Overtaxation with No Oversight: The Internal Service Fund

Since Mayor Murphy took office, the citizens of New Milford have been overtaxed to create discrete government piggy bank. The over-taxation has led to the bloating of the Internal Service Fund (ISF) by a whopping 170%. The ISF has grown 2.5 times higher than the town’s healthcare premiums. This overtaxing of citizens has continued to take place even after Murphy’s administration publicly agreed to proper management of the fund in 2008. It’s time for this fund to undergo a proper forensic audit so citizens can be assured their tax dollars are fully accounted for – and returned to them.

On February 8, 1993, the Town Council passed a resolution establishing the Medical Reserve Fund, which is now the Internal Service Fund. It is used specifically to keep track of medical insurance premiums coming in, and payments for medical claims going out. The money coming in is paid by employees and retirees of both the Town and the Board of Education. The ISF funds health insurance for a majority of town employees: police officers, clerical staff, teachers, administrators, etc.

Here’s what important about the 1993 Town Council resolution: it specifically states, “… making deposits into the fund reserve shall be to maintain the fund reserve balance at a level which stays between twenty percent and thirty percent of the total Annual Medical Expense Estimates.” To repeat: between twenty percent and thirty percent. Not below 20%, and not above 30%. Pretty clear, right?

The minimum of 20% was set up to cover extremely high medical costs not covered by a single year’s premiums. The 30% maximum limit was set up to prevent overtaxation and to ensure timely and proper oversight. Pretty clear, right?

Prior to Mayor Murphy’s administration, the last fiscal year for former Mayor Gambino was 2003/2004. According to the town’s annual financial audit for 2003/2004, the ISF had $2,629,570 in Total Net Assets. For that same year, the actual medical premiums were $7,786,144. The amount necessary to meet the 20% of premiums is $1,557,229. At this point, the ISF was overfunded by $1,072,341, or at a level of 33.8%. This is 3.8% higher than the maximum funding allowed.

Here’s a very important point: the funding level in 2003/2004 was enough to cover the 20% of premiums in 2008/2009 (the last year of audited data). Not one additional taxpayer dollar was necessary during the entire Murphy administration.

But the overfunding and overtaxation - with no oversight - were ready to explode.

The annual percentage of funding grew far above thirty percent upper limit. 2004/2005: 35.5%; 2005/2006: 49.6%; 2006/2007: 53.4%; 2007/2008: 56.3%; 2008/2009: 54.0%.

According to the audit reports for the Murphy administration, the ISF net assets have grown to $6,327,551. That’s a whopping $3,697,981 million more than Mayor Gambino. The ISF net assets grew by the following annual amounts: 2004/2005 - $607,115; 2005/2006 - $1,864,570; 2006/2007 - $454,861; 2007/2008 - $738,532; 2008/2009 - $32,903.

You could look at the last audited year (08/09) and think the town has finally made an effort to slow down the overfunding. However, nothing could be further from the truth. That year, the Murphy administration used $1,000,000 of ISF funds to offset budget expenses. So, instead of the fund dropping by $1 million, it actually grew slightly because overbudgeting pumped $1 million back into the ISF.

If you’re going to use $1 million to offset budget expenses, why overtax citizens by $1 million? What kind of oversight is taking place? Is there any oversight – or just overbudgeting and overtaxation?

What’s also amazing is how the growth of the ISF is much higher than the rise in the town’s health care premiums. From 2004 – 2009, premiums rose by 50%. But the ISF grew by 140%, and the overfunding of the ISF grew by 271%. What kind of oversight is there when an already overfunded account nearly triples healthcare premiums? Simply stunning.

Prior to 2008, had anyone paid attention to the ISF? The Mayor and Director of Finance never said a word about it – or the overfunding. However, once members of the Board of Education started asking questions about the millions in overfunding, action was “suddenly” taken. A short term accounting review was done (only covering two years of overfunding), and the Mayor decided to take the $1 million out of the fund. In the accounting review, there was a recommendation “that the Town periodically settle the interfund receivable and payable balances.” And, at the Board of Education meeting April 14, 2008, the Director of Finance said the BOE contributions for 2008/2009 looked good. But what has happened since?

• Despite the Director of Finance claiming the numbers looked good for 2008/2009, the ISF still grew by $1 million
• The Mayor used $1 million for budget expenses in 2008/2009
• The Interfund receivable and payable balances – in excess of $2.5 million - have not been resolved as of the last audit

It appears that when taxpayers look away from the ISF, nothing changes. Overtaxing and overbudgeting with no oversight remains the status quo.

