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EXCLUSIVE! PLANET EXPOSES FY15 BUDGET … COUNCIL WADES THROUGH ‘SWAMP BIANCHI,’ BUT ‘THE EMPTY SUIT’S’ BUDGET STILL DEFIES SENSE, LOGIC, or ‘RESPONSIBILITY’

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, JUNE 9, 2014) — On Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon, our Right Honorable Good Friends on the Pittsfield City Council put on their muck boots and waded through Swamp Bianchi, otherwise known as the FY15 budget. Forget about “The Rest of the River.” Who’s going to clean up with fiscal pollution left in the water by the increasingly overmatched and underemployed mayor?

Perhaps the council should just truck in five feet of clean sand and bury the foul document.

The council asked some questions, got the usual B.S. from city department heads, and departed with thoughts of trying to salvage the weekend — whether it included booze, broads, bingo, bennies, or boomerangs.

An Oddity or an Idiocy?

PLANET VALENTI: Fighting for The People against The Suits.

This council did not give one ounce of evidence for confidence in their ability to deal maturely and professionally with The Empty Suit‘s plague-filled FY’15 budget. This was a special meeting of the council, a so-called Meeting of the Whole. The law stipulates that such meetings are for informational purposes only. Nonetheless, in what appears to be violations of law, the council took votes in defiance of protocol and procedure. This continues a pattern of activity since this council began work in January that  it doesn’t know its own rules. Of course, the onus for this falls to council president Melissa Mazzeo, but each councilor must share in the burden.

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Here’s a fair question based on the budget proceedings to date: Is the fix in, once again? Consider:

You have the school committee in advance rolling over and playing dead, including Josh Cutler — a politician so obviously on the make that he doesn’t dare upset the adults at this point in his nascent career. Young Josh tells all of us the budget is “responsible.” Ouch. Its kind of embarrassing. Josh has many lessons to learn. THE PLANET reminds our Right Honorable Good Young Friend that “responsible” can either mean “sensible, mature, or reliable, or it can mean “guilty, blameworthy, culpable, to blame.” He has obviously confused the two.

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The Empty Suit’s spending plan defies all common sense, logic, and — yes, Josh — “responsibility.” THE PLANET has spent a good amount of time going through the figures with the help of a couple “numbers guys,” including an economist of the highest academic and professional repute and pedigree.

Where does THE PLANET even begin with this mess?

Let’s present what we’ve learned in as easy and as digestible a format as we can.

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When a Hike is a ‘Cut’ — When the mayor presented the first iteration of this phony budget, it came at $150+ million. That included Jake “JIV” Mccandless‘ push for multimillions more money for the already overfunded school department, which last year lost almost 500 students through school choice. THE PLANET aggressively covered JIV’s money grab, and lo and behold, JIV settled for a measly $1 million increase plus the $1.5 million in pay raises for PSD staff. Naturally, both TES and JIV, labeled this $2.5 million increase (as opposed to the nearly $5 million originally sought) as a “cut.”

Conflict of Interest? What Conflict of Interest? — The next time TES (that’s Bianchi, remember) sniffed the used toilet paper upon which he printed his budget figures, this time into the loving arms of the Pittsfield School Committee, the figure came in at $148.14 million. The PSC lap-dogged its approval, 7-0. One of the votes, of course, belonged to Bianchi. Don’t you see a bit of a conflict of interest there? The executive who proposes the budget gets an equal vote on approving the budget.

WITH THE DIVINE EDGAR, THE PLANET has The Little Guy’s interest first and foremost, and folks, we’re telling you: The proposed FY15 budget is a fake, a phony, and a rip-off.

High Noon — On Friday at noon (June 5) with little more than perfunctory notice, the man who masquerades as “mayor” (who actually does his real work for Global Montello) presented his spending plan to the council. Don’t you just love both the sudden-ness of the event and the ridiculous of the hour. This helped assure that councilors would not have adequate time to prepare and that they who have day jobs would find it inconvenient in the extreme. Then the magic happened again. The imposter’s budget figure went “down” again, inexplicably, to $141+ million. On the surface, it looked like the mayor took $7 million out of the budget. If appearances were reality, Bianchi would look like Fiorello LaGuardia. They’re not, though, and he doesn’t. This is a fake number, worthy of a checkered fraud in a houndstooth frock.

