“Our city’s economy is growing and getting stronger by the day. And, as the chief executive of our city, it’s my job to think about the long run, and make sure our city becomes a place where our kids and grandkids will choose to live, work, and raise their families, too. That’s why I’ve been working hard to boost confidence in our city. I’m proud to say that we’re on the right track and our city is on the way up. Bridgeport is getting better every day. This budget is reflective of that.” – Mayor Finch
BRIDGEPORT, CONN. (APRIL 7, 2015) – Today, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch delivered his 2015-16 Budget to the City Council.
Highlights of the budget include no tax increase, no layoffs, an increase in spending on education, and smart investments in the future that will help spur job creation.
“Our city’s economy is growing and getting stronger by the day,” said Mayor Finch. “And, as the chief executive of our city, it’s my job to think about the long run, and make sure our city becomes a place where our kids and grandkids will choose to live, work, and raise their families, too. That’s why I’ve been working hard to boost confidence in our city. I’m proud to say that we’re on the right track and our city is on the way up. Bridgeport is getting better every day. This budget is reflective of that.”
STRONG WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT AND SMART FINANCIAL PLANNING
Upon taking office in 2007, Mayor Finch inherited an $18 million budget deficit, according to Bond Buyer. Since then, he’s made smart decisions as the city’s chief executive to right the fiscal ship and put Bridgeport on a path toward future prosperity.
He’s done this by making smart workforce and service management decisions, which included removing 190 jobs from government payroll during his tenure, using technology and efficiency measures to close the gap and working closely with the private sector to grow jobs at businesses across the city.
And, he’s reduced the city’s reliance on temporary borrowing. Normally needed for cash flow purposes, the city anticipates only one round borrowing in the 2015-15 fiscal year that is necessary for cash flow needs. These fiscally responsible actions have been validated by Moody’s Investors Service who improved its outlook for Bridgeport to stable last year.
"They continue to record operating surpluses and they're reduced their reliance in cash-flow borrowing," said the city's financial advisor, Public Financial Management Inc. senior managing consultant William Fazioli.
CREATING JOBS AND GROWING BRIDGEPORT’S ECONOMY
Investors and job creators are also taking notice of the positive direction our city is taking. As a result, our city’s Grand List has once again grown this year.
"I think there is economic development like we have not seen in over 20 to 25 years in Bridgeport," said Ken Scala, owner of Century 21 Scala Group in Bridgeport during a recent interview with the Connecticut Post. "We're hearing from investors and they want in."
Several key economic development projects are currently underway across the city that will help bolster job creation across the city, including:
- Steelpointe Harbor: After decades of broken promises, construction at Steel Point is finally happening. Once complete, Steelpointe Harbor will serve as a 2 million square foot regional waterfront destination that is adjacent to I-95 and within walking distance to the Metro-North train. Spanning 82 acres, it will feature more than 750,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and entertainment, a 12-screen premium theater, two hotels, 1,100 mid-and-high rise residential units, 30,000 square feet of office and a 200-slip full service deep water marina. It will create thousands of jobs and add millions to the city tax rolls annually.
- Improving downtown: It’s home to hundreds of new apartments, several new businesses, and a wealth of companies that are choosing to move back to the heart of our city. Fletcher-Thompson, an architecture firm that was founded in Bridgeport more than one-hundred years ago, sadly left in 2002. But after seeing the progress being made in the city, Fletcher-Thompson decided to come back, bringing with it 60 new jobs. And, Downtown North will soon to be home to hundreds of new apartments, all within walking distance of a train station, and the premiere sports and entertainment venues – Webster Bank Arena and Harboryard Stadium – in Fairfield County.
- East Bridgeport Development Corridor: The cornerstone of this revitalization project is Barnum Station, which will serve as our city's second Metro-North stop. Barnum Station will be a catalyst for economic development in East Bridgeport, spurring job creation at Bridgeport Hospital and throughout the whole neighborhood.