Taxpayers and town employees need to demand the following:
• A forensic audit of the ISF dating back to fiscal year 2004/2005
• Accounting of funds contributed by employees, Town, and BOE
• Reconciliation with the health insurance consultant to ensure past practices will no longer be the norm
• A transparent process of health care budgeting

It’s time to expect Mayor Murphy to follow the 1993 Town Council Resolution. Taxpayers and town employees deserve oversight – not overtaxation.


HT Gives "Thumbs Up" to NM School Budget

Here are a few snippets from the 2/4/11 editorial in The Housatonic Times.

"...all those who assemble the proposed education budget went into the current process with new resolve to craft a package that met all the needs and would also be politically palatable. Better communication was established between the school board and Town Council and Board of Finance, concessions were secured from unions representing school district employees and more."

"The recently unveiled result is a $58,194,266 budget for the next fiscal year that carries a modest 2.19 percent increase in spending. Those numbers are more impressive when one considers a very significant and overdue change this budget would effect: the introduction of full-day kindergarten."

"This year, as the proposed education budget moves through the process of scrutiny and approval, officials and taxpayers must be mindful of the hard work that has been masterfully done by school administrators and the school board to craft a plan that meets the district's needs at a very fair price."

OK - let's review the key phrases:
  • modest 2.19 percent increase
  • hard work
  • masterfully done
  • a plan that meets the district's needs
  • very fair price
Those aren't my words - they're 100% Housatonic Times.

Sorry to say, but this editorial is not posted on-line. You'll have to purchase the Housatonic Times to read it, but it's worth the $1!


G! E! T! S! (bud) GETS! (bud) GETS! (bud) GETS!

(Oh, was that too soon, Jets fans? Suck it up. Love, The Patriots Nation.)

Forget football, it’s budget season again!

And even though we paid all those pesky teachers last year, they want money again this year. So, of course, it will be controversial.

There are several things in play this year.

  1. The school is (at this time) asking for a 2.3 percent increase over last year’s budget. Which has remained frozen for the last 2 years. So, it’s a 2% increase over the 2008-09 budget. This, no doubt, is giving plenty of non-school-supporters the vapors and the heebie-jeebies. (Just for comparison, Brookfield is asking for a 3.8% increase.)
  2. The school and the town are theoretically working with a new spirit of cooperation and communication, thanks to the Ad Hoc committee’s work of the past few months.
  3. The Town Council, in response to citizen requests, is considering streaming budget hearings online this year. (The BoE already does this). If this comes to pass, it will be a welcome improvement in transparency.

So. Let's take these points apart.

1. BoE Budget Hearings.

Here is the first budget hearing at the BoE:


The first 20 minutes or so is the Superintendent’s presentation. After that, principles from the 3 elementary schools, Sarah Noble, and SMS do a Q&A with board members. (The high school presented on 1/20; 1/25 will focus on maintenance, utilities, general admin, and capital; 1/26 will be when the BoE votes on the whole package). The presentation is, perhaps, the most important part for people who want an overview of what the school system is looking to accomplish.

The biggest change is the request for full-day kindergarten.

Let me preface my remarks by saying I have 0 future kindergartners in my household, nor am I a past, present, or future employee of the school system, so I have no personal stake in what I’m about to say.

Full-day kindergarten is a great, great, great idea.

Full-day kindergarten will cement the basic skills needed to excel in school. Reading, writing and ‘rithmatic of course, but other less testable skills, like sharing, working in groups, taking direction, and problem-solving, all get a workout in full-day kindergarten. This is critically important when one realizes that 43% of this year’s New Milford kindergartners did not attend preschool.

In fact, the value of a solid kindergarten program can be calculated in dollars.


“Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds. Students who learned more were also less likely to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely to be saving for retirement. Perhaps most striking, they were earning more.

“All else equal, they were making about an extra $100 a year at age 27 for every percentile they had moved up the test-score distribution over the course of kindergarten. A student who went from average to the 60th percentile — a typical jump for a 5-year-old with a good teacher — could expect to make about $1,000 more a year at age 27 than a student who remained at the average. Over time, the effect seems to grow, too.

“The economists don’t pretend to know the exact causes. But it’s not hard to come up with plausible guesses. Good early education can impart skills that last a lifetime — patience, discipline, manners, perseverance. The tests that 5-year-olds take may pick up these skills, even if later multiple-choice tests do not.”

(For non-school-age-kid-parents, having an all-day kindergarten curriculum will enhance property values. Maybe not by $230,000, but certainly enough to impact the time a house is on the market. Even in a recession. Or, to tip the scales for a buyer looking at houses in both Brookfield - where they have 3 days of full-day kindergarten a week - and New Milford. Just sayin’.)

Full-day kindergarten has been part of the strategic plan for quite some time. Several years ago, JPS had a pilot program: 1 class of full-day K. Those kiddos are now in 3rd grade, and most of them still outstrip their half-day peers. Know why it didn’t continue, or expand? Budget cuts.

So, why bring the subject up now? Because of the federal stimulus grant money.

The school has $698,000 to spend before September 2012. It can only be spent on personnel (not surprising, since it’s called The Education Jobs Fund). Since the money did not come until after the school year was underway (and classes, schedules and workloads were set), most of it has yet to be spent, though the BoE has hired 2 literacy coaches and is looking for 1 math coach. So the Superintendent is proposing to spend the bulk of this money on hiring 9 kindergarten teachers.

Of course, there will be push-back on this. “Why not rehire all the teachers we let go last year?” (Because many of them got jobs elsewhere has apparently not occurred to these questioners. And because recalling teachers in the middle of a school year is ridiculously disruptive. For good or ill, we have the teachers we have for this year.)

“How will we pay their salaries the next year?” when the grant money is gone, is another question. In part, salaries will be paid for by the savings to the transportation budget. Midday bus runs for kindergarteners costs $127,000 yearly. (And while one BoE member wondered where all those kindergartners would go on the regular buses, there is apparently ample room on our existing buses).

A skeptical BoE member asked, “What will we do if we have to cut staff positions in the next budget?” I don’t get this line of questioning. What are we supposed to do? Hire no one, and don’t use the federal money? Hire a bunch of teachers on a 1-year contract? Or realize that every year, non-tenured teachers are potential victims to budget cuts?

(Another BoE member said, cryptically, in response to the principles' call for consistency between the three elementary schools, "consistency is the hobgoblin of small-minded." This person was apparently quoting Lewis Carroll. Does anyone know what the heck that quote is supposed to mean?! If I wasn't trying to be nice, I'd say something like, "I'll smoke some of what's in their hookah," but I'm trying to stay civil.)

* * * * *


It has been brought to my attention (by an English teacher) that the "consistency hobgoblin small minds" quote is not from Lewis Carroll. I looked it up: it's really the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson. (The speaker said it was from Carroll, and I, in my hubris, forgot to verify it with Google).


And, as you can see, it's misquoted as well as misattributed. The full quote is:

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

Well. Reading all the words changes the meaning significantly, but it makes even less sense applied to education in New Milford. I'll leave it up to you to decide if said person is a little statesman, philosopher or divine (my money is on "member of the Michael Steele Book Club"). I guess I'll take back my hookah quip, because Emerson also once said, "Alcohol is a good preservative for everything but brains." (I know, I know hookahs are tobacco and ... other smokeables, not booze, but Ralph was curiously silent on hookahs.)

* * * * *

In my humble opinion, full-day kindergarten is an excellent investment. The more instruction students get on the from end of their education, the better they will progress in the higher grades. Frankly, I’m jealous that I don’t have a future kindergartner to benefit from this.

There are other things to applaud in the proposed school budget, including restoring the general music instruction at SNIS, and creating “head teacher” positions in each school, to preserve a chain of command when the principal and vice principal are unavailable (since several vp’s are half-time positions, and principals are regularly called off campus for meetings, this is more common than one would think). But full-day kindergarten is the most visionary piece of the proposal.

BTW, here’s part deux (that’s French for “two,” which I know because when I was in school, my town believed in funding the foreign language department. I could also sing it to you, because my middle school also had a music teacher. But I digress.) which focuses on the high school:


2. Ad-Hoc Committee Report.

The Ad Hoc Committee with the impossibly long name made its report to the Town Council. And they presented three “big ideas,” which are actually pretty good ideas.


Even if they seem a tad “You haven’t been doing this already?” ideas. (Five months to discover “We need to communicate better between branches.” Ja think?) Still, at least that is a step forward. If the Town Council and the Board of Education can actually work as if they are on the same team (as they should), instead of opposite sides, maybe budget season wouldn’t feel like a medieval siege.

