Article

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE EMPTY SUIT’S FY15 BUDGET REVEALS A FISCAL SUICIDE NOTE

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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DRIVEN TO DRINK — The Empty Suit’s FY15 budget request has him drunk with power. Hangover to come.

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?”

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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.

——- 000 ——-

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:

MAYOR’S OFFICE

Dan Bianchi

(413) 499-9321 (city hall)

(413) 442-1967 (Global Montello Group, Bianchi’s other job)

(413) 441-2387 (cell)

e-mail dbianchi@pittsfieldch.com or dbianchi@globalp.com

CITY COUNCIL

At-Large
Melissa Mazzeo, Council President
57 Winesap Road
443-4079 – homemmazzeo@pittsfieldch.com
 Mazzeo
Ward 4
Christopher J. Connell, Council Vice President
105 Dawes Avenue
443-6779 – home
822-6008 – cellcconnell@pittsfieldch.com
 Connell
Ward 1
Lisa I. Tully
58 Oak Hill Road
499-7505 - home
329-0074 – cellltully@pittsfieldch.com
 Tully
Ward 2
Kevin J. Morandi
19 South Carolina Avenue
499-0108 – work and home
429-7936 – cellkmorandi@pittsfieldch.com
 Morandi
Ward 3
Nicholas J. Caccamo
130 Parkside Avenue
486-0464 – cellncaccamo@pittsfieldch.com
Caccamo
Ward 5
Jonathan N. Lothrop
18 Willow Lane
281-0994 - celljlothrop@pittsfieldch.com 
Lothrop
Ward 6
John Krol
7 Trova Terrace
464-5830 – celljkrol@pittsfieldch.com
 Krol
Ward 7
Anthony J. Simonelli
59 Kellie Drive
442-2191 – hometsimonelli@pittsfieldch.com
 Simonelli
At- large 
Kathleen A. Amuso
78 Leona Drive
442-1926 - homekamuso@pittsfieldch.com
 Amuso
At- large
Barry J. Clairmont
12 Lillybrook Road
822-8866 – cellbclairmont@pittsfieldch.com
Clairmont
At- large
Churchill Cotton
15 Donovan Street
442-0862 – home
822-3710 – cellccotton@pittsfieldch.com

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

36 Responses to “A CLOSER LOOK AT THE EMPTY SUIT’S FY15 BUDGET REVEALS A FISCAL SUICIDE NOTE”

  1. dusty
    May 28, 2014 at 12:45 am #

    I hope for Globals sake that Bianchi does not have anything to do with their finances. How is their stock doing? What is the SEC doing these days?

  2. Ron Kitterman
    May 28, 2014 at 4:45 am #

    As bad as the Mayor’s Memorial Day speech was it was a tad better than TFB’s. That not being a day for politics, I can give him a pass of sorts but Tricia couldn’t resist the temptation to end all wars, take evil guns away and inspire us to end all future wars so they will be a thing of the past.

    • Mad Trapper
      May 28, 2014 at 6:59 am #

      Did TFB espouse her undying love of Criminal Aliens in her speech too?

    • levitan
      May 28, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

      Ah, have you checked out Deleo’s gun bill. Next time you renew a license, you will have to inventory every firearm in your possession. Nothwithstanding they already have that information.

      Also, the State of Massachusetts appears to be melding with the Federal government.

      Bad weirdness.

  3. Jesse
    May 28, 2014 at 5:11 am #

    Usually when a budget shows an increase in debt, it means debt *service* – the cost of paying the debt during the budget period – not an increase in the principal amount of the debt. Increased debt service could be a function of increased debt, higher interest rates, a higher payment amount kicking in (like when the interest-only period expires on a home mortgage, and the payment goes up), or other factors. I haven’t looked at the city’s budget, but there may not be a direct correlation between the new borrowing and the amount of the increase.