What’s $23 Million Among Friends? — In the phony $141 million plan, the debt summary is incomplete. The budget doesn’t list, for example, the money still owed on the bonds the last time they borrowed to fix up school buildings. Taxpayers, for instance, still have to pay principal and interest on $23 million dollars. This doesn’t count any other debt service, and there’s plenty, for which taxpayers are on the hook.

Now it starts to get wacky beyond belief and perhaps legality.

Phantom ‘Revenue’ — According to THE PLANET’s analysis, it appears that the mayor claimed as revenue from the state money that the city will never receive. That is essentially how he has faked the “cut” when there’s no cut at all. If we understand this confusing budget, this is either a sign of gross incompetence on the part of the mayor and his two finance directors, Sue “The Empty High Heels” Carmel (TEHH) (city) and Kristen “Tex” Behnke (schools) or an indication of fraud. If there’s a third possibility, we can’t find it.

Up is Down — The financial geniuses behind this budget also appear to be counting state “assessments and overlays” as “revenue.” In other words, it looks as if the FY15 budget counts more than $6.5 million in state charges as income, as taken from the mayor’s own data. This sounds unbelievable, and THE PLANET had a hard time accepting it as well, but a careful run through the numbers convinces us that’s what this plan is doing.

Anywhere Else, and You End Up in Prison — The budget also appears to claim as expenses (outgoing funds) money the city will not have to spend. Try this type of move with the IRS, folks, and soon you will find yourself on a sunflower farm in Kansas. That’s the home of Leavenworth Prison.

The FY15 spending plan also takes the state’s gross figure of aid to Pittsfield (from the “cherry sheets) without taking into account the offsetting charges in the form of assessments. Cherry sheet figure minus state assessments produces “net aid,” which is the true amount the city is expected to receive from Boston. However, it doesn’t look like TES, TEHH, or Tex subtracted the money owed. Instead, they went with the gross figure. This slick maneuver puts a phantom $5 million into the city accounts that taxpayers will never see.

”Free’ Cash Isn’t Free — The idiotic Bianchi-Carmel-Behnke fiscal plan counts free cash as revenue, in other words, as money coming in! How utterly ridiculous. Free cash is the amount of money the city already has absconded from taxpayers. It’s the amount left over after the city paid all the bills. Instead of returning it to its rightful owners, the taxpayers, the city pockets this into a slush fund called free cash. That’s done in every municipal budget. What’s never been done, to THE PLANET’s knowledge, is to take that money already in-hand and call it anticipated revenue (income). It can’t come in. It’s already here.

Up, Up, and Away — The bottom line is that altough it may look like the figure has dropped from $150+ million to $148+ million to $141+ million, it hasn’t. Even at that, it would still be millions more than the FY14 budget. They mayor hasn’t cut a thing. He’s padded everything, and he’s trying to use razzle-dazzle of questionable legality to hide this fact. Ladies and gentlemen as well as business owners who don’t have political pull and haven’t been given non-profit status: Your tax bills are going to go up, not down. What’s the actual number of the budget? The best analysis of Bianchi’s clown-rodeo budget puts it at about $150 million.

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If the Pittsfield city council doesn’t do what North Adams did and cut some fat, THE PLANET will be issuing marching orders for payback. North Adams cut 19 positions, including 10 teachers? What will Pittsfield cut, except more from the taxpayers’ dwindling reserve of marked and discretionary income?

We know of some councilors who are ripped at this budget, and we’re not talking about The Unholy Trio, who of late seem to have been cowed into submission under the unrelenting whip hand of the council’s Madame President. No. The councilors to which we refer are from among the dreaded “others.” They hate what’s going on in this plan, one of them even wondering out loud to us if there are laws bring broken in the set of documents. Now whether or not they translate their discontent into action, that is another story.

Here’s are the grades thus far on this budget:

Bianchi — F

School Committee — F

Council — Incomplete.

We entertain no hopes but the hopeless kind, but, hey, at least it’s something.