I don’t have much more to say on this at this time, except to roll my eyes at the insta-roadblocks that seem to derail even the baby steps forward. Read through these minutes to learn about what I am affectionately calling “the saga of the boilers.”

The Ad-Hoc committee noted that both town and school buildings needed some new boilers, decided that a joint purchase would be cheaper than a piecemeal approach, and thought to tap the Waste Management Fund, which would keep the purchase from impacting tax payers. But, I guess, the WMF can’t fund boilers. (Tennis Courts? Yes. Boilers? No. Which I still don’t get. But then, I’m not on the Town Council or the Board of Finance. And they apparently didn’t know either, since their Ad Hoc representatives thought using the WMF was a good idea.) Alas, alack.

The mayor suggested the funds come from capital reserve accounts. Which sounds good, until you remember all the recent TC criticism of how the BoE handles capital reserve. (Last year, that account was supposed to be only used for emergencies. But, I guess that’s sooooo 2009).


This purchase would draw that fund down to the dregs, and then, I’m sure no end of angry blog posts will condemn that “irresponsible” behavior. (And I ask you: why can town employee raises come out of a “fringe account” or a “contingency fund” but not boilers? Or at least fix the stupid railroad crossing downtown?!) But, the powers that be have vowed to “look around” for the money, so maybe there’s another stash of cash somewhere. (Couch cushions?)

3. All this brings me to my next point, which is all about greater transparency.

The Ad-Hoc committee proved, if nothing else, that greater communication between branches of local government will lead to greater efficiency. The quickest way to facilitate communication is greater transparency, and easy access to each other.

One of the best ways the Town could improve transparency would be to stream its meetings online. As I’ve said (and as you’ve seen, if you clicked the links at the top of this post) the BoE already does this (without costing the taxpayers an arm and a leg).

While the Town Council has made noises suggesting they will look into this, I hope they come through for the budget hearings at least.

[UPDATE: Miracles do happen. As I was drafting this post, the town’s website suddenly underwent a major overhaul, and lo and behold, web streaming of (some) Town Council meetings!


Here’s the presser:


according to which, this has been just waiting to happen for years, but, I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that several people requested the Town Council do this very thing at the January 10th meeting:



Well, whatever. Thank you, powers that be! And thank you, citizens who asked that it be done!]

When watching the TC and BoE hearings (and really, what else are you going to watch this winter? The SuperBowl?) (Still too soon?) be sure to pay attention to how people speak to - and about - each other. Last year, budget season birthed a whole slew of misinformation. I’m sure this year will have its share of pearl-clutching and name-calling. (For proof, I offer this:


This gem of a webpage started as a reprint of a screed from a Town Council meeting last April. But it quickly grew into a smear campaign against the BoE. (And, maybe you remember those signs? Which basically quoted these talking points? Almost like it was a coordinated effort to bring down the school budget before the hearings even started?)

Well, a new year, a new campaign. Right?

So the site’s been updated. At least in the right-hand corner.

But right below it, all the tired old misdirection from last year remains, including the “Why I won’t vote for this budget” rant. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, gets updated. (I note 0 complaints about budget transfers and transparency regarding the Town Council’s move to give town employees 2% raises retroactive to July, even though The Good Citizens of New Milford Never. Approved. Those. Raises.)

As Linda Richman would say, “New Milford Budget Facts . Org is neither ‘new’ nor ‘facts’ nor an ‘org.’ Discuss.” (And! All! Those! Exclamation! Points! Are! Annoying!)

At any rate, I urge everyone to take anything they read on blogs (except this one! wink wink) with a grain of salt, and go straight to the source. Look over the school and town budget proposals. Attend the hearings, or at least watch them on line. The process is transparent and public participation is welcome. Educate yourselves. And for goodness’s sakes, go vote.

[update #2]

I've finally viewed all the BoE budget presentations. I have this to add:

1. I was really taken with NMHS Principal Shugrue's passionate, articulate presentation. Particularly his explanation as to why we can't simply replace teachers with robots. (I know. Who'd have guessed that would be a real conversation?) (OK. No one actually said "robots." They said "technology." But they were thinking "robots.")

Principal Shugrue outlined what he considered to be the top skills needed by every high school graduate in the early 20th century.