  4. Nota
    May 28, 2014 at 5:24 am #

    I don’t know why Bill Sturgeon wasn’t a speaker,Instead of T E S. Sturgeon is on Krol and commented on a former radio station BRK, calling it old sports and dead music….He is right!

  5. Still wondering
    May 28, 2014 at 5:49 am #

    Anyone who thinks you can wish away war is a fool.

  6. Nota
    May 28, 2014 at 7:16 am #

    Smokining in city Parks was the order of the day at da council meeting. yeah, ban that, and grown men walking around the Clapp Park track with their bare belly’s and underwear showing. Flying model airplanes while the ball fields and walking track is not appropriate either, and dangerous.

  7. amandaWell
    May 28, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Council was talking about amending the amendment, and something about cutting hair halfway and is what is left, something? an’t wait till Thursdays with Tes

  8. Dead Kennedy
    May 28, 2014 at 8:14 am #

    Dan,

    Pittsfield sits on top of a toxic waste dump with PCB fumes eminating for all to breath on a daily basis. The results of which is job security for the undertakers in Berkshire County.

    It will be cleaned up at half past never.

    The school department is a cash cow with an insatiable desire for more and more while children are indoctrinated and left to carry on in a community with no decent jobs. While they cannot read, write or comprehend arithmetic.

    The roads look like Berlin directly after the war.

    City officials could not care less about its citizen tax payers but would rather tax them back to the stonage and make them bleed. And when they cannot pay, make them work it off for minimum wage.

    Houses for sale everywhere? Who in there right mind would move to Pittsfield and buy one?

    “Its the Pitts” is an expression used universally to express a worst case senario.

  9. Dave
    May 28, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    That guy Blumin is my new favorite open Mic participant. I think council prez pissed him off.

  10. amandaWell
    May 28, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    What the hell is the mayor (Tes) talking about..the personel director, the consultant, are saying it’s hard to find quality workers. Aren’t these the same people, including the mayor (Tes) that will be given stipends and raises? CHuck for MaYor

    • danvalenti
      May 28, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

      Great points, Amanda.

  11. Downtown Dweller
    May 28, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    New businesses planning to open downtown:

    http://www.iberkshires.com/story/46597/Two-New-Bars-Planned-for-Downtown-Pittsfield.html

    • Shakes His Head
      May 28, 2014 at 10:19 am #

      Opening a restaurant after Tourist season is the first clue that these business plans are not thought out.

      • DowagerHat
        May 28, 2014 at 10:41 am #

        SHH, My thought exactly but then again It’s PITTSFIELD.

  12. EddieP
    May 28, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    In the BB legal notices this morning, TES is taking bids for an estimated cost of 770,000.00 for North St. pedestrian plazas.
    That’s over three quarters of a MILLION bucks of your taxpayer money being sunk into downtown again. Just where are these plazas going to be located? What does the project entail?
    we need more information on this project. Is it really needed?

  13. Spider
    May 28, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    I can think of better ways to spend $700,000. Pedestrian plazas sound great, but who would be using them? Druggies? Homeless? Crazies? Too many people stay clear of North St.

    • Are We Dreaming?
      May 28, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

      Druggies, homeless and crazies…plus some of their public defenders, lots of trash and perhaps a respectable looking office type (from a bank)…welcome to downtown where TES wants to waste three quarters of a million.

      Eddie P makes the point, where would it be. Waht are the details? Who would use it? As usual TES has no answers just the open checkbook of our money.

      Our money. Not his. Recall then Chuck G for mayor.

      • danvalenti
        May 28, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

        And three shootings over the weekend.
        TES has nothing to say about it.

    • Joe Blow
      May 28, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

      I believe this loot is for the so called pocket parks at North and Columbus.

      • eddiep
        May 28, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

        If this what the money is for, what can you do to them that would cost 3/4 million?
        Something here stinks.

        • danvalenti
          May 28, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

          That last line sums it up well. This is Pittsfield.

