Quantcast

Arbitration panel report details Norwalk’s travails

The value of this building at 535 Connecticut Ave. in Norwalk, next to PetSmart, has dropped precipitously, according to a city document.

NORWALK, Conn. – The challenges Norwalk officials face in making ends meet in this “wealthy grand list community” are laid out step by step in a report prepared by Attorney Thomas Mooney last summer.

While leaders of the state legislature’s Education Committee cited Norwalk’s grand list as the reason for reversing the proposed change to the Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula, Mooney’s 68-page report to an arbitration panel spells out real estate values that are out of whack with local incomes. Real estate values have also declined significantly since 2008, meaning less revenue for the city, the report states, adding that it is fortunate that property revaluation is done every five years and the ax hasn’t dropped yet.

This is all spelled out on pages 8 to 13 of the report you can find here, a report that is often referred to by NancyOnNorwalk reader and frequent comment/letter writer  Peter Berman.

The report states:

• Norwalk’s proximity to New York City, in wealthy Fairfield County, makes the housing prices out of whack: While the median price of owning a home is 32 percent higher than the state average, the median household income in Norwalk is only 6 percent higher than the state average. (Page 10)

• “Norwalk’s relatively high property values, however, have little to do with the ability of  its taxpayers to pay higher taxes, as demonstrated by its low ranking in median household income as well as dramatic losses in median household income statewide,” the report states. (Page 11)

• “Even when Norwalk is compared with wealthier towns with far less poverty, Norwalk’s ECS aid is still a fraction of the amount these communities receive on a per capita or per student basis.” (Page 11, under a chart that supports that statement.)

• Taxpayers therefore pay a disproportionate share of educational costs, compared to similar communities. “A full 93 percent of Norwalk’s education budget is funded from local Norwalk taxpayers, while other District Reference Groups (DRG) H communities contribute, on average, 74 percent of the cost of education in their relative communities.” It adds that the 74 percent figure is skewed by Norwalk and Stamford, as three DRG H communities contribute less than 50 percent of the educational cost through taxes. (Page 12)

• Home values declined 11.7 percent between June 2011 and June 2012, according to Zillow, the report states. That was the worst in Fairfield County, and the 13th worst out of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities, it states. Commercial property values have also declined. The property at 535 Connecticut Ave. sold for $25.6 million in 2006, and $11 million in January 2012, the report states. (Page 12)

• In fiscal year 2005-2006 the city collected more than $6.5 million in property taxes. Collections in 2011 were $2.2 million. “The city has lost 18 percent in annual taxes due to assessment losses after tax appeals between 2011 and 2012,” the report states. Town clerk recording fees dropped 49 percent between 2006 and 2012, the report states. Interest income dropped 81 percent between 2007 and 2012, the report states. Intergovernmental revenues were 15 percent of total city revenues in 1991 but only 5.6 percent in 2012, the report states.

• Although the equalized mill rate has been historically high, the city has been forced to raise property taxes for the reasons outlined above, the report states. (Page 13)

The report goes on to describe the problem of increasing pension contributions, expected to go up $8.1 million in the next (then five) years, and detail the recent history of BOE budgets as it begins to make its pitch to the arbitration panel to change the Norwalk Federation of Teachers (NFT) contract.

It’s a “perfect storm of challenges,” Mooney states on page 57.

The panel went on to award a hard wage freeze in the first year of the contract, 2013-2014. There will be a general wage increase the following year, and a reopener of wages and longevity in the third year of the contract.

The decision and award states in its conclusion, on pages 28 and 29, “It is clear that Norwalk’s salary structure, with its ups and downs, is quite unusual and has not evolved over time in a particularly rational manner … The Panel suggests that the dysfunctional nature of the current salary structure, and longevity benefits, the generosity of which is unprecedented in the state, are worthy subjects of negotiations in the reopener.”

Comments

8 responses to “Arbitration panel report details Norwalk’s travails”

  1. Bruce Kimmel

    Nancy, thank you for researching and writing this article.
    .
    The focus of the arbitration report was, as most commentators except for one, have stated: 1. the fiscal condition of the city and thus our need for the hard freeze, and 2. the absurd salary structure of the NFT contract, which in fact encourages teachers to remain in the system for as long as possible, thereby enhancing the “average” salaries of Norwalk teachers.
    .
    The award also focused on the negative impact on taxpayers of the ECS formula, which is still a major problem. But that is an old story and it seems that neither Democratic or Republican Norwalk mayors have been able to convince the state legislature to truly change the formula to better reflect the impact of median income.

  2. Tim T

    Its a shame the administration doesn’t work the same way taxpayers do. When our income drops we lower our spending. On the other hand the tax and spend Republican Moccia administration doesn’t adjust spending they raise taxes. We have millions being wasted on police overtime at dirt jobs and many many 500 per day consultants at the board of ED. We also have a 4 percent Moccia tax increase. GO FIGURE…

  3. M. Murray

    Actually the police overtime at dirtjobs are a revenue maker for the city as they collect a 12% fee for every dollar the companies pay the officers

  4. Tim T

    M Murray
    That is not true and you know it. This has been rehashed many many times. That is the lie the police department, police union and the administration is shoveling to the taxpayers. Each and every penny of the 65 per hours is figured into the contract/bid for the job. The taxpayer then pays for the construction contract with the cost of the cops . If it were flagmen vs cop it would be a saving of 50 per hour(flagment15.00 per hour vs cops 65.00 per hour). Plus the extra fleet of cars for dirt job,plus the gas, plus the wear and tear on the cars. Now do you understand?

