Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Indian Trail Resident Charged In Plowing Dispute With Town Employees

Holiday Cheer is clearly absent in Indian Trail resident Wayne Farel's attitude towards the employees of the Public Works Department. Police Department sources confirmed this morning that Farel was charged with one count of Breach of Peace that allegedly arises out of his objection to the way that Public Works plows the road in front of his property. Other sources say that this is an on-going problem and that Farel has been involved in other incidents. Based upon what I've heard, it's my opinion that further criminal charges may be made.

It never ceases to amaze me that people complain about snow plowing inTown. I think that the DPW crew does a great job plowing the roads and they take pride in their work. For comparison, drive on some of the local roads in Danbury or the Brewster/Pawling area...what a difference!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ambulance Association To Pay For New Facility

Mayor Pat Murphy has come up with a real winner in a plan that allows the Ambulance Association to pay for its new facility and relieve New Milford taxpayers of the construction cost.

Supported unanimously by its Board, the Association intends to pay the cost of the 1.5% short-term borrowing by billing insurance companies for its services.

“It seemed to me that the insurance companies have been getting a free ride,” said the Mayor, ignoring her obvious pun.

“Whether its Medicaid, Medicare, the auto insurance companies or private health insurance, a billing company will send a bill for the service but the Association will be responsible for collections. Hardship will be considered so that those who are most needy may not have to pay anything out of pocket.”

This is a win/win for the Community and I applaud the Mayor’s creative thinking in these extremely difficult financial times.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Kostes' Grand Investment Advice

Can you imagine? Can you imagine where the pension fund would be today if it was heavily invested in the S & P 500 as former resident Kostes had recommended? Yep, with its decline approaching 50% we'd be in one heckuva situation.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Two Constitutional Issues

I. Obama's "Natural Born Citizen Problem." Those who are challenging the eligibility of President-Elect Obama to serve in that capacity are not crackpots and it is totally appropriate and necessary that the Supreme Court of the United States of America is meeting tomorrow to decide whether or not to hear one of the 17 or so cases that are slowly making it through the judicial systems of so many states.

I have read all of the court documents that I could find on the web and have avoided all other sources of information. I understand the forensics that were done on the document that was allegedly issued by the Hawaiian authority; I understand the allegations about the claims by Obama's grandmother; I understand the argument about Obama's education and the supposed relinquishment of his citizenship. I get all that. What I don't get is Obama's staunch refusal to end all the controversy by disclosing the one document that would theoretically accomplish this with incredible ease: the kind of handwritten ("vault") birth certificate that all of us have access to. You know, the one with such information as the delivering doctor's signature, the time of birth and names of the birth parents. Why not just put an end to all of this?

Weigh the simplicity of the solution against the havoc that could be wrought by a finding of ineligibility months or years from now and you'll get my point. As time passes, more and more laws will be signed by the "poseur." They will all have to be undone and the strain on the Nation -- the world -- will be almost impossible to survive. Think we have a crisis now? Somewhere, somehow, a smart criminal attorney will subpoena the record in the course of his or her representation of a person charged with a federal crime. Doing a good job for the client, the attorney will attempt to show that the law that allowed the arrest was signed by a President who had no authority to do so. While many courts have been able to duck the suits seeking the vault record on procedural or standing issues, this one will be impossible to toss because that criminal defendant has an absolute right to have it. A Constitutional right.

So the moral of the tale for all of us including those of you who think these suits are whacky is very simple. If Obama cares about his Country, he should avoid all of this by simply releasing the record. Any reason for refusing to do so escapes me.

II. Hillary's Ineligibility to Be Secretary of State. Many seek to sweep this lesser known Constitutional problem under the rug. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution provides that, “No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time.” Simply, the argument is that Senator Clinton is not eligible to be the Secretary of State because she voted to increase the salary for the position.

This isn't the first time that the issue has been raised. In what is known as "The Saxbe Fix," Congress has reduced the salary back to what it was before the vote was taken to increase it. The maneuver was nicknamed after Nixon's appointment of Senator William Saxbe as Attorney General. Clinton got it for his appointment of Senator Lloyd Bentsen as Secretary of the Treasury.

The cure seems simple enough but Constitutionalists and smart lawyers argue that there can be no cure the prohibition was violated and there's no remedy in the Constitution. I agree. But then there are many people who believe that we have a government of men not of laws.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Failla Takes Council Seat

Last night's vote was 5-3, with Democrat Walter Bayer breaking ranks and voting in favor.

John Lillis addressed the Shelly Pruss issue saying that the reason he didn't vote for Joe is that he didn't want to make the same mistake twice. You may recall that at the last go-round, John said that he wouldn't vote for Joe because "the voters didn't elect him" to the BOE. A peculiar position in view of the fact that he voted for fellow Dem Shelly after "the voters didn't elect him" either.

I wonder how Shelly feels this morning, knowing that his Party Chair thinks that it was a "mistake" to vote for him.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

BOE "Returns" Surplus

In today's News-Times, you can read Nanci Hutson's story about the Board of Ed's decision to return its $741,000 to the Town's General Fund. In her lead, Nanci wrote, "Tuesday night's split vote of the Board of Education will send the district's $741,000 balance back into the town's general operation fund rather than the board's capital reserve account."

What's wrong with this picture? Simple. BOE Member and attorney Bill Wellman was absolutely right when he said that the BOE had no legal right to have any say whatsoever about the disposition of this money. It had no legal right to keep any of it for its capital reserve fund or for any other purpose. Not $250,000. Not $200,000. Not one cent.

That unexpended money belongs to the taxpayers and should have been "returned" to the General Fund immediately without a stop at a BOE Meeting. And what's amazing is that there isn't a person in the BOE Finance Department who doesn't know it, including old-timer Tom Corbett. Before even allowing it on the Agenda (prepared by the Administration), Board Chairman Lisa Diamond should have asked the Board's attorney about its rights. If he's worth his salt, he'd have confirmed my claim.

Further, the idea of the Board putting the money into its Capital Reserve is illegal. See Section 10-241 of the Connecticut General Statutes and Board of Ed v. City of New Haven 237 Conn. 169 (1996) in which the Supreme Court distinguished between capital and operating accounts. The Town Council controls for former, the BOE the latter. If the BOE wants to add money to its Capital Reserve it must seek COuncil permission as it has done in the past.

Kudos to Chairman Lisa Diamond for breaking with her party and a "thumbs down" to Dave Lawson, Tom McSherry and the other Democrats for their hubris and utter failure to pay attention to their legal obligations and their obligations to the taxpayers-at-large. It just shows you the mind-set.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Failla Withdraws Council Bid...For Now

Joe Failla withdrew his name last night, facing a negative vote from all four Democratic Council Members and an absence of two Republican Members.

The Democrats said that the voters didn't elect Joe to the Board of Education. Apparently they forgot about Shelly Pruss (D).

Calling it "politics at its worst," Mayor Pat Murphy said, "This is the Town Council, not the Board of Ed. Joe is qualified, I think he'll do a good job and he has the unanimous support of the Republican Town Committee."

Without doubt, Joe's name will be brought up again when Republicans Pete Bass and Bob Guendelsberger return. The Mayor will vote to break the likely 4-4 tie leaving the Dems in a very uneasy position when he sits at their table.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Volinski Resigns From Council, Failla On Deck

Republican Town Council Member Terry Volinski submitted her resignation from the Town Council. Joe Failla will likely be recommended by the RTC to fill her seat. An attorney who practices in New York, Joe is a former Member of the Ethics Commission and Board of Education.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dr. Py and the Children of New Milford

Some time ago, the Mayor and Town Council cooperated in giving to Medinstill, formerly the Nestles facility on Housatonic Avenue, a five-year tax abatement valued at more than $1,000,000. In addition, at a cost of $4,200,000 in State and Local funds, the Town extended the sewer line to the facility.

Even the Sewer Commission helped Medinstill by granting a special fee to accept its sludge-handling until the sewer system was connected. Finally, the Sewer Commission based its hookup fee on historical water use rather than on a square foot assessment as is the rule for new commercial hookups. Combined, these sewer benefits saved Medinstill hundreds of thousands of dollars. The hookup fee was allowed to be paid over a 10-year period.

The total of these tax and sewer benefits exceeded $5,000,000. The Town of New Milford has never done this before.

All of this was based upon representations from Medinstill’s President, Dr. Daniel Py, that the company would expand its employee base by several hundred people thereby affording job opportunities to many New Milford residents.

It's been more than a year and those jobs have not materialized.

Given this unprecedented financial relief and the value added to the property, I think that it would be appropriate and an indication of Dr. Py’s good faith to donate to the Town of New Milford the existing Bulls and Volunteer fields for the benefit of today’s and tomorrow’s children.

This is Dr. Py’s opportunity to really become a part of the New Milford Community.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Odor Problem Solutions?

New Milford Farms has plans. Read them here.



Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Surprise! BOE Has A Surplus!

BOE Super JeanAnn Paddyfote reports that "Mr. Miller has determined that the unaudited 2008 year-end balance is $741,083.90. We will be discussing the year-end balance at our Sept. 2nd Operations Meeting.

