The first half of this very contentious year highlighted two distinctly different philosophies among Meriden City Councilors. Fortunately, our strong City Council Minority group has been vigilant in ensuring that checks and balances are kept in place.
As usual, we started off the year with the budget process...
One focus was the implementation of recent property re-evaluations and the desire of the City Manager to increase spending on police, fire and pensions. Police and fire increases were intended to fund more personnel and reduce overtime, and therefore - in theory - pay for itself.
However, the overtime culture that exists throughout many public departments is difficult to contain; there are always excuses for overtime, no matter what is done. We - particularly the Minority group - will monitor with regular reports from the City Manager.
Furthermore, catching up with the under funded pension is becoming been an expensive, ongoing process. But with new hires not eligible for the standard pension and being enrolled in a 401K, we should see pension costs go down.
The Minority group (Republican and WTP representatives) made efforts to reduce the budget with a series of amendments, but unsurprisingly the Democrats voted down the party line, squashing our attempts to cut costs for the taxpayer. The single amendment that was passed resulted in an $180,000 reduction in borrowing.
There is a serious difference of opinion between the Majority and Minority when it comes to the definition of "necessity." The term was brought up on several occasions throughout the year for various expenditures, but we clearly still have a difficult time with needs versus wants.
The high school renovation project has been a never-ending saga. Of the many decisions, one part of the project was the most frustrating. A virtually-exclusive labor union job site agreement under the name 'Project Labor Agreement (PLA)' will result in additional taxpayer cost. By limiting the amount of eligible bidders, and therefore competition, we've driven up the cost.
This vote contained all the trappings of classic politics - big money, special interests, deception, party leader influence and a congressional campaign promoting the 'benefits' of PLA.
It was a difficult and gloomy day for the public with the aforementioned issues to contend with, and cost not a concern. After hours of debate the City Council vote resulted in a rare and historic 6-6 split and the mayor was required to cast the deciding vote. He did, predictably in favor of the union agreement.
So those were the biggest and costliest issues this year, alongside many small issues. I am proud to continue to look out for taxpayers and genuinely treat their money as I would my own using a common sense, and soundly balanced approach to move Meriden forward in the most efficient manner.
Meriden City Council
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