By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
Part 2 of THE PLANET‘s Exclusive Four-Part Series on Pittsfield’s FY15 Budget Proposal
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, MAY 28, 2014) — At the recent Memorial Day tribute, Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi said the following: “Memorial Day should be a reflective day for all Americans. I am honored to have the opportunity to speak on behalf of our thankful community and to recognize all those who have served and died and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom and democracy.”
These faux noble words are taken from the city’s ’80-ish-looking web site (can you tell that Bianchi personally designed this site, at least, so he brags in his “accomplishments” listed on the mayor’s page? It illustrates what too much technology in the wrong hands can accomplish).
Like everything the mayor says these days, they sound “purdy” until you realize it’s all a bunch of bull. THE PLANET doesn’t question The Empty Suit‘s (TES) recognition of veteran sacrifice. We do, however, seriously doubt that he cares one stuffed ballot about “our freedom and democracy.”
Words are one things. Actions, and budgets, are another.
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Yesterday, THE PLANET took a look at how, in two years from June 2014 to this year, TES has jacked up the municipal budget 15%, culminating in his current request of $148,142,507.
Bianchi’s done this even as city services, population, tax base, and jobs continue to shrink or fade away into non-existence.
This combination has placed the city in serious financial jeopardy, one that, if unchecked, will have to catch up with Pittsfield no later than 10 years from now and more likely within two or three. There is no other outcome.
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Here’s what we haven’t yet revealed. On top of the $148.14 million request, you have factor in the mayor’s “estimates” of increases over FY14. Just on the fat and far-off chance Bianchi and his inept, financial bobo Sue Carmel decided to project low on the increases to make their dreadful figures look less monstrous, this is what they see for increases:
— Pension costs expected to rise 10%
— Health and “other insurances” to go up 11%
— City contractual obligations, rising 16%
— City contractual obligations for the School Department, skyrocketing 23%
— State assessments, up 9%
— Property revaluation to grow 3% (another whammy for bedraggled taxpayers)
— “Other” adjustments, undefined and unnamed, 2%
— Long- and short-term debt to increase 26%. That is not a typo. 26%.
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This will add what TES and Carmel call a “preliminary total”additional amount of another $4,425,000. That’s bad enough, but what if they have underestimated this “projected increases?”
This gets “better.” Let’s take the 26% hike for debt and debt service expected for FY15. Here are the borrowing totals from FY14 from which the 26% hike proceeds. The figures include both short- and long-term debt:
* Airport, $2 million
* Buildings (McKay Street parking garage, asbestos replacement in schools, high school feasibility study, school boilers, removal of oil tanks, exterior painting at Mercer and Herberg schools, PHS Dome painting, city asbestos abatement, replacement of roof at Mercer school, and “others”), $4,796,916
* Equipment (undefined and unspecified), $248,460
* Other Improvements (not defined or specified), $600,000
* Streets (not street names given), $11,190,000
* Vehicles (no information given on which vehicles; presumably the buses), $2,135,892. (NOTE: As THE PLANET has demonstrated based on a financial analysis by Terry Kinnas, the actual figure for the cost of buses will be between $4 million and $6 million).
* Water, $3,550,000.
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The total, even taking the demonstrably fake low-ball figure for buses, is $24,521,268. This includes $6,880,268 for short term borrowing and $17,641,000 for long-term debt.
Bianchi’s FY15 projected budget increases tell us he expects “long term & short term debt” to rise 26%.
What’s 26% of $24,521,268? Answer: $6,375,529.68. Now, two hard questions:
(A) Does this mean the true total of FY15 borrowing will be $30,896,737.68?
(B) Do we add this $30+million figure to the $148.14 budget request? In other words, is The Empty Suit actually trying for $179,000,000?
Remember, the only place TES has to go to raise this money is Y–O–U, the taxpayer.
Is this the budget, unmasked — at least a 38.7% increase from the final budget Bianchi inherited from Jimmy Ruberto in 2012, not the 15%.
That amount of an increase would be hard to swallow even in flush times, with 14,000 high-pay, high-benefits private-sector manufacturing jobs, as in the days of GE. In the economic straights Pittsfield finds itself in currently, however, this is a recipe for financial suicide.
That’s precisely the nature of the giant guano sandwich Dan Bianchi has given you, the taxpayers, for your FY15 breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Unless the city council finds or grows a pair and throws this budget back in the mayor’s face with order to cut, cut, cut, taxpayers and citizens had better get used to this stenchy repast as a steady diet.
There’s only one way to throw this gruel back in their faces: Get on the phones and email our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council and, as THEIR BOSS, given them their marching orders.
Here are the addresses:
(413) 499-9321 (city hall)
(413) 442-1967 (Global Montello Group, Bianchi’s other job)
(413) 441-2387 (cell)
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Melissa Mazzeo, Council President
57 Winesap Road
443-4079 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher J. Connell, Council Vice President
105 Dawes Avenue
443-6779 – home
822-6008 – email@example.com
Lisa I. Tully
58 Oak Hill Road
499-7505 – home
329-0074 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin J. Morandi
19 South Carolina Avenue
499-0108 – work and home
429-7936 – email@example.com
Nicholas J. Caccamo
130 Parkside Avenue
486-0464 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan N. Lothrop
18 Willow Lane
281-0994 – email@example.com
7 Trova Terrace
464-5830 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony J. Simonelli
59 Kellie Drive
442-2191 – email@example.com
Kathleen A. Amuso
78 Leona Drive
442-1926 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry J. Clairmont
12 Lillybrook Road
822-8866 – email@example.com
15 Donovan Street
442-0862 – home
822-3710 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell ’em THE PLANET sent you.
“Got a heartbeat rhythm and my soul keeps singing the blues.” — Chuck Berry, The Beatles, and other artists, “Roll Over Beethoven.”
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL