Manage Hamden’s tax dollars responsibly through spending restraint, implementing efficiencies and hard-nosed negotiations. As mayor, my administration will be fiscally responsible, accountable, transparent and responsive to taxpayers.
Commitment To End Financial Shenanigans
Through republican and democratic administrations, each new Mayor has historically been passed a structural deficit. Each Mayor has talked a good game about fixing it. When Mayor Jackson, bit the bullet and borrowed $125 million dollars to make up for generations of underpaying pension obligations, his commitment was that going forward, the town would pay all of our current operating expenses, pension payments and bond principal payments as they come due each year. Unfortunately, Mayor Leng did not get the memo. Not only is he not living up to Mayor Jackson’s vision of a well run town, he has squandered opportunities for fiscal restraint and consequently has taken budget shenanigans to an unprecedented level. He has borrowed to pay for current operating expenses, deferred bond principal payments and deferred contributions to the pension fund.
Just this year, he has:
Transferred an estimated $6,000,000+ from capital projects to pay operating expenses (the actual amount will not be confirmed until the outside accountant’s audit report is received).
Restructured $41,000,000 of bonded debt into interest only for this year. Deferring a 12.5 million principal payment to some future year and adding $17,000,000 to the total cost of the interest on the bonds.
Requested and received special State legislation that allowed the town to reduce our contribution to the pension fund from the Actuarially Required Contribution (ARC) of $22,600,000 to $16,000,000 deferring $6,600,000 to some future year.
Reallocated $250,000 proceeds from long term bonds designated to pay for Beaver Street drainage improvements to pay general operating expenses.
Borrowed money by selling bonds for road paving year after year even though road paving must be carried out every year and should be part of the operating budget.
As a result:
Our fund balance, which is the proportion of annual expenses kept in reserve for unexpected expenses such as town emergency or natural disaster, is just over 1%. National organizations which study municipal finance recommend a town’s fund balance be kept at 16% of its annual expenses. To put it another way, Hamden is one fire or flood away from catastrophe.
Hamden now has over $300 million in long term debt and ranks 2nd in debt per capita in the State of Connecticut. There is wisdom in the adage “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!”
Hamden is ranked second in bonded debt per capita. During the Leng administration our debt increased every year.
The piper must be paid. The longer we wait, the higher the bill will be. My administration will robustly promote economic development, spend wisely and with restraint and seek state, business, education and taxpayer partnerships to improve services and improve effectiveness.
Under the current administration, managing Hamden’s budget and finances has been characterized by opaque spending, failure to pay contracted liabilities when they are due and borrowing long term debt to fund current expenditures and offset current deficits.
The operating budget expense lines have been underfunded and the revenue lines have been inflated. While this gives the appearance that the budget is in balance, there is no achievable means, without using borrowed money intended for infrastructure repairs, for having a balanced budget at year end.
My administration will end the platitudes and tackle the problems. The solution will require imagination, transparency, truth telling and shared sacrifice. It will require the collaboration of residents, employees, unions, the town council, state legislators and financial experts. But managing the costs of government is nothing less than a public trust. The alternative is persistent tax increases, unsustainable growth in long term debt and bankruptcy.
We will end the practice hiring political supporters and awarding generous contracts to friends.
We will begin with putting the right people in the right jobs with the shared vision of what it means to be a public servant - getting the town’s business taken care of quickly, courteously, and effectively.
We will apply a disciplined approach to reducing our debt. We will commit, in advance each year, a portion of the town’s revenue to retire debt in addition to the minimum amount required by law.
We will concentrate on applying for more grants and telling the story of Hamden’s assets, resources and needs more effectively.
Personally, I will set an example by using my own car to travel on Hamden business.
With discipline and attention to the details of good governance, our efforts will make our todays and tomorrows better for everyone.