Town of Berlin, Connecticut’s Annual Budget and Democratic Process

I wish to thank the members on the Town Council for devoting their time serving on Council and particularly their time working on the annual budget.  We have a very distinguished body representing us Citizens in Berlin in terms of credentials, education, ethics, and civic mindedness.  We have attorneys, management from Corporate America, and small business entrepreneurs.  You are indeed the best of Berlin.

I have questions about the annual budget and its process.

1)      Why are raises being given to virtually all, already well compensated public employees:

a)      When Berlin citizens in the private sector are desperately trying to hold onto their jobs at Sikorsky, CL&P, and elsewhere?

b)      When a number of Berlin citizens have been desperately seeking jobs since 2008?

c)      When your Berlin neighbors are having great difficulty paying their mortgages, utilities, sewer and water bills, insurance, grocery bills, and taxes?

d)     When over 30% of all mortgages of Berlin residents remain underwater?

e)      When so many here in Berlin and elsewhere desire these municipal jobs at their current compensation along with their job security, great benefits, ideal working conditions and hours?

f)       When it will increase taxes, hurt local small businesses that create 80% of our jobs, and that are unable to obtain commercial bank loans.

g)       After just passing tax sales to make it easier to put Berlin families out into the streets?

h)      Why are we replacing police officers when government freezes exist at state and federal levels and when we have approximately 50 employees in the police department here in our Town of Mayberry?

i)        Why are we giving raises to school administrators and teachers when it will not benefit our students, and when we already pay our school admins six-digit salaries and teachers a median salary of nearly $80,000?

2)      Perhaps the answer lies outside the budget.  Please consider the following:

a)      Why are we assured the Town Council will work together and reach across the aisle, but on the bread and butter issues, wallet and pocketbook issues, continues “voting in seeming lockstep”along strict party lines?  4 Democrats to 3 Republicans on tax sales; 4 Democrats to 3 Republicans on this budget. Doesn’t working together and reaching across the aisle mean more than being civil to one another?  Does it not mean not voting along strict party lines?

b)      Why is there this voting in seeming lockstep to party when 5,000 unaffiliated voters outnumber 4,000 Democrats or 3,000 Republicans.  Is this why many of us unaffiliated voters feel disenfranchised?

c)      If everything is to be determined by the majority party, why bother with Town council meetings at all?  Just have one party make all the decisions. Why insult the intelligence of voters with a pretense of a democratic process?

d)     I look at the School Board responsible for 60 to 65% of the budget, and ask why has it been reported the members of the Board of Education have been “voting in seeming lockstep” 9 to 0 on major issues?  Why is the Board President targeting citizens 10 months before elections to serve on the BOE?  Could this account for all of these 9 to 0 votes?

e)      Why are as many as 75 coaches, not wussy by temperament, fearful of reprisals?

f)       Why do citizens attending a Board of Education meeting not feel at ease to speak up?

g)      Why do eight board members go into executive session rather than discuss openly the issue of concern?  Is this transparency in government?

h)      Why is attendance at Town Council meetings so poor?  Could it be that we all know the results beforehand and our voices do not matter?

i)        Why are referendums ignored or dismissed?

3)      Is not the real issue tonight bigger than an annual budget? Does it not include our entire democratic process?

a)      If we are to fix our National government, when only 15% of Americans approve of Congress, does not change have to begin here tonight in the Town Square?  Wasn’t the Town Square the cradle of our democracy?

b)      If we are to repeal Citizens United, close Gitamino, stop the NSA from wiretapping and eavesdropping, stop drones killing innocent civilians, stop endless wars, reinstate Glass-Steagall, prevent PIPA and SOPA from infringing upon freedom of speech on the internet, overturn the NDAA violating habeas corpus, stop Fastrac from being negotiated behind closed doors to outsource 40 million more jobs overseas, does not the change have to start here tonight in the Town Square?

4)      This budget is not merely a financial report.  It represents a lot more.  It’s a social contract involving the lives of all Berlin Citizens.  It’s a testament to our values.

5)      I am here tonight not to ask you to perform a miracle involving 2 fishes and 7 loaves.  Rather I am asking you to be at your very best tonight as good citizens and to consider your neighbors’ well-being. I ask you tonight to pause and reconsider all of the ramifications of this budget, vote your conscience, and help restore our faith in the democratic process.  I intended no disrespect to any of you by expressing my feelings tonight.  I thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak.


About William Brighenti

William Brighenti is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified Business Valuation Analyst. Bill began his career in public accounting in 1979. Since then he has worked at various public accounting firms throughout Connecticut. Bill received a Master of Science in Professional Accounting degree from the University of Hartford, after attending the University of Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University for his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. He subsequently attended Purdue University for doctoral studies in Accounting and Quantitative Methods in Business. Bill has instructed graduate and undergraduate courses in Accounting, Auditing, and other subjects at the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Hartford State Technical College, and Purdue University. He also taught GMAT and CPA Exam Review Classes at the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center and at Person-Wolinsky, and is certified to teach trade-related subjects at Connecticut Vocational Technical Schools. His articles on tax and accounting have been published in several professional journals throughout the country as well as on several accounting websites. William was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, and served on the City's Board of Finance and Taxation as well as its City Plan Commission. In addition to the blog, Accounting and Taxes Simplified, Bill writes a blog, "The Barefoot Accountant", for the Accounting Web, a Sift Media publication.
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