- Eco-Technology Park: A more sustainable future starts with job creation. That’s why Mayor Finch set out to develop the Eco-Technology Park in Bridgeport’s long-neglected West Side. It’s all about encouraging green businesses to come here, thrive here, grow here, and most importantly, put more and more Bridgeporters to work here. The Eco-Technology Park is now home to dozens of green businesses, such as Tri-State Biodiesel, which is under construction in this, our state’s largest city, adding even more green jobs. Bridgeport’s efforts at the Eco-Technology Park have resulted in hundreds of new jobs, and more than $10 million in annual personal income. And, like so many other projects, it’s growing and getting better every day.
PREPARING KIDS FOR THE JOBS OF TOMORROW
“In this budget, I am making an additional $3.8 million available to Superintendent Rabinowitz and the Board of Education because I am committed to preparing Bridgeport kids to compete for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Mayor Finch.
When it comes to early childhood education, the research is clear: If kids aren't reading at the level they should be by third grade, they're less likely to graduate from high school.
Over the past year, Bridgeport has added more than 360 new pre-K seats in Bridgeport. That's more than any other city in Connecticut.
With these new seats, we're giving more than 3,800 Bridgeport kids a fair shot at a better future. And, there's more to come.
Soon, Bridgeport will become the first city in Connecticut to offer universal pre-k.
In this budget, we are investing towards Universal Pre-K.
NEW AND IMPROVED PARKS FOR A BETTER BRIDGEPORT
We are also committed to living up to our name as the Park City.
In the Park City, our 46 parks total nearly 1,356 acres. Research clearly shows that properties located close to parkland have a higher value. According to a study by Fairfield University, residential properties within a 10th of a mile from a park in Bridgeport have an 8 percent higher value on average than properties in the next 10th of a mile away. And, commercial properties showed an 11 percent increase compared to the second 10th of a mile away.
That’s why we’re renovating old and opening new parks across the city. We re-opened Pleasure Beach for the first time in nearly two decades and 25,000 people visited the barrier island last year. In addition to our investments in Pleasure Beach –and all of our existing parks – we're building new parks across the Park City.
One of these is Knowlton Park, which sits where the Acme Shear Company used to be, and was long in need of regeneration. We also have a new beautiful new park on Virginia Avenue called Nob Hill Park. And, there have been Improvements at sixteen different parks with multiple districts receiving new basketball courts, splash pads, playscapes, and baseball and soccer fields, giving our kids and grandkids safe places to play.
We’ve also added handicap access at parks across the city, including Beardsley Park and Puglio Park.
The new park serves as a catalyst for a nicer community, thriving businesses, higher quality of life in the neighborhood, and, giving hardworking Bridgeporters long overdue access to the waterfront. We've renovated and created over 100 acres of parkland on my watch, and we're just getting started.
KEEPING KIDS AND FAMILIES SAFE
The Park City is also dedicated to keeping Bridgeport kids and families safe and secure.
Our city is seeing its lowest crime rates in nearly a half-century. We’ve experienced a more significant drop in crime than any other city in New England. And, crime continues to decline.
There are many reasons for this, including our work with the re-entry community, which is aimed at making sure people are set up for success after serving time.
Bridgeport has the most diverse police department in the state. But I believe our police force must be even more representative of our community.
These efforts are critical to ensuring our police department and community are working together as one.
We've launched a major police recruiting effort. We're incentivizing Bridgeport residents to join this proud force and help make our city even safer.
I’m committed to making sure our police department is even more representative of our community.
“My vision – our vision – for this city and its future, is already taking shape,” said Mayor Finch. “For example, today you can stand on the white sand of a re-opened, re-vitalized Pleasure Beach and look out onto Steel Point where development is finally happening. There are new and improved views like this across the city, and many more to come as the city reclaims its waterfront. Together, we've accomplished a lot. And, there is so much more to come. But one thing is clear: This budget proposal shows that Bridgeport is getting better every day.”