A few of the items and/or reasons that contributed to the balance are listed below:

--an additional $100,000 in special education excess cost reimbursement than was forecasted;
--more funds encumbered in oil, gas, and electricity than were expended;
--a milder winter than was expected;
--Energy Education program, and other energy conservation programs are working;
--savings in transportation due to the mid-sized buses versus mini-vans."

Will the surplus be turned over to the Town to be used for tax relief? Don't hold your breath.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Reader Asks About Store Closings

A long-time reader asks, "So what do you think about all the closings in Town? Dominos, Quiznos, Boston Market and Mariachis is next, I hear. Times they are not good!!"

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Odor From Nestle's Farms

From parents and children at the ballfields, from the Recycling Center and from as far away as Old Stilson Hill Road, there have been many complaints about the odor from the Nestle's Farms' composting facility. It travels with the wind.

The Town's Health Department has no jurisdiction over the matter although Director of Health Mike Crespan and the Mayor are well aware of the problem and have spoken to the owner repeatedly. "They've been very cooperative and concerned, Mike said, "They may not be able to resolve the problem immediately but they are working on it." And so is the State DEP.

Lou Santos, a DEP Air Pollution Control Engineer III, is investigating the problem. He said today that he has yet to officially declare Nestle's Farms as the source of the odor. While it seems apparent to all of us, he explained that he must rule out all other potential sources before making that formal declaration. The odor may very well be coming from the composting facility," he said, "I am doing air inspections and will do a compliance inspection later next month."

Mr. Santos also said that he will also be referring the matter to the DEP Water Department because he saw some leacheate from the area where restaurant food waste is dumped. The facility has a Permit to accept the food waste which is then mixed with brush and other organic materials before it is composted.

I am assured that the odor is not toxic and results from the composting process.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Murphy/Jankowski Cut Costs

It's amazing what you can find out if you just ask. Kostes, are you reading?

Last week, Mayor Murphy's and Finance Director Ray Jankowski's vigilance saved taxpayers more than $700,000.

First, a call date with regard to 1999 School Bonds allowed refinancing and a savings of more than $650,000.00.

Second, they took advantage of a brief opening that permitted a renegotiation of the Town's electricity costs. Savings? $65,000.00.

Great work.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Mouse Roars

Citing fiscal mismanagement, Mayoral wannabe Bob Kostes who, you may recall, failed to vote on the Budget, called yesterday for the resignations of Mayor Pat Murphy, Councilman Roger Szendy and Board of Finance Chair Bob Sherry.

It's quite a list considering that the responsibility for the fiscal health of the Town resides not only with the Mayor but with the entire Council, the entire Board of Finance and the Finance Director. Why did he cherry-pick these three? Maybe because he didn't want to include a call for the resignation of all of the Members of these bodies because it would include the likes of friend Mary Jane Lundgren who knows as much about finance as I know about nuclear fusion.

Although he ran for Mayor, what, exactly, did Kostes offer but a wild idea about pension investment and a spending plan that would have resulted in a double-digit tax increase? His idea of educating himself about the Town's finances is a five-minute meeting with the Finance Director. Bob, where have you been for months? Have you gone to one Town meeting? Have you even been in Town Hall since you lost the election?

Kostes, if you are really interested in what's going on, speak to Department Heads whose Budgets are scrutinized daily by the Mayor. Speak to the people in Town Hall. You'd be doing the taxpayers a great service if you'd dig in to the BOE Budget where many expensive secrets are hidden.

This Duchy won't capture the Q-Bomb.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Cash" Price for Gas at Hess Station

For the past week or so, the Hess station on Route 7 has been offering a "cash" price and a "credit" price.

I'm not sure what the State Legislature had in mind for its new Bill. Some said that the intent was to save us money by allowing stations to give a discount for cash. However, it appears that neither laws nor franchise agreements ever barred stations from doing this.

But what Hess is doing is absurd. Instead of offering a cash discount, it is simply charging more to customers who use a credit card. It's "cash" price is just about the same as every other station on Route 7.

In addition, a person using a debit card won't get the "cash" price at Hess even though money is taken from a debit account immediately, is riskless and doesn't require human time for handling and deposit.

The invention of the debit card was the darling of retailers who were anxious to find a quick, guaranteed way to get paid. Now it's a dirty word?

So far, this is the only station in Town that's playing this game. Buy your gas elsewhere.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jankowski v. Turk, $1,832 Apart

Ray Jankowski, Town Treasurer and Director of Finance, makes $96,200.00/year and John Turk, Board of Education's Director of Fiscal Services, makes $94,368.00. The former has been working for the Town for 18 years, the latter, 3.

What am I missing?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Budget: Which Candidates Didn't Vote?

It's too big a task to go through the entire electorate so I decided to start with the list of candidates in the last election. Here are the candidate no-shows, starting from the top of the ticket:

Bob Kostes (Mayor, NMF)
Bill McLachlan (Council, R)
Mary Patricia Issavi (Council, D)
Eileen Monaghan (BOF, NMF)
Al Brant (Assessment Appeals, R)
Bob Rush (Planning, D)
Jerry Monaghan (Planning, NMF)
Kevin Jackson (Zoning, D)
Charles Bogie (ZBA, R)
Keith Iaia (ZBA, R)
Lisa Alexander (ZBA, D)
Matt Pruss (ZBA, D)
Richard Dugdale (ZBA, D)

You mean to tell me that New Milford First wizards Kostes and Monaghan didn't bother to vote? Yes. Shame, shame, shame.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Guendelsberger Sues Town

In a Superior Court action entitled Guendelsberger v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of New Milford and GMLR LLC, local attorney and Town Council Member Bob Guendelsberger is suing the ZBA because it "improperly granted [a] variance relying on uninformed [sic] restrictions that wetlands will presumably apply, and by the elimination of access from an adjoining road." The papers are tough to follow and often redundant but apparently Bob is upset about a variance that was awarded with regard to a property across the street from his office at 28 Park Lane Road aka Route 202.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Route 7 Construction Update

How aggravating is it to watch this project held up by work on that little bridge just north of Still River Road? That's a rhetorical question. Commuters and non-commuters alike are "angry as hell" and "don't want to put up with it any more." (Network was an excellent movie, wasn't it?)

So here's an update from the Route 7 project's Chief Inspector, Mark Vinisko. "The wings have been poured and the parapet wall will be poured tomorrow," he said a few moments ago. "Traffic will be switched on Friday, the remaining overlay will be done the first week of July and there'll be four lanes by mid-July."

None too soon.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Should Seniors Be Tested for Driving Competency?

I say absolutely yes.

The News-Times is reporting that it was Bill Webster, 92, who was driving the car that struck and killed a woman on 202 yesterday evening long before dark. According to the report, Webster, a long-time Fire Company devotee, said that he was "unaware" of the incident.

This is a perfect example of why seniors should be subject to testing.

Here's how the State of California handles the problem.

At 70+, the California Department of Motor Vehicles require that renewal licenses be obtained in person. There are vision and written tests. In addition, Police Officers may request that a senior take a test if he or she thinks it is necessary. Doctors must report certain listed illnesses that may impact a senior's driving ability and friends and relatives may also ask the DMV to require testing.

According to the California DMV, "DMV may issue a license to a customer who has a physical and/or mental condition if that person is able to demonstrate, during a driving test, that he/she compensates for the condition and can drive safely. The driving test you will be asked to take is called a Supplemental Driving Performance Evaluation (SDPE). In certain situations, if the Supplemental Driving test is too difficult for your abilities, you have the option of taking an Area Driving Performance Evaluation (ADPE). You and the DMV examiner will pre-determine the driving test area and if you pass that driving test, your driver license will be restricted to that area."

Makes sense to me. I doubt that Bill Webster has had a driving test in 75 years.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Town To End Fiscal Year With 4-5 Million Dollar Deficit

"It appears that we will be ending the 07/08 fiscal year with a deficit of between four and five million dollars," said Ray Jankowski, Town Treasurer and Director of Finance. "We're not exempt from what's going on out there."

"This results from a number of factors," Ray explained, among them the Town's yield on investments is down $500,000, conveyance fees are down $200,000 and the State ECS (Education Cost Sharing) is down $566,000.

"We need to contain costs," he said.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Budget Squeaks By

The Town Budget passed by 276; the BOE Budget passed by 16.

There had to be a recount because the vote passed on the first count by less than .5% and the recount fixed discrepancies in the East Street and Northville vote numbers.

The turnout was 18.767%; 3139 people voted.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tonight! The Evils of Loosestrife

A few of the comments on my last post made me think of this. Can't imagine why.

Tonight at 6pm in the E. Paul Martin Room of Town Hall, Donna Ellis, Extension Educator in the Department of Plant Science at the University of Connecticut, will give a 1 hour presentation on Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).

The presentation is open to the public and will include a discussion about controlling this invasive plant and an opportunity to ask questions.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Budget Dates

The Town Meeting will be held at 8:00 p.m. on May 13 in the Lecture Room at the High School.

The Referendum will be held on May 20.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shredding Day

The Rotary's 2d Annual Shredding Day is Saturday, May 3, at Lore's Plaza.