  5. Tim T

    M Murray
    I forgot to add one thing.
    That 12 percent administration fee that you brag about doesn’t even pay the the running car for an 8 to 12 hour shift at 4.00 plus per gallon for gas.. I would bet the A/C is on full blast also as I don’t think the cop is sitting in the car with the windows up playing on their I-Phone without the A/C on.
    Another cost involved in the cash cow for the cops is of course the clerical cost for the program. I wonder who administers this and what they are being paid??

  6. Peter I Berman

    Mr Kimmel still refuses to accept the importance of Norwalk’s 5th highest ranking school teacher salaries in the Arbitration Panel’s Report. That’s understandable from a reported NYCity union school teacher. The facts available to any objective reader of the Panel’s report, Tom Hamilton’s report and attorney Mooney’s brief was that Norwalk’s teachers contract has long been far too rich for Norwalk’s incomes. Mr Kimmel fails to recognize that basic fact. Not surprising because he see’s the 4% tax hike as “reasonable”. Norwalk needs new Council members who understand basic finance, are committed to fiscal reform and accept the fact that Norwalk’s school teachers are substantially overpaid as a group relative to the City’s incomes. Council members need focus on City needs not those of a special interest group. Long past time for Mr Kimmel to write those magic words – 5th highest salaries in the state. That’s the problem Mr Kimmel and it will not be removed with obfuscation and rhetoric.

  7. M. Murray

    The clerical employee is fully funde within the 12% collected. The cost of police that you state is included in the contract is the same whether the company uses a flag man or a police officer. When the companies use a flag man, they pocket the extra savings. Ask Wilton or Westport how that works. Companies charge road protection regardless who they use. It has been looked at several times and it always comes out that the City “earns” more than it costs them in expenses. Several years ago, the City wanted to charge an additional fee if vehicles were used at the locations, claiming the City was losing money. An audit was done and was determined that the City was earning more than expected and the vehicle fee was dropped. An additional benefit is that the additional visible police officers are on te streets at no cost to the city. They are available in case of emergencies and have documented incidents were these extra job officers responded to crimes in progress and made arrests. If it weren’t for these jobs, officers would be like many others who have second jobs or careers which woul make them less available to the community. They would also have to work even more hours at their second jobs to equal their earnings.

  8. Tim T

    M. Murray
    You post is simply factually incorrect
    You state
    “The cost of police that you state is included in the contract is the same whether the company uses a flag man or a police officer”.

    The fact is that the bids/contracts are figured dollar for dollar. If it is a flagman it is figured at approximately $15.00 per hour and if it is a cop it is figured at the insane rate of $65.00 per hour.

    You state
    “When the companies use a flag man, they pocket the extra savings”.
    “Companies charge road protection regardless who they use.”

    The fact is there is no savings to the contractors as I stated above. The cost is figured dollar for dollar depending on who is used flagmen vs. police.

    You state
    “It has been looked at several times and it always comes out that the City “earns” more than it costs them in expenses”.

    Once again that is factually incorrect
    Here are 2 great article explains the abuse of Norwalk Police overtime.
    http://norwalk.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/police-overtime-and-side-jobs
    http://norwalk.dailyvoice.com/opinion/letter-norwalk-police-union-motivated-overtime#
    If you have some type of study that shows otherwise please provide it as I and it seems most in Norwalk haven’t seen it.

    You State
    “The City wanted to charge an additional fee if vehicles were used at the locations, claiming the City was losing money. An audit was done and was determined that the City was earning more than expected and the vehicle fee was dropped”

    That makes no sense at all. . When have you or anyone ever know the city, state, or fed out of goodness of their heart to not charge a fee.
    I don’t know about you but a 12 percent fee does not cover gas, an extra fleet of cars for dirt jobs , insurance on those cars, wear and tear on the cars and the clerical employee.. If you can figure how to do that with 12 percent I would suggest you work in Washington as you could clear the national debt in a matter of weeks.

    You state
    They are available in case of emergencies and have documented incidents were these extra job officers responded to crimes in progress and made arrests.
    Once again simply not worth the cost.. Here is a link to a study that proves this.
    http://michaelcorey.ntirety.com/blog/tabid/51101/bid/6304/Governor-Deval-Patrick-Curbs-Police-Details-Pros-and-Cons.aspx

    With that said I do gave a solution to get extra cops on the streets. The way I figure with looking at the published salaries of cop’s overtime vs. actual salary and the cost of flagmen vs. cops the saving for using flagmen would be about 4 million per year.
    With 4 million per year and figuring the base salary for an officer with benefits at about one hundred thousand per year. We could get 40 additional officers on the street if we got rid of the cash cow of dirt jobs.

    You state
    “They would also have to work even more hours at their second jobs to equal their earnings”.

    The big difference is it would not be coming out of the taxpayer pockets.

Leave a Reply


Recent Comments