  14. Nota
    May 28, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    Because Councilors don’t receive information, doesn’t mean you vote for this raise when they give it to you.

  15. Jonathan Melle
    May 28, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Pittsfield’s finances make no sense whatsoever!
    * Thousands of people have moved away from Pittsfield over the past decade.
    * Hundreds of jobs have been lost in Pittsfield over the last decade.
    * Senior Citizens are paying a majority of the taxes in Pittsfield.
    * Pittsfield’s youth is mostly on welfare and living in poverty.
    * School enrollment numbers have been steadily declining in Pittsfield.
    * Taxes have gone up far above the rate of inflation over the past decade in Pittsfield.
    * If Pittsfield’s finances were an economic formula, it would say:
    Diminishing population numbers + massive job losses + fixed income Seniors tax base + declining school enrollment = high taxes + unsustainable finances + future fiscal insolvency.

    • Jonathan Melle
      May 28, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

      NEWS ARTICLE – Mayor Jimmy Ruberto’s last budget -

      “Pittsfield City Council approves budget”
      By Trevor Jones, Berkshire Eagle Staff, June 29, 2011

      PITTSFIELD — The City Council on Tuesday night approved a $129 million budget for fiscal 2012, despite the trepidation of several councilors about the impact on tax rates.

      The budget, which takes effect July 1, represents a spending increase of 1.85 percent from the current year’s total of $126.9 million. The tax rate, however, is projected to increase 4.4 percent.

      The budget passed by a 7-3 vote, with councilors Melissa Mazzeo, Michael L. Ward and Christine A. Yon in opposition. Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop was not in attendance.

      Yon cited the school budget, which makes up $54.3 million of the budget, as her reason for opposition. She questioned school employee salary increases, along with the use of $1.3 million in grant funds she described as a “one-time cash infusions.”

      Yon said many of her constituents have not had raises in years, and the school salary increases “show a disconnect from the economic world that we’re living in.”

      Ward 6 Councilor John Krol spoke in favor of the budget, saying its investments in education and infrastructure are key to the city’s future health, and the council’s job is to do “what makes sense for the city of Pittsfield.”

      The council also approved $9 million for capital expenses in fiscal 2012. The funds include $450,000 for a new fire truck Mayor James M. Ruberto added to his request at the behest of the council.

      When asked if the fire department could go another year without the new vehicle, Chief Robert Czerwinski responded, “We’d certainly try but I would be surprised if we could make it another year without it.”

      The council also voted to use $1 million from a reserve fund to reduce the impact on the tax rate.

      Preliminary estimates would result in a residential tax rate of $16.18 per $1,000 of valuation, an rate increase of 99 cents. The average residential tax bill, based on a house valued at $180,000, would rise $122.61 to $2,917.14.

      The commercial property tax rate would rise to $33.70 per $1,000 of valuation, a rate increase of $2.75.

      Both residential and commercial tax figures won’t be finalized until the council approves them in December based on financial officials’ recommendations. Several councilors said they would like to discuss the idea of using additional reserve funds to further lower the impact on tax rates.

  16. Nota
    May 28, 2014 at 11:36 am #

    yee ha…Blumin for Mayor….Siberia for my next residence!

  17. C. Trzcinka
    May 28, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    So what does the word “budget” mean in Pittsfield? Does it mean an estimate of total expenditures? If expenses are expected to rise why not include them?

    These “estimates of increases” tell you the basis for estimating the $148 million budget:

    — 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%

    These estimates tell how they will pay for the $148 million:

    — 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%.

    The debt service is presumably already in the $148 million…

  18. Joe Blow
    May 28, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

    Just what kind of culture are we a mecca of?

    http://www.berkshireeagle.com/news/ci_25851152/pittsfield-site-multiple-shooting-incidents-last-weekend

    • danvalenti
      May 28, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

      Here’s the full story. Andrew Amelinckx does a good job here. Too bad The BB didn’t give this the play it deserves.