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“Choo choo to Broadway foo Cincinnati. Don’t get icky with the one two three. Life is just so fine on the solid side of the line, rip.” — Opening to “Hold Tight,” The Andrew Sisters, (1942).

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

 

35 Responses to “EXCLUSIVE! PLANET EXPOSES FY15 BUDGET … COUNCIL WADES THROUGH ‘SWAMP BIANCHI,’ BUT ‘THE EMPTY SUIT’S’ BUDGET STILL DEFIES SENSE, LOGIC, or ‘RESPONSIBILITY’”

  1. dusty
    June 9, 2014 at 1:10 am #

    Dan, thank you and your numbers people for taking the time and energy to go over this budget. If it is this convoluted how could the councilors possibly digest it even if the mayor did allow them time? And is that the whole idea…to make is so ass backwards that even Barry could not decipher it?

    Is the gob anticipating a close vote and is that why NC has been made super eligible? And does the mayor have a couple of lucrative job openings for a cooperative and eligible budget voter? Just questions as you say.

    And is Mr Scanlon of the city’s auditing firm going to go along with this budget sleight of hand? Perhaps they checked with him first.

  2. nostrodumbass
    June 9, 2014 at 3:30 am #

    Dan,

    I got a big kick out of you using my comment on your show.
    Your show keeps getting better.

    This free cash is mind boggling. So they pass a super inflated budget, raising everyone’ s taxes every time. Then they set the tax rate even higher than what they actually need to run the city. The surplus generated belongs to the taxpayers. However, instead of returning this money to its rightful owners they outright steal it. Now they count this money as income to the city?

    By “they”, I am refering to the empty suit, the empty high heels, and the empty coup who occupy seats on the city council.

    Can you imagine that if every time you bought something, the store kept your change and counted on it as income? You would have them in court and the business shut down.

    A law should be passed to stop this outright theft of the people’s money.

    • nostrodumbass
      June 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      Dan,

      For some reason your General Valissimo skits have been censored / edited out of your youtube videos.

      Shame because we don’t get to see them.

      • danvalenti
        June 9, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

        As far as I can determine, The Generalissimo was not edited out or censored. There seems to have been a problem in the transference. We’re still looking for the glitch, if that’s what it was.

  3. Nota
    June 9, 2014 at 4:14 am #

    Excellent repertoire and insight Planet. One thing curious was a statement by TEEH. She made a statement that, Paraphrasing… The city could have had us pay higher rates but didn’t. Does this mean what I think it means?

  4. Tim Bartini
    June 9, 2014 at 5:03 am #

    The meeting I saw on Saturday lasted 8 1/2 hours .

  5. Spider
    June 9, 2014 at 5:58 am #

    Let’s face it…..Nick Caccamo’s timely resignation has a BIG story behind it. And boy, could I write it! Perhaps a “made for him” job waiting in the wings? I wonder what it Is?

    It’s amazing the lengths our corrupt administration will go to. I wonder what’s next?

    • Teecha teecha
      June 9, 2014 at 7:24 am #

      He resigned? Can someone fill me in

        • Truth Just Us & the American Way
          June 9, 2014 at 8:11 am #

          Watch what job he lands and backwards engineer it.
          You will see clearly the suits tactics.

        • Truth-Just Us & The American Way
          June 9, 2014 at 8:23 am #

          Watch what job he lands…..
          Then backwards engineer it.

          You will see very clearly how corrupt these basturds really are.

          Hopefully Dan will fully expose it here.

          • danvalenti
            June 9, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

            We shall “fully expose” anything that needs exposing that we uncover.

        • Teecha teecha
          June 9, 2014 at 9:27 am #

          Good ol I berkshires, doing the eagles job. How can he quit without a backup. Of course he’s officially a GOB and will get a cushy position. Sickening. He was useless at PHS

  6. amandaWell
    June 9, 2014 at 6:02 am #

    How many times is the administration going to redo a budget proposal because of insufficient information. On the Council pay, many elderly who have G E pension do not make half of what the council gets now, and give them a raise because they haven’t had one in years, so what? Not for any stipend for the School Commitee, only because LoFlop is for it. The P S C is bias for the budget as it is.

