Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spatola Action Settled

Some years ago, while Town Councilman Joe Failla was the Acting Chairman of the Ethics Commission, an Ethics complaint was filed by John Kane against John Spatola for an alleged impropriety that was committed while the latter was a Member of the Board of Finance. After a very long proceeding, the Complaint was dismissed. This action for legal fees arises out of a State Statute that provides for the recovery of a town official's legal fees in the event that he or she successfully defends such matters. The Town's insurance carrier refused to make the reimbursement, claiming that the statute didn't apply.

As John explains, a Superior Court Judge met with him, the Mayor, a representative of the insurance carrier and their attorneys and hammered out an agreement. That agreement is subject to the Town Council's approval and will be the subject of an Executive Session at its next Meeting.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Town Budget Now On-Line

A link to it may be found on the Town's Web Page:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Budget Presentation Minutes

FEBRUARY 17, 2009

Present: Mayor Patricia Murphy


Peter Bass
Walter Bayer
Joseph Failla
Robert Guendelsberger
John Lillis
Mary Jane Lundgren
Raymond O’Brien
Peter Mullen
Roger Szendy
Tammy Reardon, Mayoral Aide
Raymond Jankowski, Director of Finance
Joseph Galanti, Comptroller

Board of Finance:

Sheldon Pruss, Vice Chairman
Joanne Chapin, Alt.
Laurence Tripp
Mark Vendetti
Frank E. Wargo

Absent: Robert F. Sherry, Chairman
Gale Alexander

Others in Attendance include interested members of the public, the press, and Department Heads, commission members, the Town Attorney, and town employees.

The meeting was brought to order with Mr. Wargo starting the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence.


Mayor Patricia Murphy started off with her comments on this year’s budget process. She noted that although budgets are normally challenging, this year would be even more so. The financial world is constantly adjusting as this budget is also doing.

She recommended a wage freeze for all non-union and elected officials on the Town payroll for a savings of $100,000 in this budget year. All departments and employees are working to reduce costs and still provide the services the town needs and expects. She is currently in discussions with the town’s unions which she will talk about during an Executive Session on Thursday evening with the Town Council. These negotiations may offer further savings with regard to personnel and legal expenses. She and her staff have tried to re-negotiate fixed contractual costs wherever possible. They include $100,000 in workman’s compensation insurance costs and the town receiving an award because of its efforts; they’ve initiated in-house printing to save $25,000 per year; they’ve locked in on electrical costs until December 2009 for a savings of $35,000 and with the cooperation of the Board of Education are shopping for rates after that time period.

The town is locked into gas, oil, and diesel fuel for the 09-10 budget and they expect to save between $300,000 and $400,000 for both the town and the Board of Education. A new postage solution for both the town and the Board of Education expects a savings of $15,000 - $20,000 in postage and an additional $12,500 including in-house printing of tax bills.

The town’s prescription drug coverage has been changed from Blue Cross/Blue Shield to Medco with no loss of benefits for an expected savings of $150,000 - $200,000. Bond debt was refinanced for a savings of over $300,000 for the 09-10 budget year.

Adjustments were also made by reducing the revaluation line by $100,000 and another $2,500 from materials and supplies in the Town Council and Mayor’s office accounts.

To help maintain costs and grow the grand list, she recommends an aggressive marketing strategy for town-owned properties. She gave several examples. By selling some properties the town would put the properties back on the tax rolls and satisfy some of the debt the town has on certain properties. She would also like to move the Parks & Recreation Maintenance Department to the old ambulance facility when their new facility is done; the town would not expend such costs as condo fees and utility costs and would be closer to the parks and areas they manage. It would also save on travel time and add to fuel management as well as decrease wear and tear on the vehicles.

