was taking place and if not then she wasn’t the individual Smith needed.

  53. TWC

    As if this blog needed anything else to argue about tonight, the U.S. Supreme Court announced today that the school districts in the two racial balancing cases did not carry “…their heavy burden of showing that the interest they seek to achieve [racial balance] justifies the extreme means they have chosen–discriminating among individual students based on race…”

    The typical race-mongers are declaring the end of civilized society as we know it. Others are either encouraged or discouraged by Kennedy’s always centrist attempt to find the middle-ground. (He wrote a separate concurring opinion.)

    What effect this case while have on this Town’s more voluntary racial balancing plans is unclear. But perhaps most importantly, I think the State’s not-so-veiled threat to redistrict it we don’t satisfy their arbitrary racial balancing formula is probably unconstitutional, as of today.

    In any case, it’s clear the legal rules of the game have changed dramatically for any school district that goes to far and subscribes to the theory that two wrongs make a right.

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