"Bring all of your boxes of papers, clean up your attics and basements. See you there rain or shine," a spokeman says.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bulky Waste Pickup

At the time of this post, DPW has booked 126 out of the 200 available pickups. DPW Administrative Aide/Office Manager Laurene Beattie said that most of the calls were for furniture and appliances. "There are a lot of pickups for exercise equipment and lawn mowers, too," she said.

Analysis of BOE Bottom Line

$59,115,622 Original BOE request

(1,750,000) Mayor’s reduction from requested increase

(1,170,411) Town Council’s reduction from requested increase

$56,195,211 Sent by Council to BOF

750,000 Added back by BOF
---------------
$56,945,211 The amount going to the voters at a Referendum



$59,115,622 Original BOE request

(56,945,211) The amount going to the voters at a Referendum
----------------
$ 2,170,411 Net reduction in original BOE request

(657,522) Amount saved by changing from fully insured to self-insured

( 60,000) Retirement savings

(222,694) Reduction in cost of liability insurance

(512,889) Amount to be taken from Capital Reserve Fund
----------------
$ 717,306 Net impact on original BOE request

(430,000) Further savings if BOE decides to postpone implementation of Strategic Plan as recommended by Mayor
----------------
$ 287,306 TOTAL reduction of BOE Budget

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DPW Announces Bulky Waste Pickup Service

Wow! The Mayor calls it a pilot project to determine the need and cost of the program. Here's the Press Release:

SPRING CLEANUP TIME
Something BIG is leaving your neighborhoods!
The Town of New Milford Public Works Department would like to announce the First Annual Bulky Waste Pickup Service. This is your chance to get rid of accumulated big stuff, such as furniture, washers and dryers, carpets, etc. Between May 5 and May 30, 2008 (excluding weekends and Holidays) the Public Works Department will perform bulky waste pickup to scheduled households on a first come first serve basis to the first 200 residents to call.
Pickup is available to residents of the Town of New Milford with a scheduled appointment. ALL items must be able to be lifted by two people.
· Pick ups will be BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.
· Items are to be left at the curbside ON THE DAY OF YOUR APPOINTMENT.
· Type of material able to be collected includes
o mattresses (must be dry),
o old furniture, Please do not break furniture up as all items in reasonable condition will be recycled.
o washers,
o rugs
o dryers,
o carpet,
Carpet needs to be cut into manageable sizes or rolled and taped.
THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED:
· GARDEN WASTE (grass, brush, leaves, etc); please contact New Milford Farms (a Garick Corp.) at 860-210-0250 for this disposal.
· BUILDERS WASTE (demolition debris, wood, sheetrock, etc)
· ROCKS, SOIL
· LIQUIDS OR CHEMICAL WASTE (paint, varnish, antifreeze, waste oil, etc)-please keep all of this for the New Milford Health Departments annual fall Household Hazardous Waste Day and
· ITEMS NOT ABLE TO BE LIFTED BY TWO PEOPLE
Please call 355-6040 to schedule a pick up time. Please note that you must indicate what items you will have at the time you make your appointment. This program will be on a first come first serve basis and appointments will be limited to 10 pick ups per day. You can begin calling to schedule your appointment day on or after April 28, 2008.
*Please call 355-6040 for additional information*

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Publius: 'Today is Lenin's Birthday (a.k.a. Earth Day)'

Today is Vladimir Ilyich Lenin's birthday (a.k.a. Earth Day).

It's no coincidence that the date chosen for the first Earth Day in 1970 coincided with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, founder of the Soviet Union, who was born on April 22, 1870.

The continued celebration of Lenin’s birthday speaks volumes about the hidden left-wing political agenda that dominates environmental groups such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, The Sierra Club, The World Wildlife Fund and countless other "Green" organizations.

For many on the political left, environmentalism is simply a means by which private property, individual freedoms and free markets can be increasingly regulated to a point of absolute government control. Ideology trumps ecology for these "watermelon" environmentalists (green on the outside and red on the inside), who routinely condemn all things capitalistic and advocate Soviet-style collectivism as the one true way to protect the earth’s environment.

Ironically, industrial development at any cost, not environmental stewardship, was the doctrine of Lenin’s Soviet Union. His failed system’s environmental legacy includes the following [1]:

-The despoiling of the Aral Sea;
-The open-storage of billions of tons of contaminated solid and liquid industrial wastes at thousands of locations, many containing high concentrations of heavy metals;
-Decommissioned nuclear submarines dumped in the Barents Sea;
-Nuclear disasters at Chelyabinsk and Chernobyl;
-Liquid nuclear wastes dumped in the Kara Sea and the Sea of Japan;
-Severe water pollution and extensive dam-building on the Volga and Dnieper rivers;
-Widespread radioactive contamination of the Yenisey River;
-Chemical weapons dumped at hundreds of locations in the Baltic, Black, Barents, Japan, Kara, Okhotsk and White Seas; and
-Millions of cubic meters of radioactive wastes injected into the ground at Krasnoyarsk.

Sincere environmentalists are horrified by the long-term ecological devastation and untold human suffering brought about by Lenin’s ruinous Soviet system. It's reprehensible that so-called "Progressive" and "Green" organizations surreptitiously honor the founder of an oppressive political system that routinely violated basic human rights, murdered millions of its citizens and exploited Russia’s natural resources with utter disregard for the environment.

Regrettably, students won't learn any of this in the public schools where a Soviet-style propaganda apparatus compels them to celebrate Lenin's birthday (a.k.a. Earth Day) today.

[1] L. A. Fedorov, Undeclared Chemical War in Russia: Politics against Ecology, 1995

Monday, April 21, 2008

BOE Budget Post Removed

I removed my Post about the BOE Budget because it contained errors. I will repost with the correct numbers shortly.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Norm Cummings Pic Makes Leno "Headlines"




On Monday nights, Leno has a segment entitled, "Headlines." It's a weekly compilation of funny pictures and news reports. Spelling errors, odd stories, ridiculous headlines. You get the idea.


Well, Norm's picture of New Preston resident Owen Moore and his rather large "gourd" made it to "Headlines."


Here's how to watch the video:


1) Go to: http://www.nbc.com/The_Tonight_Show_with_Jay_Leno/video/episodes.shtml
2) select April 14 episode at the bottom
3) wait for comfort inn commercial to finish
4) select Chapter 2 Headlines
5) Leno introduces the picture at about 19 minutes into the segment...enjoy!

Casa Latina and Zoning's One Mile Rule

Casa Latina opened a few months ago at 12 Bridge Street next to Bike Express. It provides translation, travel and international parcel services to New Milford's Hispanic community. It sells DVDs, calling cards, stamps and "ethnic and cultural paraphernalia." That's all great and is an indication of the Town's cultural diversity but I have a problem with the business selling items that violate the Zoning Regs.

Section 155-020 of the Regs, commonly referred to as the One-Mile Rule, prohibit certain uses from being "located within one linear mile of each other." "Convenience markets" are one of the listed uses.

A "convenience market" is defined in the Regs as "any retail store with 5,000 square feet or less selling foodstuffs and various household supplies."

Casa Latina has a number of racks filled with Goya brand and other foods ("foodstuffs"), cleaning products like paper towels and dishwashing liquids ("various household supplies") and more.

While New Milford should be "business friendly," it must enforce its Regulations without discrimination. Many business opportunities have been turned down since the One-Mile Rule was enacted some years ago, everything from car dealerships to major food chains to smaller mom-and-pop operations.

Maybe it's time to take another look at the Rule but until such time as it is repealed, the Zoning Enforcement Officer must put an end to violations of it.

Outsourcing of Passport Work to Thailand

A reader named Patricia submitted the following:

It has come to my attention that the USA has outsourced our passport work to a company in Thailand!

A spokesperson for GPO who is in charge of the contracts claims it is because of monetary constraints!

Check out the Washington Times web site!

This is very alarming to me and I would hope to your other readers. We need to get on the phones to Congress and DEMAND that this practice stop immediately. This is a severe security risk.

Thanks would like to have some input from other leaders."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

NMPD Dispatcher In Route 67 Crash

NMPD Senior Dispatcher Brian Powers is the driver who was flown out by Lifestar last night after a crash on Route 67.

I am assuming that a person who handles horror stories for a living every day wasn't doing anything dumb.

I wish him a speedy recovery.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Movies and Hotel at Candlewood Valley CC?

Here we go again. The rumor this time is that a deal is in the works to sell the Candlewood Valley Country Club to Bow Tie Partners, real-estate developers and owners of Bow Tie Cinemas, for the construction of a Hotel and a multiplex theatre.

Learn more about Bow Tie at http://www.bowtiepartners.com/index.htm. I believe that Partner Ben Moss has a home in New Milford.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

BOF Raises Tax Increase From 3.7% to 4.1%

BOF Member Frank Wargo started the night with an impassioned speech about the importance of education and the number of engineers being turned out by the Indian education system. When asked by Chairman Bob Sherry how he expected to pay for his proposal to give 1.4 million back to the BOE, he said, "I'll work nights...but please don't print that!!!"

Further motions failed until a motion finally passed that gives $750,000 back to the BOE with a request to the Town Council that $500,000 of it come from the internal service fund. Fat chance that will happen because it would require a change to the ISF Ordinance.