As she was asked to look into creative ways to save money, she proposes the town join the Litchfield County Dispatch (as the State is encouraging regionalization). This would save the town over $250,000 per year in personnel costs and the capital costs of upgrading the dispatch center. It would provide state of the art equipment and service to the community. She has met with the LCD to discuss this opportunity and the up to $250,000 reimbursable transition grant funds. The State is also offering LOCIP monies to town that regionalize for a variety of services. They have also discussed employment opportunities for those jobs that would be lost in town.

Her proposed budget does not include monies from the undesignated fund because the town must look at how the usage of those funds would affect its bond ratings and future borrowings. She presented a place to start with a reduction to the town operating budget in excess of $2 million dollars and no increase to the present Board of Education operating budget.


(Information given to the members is appended to these minutes)

Director of Finance Ray Jankowski gave a brief overview of the forecasts that he compiled for the Town Council and Board of Finance’s review. The first page of the packet submitted to members was an estimated budget review for fiscal year 09-10. It shows the budgeted, forecasted amounts for state grants and other review (Board of Education and town sides) for 2008-2009 as well as the estimated amounts for these items for 2009-2010. He expects a decrease in revenue for the 2009-2010 budget year.

Page 2 of the packet gives a breakdown of the grants that the town receives (broken down by State Grants – Education, Building Grants, and Town Grants). He does not expect to receive the estimated amount for the 2009-2010 M-65 property grant and noted that these monies are pro-rated and it is impossible to budget this item.

Page 3 of the packet broke down the revenue the town and Board of Education receives from fees and services. He does not expect any monies from deferred revenue (monies posted by developers, etc.) and noted that transfers in is also down. He did note that the Ambulance Corps would be bonding for their new facility and would also be paying for the paramedic services. No monies would be used from the internal service fund.

He noted that President Obama has signed the Stimulus Package. This puts $144 billion dollars available for State and local governments. He does not know what the amounts will be but does know that any monies will have strings attached. He could not tell members how those monies will affect this budget.

He summed up by stating that the town would see $2.9 million less in revenues for the upcoming budget year than the last one.

Mr. Szendy moved to recess the joint budget meeting at 7:47 p.m. to be reconvened on February 24, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. in the E. Paul Martin Room of Town Hall. The motion was seconded by Dr. Mullen and carried unanimously.

Respectfully submitted,

Judilynn Ferlow
Recording Secretary

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mayor's Budget Calls For 1.35% Tax Increase

In what she calls a "snapshot in time" in an "evolving" process, tonight Mayor Murphy presented her 09/10 Budget to a Joint Meeting of the Town Council and Board of Finance.

The proposal cuts $2,102,729 from the "Town Side" and provides no increase from the BOE's current operating budget i.e. it does not provide for the 1.88% increase that it requested.

The Mayor's Budget does not take the Union proposals into account and does not take any money from the Undesignated Account.

Among the areas in which money has been saved, the Mayor cited a $300,000 refinancing of bond debt. Specifically, Town Finance Director Ray Jankowski said there's a savings this year of $282,000 and $320,000 next year.

The Mayor wants to see "an agressive marketing plan" for certain Town-owned properties like Still Meadow and the Sunny Valley condo that is used by Parks and Rec.

The most interesting proposal of the night was the Mayor's interest in joining Litchfield County Dispatch that would result in a savings of $250,000 in personnel costs and more in hard costs. She intends to meet with State officials next week to examine the matter further. There is a $250,000 grant to pay for the transition costs from local dispatchers to the LCD system that is widely used in the region.

The Mayor said that she wants a Budget that provides necessary services at an affordable cost.

Ray Jankowski said that there would need to be an additional cut of about $890,000 to get to a 0% tax increase.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Medinstill Misinformation

The record needs to be set straight; there have been some odd comments.

The Medinstill abatement was approved by the Town Council long ago. It was on the Agenda recently to make sure that the right entity received the was a name change only. It did not enlarge or expand the original abatement.

If you read the Minutes of the first Meeting, you will find that Mayor Murphy supported a DEFERRAL, not an abatement. The latter was the TC's choice.