      —————————————-

      Pittsfield site of multiple shooting incidents last weekend
      By Andrew Amelinckx, Berkshire Eagle Staff,
      POSTED: 05/28/2014 03:07:23 PM EDT2 COMMENTS

      PITTSFIELD — A Pittsfield motel was the scene of a shootout early Saturday, police said, but no one bothered to report it.

      The incident was one of three shooting incidents reported in Pittsfield last weekend.

      Workers cleaning the rooms at the Berkshire Inn Motel on West Housatonic Street called police shortly at 10:12 a.m. Saturday after finding evidence of the shooting, according to Pittsfield Police Detective Capt. Patrick F. Barry.

      “It appears someone shot into the room and someone else inside the room shot back,” he said. No injuries were reported in connection with the incident, which police believe the shooting took place around 3 a.m. Saturday.

      Shell casings were recovered at the scene, Barry said.

      He said there were “people of interest” in the case who had rented the room, but they are still trying to determine who, if any of these people, were involved.

      Barry said several people have been interviewed. The investigation is continuing with Det. Kim Bertelli taking the lead in the case.

      Earlier that morning, about 1:30 a.m., there were multiple reports of shots fired in the area of Silver and Third streets.

      Police only have a vague description of the perpetrator, who is described as a black male driving a dark colored vehicle. The man was seen fleeing the area.

      No one was reported injured and no shell casings were recovered in that incident.

      Police do not believe the two shootings were related, Barry said.

      There were also reports of gunshots on Friday at about 10:30 p.m. on the 200 block of Dewey Avenue.

      “There were no injuries as far as we know,” Barry said.

      Police are still investigating a shooting from May 13 on Springside Avenue near the park.

      Shell casings were recovered at that scene but no descriptions of the perpetrator have been given.

      No one reported being injured in that shooting.

      “We have no hard suspects in any of these [shootings],” Barry said.

      Anyone with information on these shootings is urged to call the Pittsfield Police Detective Unit at (413) 448-9705.

      To reach Andrew Amelinckx:
      aamelinckx@berkshireeagle.com,
      or (413) 496-6249.
      On Twitter: @BE_TheAmelinckx

  19. Magic
    May 28, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    Yet another pocket park (pedestrian plaza) downtown. Does Mr. Mayor think that employees of downtown businesses will use it during their lunch. We can’t use the ones we have because people with nothing to do are there all day. And who would be foolish enough to sit in the evening anywhere on North St.
    Stop wasting my money

    • eddiep
      May 28, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

      The “pocket park mayor”. The only thing in his pocket is our tax money. Is that his legacy?

    • danvalenti
      May 28, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

      The Pocket Park Kid doesn’t care about wasting your money. He thinks he’s entitled.

  20. Voltaire
    June 8, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    I would like to share my experience with you. I recently returned to my home town of Pittsfield. I served in the Army Nat’l Guard and Armry Reserves for 22 years. After my 2nd deployment to Iraq (2009-2010), I returned home to Springfield and was laid off. I returned to Pittsfield while I continued to look for work. With the help of a friend, I started work for the City of Pittsfield. I was released after 60 days for not meeting professional standards and work ethic of a city dept. (no examples given) During the 60 days, I was made to feel un-welcome and treated with disrespect by some people in the dept. I wrote a letter to the Mayor detailing my experience an the serious lack of unprofessional behavior in one of the city departmentss…. No response…. During this time of Memorial Day and D-Day Observance, I hear politicians and local leaders give speeches on the debt our society owes to Veterans. I can’t tell you how much talk I’ve heard with no action…. I’m very disappointed …. I volunteered to serve and it was a privileged, but I’m sick of the empty speeches.

    • danvalenti
      June 8, 2014 at 9:43 am #

      VOLTAIRE
      I am saddened to hear of your experience with the city of Pittsfield, which, under the current mayor, has become all too frequent. If you wish to contact me privately with more of this experience, I would be interested in listening. Our best to you and yours.