Kudos to Larry Tripp who was against taking any more money out of undesignated and expressed his discomfort, along with Mark Vendetti, in basing any increase on what may come in during the year such as a sale of Century Brass or development on Route 7. "I see growth," said Mark, "But it isn't here yet."

The proposed mil rate is 22.22; tax increase 4.12%; an increase of $205.55 on the average assessment of $233,580.00.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Wellman Makes Reduction Motion; Jankowski Attends BOE Meeting

This is the text of a Motion that BOE Member Bill Wellman made at tonight's BOE Meeting:

"During the current year, the school system operated on a budget of $55,552,177. That budget is recognized by school administrators as having been a “good budget.”

The Board of Education is responsible for proposing a budget for the New Milford School system each year. In doing so, they rely on information provided by the Superintendent of schools and her staff. This year the Board of Education originally requested a budget for the 2008-2009 school year of $59,115,622 or an increase over the 2007-2008 budget of $3,563,445.

Although mandated by its own strategic parameters to consider the ability of the town to finance its budget, the Superintendent presented no evidence to the Board with respect to the town’s ability to finance the education budget and the Board required none.

Subsequently, the Mayor proposed a budget to the Town Council that reduced the increase requested by the Board of Education by $1.75 million. The Town Council further reduced the increase by $1.1 million. The actions by the Mayor and the Town Council appear to have been motivated by their concerns about the ability of the Town to afford such an increase in the coming year.

During the Town Council’s deliberations, members of the Board of Education raised the issue of whether the Board was entitled to use of a substantial portion of a surplus available in the “Internal Service Fund”, a town fund dedicated to financing medical costs for town and school employees and retirees. The Town Attorney advised that those funds could not be turned over to the Board of Education; and the Town’s Chief Financial Officer, Ray Jankowski, pointed out that the Board of Education had been substantially underestimating the revenue the fund would receive from co-payments by the fund’s school beneficiaries resulting in higher taxes to the taxpayers of roughly $500,000 per year for, at least, the last two years.

The Superintendent reviewed the history of the fund from the school system’s perspective and confirmed Jankowski’s findings. The Superintendent further acknowledged that the Board of Education’s budget for the coming year, 2008-2009, included such an underestimate again.

The Superintendent’s report concluded that there was a need to restore the citizen’s trust and confidence in the process and suggested that there be better communication with the Chief Financial Officer’s office but did not suggest any way to deal with the error in the coming year’s budget.

It is important to note that underestimating the co-payments of fund participants has no benefit to our children, the educational system, plan participants, or any individual. The consequences are to increase the taxes paid by the taxpayers, and to create a surplus in the “Internal Service Fund”. It is, also, important to note that there is no allegation, nor any evidence, that these surplus monies were used in 2006 or 2007 as a slush fund or benefited any individual.

The taxpayers of the Town of New Milford, however, were harmed by having to pay higher taxes than necessary and the school system may have been harmed by not having these funds available for other educational purposes. Clearly, and at a minimum, the Board should take action to correct this year’s budget request.

As the budget is our responsibility, I believe the Board should inform the Mayor, the Town Council, the Board of Finance and through them the taxpayers of the Town that we regret the error and specify what we as a Board believe should be done with the funds so recovered - whether it be to reduce the budget request or to apply the funds to a specific use.

Since the Board of Education adopted its requested budget, other developments have impacted our budget request but you would never know it from the recent hearing at the Board of Finance In addition to myself, the Chairman of the Board of Education, the Superintendent of Schools, and other members of the Board of Education were present. Comments from members of the Board were limited to requests that budget monies be restored – no mention was made of the developments which make our original request excessive.

Since our original request was submitted, (1) the Superintendent has identified $280,000 in savings, (2) a majority of the Town Council has indicated that the Board could use $500,000 from the capital reserve fund for its capital needs instead of budgeting that amount; (3) health insurance premiums will be reduced by $680,000; and (4) around $500,000 will not be required for the internal service fund. In sum, we now need $1,960,000 less than we did at the time we submitted our budget request but everyone continues to act as though we need the entire budget restored. This is not the way to restore trust and confidence. If this Board is serious about restoring trust and confidence, we must be candid with the Town government and the taxpayers, and see to it that our actions match our words.

Above all we must recognize that our responsibility is not just to spend but to spend wisely and take the steps to do so. Until we do, we are not entitled to trust, confidence or credibility.

I move that the Board direct the Superintendent to inform the Mayor, the Town Council and the Board of Finance in writing of our error with respect to the internal service fund, apologize for it and inform them that we are reducing our budget request for the coming year by $1,960,000 – the amount of the savings we have already recognized."

The Motion failed 7-2; the two that voted for it were Wellman and Turk.

Town Treasurer Ray Jankowski attended the Meeting.

Judge Pickard's Decision (See Earlier Post)






Insurer: Officials Aren’t Covered for Ethics Complaints

A frivolous Ethics Complaint was filed years ago against then Board of Finance Member John Spatola. After lengthy proceedings, Spatola prevailed and the Complaint was dismissed.

Spatola asked the Town to reimburse him for his legal fees as provided by State Statute but the Town and its insurer, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency (CIRMA), refused to do so. Spatola then sued the Town and CIRMA. CIRMA has its own attorneys and it retained Frederick M. O’Brien to represent the Town.

O’Brien made a motion to have the case against the Town thrown out. Judge Pickard denied the motion; his September 26, 2007, Memorandum of Decision is what I posted separately.

Now things get more complicated.

What O’Brien failed to do was make a claim against CIRMA to challenge its refusal to pay Spatola’s legal fees. That failure leaves the Town swinging in the wind.

Two weeks ago, O’Brien made a motion asking Judge Pickard to take another look at his decision. It’s called a Motion to Reconsider. The problem is that although these motions must be made within 20 days after the date of a Judge’s decision, O’Brien’s Motion was made about six months after Judge Pickard’s September 26 decision. According to Court records, Judge Pickard denied it even before he received papers opposing it.

It appears that the Council lost all confidence in O’Brien so it hired Dan Casagrande to try to fix the mess. After bringing himself up to speed, Casagrande's likely first step is to try to convince CIRMA to pay the legal fees the easy way. If that fails, he may join Spatola in a request to Judge Pickard for an order directing CIRMA to pay. It doesn’t take a lawyer to figure out from his decision that Judge Pickard appears to believe that CIRMA is on the hook.

For the moment, Town Officials who successfully defend Ethics Complaints shouldn’t expect to be reimbursed for their legal fees.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Here Comes the Board of Finance

On Wednesday evening, the BOF will start its Budget deliberations.

The Charter changes provide that this will be this Board's one and only shot. If the Budget fails, it will go back to the Town Council, not the BOF as it did in the past.

What is the BOF likely to do?

After the resignation of Michel Gutman, the BOF is now comprised of 3 Dems and 3 Republicans. The former are Gayle Alexander, Frank Wargo and Shelly Pruss. The latter, Larry Tripp, Chairman Bob Sherry and Mark Vendetti.

Gayle Alexander was and may still be a substitute teacher and rumor has it that his wife has applied for a BOE job. Frank and Shelly are very pro-ed. Larry Tripp is a retired teacher. In years past, Bob Sherry has put money back in the BOE budget and Mark Vendetti is a conservative. Put all of this in the mix and what do you get? A big chance that, by majority vote, the BOF will put money back for the BOE by taking more out from undesignated. There's a very slim chance that there'll be a 3-3 tie in which event Section 705 of the Charter provides that the Budget sent to the Board by the Council will be the Budget that is sent to the voters.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Superintendent's Review of Jankowski Issue

It was by no means a surprise. It was a reminder. A reminder that Dr. Paddyfote is as good a spinmeister and as savvy a BOE boss as this Town has ever seen. The "Medical Insurance Review" that she distributed last night to the BOE Operations Committee speaks volumes to those whom she can count on to swallow its contents hook, line and sinker.

To the rest of us, it is a grand effort to obfuscate and to shift the blame for what happened to Town Treasurer, Ray Jankowski. Not unexpectedly, it addresses very little of the facts about the accounting issue raised by him and provides almost none of the information sought by Member Julie Turk. Is this a sophisticated accounting problem? "No," Ray said, "This isn’t rocket-science."

It’s clear to me that most people at the Meeting don’t understand fund balance accounting. That’s why, for example, Vice-Chair Tom McSherry keeps asking why payments have been made from the account and still seems to think that money has disappeared. But I doubt that Board Members knew anything about what was going on and Mr. Jankowski agrees.

"I’m not pointing fingers at any Board Members," he said this morning after reading the Report. "They’re not an integral part of the process.

"They need to be able to rely on the numbers given to them by their finance people just as the Town Council relies on my Office."

But that may be a reason we have the problem. It’s my understanding that none of the employees in the BOE business office are CPAs or certified in BOE finance. In response to the question by Board Member Bill Wellman, Dr. Paddyfote announced that it was former employee Tom Corbett who did the "estimating" of the amount for this line item, a task she refers to as a "dicey proposition." Tom Corbett attended the Meeting last night but sat in the audience. He does have the requisite qualifications but he is now working for the BOE on a per diem basis. Absent from last night’s Meeting was Assistant Superintendent Tom Mulvihill. I’d like to hear someone ask Tom Corbett some questions. And Mulvihill, too. Maybe Corbett’s motivation was entirely innocent...maybe he thought he was doing the right thing for the kids. Maybe he had instructions. We won’t know unless he’s asked.

