The February 8, 2016 regular meeting of the Stratford Town Council will be streamed here beginning at 8:00 pm.
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The February 8, 2016 public forum before the Stratford Town Council will be streamed here beginning at 6:45 pm.
The Town of Stratford has finally joined the Open Checkbook movement — even if the Mayor joined it kicking and screaming.
Earlier today, the Town posted the disbursements for January 2015 on its website (i.e., all of the non-payroll checks issued by the Town in January). This didn’t happen on its own, as it finally occurred within days of my filing a proposed ordinance to force the Town to do post the information — with the help of the bills co-sponsors, newly-elected State Rep. Joe Gresko (and 5th District Councilor) and 7th District Councilor Mitzi Antezzo. The proposed ordinance is included at the end of this post. The Town also finally posted the Revenue & Expenditures Report for its enterprise funds (like the WPCA fund and Railroad fund) — which is another requirement contained in the proposed ordinance. It took five years, but Mayor John Harkins has finally lived up to his promised that, “a complete list of disbursements made by the town will be posted each month on the Town of Stratford website.” He just needed a little help getting there.
Here’s the text of the proposed ordinance.
AN ORDINANCE AMENDING CHAPTER 14 OF THE CODE OF THE TOWN OF STRATFORD, CONNECTICUT TO REQUIRE THAT THE FINANCE DIRECTOR PUBLISH TOWN REVENUE AND EXPENDITURE REPORTS AND A LIST OF NON-PAYROLL DISBURSEMENTS ON THE TOWN’S WEBSITE ON A MONTHLY BASIS; (#16__)
Sponsored by: Hon. Mark Dumas, Second District; Hon. Joseph Gresko, Fifth District; and Hon. Marianne Antezzo, Seventh District
WHEREAS, Section 2.2.1 of the Charter of the Town of Stratford gives the Town Council the authority to enact ordinances relative to the regulation of the various departments;
WHEREAS, the Town Council desires to increase transparency relative to the Town’s financial practices and to foster the public trust in the operations of the Town and its enterprise funds;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT HEREBY ORDERED BY THE TOWN COUNCIL OF THE TOWN OF STRATFORD:
That Chapter 14 of Code of the Town of Stratford, Connecticut shall be amended to include the following new Section:
A. That the Finance Director publish on the Town of Stratford’s website a list or database of the non-payroll disbursements for the Town of Stratford, and for each of its enterprise funds, and shall update such lists or databases on at least a monthly basis.
B. That the Finance Director publish on the Town of Stratford’s website a report of the fiscal year-to-date revenues and expenditures by budget line item for the Town of Stratford, and for each of its enterprise funds, and shall update such reports on at least a monthly basis.
RESOLVED: that the first reading of the above entitled Ordinance (#16-__) be and is hereby dispensed with as copies thereof have been previously furnished to each member of the Town Council, and that the same be adopted as a first reading and referred to the Ordinance Committee for a public hearing.
The Council received the following documents from the administration as the administration’s proposal to (partially) address the budget deficit:
- 01/11/16 Memo re: non-sale of WPCA
- 01/11/16 Resolution re: non-sale of WPCA
- 01/11/16 Resolution Exhibit A re: non-sale of WPCA
- 01/29/16 Memo re: Internal Service Fund funding
- 01/29/16 Resolution re: Internal Service Fund funding
- 01/29/16 Resolution Exhibit A re: Internal Service Fund funding
- 01/26/16 Internal Service Fund Summary
Here is the Council Chair’s explanation of these documents when forwarding them to the Council.
Here are the resolutions regarding the budget drafted by the Finance Director.
There are 2 sets– 1 for WPCA and another for the structural transfer.
Ms. Collier and I reviewed these this morning. With respect to the ISF summary, she of course does not have final figures for FY2016. However, she believes that even with the transfer of the $3M, the town would have somewhere between $-650K and $-1M, and the town would be well ahead of the 2014 level, but that’s an educated guess at this point since the year is not complete. That is, rather than putting in $16.1M to the fund(s) this year, the town would be putting in $13.1M.
If there are any additional resolutions that you would like to offer regarding Budget Modifications, please do so. That is, if you want to offer a resolution making modifications to the budgets of certain departments, it can be done at this time. For example, if you wanted to move some of the unspent monies in categories that may seem frivolous to you to council contingency, then offer a resolution to do so.
Doing just these 2 sets of resolutions may leave the town about $1.5M short, but that is a manageable amount to reconcile at the end of the year.
I thank Susan Collier and her staff for their work on this and the council for their patience with this.