They include the ability to:


-think critically

-speak articulately

-work in a group

-take ownership of students' own learning


(BTW, I was also taken with the other principals' presentations, but I've pretty much hit their highlights above).

2. I was pleased to see a true integration of ideas between schools. (Guess what? All-day kindergarten enhances the chances a kiddo will graduate having mastered the above list. It's almost like the school is following some kind of long-range, strategic plan ....)

3. Addressing students with special education needs is a growing challenge. 600+ students currently fall into this category. (And no, this doesn't apply to the mythical "I'm gonna say I have a special need so I can get out of doing homework" slacker-student. These are real students, with real needs.) The more proactive we can be as a school district whether it be (wait for it) all-day kindergarten, summer school (and, yes, offering bus service to summer school is a good idea. It's not catering to "bad parents," as some seemed to be suggesting. Some people can't choose between work and summer school for their kid.)

4. The mayor was on hand for the last hearing. She asked for hard numbers about the kindergarten program. Should we cue the ominous music, or should we expect another "The mayor's office has been working on this for years!" presser?

Stay tuned ........


A Real Public Option In Connecticut?

And so it would seem.

The other day for an open thread at ePluribus Media I commented on "the intended public option that should be Sustinet in Connecticut," and it would seem that is to be the case if the Sustinet Health Partnership Board of Directors get their way according to the report they handed in to the Connecticut General Assembly. Jon Walker has the key report paragraphs at FDL and summerizes it all too well, as anyone that has followed Healthcare reform closely would be aware of these realities:

Connecticut Informed That Private Insurance Exchanges Are Bad Deals for Consumers, Taxpayers


This report demonstrates what a horrible deal the system of subsidized, loosely-regulated private health insurance exchanges is for both the uninsured and the taxpayers. Using a public health insurance program, the state of Connecticut will be able to provide low income Americans a higher level of coverage at lower personal cost and it will still have a lower overall price tag for the government.

The only entities for whom the design of private exchanges is a good deal are the drug companies, hospitals, and private insurance companies. The exchanges assure customers for the unnecessary private insurance middlemen. Loose regulation of the exchanges prevents the government from using the market power of a large pool to negotiate with the drug companies and hospitals for lower prices, and so they get higher reimbursement fees.

It seems like they might as well being making the argument for a "Medicare for All!" solution but even as only a Public Option it would force the private insurers into an honest battle for customer base, IMHO, much like the Swiss model which is leaps and bounds better than the American model we are trying to reform.

Anyways, maybe we will have a real horse race to compare models of healthcare reform?

State Healthcare Reform Horse Race


As we mark the passing of the latest phase of health reform laws implemented on January 1st (scroll the comments there and you will see some interesting comments pointing to what I mean about cost controls and other issues, OK?), the six states Politico suggests following are Alaska, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Wisconsin for various reasons ranging from the most resistant to reform in Alaska, to the intended public option that should be Sustinet in Connecticut, and all the way over to the Single Payer movement in Vermont. I would not count Single Payer as out of the question in California, either, though there is no mention of that large movement behind it.


Still All That I Want

Something that gets lost in the news about the unemployed is the fact that much of what used to be the backbone of this nation's economic prowess, the middle class, is now the working poor:
Imagine That: Working Poor On The Rise

After the Republicans crashed to economy in 2008 one thing became immediately clear. It would not be the folks who can afford it who would pay for the excesses of the last few decades. No, the elitist millionaires in Congress and the White House would make sure they kept their precious tax breaks. Yes, the only group that would be expected to sacrifice just like always would be the working American. Now a new study is out showing just how much they did sacrifice.
One can only hope that Capitol Hill is really ready to grow its heart a few sizes before things get any worse. But if the media and the politicians are unable to even address the issue of Class War honestly, I can't see them actually fixing the problems. Not in the the favor of the average American, for certain.

An early Merry Christmas OR Happy Holidays, if you are so inclined, just in case this is the last post you get to check before you disappear into a pile of wrapping paper, empty bottles and hugs from family and friends.

As for my own Christmas list this year? Well? If you see Santa, tell him that as much as I liked everything from my wife and kids and even what I found in my stocking last year? All that I wanted last year is still all that I want this year:
The Weepies beautiful Christmas song, All That I Want, live in Philly:

I really want for nothing for myself. There are so many things that I want to see changed in the world for the good of everyone. World Peace? Stopping hunger? Ending poverty? Maybe I do want something: Wish me luck on getting those things.
Is there anything in particular you want for yourself or for others this year? Drop it in comment...