An exchange between Bill Wellman and BOE Business Office Member John Turk was getting a bit hot and heavy over the insistence that Corbett used "sound methodologies" to make the estimates that were discovered to be wrong. "Sound methodology?" Bill asked. "We’re off by more than $500,000 each year and you call that ‘sound methodology’? How many teachers, how many books, pay-for-play...what else?"

Turk responded to Bill’s inquiry about the methodologies in the same way they are addressed in the Report. "[W]e believe a traditional method based on recent historical trends present a solid methodology." Mr. Jankowski asks, "Why didn’t they use it...why didn’t they use the real historical data, the actual revenues?" And that’s still the number 1 question and it can only be answered by Tom Corbett.

When did Corbett first learn that there was a problem with this account? According to Dr. Paddyfote’s all-too-carefully-chosen words, "The first indication that the BOE estimates were conservative and cautious occurred when [Corbett] prepared a summary of the BOE’s Medical Expenses and Payments for the March 4, 2008 Operations’ [sic] Committee."

"Not true," says Ray whose relationship with Tom Corbett goes back many years. "In July or August of 2006 I discussed the problem with him although I didn’t reduce it to writing." "Also, in February of this year I raised the same concerns in a Meeting in the Loretta Brickley Conference Room. JeanAnn was there with Lisa Diamond, Tom McSherry, the Mayor and Michel Gutman. I asked them to look at this closely."

The last Section of the Report is entitled "Future Considerations" and many Members of the Committee said that they wanted steps to be taken to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. "The only way that we’re going to get beyond this is to have an open, transparent relationship with the Town," said former Chair Wendy Faulenbach. I agree. But that means that the BOE Finance people have to show up when the Mayor asks to meet with them, the Superintendent and the BOE leadership to discuss an upcoming budget. They’ve failed to attend such meetings at least two years in a row and the whispers in the hallway are that the Superintendent tells them not to.

How can there be budget "interplay" between the Town and the BOE, as Chair Lisa Diamond called it, if the BOE Finance people are prohibited from attending meetings?

There are still facts to be uncovered but they are not as important as the necessity of changing the BOE culture that thinks it is not part of the Town. After all, the money we're talking about belongs to all of the taxpayers. The keys are transparancy and accountability, concepts that don’t sit well with a Superintendent who holds dear her authority and control.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Audit Supports Jankowski 100%






























Here are the key quotes:

1) "The estimated amounts of co-payments to be received from the Board of Education is significantly different than actual co-payments received from the Board of Education."

2) "Over the last two years, actual co-payments received exceeded the estimated amount by $1,103,981...[T]herefore the budget appropriations for the last two years were higher than they needed to be by $1,103,981."

3) "As of June 30, 2007, the Medical Reserve Fund has a balance due from the General Fund of $2,409, 181. This is due to the timing of when revenue is recognized in the Medical Reserve Fund and when the actual cash is received by the Medical Reserve Fund."

4) "The development of a budget for amounts that will need to be charged to other funds of the Town by the Medical Reserve Fund is subject to estimation. However, we noted that actual co-payments were significantly higher than estimated, causing the budget appropriation to be higher than necessary. "

5) "We recommend that the estimate that is developed for co-payments be developed based on historical collection experience. Historical collections of co-payments were approximately $1.3million in 2006 and approximately $1.5million in 2007, while the estimated amounts used in 2007 and 2006 totaled $900,000 and $800,000, respectively."

So there you have it. The real question that needs to be answered is the one asked by BOE Member Julie Turk...what has the BOE been doing with the surplus?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Police Camera A Good Idea

I cannot walk from Grand Central in any direction without being recorded on video. Whether it's a camera set up by the NYPD or one that's used for commercial security, it's a fact of life. An unfortunate but necessary fact of life in this post-9/11 world.

The bottom line is that I have nothing to hide and, weighing the privacy concerns against the potential for protection, I think this is a good idea.

"The purpose of this tool is to deter, detect and dissuade criminal activity," said Police Chief Colin McCormack. "I feel very strongly about the responsibility to use it correctly and I am going to write a very restrictive policy about how it will be used.

"One person will be assigned, there is no facial recognition software and there is no audio recording."

The Chief explained that it is likely that recordings will only be retained for up to 60 days unless it has to be preserved as evidence and subject to the records retention rules that he is still researching. Thereafter the recordings will be destroyed.

The camera is easily moved from one location to another and its motion detection software will enable it to give an audio warning that it's in operation should the Department personnel decide to enable that feature.

"Whether we decide to get more cameras will depend on our success with the first one," said the Chief.

Some BOE Salaries

Here are some important BOE salaries. Note that I have not included benefits. The Principals and Assistant Principals are Members of "The New Milford School Administrators Association."

Superintendent: $160,602

Assistant Superintendent: $139,945

Director of Fiscal Services: $90,738

Director of Technology: $76,858

Hill and Plain:
Principal 113, 102
Assistant Principal 95,000 (shared with Pettibone)

Northville:
Principal 111,902
Assistant Principal 45,240 (additional pay for teaching)

Pettibone:
Principal 111,902
Assistant Principal 95,000 (shared with Hill & Plain)

Schaghticoke:
Principal 125,294
Assistant Principal 109,307

High School:
Principal 125,294
Assistant Principal 109,307
Assistant Principal 109,007
Assistant Principal 100,591

Sarah Noble:
Principal 110,702
Assistant Principal 100,532
Assistant Principal 99,032
Assistant Principal 91,159

This article from the December 13, 2007 edition of the News-Times is important reading:

New Milford's school administrators get new contract
Nanci G. Hutson STAFF WRITER

New Milford school district administrators have negotiated a new contract that will give them an average 3.7 percent salary increase each of the next three years, with some administrators advancing to a new step each year. In an arbitrated agreement with school district leaders, the 17.5 administrators negotiated a settlement that will allow all to advance to the highest of three salary steps between the start of the contract in July 2008 and its end in June 2011.

In the first year of the contract, administrators will see a 3 percent increase. In the next two years, the increase will be 4.25 percent.

The new contract extends the Sarah Noble Intermediate principal's job to a 52-week work year and extends the three assistant principals' work time from 48 to 50 weeks.

In addition, the new contract increases the administrators' share of the cost of their medical and dental insurance from 13 to 15 percent in the first year to a maximum of 17 percent.

The principals at the high school, middle school, intermediate school, and the special services director will receive 20 vacation days each year, and others will receive 15 days.

Sick days will be accrued at the rate of 16 to 18 days per year, depending on the position. For every year an administrator does not use a sick day, two days are added to his retirement bank. All administrators will receive four personal days.

"I think it's been fair for both sides," said Superintendent JeanAnn Paddyfote.

Dr. Paddyfote said the award came after the two sides went through mediation. Because of strict time limits they were unable to resolve all the issues, so arbitration was required.

At the November arbitration hearing, the board and administrators reached agreement on all outstanding issues, and the arbitration panel issued a stipulated award that reflected the wishes of both sides.

Under the Connecticut Teachers' Negotiation Act, the Town Council had until Dec. 21 to review the final award and reject it by a two-thirds vote.

On Monday the council decided not to object, although some members expressed concern about the increases.

"I feel that the board met its objectives to increase the work year for Sarah Noble administrators and change the insurance plan and premium cost-sharing," Dr. Paddyfote said.

Staff writer Lynda Wellman contributed to this story.

Friday, March 14, 2008

An Example of BOE Budgeting


Here's a perfect example of the BOE budgeting technique.

As shown, object 532 is "postage." The records for this account are maintained in Ray Jankowski’s office so they are readily available for inspection.


According to the BOE, the actual expenditure for the 06/07 fiscal year was $43,505. Curiously, however, the records show that the total expenditure for that year was $39,675.20.


The amount budgeted for the current year 07/08 is $60,375. That sum is $16,870 more than the BOE claims was actually spent in 06/07 and $20,700 more than the records show was spent.


The BOE proposed the sum of $62,025 for 08/09. That sum is $1,650 more than the current Budget and $22,349.80 more than the actual expenditure for 06/07.


Here are actual expenditures obtained from Ray Jankowski’s office:
FY 01/02 $29,815.69
FY 02/03 30,413.06
FY 03/04 38,332.11
FY 04/05 38,345.40
FY 05/06 33,099.66
FY 06/07 39,675.20
FY 07/08 year to Jan., 23,032.43; projected: $39,484.16

So if the projection for the current year is correct – it is certainly consonant with experience – the current year was overbudgeted by about 53%!

So would someone please answer these questions:

1) why did the BOE budget $60,375 for the current year knowing that this line hasn’t exceeded $40,000 in 7 years, even with an increase in postal fees?

2) why did the BOE budget $62,025 for next year knowing that this line hasn’t exceeded $40,000 in 7 years even with an increase in postal fees?

