Only in West Haven
Only in West Haven does a sparring match over paying back a total of less than $8K make front-page news, while nine years of ignoring its own Comprehensive Energy Plan doesn’t even get a mention.
Maybe it’s the entertainment value we get from team sports that leads to this emphasis on conflict, but it’s short-sighted, and is a part of what has led to our being in the fix we’re in.
West Haven has not yet managed to implement the free benchmarking and tracking system for our energy use that has led to neighboring towns —and even our own Board of Ed— saving millions. Where is the sense in focusing on possibly (not at all clear) improper payments that amount to small potatoes, while ignoring the millions we might have saved since 2010? Fairfield saves $2.8 million/year as a result of its energy program.
Anybody want to think about how many millions we might have saved if we had pursued our own energy plan nine years ago? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for holding municipal officials accountable. But to focus on this small issue while ignoring the bigger ones is a travesty. My two cents.
Buy-back not right
Recently an issue came to the forefront concerning Mayor Rossi being paid for unused vacation days. This is contrary to a resolution of the City Council that was adopted on Monday, Nov. 26, 2007, mandating that elected officials do not receive vacation or sick time as a fringe benefit. Mayor Rossi was on the City Council at the time that resolution was passed. I too was an elected councilperson back then. I sat on this council, next to Councilman Rossi, for 10 years. During that time, I thought I heard all she had to offer on her selective fact-checking. Apparently, not so.
Mayor Rossi ran for the office of mayor on three occasions, knowing full well the hours entailed to fulfill the obligations of the office and how much the position paid. She now complains about the number of hours she works and the amount of money she is paid. All of her present complaints come after she admonished prior Mayors for making these same complaints.
Additionally, Mayor Rossi stated that she did not take advantage of the city health insurance benefits because she wanted to help the city but at the same time, she fails to mention that in lieu of not taking the insurance benefits she took a check for $4,000, as she has other medical insurance. She further claims that as a benefit to the city she utilizes her own vehicle for work, as opposed to driving the mayor’s vehicle. The city continues to own the vehicle, insures it, and she allows members of her administration to drive that vehicle on a fairly regular basis.
All of this comes at a time when residents are suffering the effects of cuts in city services, increasing property taxes, flat-funding for education, layoffs of city workers, and instituting a number of furlough days whereby City Hall is closed to the inconvenience of the residents and to the financial detriment of city employees.
The issue of Mayor Rossi cashing in unused vacation days requires strict review. First and foremost, as we know, elected officials do not receive vacation benefits and they are not required to punch a time clock. They can take time away from their office at their convenience while at the same time receiving full pay. This is a fringe benefit of being an elected official. The mayor and other elected officials receive a weekly paycheck whether they work 10 hours or 50 hours. I am aware of no other elected officials, such as the City Clerk or Tax Collector, that have cashed in vacation days.
Certainly, there are times when a mayor will work beyond a 40-hour week, which is expected. It is for this reason that a set schedule is not required and that time out of the office may be reasonably commensurate with that. Elected officials receive full pay each week without regard to the number of hours worked.
I have repeatedly asked for the mayor’s personal calendar to validate how many days she has taken off to date. She ran on a pledge of transparency but she has not responded to my repeated requests.
Mayor Rossi, and former Mayor O’Brien should immediately reimburse the city the amount each of them received for selling back vacation days as taxpayers should not bear this burden. Mayor Rossi blames former Mayor O’Brien for everything that is wrong with West Haven, but when it comes to paying herself, she is in complete agreement with him.
Councilman 8th District
It is both necessary and important to respond to former mayor Ed O’Brien’s claim that he and his team were responsible for the recent $3.1 million surplus; it is simply not true.
Here are the facts:
~~ Ed O’Brien inherited a $2.7 million budget surplus when he took office in 2013
~~ Ed O’Brien never balanced a budget as mayor
~~ Ed O’Brien was responsible for operating deficits totaling more than $10 million
~~ Ed O’Brien’s proposed 2014 debt restructuring was rejected by the City Council of West Haven because it would have cost West Haven taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars in interest
When I took office in December 2017 – five months into fiscal year 2018, the City of West Haven was projecting yet another $2 million deficit in addition to the $8 million shortfall in revenue that Ed O’Brien built into the budget even after he was told the $8 million dollars was not going to materialize. My team and I took immediate and decisive action, making many tough and unpopular, but necessary, decisions to stabilize the city’s finances.
We eliminated programs and positions, implemented a freeze on hiring and non-essential overtime, negotiated furlough days, reduced hours of some positions, and canceled events.
We also undertook an aggressive audit of personal property to increase tax revenue and worked to move stalled economic projects forward. That is why the City of West Haven ended fiscal year 2018 with a surplus.
Here are two more facts:
~~ The City of West Haven is projecting a budget surplus in fiscal year 2019;
~~ The City of West Haven has a positive fund balance (rainy day fund) for the first time in over a decade
The work is by no means complete but we are on the right path and the future is looking brighter for West Haven.