The abatement was given based upon a representation from Dr. Py that he would create many new jobs for the Community. The "many"that he promised started at 200 then bounced to 2500 then 500. It was all over the place. The fact is that there may have been 10. Unfortunately, the Council failed to condition the abatement on the production of those jobs so we may have no recourse.

The upside is that we now have leases for the use of the ballfields, there is a new pumping station and the sewer line now goes to Dr. Py's property resulting in an increase in the value of the property. If Dr. Py sells the property it will generate more tax revenue. The sewer expansion was paid for mostly by a State Grant and will serve the Brass Mill property as well.

On February 8, the following two anonymous comments were added to my August 27, 2008 Post entitled, "Dr. Py and the Children of New Milford:"

1) Ha Ha Ha - As a ex-MedInstill employee (who had to sign a "I will not say anything detrimental about the company when I left) All I can say is Dr, Py has puled the wool over all of your eyes! There will never be any production there and there will never be any more that 50 employees. The equipment that was produced will ultimately go into a Nestle facility (in the midwest) IF they can ever get it to work - which to date has not!In fact, MedInstill's only possible entry into a production scenerio has been to produce the equivalent of bacitracin ointment in one of their containers (which do not work) and they want 5 times the price of what you can buy in a tube (which also doesn't work financially). This facility will always be a R&D facility with limited staff. Personally, I think he will ultimately sell his patents to someone else and let them finish the development - probably in India and definately not in New Milford. Take Sud Chemie out of the picture and it gets even worse. Here's another secret for you all - Dr. Py is not even there anymore - he is taking a 6 month leave of absence and has hired another person to run the company while he is gone. You have been hoodwinked - big time!

2) For the record - Sud Chemie is not MEDInstills big brother - it is the other way around. They make all of the plactic components utilized in Dr. Py's container designs (which do not work) Because Py's group has not been able to produce a commercially acceptable container for sale (yet or whenever) Sud Chemie has been forced to produce components for other companies for use outside of the food industry so the parts they make are shipped elsewhere in an effort to make a few bucks. I think in 18 months they will all be out of there and you will be stuck with a 5 million sewer bill!

Three Town-Side Unions Agree to Wage Freeze

On December 31, 2008, Mayor Murphy circulated the following Memo to the five "Town-side" Unions:

As the National, State and local economy continues to deteriorate, it is clear our Town government is not exempt from this unpleasant climate. I would like to invite you to meet with Ray Jankowski and me to discuss any cost saving ideas you may have concerning your collective bargaining unit. Please contact Marla Scribner to coordinate a convenient time. I appreciate your input as we move through this difficult time.

Obviously, this was a lawful way of saying, "Hey. Let's get together and try to figure out a way to avoid people losing their jobs."

Apparently, efforts on both sides were successful. Mayor Murphy said that the three biggest Unions, the Teamsters, Police and AFSCME (not the AFSCME library employees who have a separate Unit) "Have been very cooperative in trying to find ways to help the Community while preserving efficiency and the level of services that people expect."

Did they agree to a wage freeze? Yes, they are in the works according to sources from each of the three Unions.

Non-Union employees and elected officials agreed to a wage freeze some time ago.

There was no response from the dispatchers' Union and the Library AFSCME employees rejected the request.

Kudos to the Members of the three Unions, our non-union employees and our elected officials for their sense of responsibility to the taxpayers in these difficult times.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Buildings Department "Very Busy"

Building Official Tom Hackett said this morning that Buildings Department fees are up 18% in the first six months. "A lot of people think that because single family home construction is down we don't have much to do." "That's not the case at all, he said. "Multi-family and commercial activity keeps us very busy. For example, we have big jobs at Canterbury and Wal-Mart."

Tom said that Wal-Mart has filed for a major renovation that includes an expanded pharmacy, bathrooms, HVAC , employee work areas and more. At a likely cost of nearly $1,000,000.00, the work suggests an end to the rumor that the Company wants to relocate out of Town. Then again, it could be making the renovations to suit a new user.

Taxpayers should be pleased.