3) how many other lines are similarly overbudgeted?

As Councilman Roger Szendy said, all parents know that the BOE's use of e-mail is growing. To this I add that the BOE employs a "courier" and the Town’s mail clerk processes the BOE’s mail.


Hmmm...how much is needed to avoid pay-to-play?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Final Numbers and Corrections

Ray Jankowski confirmed the mill rate of 22.13 and the tax increase of 3.7%

The total Budget to be sent to the BOF is $91,362,948.00

Two corrections to my earlier post:

The Fire Marshal (15k) and Youth Agency (38k) are not reductions but positive revenue adjustments. Sorry!

Lundgren's Incivility

Councilman Mary Jane Lundgren made some choice comments during last night's Town Council Meeting. "Some of the comments from the Council have been a huge embarassment," she said, "Some of the nastiest comments I have ever [sic] seen." I guess she's including her own ugly snap at Councilman Pete Bass who made a thoughtful observation that she totally misunderstood.

The classy act continued when she later called him a "fat-head." Nice display, Mary-Jane.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Council Budget Deliberation Pictures









Budget Details

Ray O'Brien made the motion. Here are the numbers; they are not perfect but they are very close.

The Mayor's Budget was $93,051,566
(164,380) reduction of Town-side based on savings by self-insuring
(275,000) reduction based on payments on new debt
(43,000) reduction in line 6090, Building Maintenance
(31,000) reduction of request for expanded library hours
(12,000) reduction in line 6334 for a new air-conditioner
(657,522) reduction of BOE based on savings by self-insuring
(512,889) reduction of BOE capital to be taken from its capital reserve fund (740,000 balance before deduction)
(1,500,000) from capital reserve instead of 2,500,000
(1,000,000) from Internal Service Fund
(15,000) from Fire Marshal [see 3-13-08 correction]
(38,000) Youth Agency [see 3-13-08 correction]
2,000 Womens' Center
8,500 Cemetery
______________________
$91,373,249

Town Council Votes 3.7% Tax Increase

Subject to Treasurer Ray Jankowski's fine-tuning, the Council approved a Budget tonight that results in a 3.7% tax increase and a mill rate of 22.13. The Budget now goes to the BOF that will have a Public Hearing on April 2 and begin its deliberations on April 4.

More to follow.

Turk Wants Answers

In an e-mail circulated this morning, BOE Member Julie Turk makes clear that she intends to get to the bottom of the issues raised by Town Treasurer Ray Jankowski. Here it is in its entirety:

Good Morning, JeanAnn - I just want to clarify the level of detail that I feel is absolutely necessary in order for the Board to adequately respond to Mr. Jankowski's claims in his letter of March 4th - and to share that with the other Board members. I still maintain the detail listed in my email to you of March 9th (pasted below) will provide everyone involved with a very straight-forward response.

The amount of information may be large - however it is not complex nor should it require anything other than gathering the payroll data as of a particular date (I propose 10/1/FY), and sorting the accounting records to list all transfers out of the account(s) in question.

I'm looking forward to the report, and resolving the issue - as I am sure you are.
==================================
[the following is the march 9 e-mail referred to above]:

Dear Dr. Paddyfote: In order to propose an adequate and thorough response to the issues raised in Raymond Jankowski's letter of March 4, 2008 - I will need to see the following detail from you and/or your staff:

1. An accounting of how the ASO Account(s) was estimated for budgets for FY 1993-1994 through FY 2008-2009. (If records do not go back to FY 1993-1994, please state the beginning record FY for which they are available.) (ASO accounts are definded as any account which was utilized to compute the data listed under "ASO Acct." in the spreadsheet entitled "New Milford BOE Medical Expenses & Payments" presented at the BOE Operations meeting on March 4, 2008.)

Information that must be minimally included is:

o No. of employees electing single coverage and amount of co-payment per contract as of 10/1/FY
o No. of employees electing family coverage and amount of co-payment per contract as of 10/1/FY
o Roster of all retired teachers (include name, date of retirement, insurance coverage elected, co-payment required per contract ) for each of the above listed fiscal years

2. List of all transfers out of all ASO accounts from 7/1/1999 through 3/1/2008: At a minimum, the list is to include:

o Date of transfer
o Amount of transfer
o Transfer to: account number and account name Please include these details in the data you are assembling in response to Mr. Jankowsi's letter, along with other pertinent data you deem necessary.

If any of this data is unavailable, or the administation is unwilling to provide it, please let me know at your earliest convenience. I am confident that going forward, regularly supplied detailed information such as that listed above will serve to provide the transparency necessary to allow the Board to make informed decisions, and to restore public trust.

Sincerely,
Julie Turk

Route 7 Flooding

I thought that this comment by "Steve-New Milford" should be posted:

Maybe one of these days, the mighty Bob Guendelsberger will use his considerable legal superpowers to put the screws to the state of Connecticut to quit screwing around and FINALLY fix the flooding that chronically shuts down Route 7 in front of Southworth's.This chronic flooding is a hassle; but more than that, it's an embarrassment. I think it's just great that we're improving Route 7, but I don't recall a plan to similarly improve the DETOUR around Lake New Milford every time we get heavy rains and run-off.Is Pat Murphy, Clark Chapin and/or our Town Council addressing this issue? If so, what are the plans?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hello ...Is Anyone Home?

The Town Council could not agree on a Budget tonight so Councilman Bob Guendelsberger asked that it meet again to discuss how much can be saved by going to a four-day work week. Be sure to schedule your emergencies on the days that the Police are working.

BOE Has A Plan

It was sheer torture to sit and listen to some of the Members of the BOE air their ignorance tonight about the issues Town Treasurer and CFO Ray Jankowski raised in his letter regarding the internal service fund.

Vice-Chair Tom McSherry appeared to be clueless about the fact that a forensic auditor did his study of the infamous account today. This, despite the fact that it has been in all the newspapers (and I broke the story in this Blog). It also appears that he didn't read any of the stories about the merits of the issue in either medium. "Did we have a lot of money left over? It appears that we did," he said. "The accounting that I see needs to be done is on the town-side." "If we find that we put too much money in there then we have to take it out." Tom, please read the very simple explanation I wrote about what happened, I'm sure that will help. And did you listen to your former Chair explain that the GAAP Rules don't allow what you're asking? Did you hear about the letter from the Town Attorney? Did you do any homework?

But McSherry wasn't alone. Tom Mulvihill and John Turk both told me tonight that they didn't know about the auditor doing his job today. And it's very clear that David Lawson is similarly unaware of the facts although he clearly has the right intentions. Yes, a lot of homework needs to be done.

The bright portion of the night came in Bill Wellman's insistence on getting an opinion letter from the Board's Attorney: "It seems to me that there is a conflict of interest between the interests of the Board and the interests of the Administration," he said. "Should the board have its own investigation?" That is to say, for the BOE to ask its employees to investigate the very serious allegations leveled against them is akin to hiring the fox to guard the chickenhouse. Of course there's a conflict. But what will the "Board's attorney"opine? Is the firm in such close lockstep with the Administration that it will find that there is no conflict? Yes. That's my prediction. And here's why that's significant.

This is the "plan": 1) get a written opinion from the BOE Attorney about whether there is a conflict of interest; 2) if not, continue the "internal investigation;" 3) deliver the report of the investigation to the Operations Committee together with a history of the account that was requested by Member Faulenbach; and 4) maybe have a special meeting to discuss the matter.

So a legal opinion that there's no conflict of interest is clearly in the Administration's best interest because if they say that there is a conflict, the BOE will likely hire its own forensic auditor who will tell them the truth about the financial hanky-panky.

Now here's a big clue about where this is going from the education side. About her "internal investigation," the Superintendent said that "we're looking at all the DYNAMICS that Tom Corbett used." Dynamics, not rules and laws? Tom Corbett? Hmmm....I smell a hatchet job and a whitewash.

Update: Jankowski Issue Added to BOE Agenda

This item has been added to the Agenda of tomorrow night's BOE Meeting:

Review of parameters suggested by the Operations Sub-Committee to the administration regarding an internal review of the funding of the medical insurance line.

The Meeting is at 7:30 in the SNIS Library. There is an opportunity for public comment at the beginning of the Meeting.

Monday, March 10, 2008

New Milford On the Global Map: Can You Say 'Cellulosic Ethanol?'

Little ole' New Milford on the global map. A solution to our dependence on foreign oil. A boon to the local and national economies. Jobs for New Milford and so much more. This is certainly the most significant and timely project that I have seen in this Town and it may ultimately be one of the most important projects that many of us will experience in our lifetimes -- up front and personal -- with significance for generations!

The Mayor announced at tonight's Town Council Meeting that an entity named American Energy Enterprises in Brookfield has offered $4,500,000 for the Brass Mill. That alone is significant but the kicker is that it intends to build a $100,000,000 facility that makes ethanol from biomass materials -- green waste -- not from food crops such as corn.