Beth Daponte, Ph.D.
Chairman of Town Council
Stratford Town Council, First District
In September, I asked, “Why can’t we post the Town’s checkbook online?” Later that month, I posted the Town’s July 2015 checkbook entries on Open Stratford. Today, I am posting Stratford’s disbursements for all of 2015. Here they are:
- GL Account Detail – Jan 2015 – Jan 2016
- Paid Warrant Report – Jan – June 2015
- Paid Warrant Report – Jul 2015 – Jan 2016
Some criticize this site because they think this information should be provided by the Town directly. I don’t agree with the criticism, but I agree the Town should be posting this information on its own. In fact, the Mayor promised to do just that back in October 2010. More than five years later, that promise remains unfulfilled. Here’s what I had to say about it in September.
In October 2010, Mayor John Harkins promised that he would join the other communities that post their disbursements online and he did so very publicly in a press release that you can read here, but if you don’t want to download the file, here’s the important part of what the Mayor had to say:
“All town expenditures are legally considered to be public information obtainable through a Freedom of Information request,” said Mayor Harkins. “However, I see no reason for the Town not to be proactive in releasing this information as a means of increasing transparency and building trust with the taxpayers. At my direction, a complete list of disbursements made by the town will be posted each month on the Town of Stratford website, www.townofstratford.com. Residents will be able view how their tax dollars are spent, ask questions and provide suggestions to my office and their town councilperson and most importantly, rest assured that this administration welcomes public scrutiny.”
Those records were not posted online in the nearly five years since John Harkins issued that release, so during the public forum before the last Town Council meeting, I asked that the Town Council do something about it and pass an ordinance or resolution to require the Town to finally fulfill the Mayor’s promise. I also said that I would ask for the records and post them on this website if the Town didn’t post them on its own.
On Monday, I plan to file a draft ordinance that, if passed, will require John Harkins to finally fulfill his promise to post the Town’s disbursements online. If there is one thing the past five years has taught us, it is that this administration deserves the public scrutiny that the Mayor says he welcomes.
(Audio Recording of the 1/14/2016 SHS Renovation Subcommittee)
Minutes for the Stratford High School Building Renovations Subcommittee have been posted on the Town website here, but since the Town’s website can be difficult to navigate the minutes are also available in a single folder from Open Stratford here. The minutes of the most recent meeting (January 14, 2016) have not yet been posted on the Town website, but can be found from Open Stratford here. This most recent meeting included statements from Town Councilor Beth Daponte about the project, including:
Beth Daponte: I’m speaking only as a guest, but what I think we need is long range planning from the BOE to clarify their needs at each academic level. A possible site could be the Wooster M.S. facility with the surrounding available land. We could also divide the school into multiple “houses” similar to Trumbull H. S., which would serve to reduce the negative effects of putting 2,500 students into a single school. People are concerned about the depth and breadth of academic opportunities that one could find in a smaller high school facility. Wooster could become the high school campus and Bunnell and SHS could become middle schools.
Stratford High School Building Renovations Subcommittee, Regular Meeting Minutes, January 14, 2016, p. 6.
Beth Daponte: I want to clarify that the plan I proposed would be to build the H.S. campus at Wooster. SHS and Bunnell could become junior high schools, eliminating the need for Flood M.S.
Stratford High School Building Renovations Subcommittee, Regular Meeting Minutes, January 14, 2016, p. 7.
Beth Daponte: I don’t know that you have the votes to get the ordinance changed, to approve any additional money for the project. I believe you should take the single-high school idea seriously.
Some of us don’t think that a high school that straddles two sides
of a street is the best learning environment. We also don’t think
it’s a good idea to build a building next to a building that is occupied with students, students who are in a facility without a ventilation system.
Stephanie Philips: Beth, can you say there has been an expressed concern by a majority of Council members?
Beth Daponte: I can say there has been an expressed concern by a number of Council members.
Stratford High School Building Renovations Subcommittee, Regular Meeting Minutes, January 14, 2016, p. 9.
Three Council members have publicly stated that they support moving forward with the Stratford High School renovations (Tina Manus, District 10; Alan Llewelyn, District 9; and Mark Dumas, District 2).
The Connecticut Siting Council will be holding a public hearing on Thursday, February 25, 2016 regarding a proposed United Illluminating substation at 1770 Stratford Avenue (near Two Roads Brewing Co.). The hearing will be held in Council Chambers at Town Hall in two sessions, the first starting at 3:00 pm and the second starting at 7:00 pm. The full hearing notice can be found here and additional information on the application can be found here.