Archive for April, 2010

Another response received….

April 28, 2010

More than a week ago, a free offer of assistance was extended to the Board of Alderman for up to five hours per week to help troubleshoot issues. Two responses regarding this offer and outstanding questions have been received thus far. I very much appreciate Alderman Cicero B Booker Jr. and Alderman Anne Phelan for responding to my email requests, but I must admit that I continue to have questions.

For example, one question I had was related to pay increases; what was the percentage of employees that received pay increases that are performing below expectations vs. those employees that have performed at or above expectations.

I was shocked to be told that our collective bargaining agreements did not consider performance whatsoever as a decision factor related to pay increase. In short, this means an employees performance can be sub par yet still receive the same increase as City employees that are performing at or above expectations.

Upon learning this information, I was compelled to review these documents for myself. Although there are several different contracts, I reviewed two different agreements wage related information. The two agreements reviewed were:
• Waterbury City Employees Local 353 (Blue Collar)
• Waterbury City Employees Association ( WCEA / White Collar)

Both, guaranteed an employees increase year over year, regardless of performance. Both contracts were quite different in structure, but from what I can understand these increases ranged from 1.5 to 3.5%. For a full view of these, as well as the other contracts, please go to http://waterburyct.org/content/458/591/603/default.aspx

This type of guaranteed increase concerns me, especially in an environment when most private employers have stopped increases due to the strained financial environment we are all struggling with today.

Let me be VERY clear…
My main concern is focused on providing increases to any employee if/when they are not performing within or above acceptable expectations as outlined in their job descriptions.

Admittedly, I also struggle with why any increases are guaranteed in this type of economic environment. My understanding is that a greater part of the Waterbury citizens have either experienced “pay freezes” via their private employers or have faced unemployment. Is it logical to obligate these same citizens to contribute towards pay increases?

With that, I strongly encourage anyone who has similar concerns to post their comments to this blog. If you do not feel comfortable posting, please feel free to email your concerns to anneporter2010@hotmail.com. At your request, your comments will be posted confidentially.

A response received…

April 27, 2010

At the public hearing for the budget one city resident told the aldermen that she would be available to go through the budget line by line at a clip of 5 hours per week in an effort to decrease it.  While several attempts were made to contact the aldermen, emails published for them were of little use as most came back “undeliverable”.  New email addresses mysteriously appeared on the city website and to date only one aldermen has sent a response.  It is reprinted below:

It was a pleasure to hear your comments concerning the budget tax increase.  We the Independent Party Aldermen will go everything possible to not have a tax increase in this point in time.  You know as well as I that the people cannot afford to pay more taxes.  We need the visible support of the people in the City of Waterbury, then and only then I believe their voices will be heard and understood by the all the  Aldermen seated.  Please feel free to contact me.   e-mail cbbookerjr@snet.net

Cicero B Booker Jr, Alderman 

Minority Leader

Where do we stand now?

April 27, 2010

The aldermen by district proposal has been voted down and the budget is due in several weeks.  Where do we stand now?  Days have passed since the aldermen asked the department heads to find a 5% decrease in their spending, yet the watchdogs could not find anything in the paper or online stating what has happened.  Last week the aldermen asked for city employees to decrease or forego raises, but that was not a demand,  just a request.   That was over a week ago.  What happened?  What was the response?  Besides residents frustration growing little action seems to have taken place since the public hearing.  Lets hope the aldermen will not sit on their hands and wait for the deadline to approach.  If you have heard any news please post it on the blog.  Stay tuned.

April 27, 2010

Why I spoke up at the Board of Alderman meeting on 4/12/10….

Monday the 12th of April came and went, very much like any other day. Get up, let the dogs out, make the coffee, go to work, blah…blah…blah. But this day would not be ordinary. It would be very unique in comparison to my typical, scheduled life of working 60 or so hours a week, paying bills and trying to add in a shred of excitement from time to time into my otherwise dry as toast existence. The cause of this uniqueness was my plan to speak at the Waterbury Board of Alderman meeting later that evening.

Over the past few weeks I had been reading about the recommended new budget which includes a 2.8 mill tax increase. Having lived in Waterbury most of my life I had become desensitized to this type of news, but this particular increase had struck a nerve.

I can’t claim to admit why this nerve twitched upon learning of this increase, all I know is that it persisted and had no end. The agitator of this activity could have resulted from the fact that I have had a city of Waterbury employee tell me they would rather manage the lawsuits that resulted from falls caused by our poorly maintained sidewalks instead of fixing them. Or, maybe knowing that my neighbor had a city paid employee playing the role of a “Dowser” who tried to locate the source of their water woes with two sticks in hand. In this day and age; two sticks, really? These are just a couple of items that could have caused this reaction, but as I learned more and asked more questions my nerves reached a level of twitching that no human should have to endure.