The project has obviously been in the works for a while and it appears that a lot of groundwork has already been done by Mayor Murphy and various Town agencies. Although the State DEP and Fed EPA have clearly been hands-on, no permits have yet been issued for this green-waste to ethanol plant. I have no doubt that the Governor has an eye on the project and you can bet that the big oil boys do, too. "As soon as the big companies like Exxon see us coming, they're going to start to kick us," said AEE's Chairman, Christopher H. Brown, an affable, down-to-earth entrepreneur who lives in Brookfield who presented the proposal. With him were many of his associates, all of whom live in the area. Some, I believe, in New Milford.

Simply, the process uses any cellulose-based materials such as wood and leaves, anything that can be broken down to its carbon base, to make ethanol. Ethanol is then blended at a "gas" station to fuel your car using E85, a product that is 85% ethanol.

The enzyme process produces no odor, no noise, no water pollution, no air pollution. The small amount of water that is used is treated and is put into the sewer system cleaner than when it went into the plant. Here are some other highlights:

1) it has already raised $75,000,000 of the $100,000,000 estimated cost of the project without any of the many government grants that are available;
2) the waste materials are fertilizer, liquid gypsum used for the manufacture of drywall, liquid carbon dioxide, lignan which is separated from the sugar in the green waste and furferol, a byproduct of the breaking down of cellulosic materials. These are readily marketable commodities;
3) If spilled, ethanol evaporates and thus doesn't get into the ground water;
4) the plant will generate between 5 to 7 Megawatts of clean and green electricity -- enough to run New Milford and areas south --that will be put back into the grid as KC is doing and the Company is willing to make a deal with the Town to buy its needs at a discount;
5) it will produce about 200 jobs, with preferences given to area residents. Three to five engineers, 20 lab techs, 40 to 50 person labor force, security personnel, railroad engineers, truck drivers and sales reps. It will operate 24/7 with 3 shifts;
6) it is self-sustaining. Once up and running, it will not need any energy to keep running;
7) the plant will have its own safety and fire-fighting equipment and the Company will train local fire personnel in the correct procedures for handling emergencies; and
8) the project will need between 200,000 and 500,000 tons of wood and plant materials per year and this will include properly sorted waste demolition materials. [ed. note: thanks to Mark, I corrected these numbers]

The Council authorized the Mayor to move ahead with negotiations. It also authorized her to bring some consultants for the Council to interview.

Councilman Walter Bayer said it all. "I don't see anything wrong with us being a beacon for this type of project...I don't want AEE to be chased away." Bravo!

"This is going to change the future," said Mr. Brown and I agree. New Milford can play a role in ending our dependence on foreign oil and it can be the envy of the world. What a wonderful idea. I hope the Members of the Council have the wisdom and foresight to embrace it.

Wellman Request to Discuss Jankowski Letter Ignored...So Far

"I think that it's very important that this be an open matter and that the public be informed," BOE Member Bill Wellman said this morning, "that's why I asked the Chairman to put it on the Agenda for the full Board Meeting tomorrow night."

But you guessed it, folks. It's not on the Agenda. But the Agenda can be amended until 24 hours before the Meeting, so let's hope.

"Apparently, the Chairman and the Superintendent are doing nothing about the issues raised by Mr. Jankowski so tomorrow night I am going to ask the Chairman to contact the Board's Counsel and find out what our legal obligations are. "

I predict that either Bill or Julie Turk will make a motion at the Meeting to have the matter added to the Agenda, a motion that must pass by a 2/3 vote. What are the odds that it will pass?

Let's Hear From Dr. Armand Fusco

In 2006, BOE Member Julie Turk's suggestion to allow Dr. Armand Fusco an opportunity to talk to the Board was flatly ignored. Now is the perfect time to hear from this published expert about accountability and transparancy. "Too many boards have not accepted their sacred covenant -- an implied legal, ethical, and moral contract -- to guard the public purse while providing quality educational services."

Here are his credentials: teacher; superintendent of schools in Hadley, Massachusetts; postdoctoral fellowship with the Boston Labor Management Center; superintendent of schools in Branford, Connecticut; professor of education and director of teacher intern programs at the University of Bridgeport; author of many professional works, including the book School Corruption: Betrayal of Children and the Public Trust; degree in education from the Central Connecticut State Teachers College; professional diploma from the University of Connecticut; Master of Arts from Columbia University; doctorate from the University of Massachusetts; founder of the Parkside School and Academy for special-education students and co-founder
of the Springfield Preparatory School. He resides in Guilford, Connecticut, with Constance, his wife of 53 years. They have four children and fourteen grandchildren.

One of his articles may be downloaded at the bottom of this page: http://yankeeinstitute.org/main/article.php?article_id=115 and here are some of the very poignant questions he addresses:

Is there a comprehensive list of school assets and an independent system in place to regularly document the existence of each asset? Failure to have a list of monitored assets is an indication that the school district does not believe it is important to manage school resources responsibly.

How are grants being managed in the school district? Who is responsible for monitoring the grants for proper implementation? How is the monitoring actually done?

How are student activity funds and other cash collections monitored? Who monitors such funds? Are income and disbursements verified for accuracy, and proper usage? Are bank statements reviewed on a monthly basis? Who conducts the review?

Which contracts (construction, insurance, consultants, etc.) have been awarded without competitive bids? What process was used to award such contracts? Who received such contracts? What school official was given the responsibility to oversee the proper completion or implementation of each contract? Was any form of nepotism or favoritism involved? Were board policies followed?

Here's an interesting quote: "School boards and administrators usually claim that 75 to 80 percent of their budget represents 'fixed costs.' Taxpayers should never accept such a statement, because this is the biggest deceit of all. Such a statement assumes that every school employee is essential, that no consolidations can take place, all programs and services are efficient and effective, all resources are managed with quality guidelines, and every operation is managed with utmost efficiency. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to any organization supported by taxpayer dollars -- and this is especially true of schools.

If the BOE has nothing to hide and since intelligent people should always be willing to learn from experts, why not ask him to come in?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Century Brass To Be Sold?

There's an interesting tidbit on Monday night's Town Council Agenda: the possible purchase of the brass mill. If the sale takes place quickly, it could have a very positive impact on the 08/09 Budget.

Town Auditor Coming Tuesday to Examine Account

I learned a few moments ago that the Town Auditor will be here on Tuesday to examine this account. He will report his findings to Ray Jankowski, CFO and Town Treasurer.

I believe that it is in the best interests of the Town and everyone implicated in this issue to come forward, admit the wrongdoing and let us move on with the tough task of passing a Budget.

School For Scandal

"I am conducting an internal review of the health insurance line and the manner used to project employee contributions, School Superintendent JeanAnn Paddyfote said in a story by Nanci Hutson in today's News-Times. "When the internal review is concluded, the information will be shared with the Board of Education."

Sure. Sounds like the fox/henhouse fable to me. And what do you suppose that this "internal review" will likely find? Uh-huh. I agree with you. Nothing. That's why I believe that the Town Auditor should be looking into this.

Let me see if I can explain two of these issues very clearly.

1) The $2,400,000: Every year, the Town has a budget line for the medical expenses of its employees. That line is part of the General Fund. Medical claims are paid out of the Internal Service Fund that, for obvious reasons, is highly regulated and to which strict accounting rules apply. During the fiscal year, all payments are made to the providers of medical services out of the ISF and then the ISF is reimbursed for those payments by the monies in the GF. It is this payment due to the ISF from the GF that people are calling the "receivable." As you can see, this is nothing more than an accounting or bookkeeping entry. At the end of each fiscal year, there are always payments that have to be made that either weren’t billed or weren’t paid prior to the end of the fiscal year and this is "washed out" shortly after the beginning of the new fiscal year. That receivable is the $2,400,000. There is absolutely no "shortfall."

2) The BOE slush fund: The ISF was established in 1993 but Ray Jankowski put his foot down in 2001 when he began to see discrepancies about its handling by the BOE. Prior thereto, this is how its predecessor, the medical reserve account, worked. Or didn’t. Let’s say that the BOE budgeted the sum of $10,000,000 for receivables...any and all co-pays for employee medical insurance. And let’s say that it did this even though its history (in accounting parlance it’s "experience) suggested a different number, let’s say $11,000,000. Despite that experience, with full knowledge that it was grossly underestimating the revenue, the BOE apparently did this year after year, generating a surplus that was then transferred from this account to others. Remember that the Statutes, unlike the Town, allow the BOE to make these transfers from one account to another. Now please understand this next point. The so-called "Town-side" had no specific knowledge of the problem since the BOE was sending the allegedly proper amount – the $10,000,000 -- to Ray Jankowski for deposit into the ISF. Without access to the data such as the number of retirees in the school system, he could not know for sure that there was anything untoward happening.

In about 2000, former Town Auditor Derek DeLeo made a comment about the way that the BOE finances were being handled. I will follow up on this and post as soon as I can find them. [ed. note: see comment 3]

So the affect on the taxpayers is that we footed the bill for $1,000,000 more than we had to. This is truly voodoo accounting; it is unlawful to overtax the taxpayers and, in my opinion, that’s exactly what was being done for years by the BOE and it is exactly what Ray Jankowski alleges in his letter.

