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Martha Mark: Town Spent More Under Herbst Admin

Left, Democrat Martha Mark; Right First Selectman Tim Herbst
Left, Democrat Martha Mark; Right First Selectman Tim Herbst

This is the second article in a series based on statements by Trumbull First Selectman Candidate Martha Jankovic-Mark and First Selectman Tim Herbst.

Republican First Selectman Tim Herbst has increased spending over the last four years, according to his challenger, Martha Jankovic-Mark.

“Overall town spending under Herbst has also soared, with an aggregated four-year spending increase of nearly $20 million, or 13 percent, on a total budget of $160 million. Non-education spending has increased even more, at a rate of more than 17 percent,” Mark said recently.

Herbst replied that, "The taxpayers of Trumbull do not need a first selectman who will be deceitful for political gain. That is exactly how Mrs. Mark and the Trumbull Democratic Party have chosen to begin this campaign. 

"If Mrs. Mark has a problem with town spending, she should talk to the leaders of her party that have a 5-2 Democratic majority on the Board of Education.  The Board of Education represents two thirds of the Town total budget and Democrats on the Board of Education have voted to increase their budget by more than 10% in a two-year period," the first selectman said. 

The non-education spending increase is also associated with the Board of Education, Herbst added. "In this year’s budget, Town departments saw an increase of 1.9 percent.  The Board of Education saw an increase of 2.74 percent," he said. 

He also cited an 8.58 percent increase in workers' compensation and liability insurance, a plan that also covers the Board of Education, and an increase in funding the town's pension plans.

"Over the last four years, pension contributions (which include Board of Education non-certified employees) saw an increase of 91.63 percent," Herbst said, adding that the pension fund was in "bad shape" when he took office. The town contribution has increased from $3.3 million to $6.3 million, saving the town's bond rating, according to Herbst.

Town debt service has also increased by 17.84 percent, including interest on the Trumbull High School renovation and sewer projects, Herbst said.

“Tim Herbst talks a good game on fiscal management, but his record doesn’t match the results,” Jankovic-Mark said. “On the contrary, he appears not to have control of the town government, instead letting spending increases and special interests roll forward unchecked.”

Jim Flynn August 09, 2013 at 09:06 PM
As I understand it, it is the Board of Finance that determines how much money is going to be spent on education. The BOF is a solidly Republican body. The BOE just determines how to spend the funds allocated to it by your BOF. So Mr. Herbst, to blame the BOE for the spending increase is disingenuous at best and a downright falsehood at the worst. Second, looking at the town side of the budget, as one item, did you really need to have your office redone when many of us in Trumbull are struggling just to meet our mortgage and tax commitments.
Tom Kelly August 09, 2013 at 11:06 PM
Jim, it's actually the Town Council, which has a 14-7 Republican majority that decides how much money will be allocated to education. Tim Herbst knows this, but he's trying to deceive the voters into thinking the Board of Education has any ability to allocate taxpayer funds. The Town Council decides how much education will get. The Board of Ed decides how that money will be spent. That's how it works in every community in Connecticut. Another thing that Mr. Herbst fails to inform the voters is that he did not keep his campaign promise to devote 25% of any surplus to the pension funds. While he's increased the amount budgeted for the pension, the actuarial recommended contributions also went up, and most importantly, Mr. Herbst doesn't acknowledge to Trumbull voters that in the last official measurement of the pension funds in 2012, the unfunded liability percentage went UP from where it was in 2008. Yes, that means the percentage of unfunded liability is worse under Mr. Herbst. It's all in the report compiled by the Pension administrators.
TrumbullSr August 10, 2013 at 08:22 AM
"Deceitful for political gain"? Talk about hyprocricy! The pot calling the kettle black with a personal attack thrown it.
Kristy Waizenegger August 10, 2013 at 09:40 AM
Just to clarify Mr. Kelly's remark, the Town Council approves a total dollar amount that will be allocated for education but neither the BoF nor the Town Council can tell them how to spend it. In other words, the BOE proposes a budget with money allocated to various accounts and as soon as the budget amount is approved, they are free to move the money around to other accounts as they wish. For example, money allocated for building maintenance during the budget process, can simply be moved to another account and used on other things after the budget is approved. In other words, the BOE absolutely has the ability to "allocate" those funds as they wish with no need to ask for approval from any other board and with no obligation to be transparent. This is not a judgment or an indictment of anything or anybody, just a fact.
Tom Kelly August 10, 2013 at 09:48 AM
Kristy, I agree with your summary except for one thing--the BOE has a responsibility to be transparent, and indeed, every budget transfer over $10,000 is voted upon by the Full Board. The Trumbull BOE is very transparent. Some folks might not agree with the decisions, but everything is done out in the open at meetings. I have been on the Democratic side for over a year, and the Democrats on the BOE have never even caucused together, not even once.
Trumbull Gal August 10, 2013 at 04:38 PM
One should also analyze the budgets of certain town departments that have seen huge increases during Herbst's tenure (including title changes). This in itself would not be such a bad thing ...except that these same departments issued many RFP's for outside services, as the people hired by Herbst were not capable of performing these (basic and expected) tasks!
Tom Kelly August 11, 2013 at 08:18 AM
I wish we could all stipulate to a set of facts regarding the budget, and then everyone could just talk about what they would plan to do in the future, but unfortunately that's not going to happen. I urge town voters to continue to look at facts and data. For example, Mr. Herbst talks about an average tax increase of 1.88%. Well, it all depends on how "average" is defined. Most taxpayers experienced various results regarding the revaluation. Some homeowners, particularly those who live in the Canoe Brook Lake area, saw their assessments GO UP. There was also a big difference between smaller homes and larger homes across the town. Car taxes, which are not impacted by revaluation, have gone up 25% in the past two years. Sewer use rates have just increased a staggering 34%, and have increased 36.4% since October 2012. If we look at the total out-of-pocket costs for these things, most Trumbull residents are paying a lot more, so that 1.88% thing rings hollow to me.
Jim Lang August 11, 2013 at 08:46 AM
It would be helpful to voters is Martha Mark would post her revised budget proposal showing her complete budget and the proposed savings in each category. Just attacking the Herbst spending is not helpful unless she can present a positive proposal.
Thomas Tesoro August 11, 2013 at 10:36 PM
In spite of administration's attempt at deflection, the Board of Education cannot spend a cent that is not allocated to it by the ultimate authority, the Town Council. The Town Council has been a 14 to 7 body in complete control of the Republicans for 4 years. Further, the Council almost always follows the dictates of the First Selectman, particularly with regard to the budget. Don't believe me, look it up. Also the administration is either confused or deliberately misleading the readers when it speaks of how the BOE voted for 10% increase in spending. The BOE has a dual role, the first to put forward a budget they feel they need to move the school system forward and second to spend the money allocated to it by the FS, BOF and ultimately the Town Council. The BOE puts forward their budget and defends its proposals before the FS, the BOF and the Town Council. It is up to the FS, BOF and TC to tell the BOE what the Town can afford. At that point, the BOE spends only what is allocated to it and by law sets the priorities for that spending. At no time in the past 4 years has the BOF spent one cent more than allocated by the administration. Not one cent. To blame the BOE for Republican approved spending makes no sense whatsoever and flies in the face of reality.

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