I reached out to Mayor Jarjura’s office to discuss some of my concerns and was very appreciative to have been assisted by one of his aids, Steve Gambini. He not only listened to my concerns but he also emailed me a copy of the recommended budget for my review and suggested that I attend the Alderman’s meeting.

Time did not allow me to fully review each line of this 300 or so page document but the pages I did review only increased my questions and concerns around how our municipality functions.

Luckily, I was not alone in this journey. My neighbor (a.k.a. partner in crime) also wanted to attend the Alderman’s meeting to better understand what is going on; can anything be done, etc? This shared hunger for knowledge gave me the strength to speak up and ask the following questions of which I am anxiously awaiting response.
• Why does the cities refuse department pay their trash pick up employees for a full 8 hour day even though their route may only require 4 hours of effort? I personally could think of other things they could do to fill up the other time they are getting paid for.
• Help me to understand the Department of Education goals:
o Goal number one is focused on “improving student achievement, with emphasis on reading and math”. I applaud the desire to improve, but what is our current baseline? What percentage are we targeting to improve by? If the goal to improve is reached, how will we then compare to other public school systems in the surrounding areas?
o Goal number two. Maintain employee accountability. I can’t even comment about this specific goal in light of all the recent news related to the custodial issues at Kennedy.
o Goal number threes focus is to “provide a safe, clean healthy environment for all children”. I grew up within the Waterbury Public school system and my personal experience did not feel safe nor healthy. Additionally, the education I received was not worth the paper and ink used to create my diploma. I did, however, learn how to manage the multiple threats received from my fellow students throughout the day and the occasional fists that would accompany them.

I have not yet received a response to these questions, but I need to remain hopeful that that will change soon. I am also anxious to learn if my offer of up to five hours per week to assist in troubleshooting issues will be responded to.

So what’s next; not too sure? At the close of the Alderman meeting the recommendation was received by the group to request a 5% budget decrease from each of the cities departments. I have not yet received an update to this nor have seen any news articles regarding this in the Waterbury Republican so the next step will include follow up with the Mayor’s office and with the President of the Alderman.

At the end of the day, I cannot control how the city chooses to respond, but I can control how I react to it. I can speak up, offer my services and discuss these issues with others. At minimum, this can help others to be aware of what is going on within the city.

Interested?

Cheryl Calsetta

Dear Mr. Franco

April 24, 2010

Dear Mr. Franco,

Just a few quick thoughts regarding your Waterbury Republican editorial on the city refuse workers.  Call me crazy, but I imagine that when candidates apply for said job that the description might read: will need to work in inclement weather including snow, rain, and humid conditions.  It’s pretty clear that this is what they sign up for.  They also should have to empty the entire trash can and not leave a third of the trash at the bottom because they are too lazy to pour the whole can into the truck.  Having witnessed this first hand I know this is what goes on. 

How many times have you found your garbage can across the street or up by your neighbor’s house?  If we lose our trash can the city makes us pay for another one.  On several occasions I have found broken garbage and trash left in front of my curb.  Next time I’ll be happy to post pictures to show you the “great job” these city workers are doing.  Ms. Calsetta is correct in questioning everything that goes on in the city.  It’s all our dollars being misspent.

rebuttal to city refuse workers editorial

April 24, 2010

Cheryl Calsetta wrote on Apr 23, 2010 6:50 AM:

” In response to Richard’s Franco’s comment…
AGREED! THE CITY REFUSE WORKERS THAT MANGE MY ROUTE ARE AMAZING! Although I am not convinced you understood my question as my concern is NOT with their performance.

My question derives from a financial perspective focused on my understanding that they receive a full 8 hours of pay, when their route may only take them 5-6 hours to complete.

As such, I was looking to obtain answers to a couple of things:
1) Is this a true practice/policy?
2) If it is accurate, why? I work within the private sector and I can honestly tell you a private organization will not pay you for work that is not performed. Would you contract someone to work at your house for 40 hours, receive 20 hours of work but still pay for 40?
3) Also, if accurate, I believe there are other options for the City and the refuse workers. For example, are there alternate tasks they can do for the City to make their pay equal to the work they are doing? This would not only balance out pay vs. work performed, but it would give them the opportunity to pick up additional skills allowing them to possibly transfer into other roles within the City.

In closing, regardless of whether or not I agree with the answers I hope to receive from asking these questions but they are questions that need to be asked. “

city refuse workers editorial – 4/24/10

April 24, 2010

City refuse workers doing a great job

This is in response to Cheryl Calsetta’s comment to the Waterbury Board of Aldermen on April 12 saying refuse workers are paid for eight hours’ work even if they work less.