Who knew about this? BOE Finance Manager Tom Corbett surely had to know. Former Chair Wendy Faulenbach? JeanAnn? Time will tell.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Jankowski Cites BOE, Paddyfote and Diamond "Improper Budgeting Technique"


I have known Town CFO and Treasurer Ray Jankowski for more than 15 years and know him to be a quiet, gentle man who avoids the limelight and the fray. No one's dupe, he does his job expertly and efficiently with a small, excellent staff and pays close attention to and abides by all applicable laws and accounting procedures.

Thus the tone of the letter that he wrote today to the BOE and JeanAnn Paddyfote came as a surprise. In a scathing rebuke of what he describes as the use of "an improper budgeting technique," Ray makes accusations of what in my opinion clearly amount to malfeasance.

Insisting that this "budgeting technique end immediately," he wrote, "this is not the result of poor guesswork but [was] deliberate and with purpose that could never be attained under the rules imposed by my office using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles on the funding of an Internal Service Fund."

Let's put this in context. This is only one account. One portion of a bloated budget for which no one is held accountable and which I would guess that no one except Bill Wellman understands. Can you imagine what Ray would find if all of the books were open to him?

Mr. Jankowski has the power and the authority to take over the BOE Finance Department or to hire someone for it who reports to him. Such dire changes are long overdue.

This is very, very serious. The person or persons who are responsible for this ought to retain an attorney forthwith.

Breathalyzer For Students And Parents







The BOE is considering the adoption of Rules for the "Use of Alcohol Detection Devices." Here is the draft. The italicized matter is the proposed new language. Note the language in Section 5 that applies to "students and/or their guests"who attend events.

Lundgren Pushes To Raid Medical Reserve for BOE

Town Councilman Mary Jane Lundgren put on quite a show last night at the behest of her BOE buddies. Working from a folder containing materials that were obviously prepared for her, she demanded answers to questions that she herself did not understand. So embarassing to be asked a question about your question and have no meaningful response.

The BOE people think that they are entitled to money from the Internal Service Fund. Not so, for the reasons elaborated by CFO Ray Jankowski, the Mayor and Town Attorney Randy DiBella.

Come on, folks, you're already getting the benefit of $500,000 from the fund, half the million that was included in the Mayor's proposed Budget.

BOE Reduction At $320K, Not 1.7M

Here's an update of the BOE 1.7M reduction:

1) it was reduced by 280k as a result of retiring personnel (60k) and lower insurance costs (220k)

2) it should be reduced by taking the 560k that the BOE wants for capital from its capital reserve fund; and

3) it was reduced last night by 640k which is 80% of the 800k savings from going back to self-insured.

So the 1.7M reduction can be down to 320k. Surely the BOE can find that amount and if it can't, Ray Jankowski certainly can! Give him the books...I'll bet he can find some voodoo accounting going on over there!

Town To Be Self-Insured, Saves $800,000

Town CFO Ray Jankowski announced last night that the Town is going back to being self-insured effective July 1, 2008, resulting in a savings of approximately $800,000.00.

The newly calculated tax increase is 3.5% instead of 4.9% and a mill rate of 22.09.

Umbarger: 'Don't Lay the Blame Entirely On BOE'

I have to take exception to several comments in your post on the proposed New Milford budget deliberations.

But first, I agree that the economic situation is ‘not good’. Actually I think the national, state and local economic conditions are the worst I have seen in my lifetime, with no ‘blue sky’ on the economic horizon. Forces are in play beyond the control of federal, state or local policy makers.

You, in draconian or theatrical fashion, mention that to close town hall, curtail all capital projects, higher town employee medical contributions should not be entertained as discussion points for budget deliberations.

I believe everything should be on the table, what’s wrong with discussing having town employees pay the increase for their health insurance (the premiums are not going to go down – there has to be a restraint on this expense). Certainly there will be resistance, but not to discuss such a significant expense borders on dereliction. Soon, very soon the unions will have to realize that this benefit should not and cannot continue as it is currently structured.

To lay the blame entirely on the BOE, as you do, is an attempt at obfuscation and/or misdirection. A quick perusal of the budget indicates there are some material benefits that could be realized by looking at the ‘Town’ side.

Why in this economic environment do we need a two person staff for economic development, which have salary expense of over $100,000? If the thesis of dire economic forecast is correct, then the Town’s support of this expense is counterintuitive. Why should we pay to entice economic activity if there is none to be had? Why not cut these positions to a .2 personnel allocation, which would allow the Town to maintain development activity commensurate with the economic forecasts (and save $80,000)? But the big one, the best piece of pork, is $7,000 for workshops/memberships/conferences for the Economic Development Supervisor and Secretary. Let’s get real – that’s a complete waste of money when ‘every dollar counts’. Sounds like we are ‘building a bridge to nowhere!’!

And what about the Candlewood Lake Authority contribution of $58,800? That’s the amount the Town pays First Light (a private equity firm, or, - hedge fund) all the while First Light wants to ‘tax’ lakefront property owners for shoreline management and recreational boaters a sticker fee to support marine enforcement, while the Town has no zoning/building/health code jurisdiction below the 440 line according to the recent Supreme Court decision. I think the Town should seriously reconsider its $58,800 ‘tax’ payment to First Light.
Isn’t it interesting that First Light has been given zoning, environmental, health, jurisdiction which supersedes the towns’ in which the lake is domiciled, but additionally has quasi-police power through the marine patrols, proposed taxing power through the boat sticker and lakefront property fees. Sure sounds like we are ceding governmental power to a ‘private equity’ firm. Jay – you’re an attorney, with the recent court decision is First Light subject to local municipal ordinances below the 440 line, and are they even subject to State Statute with the FERC (Federal) governance decision?

Lastly, about deferring the implementation of the BOE strategic plan. I would bet the same folks who are now suggesting that the BOE defer plan implementation are the same folks who several years ago criticized the BOE for not having a plan – damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

BOE Member Wellman's Proposed $743K Reduction

This is a list of the reductions to the proposed BOE Budget that were recommended by BOE Member Bill Wellman. "Most of the Administrators said that last year's Budget was good," he said. "Given the economic times we're facing, I don't see the need for these increases."

So there's no misunderstanding, here's how to read this. For example, the proposed increase in Object line 321, Instructional Programs, was $5,495.00. This is an 8.9% increase over last year's Budget.

OBJECT, TITLE, PROPOSED INCREASE $, PROPOSED INCREASE%

321, Instructional Programs, $5,495.00 , 8.9%
322, Program Improvement, $12,100.00, 22.8%
323, Pupil Services Guidance, $69,449.00, 14.9%
324, Staff Training, $47,700.00, 97.3%

432, Non-Instructional Equipment, $4,553.00, 5.3%
433, Building & Grounds, $20,110.00, 8.5%

641, Texts New, $16,764.00, 18.2%
642, Texts Repair, $32,280.00, 67.6%
647, Periodicals, $4,385.00, 18.1%

720, Buildings & Improvements, $157,200.00, 214.2%
731, New Instructional Equipment, $66,043.00, 410.0%
733, Non-Instructional Equipment, $228,346.00, 1210.0%
734, Non-Instructional Equipment, Replace $45,359.00, 256.3%

810, Dues & Fees, $33,291.00, 69.0%
TOTAL PROPOSED REDUCTION: $743,075.00

Bill's motion failed, 7-2. Only he and Julie Turk voted for it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Some Budget Basics

Without any increases in either the School or "Town-side" Budgets, there would be a 3.2% tax increase that results from revenue losses like fees from the Town Clerk, Buildings Department and Zoning Commission. In addition, every time the Fed lowers the lending rate, the Town's interest income takes a hit.

No increases in union salaries, debt service, medical payments or road work or anything else. Everything stays flat and there'd be a 3.2% tax increase. Subtract this from the proposed 4.9% and there'd be a 1.7% tax increase.

What will happen if the voters reject 4.9%? Then very tough decisions will have to be made about where to make cuts, balancing the services that taxpayers demand against their willingness and ability to pay for them. Should Town Hall be closed 1 day a week? Should all capital projects stop? Should employees make a higher contribution to their medical insurance? No.

I think that the money should come out of the BOE Budget, not the "Town-side." I am not in favor of emasculating the Public Works Department or decreasing the level of services anywhere in Town.

Every year we hear the rants of the PTO and BOE who swear that there's no money to be cut from anywhere. Baloney. And then, to make their point, the first cuts they make are those that most affect the kids like pay-to-play. Let's see, there are how many principals? 18? And how many of them make over 100K? All of them, I think.

How many BOE and PTO members are truly qualified to manage or even comment on a budget of this magnitude? Get a group of qualified and sophisticated people together to examine the BOE Budget and demand the supporting evidence - not the hyperbole or rhetoric - the hard evidence. They'll find the scratch, believe me. Open the BOE books to Ray Jankowski, the Town's CFO. He'll find it.

"The economic climate is not good," he said at the Budget presentation last Tuesday. "Do we want to take 2.5 million dollars from undesignated?" Not really, but there doesn't seem to be a choice if we want to be able to deliver services."

"Do I want to use a million dollars from the internal service fund? Not really."

Finally, Ray cautioned the Council and Board of Finance with regard to requests for money that come before the Members. "Every dollar counts," he said. He's so right.

Don't fall for the BOE and PTO hype. Demand accountability.