Click on the above link, and it will take you to an interesting place. A place where obstruction is the norm, bad lawyering is the standard, lack of preparedness is encouraged, and focusing on the main mission is discouraged. Sounds beautiful, doesn't it? Here's the real name of this magical cyber spot:

What a Waste William Wellman Was While Wading through this Week's Work at the Board of Education

What was WW up to this time? As usual, not much. It seems all he's really able to do is abstain on voting for nearly every issue, and deliver legal opinions that are shot down by non-lawyers.

What doesn't WW do? Comment in any way, shape, or form on issues of education. And that's true for not just this meeting, but every meeting. Good thing he's on the board of EDUCATION, right? Maybe he thinks it's the board of Obstruction (but we'll get to that later).

To give you an idea how little WW cares about serving as a public official, he didn't cast vote for the election of BOE Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, or Secretary. He cares so little that he didn't even vote "no."

  • If you care so little, or can't even muster an opinion on your fellow board members, maybe it's time to resign. Public participation would be essentially equivalent for your current level of commitment to the voters.

Too bad there's no video of that "historic" vote.

But let's give the guy some credit: he later tried to show everyone what a great lawyer he was. Unfortunately, he was shot down by lay people - no judge required to hold him in contempt! He tried to impose his lack of legal knowledge on the rest of the BOE in an attempt to make it seem they hadn't done their homework to update the policy on expulsions. However, when the Superintendent, and Board members Lawson and Faulenbach, reminded him that all of the facts were already in the document, poor WW could only feign ignorance as a defense. Claiming he didn't have the appropriate page in front of him - which means he either didn't read the entire document or was simply choosing to ignore it - WW just chose to disagree.

  • Some lawyer you were, WW. The voters - and your colleagues on the BOE - hold you in contempt.
  • Pay a fine, spend a night in jail, or for your sake and ours, please resign.

As for the rest of the meeting, the poor old obstructor didn't say a word. No input on a variety of policies, a 5 year curriculum plan, new text books, etc. Why bother weighing in on education issues when you're on the board of obstruction???

  • Stop wasting your time - and ours. Stay home on Tuesdays. Watch college basketball, read a book, play the victrola. Send in a letter to the editor for your various objections. Make better use of your time - and your fellow citizens.


Tales From The Crypt - Tax Cuts and Bond Markets Edition

Markets screeched in horror at the mere mention of conservative ideas like tax cuts, a GOP "free market" and glibertarian favorite stump speech talking point that should be laid to rest permanently:
For the past several months, we've been told by various Serious People that European governments were being punished by markets for being too lavish on social spending, despite bond rates being at record lows (other than in peripheral countries subject to more specific attacks) - or would be punished if they didn't "reform" and lower taxes. The same has been promoted in the US, via the Catfood Commission and the whole noise machine against deficits and stimulus packages... Well, the US government did just what the Serious People wanted, with a nice fat tax cut for the rich, and bond rates jumped - ie markets actually literally hated the measures, selling off US bonds violently.
Bwahahaha! RIP conservative tax cut kool-aid.
Considering al Qaeda's stated goals of destroying America economically... This kind of puts the conservative ideology of never-ending tax cuts firmly in the arsenal of a terrorist's financial Weapons of Mass Destruction (right up there with Credit Derivatives and Credit Default swaps) and those that support them... Well? In the words of an American idiot, "if you aren't with us, yer against us."


2010 New Milford Awards - Your Vote Counts!

Grab a beverage and help us toast another banner year in New Milford history. While we won't be applauding most of the award winners, we can still say "cheers" as we raise our glass to their achievements. Make like Bridgeport: vote early, vote late, no official ballot necessary, and write-in nominations are welcome!