    • Wish I retired from GE
      June 9, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      Every GE retiree that I know is loaded !stock options ,matching payments into retirement funds. Mr. Valentis parents are in their 90s and I bet they live well off the GE pension !

      • danvalenti
        June 9, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

        They do live well, but it’s not because of any monetary considerations.

  7. B. Clairmont
    June 9, 2014 at 6:21 am #

    Dan,

    I proposed $3,315,000 of cuts on Saturday. $3,295,000 of those cuts passed. Kathy Amuso proposed $20,000 of a cut, it passed. We referred 3 budgets back to the Mayor.

    • Spider
      June 9, 2014 at 7:18 am #

      Barry: Did the council want the $3 million, although not specified, to be used for needed road work, since the budget called for only $1 million? If so, the budget wouldn’t be cut, but used for something else. (I am in favor or that).

      Also, Barry, any chance that someone on the council try to change the insurance from 85/15 to perhaps 80/20? Now there’s a savings!

      These $20,000 cuts here and there are only band-aids to make us taxpayers feel good…….doesn’t work!

    • Rafael
      June 9, 2014 at 7:39 am #

      Mr. Clairmont,
      It’s only a cut if it’s a reduction from the previous year’s budget. If it’s just a lower number from the proposed amount but still higher than last year’s, it’s called an adjustment, not a cut.

      • Wilson
        June 9, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

        And it sounds like it’s actually going to be more like deferring an additional increase

      • danvalenti
        June 9, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

        There is one way, and one way only, to say the budget has been cut: Is the final approved amount for FY15 less than (<) than the FY14 amount.

    • Dave
      June 9, 2014 at 11:29 am #

      Barry, can you be more specific? Which line items and how much for each?

  8. Nota
    June 9, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    The problem is basic. Adding costs after reducing, isn’t reducing. This budget is top heavy to begin with! SOMEONE ELSE SAID IT PERFECTLY. Ask for two, get one, when ONE is TWO much!

  9. Budget Control
    June 9, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    Why don’t we do this a whole new way.
    Why not have everyone turn over their paychecks, social security checks, welfare checks and food stamps to the city of Pittsfield?

    Then let the city issue an allowance to the people. Let the city decide what you will buy, what you can eat, what you will wear and where you can live. All of this can be tracked. What you do, where you go can be tracked in real time, every min of every day.

    Any shortfalls can be made up by making the citizens work for minimum wage.

    • danvalenti
      June 9, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

      Great ideas, BC, but with one modification. On your final point, let’s induce slave labor: Hard work with no pay, to help The Suits keep the gravy train going.

  10. Hurdygurdy Man
    June 9, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    There is far too much trickery with this budget. My father-in-law is an economist at one of the country’s best-known business schools.
    I e-mailed him DVs column and also the link to the city budget (on the councils website). His initial comment? And I quote…

    “Has this ‘confusion’ seriously been proposed? This has enough red flags to satisfy a hard-line communist. Any serious-minded public official who would get this type of bewildering presentation for a vote on up to $150 million would have as his or her best choice to send the budget back to the mayor, refuse to vote on it as is, and demand two things: clarification and reduction based on what seems to be a loss of services.”

    • Spider
      June 9, 2014 at 10:09 am #

      H. Man: You father-in-law’s compelling comment certainly says it all. Hopefully some of our council members will read it and take heed.

      • Linda
        June 9, 2014 at 11:30 am #

        Thats interesting, your father in law has phrased it well. Councilors please take notice.

    • danvalenti
      June 9, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

      Thanks for sharing this information. Please thank your father-in-law for us.

  11. Scott
    June 9, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Is it time to grab our pitch forks yet and march down to city hall?

    • Rafael
      June 9, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

      Good idea, except that this part time mayor would not be found there. The march would have to head towards Global Montello.

      • danvalenti
        June 9, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

        Knock three times if you really want to see him. Twice on the pipe — tink, tink — means the answer is no.

    • levitan
      June 9, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

      Yes. Call the time, I’ll be there. Then we go grab a brewski.

  12. Shakes His Head
    June 9, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    TES prolly doesn’t take care of his household budget either.