I understand her anger and frustration about the 2.8-mill property-tax increase. But let’s not pick on the refuse workers, who do a great job in snow, rain and humid weather, not counting the smell and dogs.

I believe Ms. Calsetta would agree they do a great job. There are other ways to get your point across.

Richard Franco

Waterbury

Who will bite the bullet? A response….

April 21, 2010

waterburywatchdogs wrote on Apr 21, 2010 5:49 PM:

” A 12% raise is an obscene amount in a year where the majority of the private sector has received a pink slip. For those lucky few who got raises they are most likely taking home 1%-2% and this will be what the future of raises looks like. No one is saying deserving individuals should not be granted pay increases. But not on the backs of tax payers in the worst economic downturn in recent history. Tax payers don’t have the money to fund 12% raises. That’s egregious. The alderman are under pressure to stop this tax increase and we hope this is the first of some hard-line cuts they are going to have to make. In regards to lay offs; as the “little guy” is let go who is going to pick up the slack. It would be wise for the workers at the top of the food chain to take cuts and keep the workload equal. The person who pockets more money while idly standing by as co-workers lose their jobs better be prepared to pick up the slack. It’s time for the aldermen to take the gloves off and stop this bleeder! “

Reprint of Waterbury Republican article by Penelope Overton: Who will bite the bullet?

April 21, 2010

Who will bite the bullet?
Waterbury aldermen ask department heads to forfeit raises, cut staff
BY PENELOPE OVERTON
REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

WATERBURY — The fiscal bloodletting has begun.

On Tuesday, during the first budget committee workshop of a difficult budget season, the Board of Aldermen started asking department heads across the city to forfeit raises and, if necessary, their staff.

“We have no pity this year, OK?” Alderman Frank A. Burgio Sr. told city Auditor James Berthelson after asking him to give up his raise. “People are struggling. It’s time for us to all come together.”

Aldermen are eager to find a way to cut, if not eliminate, a proposed 2.8-mil tax increase. For the average taxpayer, who owns a home assessed at $110,000, that is a $300 a year tax increase.

Berthelson was obviously flummoxed. He hemmed and hawed when Alderman Anne P. Phelan asked him repeatedly if he would give back a proposed $2,550 a year raise. He earns $84,975 a year now.

In the end, Berthelson offered to “unhappily” take a 2 ½ percent hike instead of a 3 percent hike. It was not the answer that [JUMP]the members of the budget committee wanted to hear.

Eight of the 10 department heads reporting before the committee on Tuesday had been slated for a raise in Mayor Michael J. Jarjura’s budget proposal this year. Two did not have a raise scheduled.

Of those eight, Berthelson and two others, registrars of voters Nancy Vitarelli and Patricia Mulhall, did not offer to give up their full raises. Both registrars told the committee to “do what you have to do.”

Most of the department heads offered to give up the raises as a kind of symbolic sign of faith with city workers, some of whom may be laid off, and taxpayers, who may face up to a 2.8-mill tax increase.

“Go ahead, take it,” said City Clerk Michael Dalton of a $6,300 raise. That would have increased his annual salary from $53,354 to $59,653, a total set by charter. “I gave mine back last year, too.”

Even the aldermen agreed to “share the pain.” The board agreed the aldermen should forgo $1,000 of their $4,000 annual stipend. The board president, Paul K. Pernerewski Jr., gave up $2,000 of a $6,000 stipend.

Mayor Michael J. Jarjura said he hadn’t decided whether he will give back $12,597 of his $119,306 annual salary. In past years, he returned it as a way of forgoing his raise but keeping his full salary in the budget.

Who are we and what do we stand for?

April 21, 2010

This is a call to the concerned citizens of Waterbury, CT.  Are you tired of standing by while the city government continues to award raises while another tax increase looms over our heads?  Have you suffered a disservice at the hands of a city employee?  Are you getting what you pay for in the form of taxes each year?

This blog is for you to tell your stories.  This blog is for those who are seeking to reach out to their neighbors and demand a call to action.  Don’t look the other way while the board of aldermen decides the new budget.  Have your voice heard.  If there is a voice in your head telling you that you can not fight city hall, stop listening.  We can fight city hall and hold them accountable for their decisions.  This blog is not influenced by political affiliation.  This blog is not influenced by Mayor Jarjura’s cronies.  This blog is a forum for open discussion. 

We can hold elected officials accountable if we come together.  This blog belongs to the citizens of Waterbury.  Now lets show Mayor Jarjura who we are.  This is a place for the taxpayer to have a voice.  Start using yours now!!