Favorite Republican Dirty Trick
* Appointing Dem. Rod Weinberg to BOE
* NMBudgetFacts.com (anonymous - or was it?)
* NMBudgetFacts.com roadside signs (also anonymous - or was it?)
* Mayor and Szendy claim no raises for employees - then attempt to grant raises three months later

Best Example of Gutless Public Service
* Town Council Republicans silent vote to reduce school budget by $1.8 million
* Ray O'Brien's "Civility Rule" attempt to limit free speech
* Walter Bayer failing to second a motion by his fellow Dem. council member
* Mayor Murphy unable to say whether or not she supported her budget at the Annual Town Budget Meeting

Clueless is an Understatement Award
* Mayor Murphy for not doing any homework in a failed attempt to pass an ordinance to control the BOE's purchasing policy (The BOE's purchasing policy was better than the town's!)
* BOE Member Bill Wellman for being on the board nearly three years and not understanding how field trips are funded by the PTO (even though it's on the agenda every meeting!)
* BOE member Lynnette Rigdon (no explanation necessary)
* Roger Szendy states concern that the new Economic Development Corporation could vote themselves salaries of $100,000 (Yes, and they could vote themselves a trip to Mars, too)

Worst Person in the Town Award
* TC member Ray O'Brien for his "Civility Rule," and claiming that approving a 0% teacher's contract was like having a gun held to his head
* Mayor Murphy for not supporting her budget for the first time in 7 years, and for claiming no raises for non-union employees and then claiming they were "in the budget" three months later
* The Entire RTC for not condemning it's members who organized NMbudgetfacts.com
* Walter Bayer for pretending to be a "D" while attending the RTC's Reagan Dinner and other "R" functions - and contributing money to the R's in the process

Vote Now - Vote Early - Vote Often! And don't forget your beverage to toast the winners. Cheers!


Rell's Big Spending Bureaucratic Republican Cronyism

Cementing Her Excellency, Governor M. Jodi Rell's legacy:

Connected Appointee Gets Immediate Raise

Jacqueline Mandyck of West Hartford — a political appointee of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell's who had stood to lose her job as a $107,000-a-year deputy commissioner of consumer protection in January, but on Oct. 22 landed a position on the permanent state civil-service payroll — has experienced still another bit of good fortune.

Newly surfaced records show that the announced $103,580-a-year salary for her new job at the state Department of Economic and Community Development was immediately increased by more than $10,000, to $113,623.


Mandyck, 43, knows Rell's powerful chief of staff, M. Lisa Moody, as well as Moody's longtime friend and golfing partner, the well-connected lobbyist Paddi LeShane. Mandyck was the focus of a Government Watch column in the Courant on Sunday about a number of Rell administration appointees being placed in jobs on the permanent state payroll rather than becoming unemployed after Democratic Gov.-Elect Dan Malloy takes office on Jan. 5. Other candidates scored higher than Mandyck on an examination, but an interview panel led by Rell appointees said she did better in her interview.
Emphasis mine, because lord knows GOP cronies should not have to suffer through the same unemployment problems - problems  they caused with their glibertarian* free-market-run-amok deregulation of financial industries out the ying yang - that the rest of America has to suffer through in the real world.

So Rell is using the taxpayer's money as an ATM to pay for her friends' parting gifts in the typical IOKIYAR "Big Spending Government Bureaucracy" the GOP likes to create and break when they are in power and then point to as the problem when they are not in power.

* Glibertarian and, again, emphasis mine:
a portmanteau of glib and libertarian, a person who affects libertarianism when it’s convenient. Used by those not ready to admit that all libertarian philosophy can be boiled down to “I got mine, fuck you”, or by those attempting to be polite to libertarians.


Thanks, Aunt Myrtle. Now, put the gun down.

As fun as it would be to keep talking about national politics, it’s probably time to return my gimlet eyes to local politics.

(Wait! one last sip:
How awesome are Republicans? They may be drunk with victory, but boy, are they mean drunks!




And then there’s this fresh Hell:


Can you feel the brain cells die as you watch? I know the mere thought of those two getting into a “situation” together makes me never want to let anyone have sex. With anyone. Ever. Again.)

Ok. Gasp! Ok.

No more capitol cocktails. The hypocricy could kill a person. Local brews. Local brews.

So. Been to a Town Council meeting lately? Or are you too busy trying to decide if you should support the Bush Tax Cut sunset? Well. You might be able to catch the meetings on cable access. If you keep the tv on channel 17 for the rest of your life. (Better than DWTS at least).

At the November 8th meeting, the Town Council weighed in (almost!) on the teacher contracts.

What teacher contracts? Oh. These:


Let's pause here. This is a big deal. New Milford teachers and the town’s Board of Education, reached an amicable agreement in July, over salaries and benefits for the next academic year. The upshot is that teachers are accepting a pay freeze. They have also agreed to slightly higher copays for some medical visits. And they did this without a lengthy and expensive arbitration process. So. Tax payers: hug a teacher. And also a BoE member.

Now. Onc e the contract is approved by the teachers and the BoE, it goes on file with thew Town Clerk. Note the date of the article (September 29th). And count 30 days forward. According to the town charter, that’s how much time the Town Council has to approve, reject, or decline to notice, the new contract. The Mayor and TC chose the latter course, but it seems it’s because someone forgot to count.

I guess the Mayor and TC wanted to say something about the contracts, but didn’t realize the contract had been filed (do none of them read the local paper? This was big news), or that they only had a 30-day window. Which, given how long most TC members (not to mention the Mayor) have served this community, seems a little odd. But not as odd as this explanation, from the meeting minuntes:

“[A Councilman] asked why the Town Council was not notified that the agreement was submitted to the Town Clerk. Mayor Murphy stated that it is not required to.”

See? “It is not required.” That’s logical and satisfying, isn’t it?

I know. But … given that the TC agenda from October 25th included this item:

“Mayor Murphy told Town Council members if they know of anyone whom they think should be recognized for something they have done in the community or another accomplishment, they should let her know.”

And, given that the BoE successfully negotiated an even more recent contract, this time with school administrators, also with a $0 salary increase, also with concessions on benefits, also without arbitration


it’s not like there wasn’t anything worth commenting on.

(Um, Mayor Murphy, how’s about thanking the teachers, adminitrators, and the BoE for agreeing to a pay freeze, and saving tax payers money!?! Too much to ask, I suppose.)

Well, even though the magic 30 days had passed, preventing the TC from epxressing their official dis/approval of the contracts, some members exercised their First Amendment right to free speech, and comment less officially at the November 8th meeting.

“Mr. Bass stated that all parties should be thanked. Mayor Murphy thanked all those involved for a good job including those people in the audience from the Board of Education.”

At the risk of sounding ungenerous, these “thanks” were recited with all the passion and sincerity of an 8-year-old thanking their Aunt Myrtle for a hand-knit Christmas sweater.

But, wait, there was more! Following the national trend of seeing one’s first amendment and raising you the second amendment, Councilman Raymond O’Brien had this to say:

“Mr. O’Brien stated that the Town Council usually approves contracts ‘with a gun to our heads’ because it is always told that if they don’t approve the contracts, they would go to arbitration and the town would lose.”

Of course, he isn’t exactly accurate on how the process works. I’ve looked in the Town Charter, and it really doesn’t say “After contract is filed with Town Clerk, a gun will be placed to the Town Council’s head until they vote their approval. If they reject the contract, the Town will automatically lose in arbitration.” But then, my reading of the Health Care Reform Act didn’t turn up any Death Panels either. So, there might be a special ink, visible only to conservatives, involved here.

Well, Mr. O’Brien. Thanks for the statesmanlike response. Honestly. A gun to your head? There’s a lot I’d like to say in response to your stunning hyperbole (not to mention hypocrisy: how’s about that civility manifesto?), but it’s not printable.

But that’s not even the most incendiary part of his comments. There’s more:

“[Councilman O’Brien] would much rather be advised earlier so that the Town Council could have some meaningful input before it is filed with the Town Clerk.”

Ummm ……. Because that’s not how the system works.

So, what? Councilman O’Brien would like a seat at the bargaining table? Should Councilman O’Brien just write the contracts himeslf? Why not just let Councilman O’Brien be in charge of everything? Charter, shmarter.

Councilman Peter Mullen tried to dial back the crazy:

"Dr. Mullen stated that communication is great, but disagreed with O’Brien’s statement. He felt the Town Council is not forced to accept a contract. They are not told the Town will lose."

Yeah. Well. That and telling Sarah Palin she can’t see Russia from her house will get you a blank stare and a headache.

Look. I’m quibbling over a minor detail. The comments of a cranky man about teacher contracts that already passed really don’t add up to major policy.

It’s just so disheartening.

It’s just another casualty in the decline of civil discourse.

These contracts were the result of hard work, good will, community spirit, and mutual trust, on the parts of our educators and our Board of Education. They are an example of putting community before personal gain. The contracts are something to celebrate.

Is it too much to ask that people like Councilman O’Brien not spoil the moment with petty carping (while also attempting some sort of political coup where he actually gets to take the place of the BoE and the teachers’ union in deciding contracts)?

Would it be putting a (metaphorical!) gun to the Town Council’s heads to expect a sincere, full-throated “Thanks!”

Or is it too close to budget season?

(are those crickets?)