Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers Opposes Fire Department’s Request for More Money

For immediate release.

The city has approximately $250,000 in contingency money which is designated for use under emergency situations. In an unprecedented move, the Portsmouth Fire Department has decided to request these emergency funds to augment the budget submitted in 2011 – essentially for salary increases to already highly generously paid city employees. There has been no unexpected nor emergent change to warrant using these crucial funds to increase the fire budget. It would be an irresponsible precedent to allow a city leader to change his budget midstream without a significant event that necessitates the use of three fifths of the city’s emergency funds.

In 1993 the third fire station was created after the city acquired Pease land and facilities.  The population of Portsmouth in 1990 was 25,925 and the city was served by 2 fire stations. We now have 3 fire stations to serve a population of 21,233. The addition of the third station caused the creation of 4 firefighter jobs and 4 fire lieutenants to serve 4 shifts, as per the 93/94 budget. Since the time that that the third station was created Portsmouth has had a lower ratio of firefighters to officers. In 1995 the fire department was allocated 9.1 percent of the city budget. Today the fire department is allocated 10 percent per the city reports. Even with this increased portion of the budget it’s the fire chief who is asking for more and reneging on his acceptance of the 2012 budget. The Portsmouth Fire Department has had the highest increases of any department – well over DOUBLE inflation over the past 15 years (1995/96-2009/10). From 1995/96-2009/10, the Fire department budget (mostly salary/personnel costs) went UP 112%. Inflation for these same years was 47%.

Portsmouth is one of the most densely allocated departments in the state with 3 stations for 16 Sq. miles of land. For example Concord, NH has approximately 1 station for every 16 square miles of its 64 square miles of land and has twice the population of Portsmouth and similar daytime population growth. Portsmouth further expanded the capacity of its stations with the construction of the new station 2 on Lafayette Road in 2010. The Portsmouth Fire department has seen tremendous growth and substantial community support as the population decreases.

Given the response times and distance by fire department around the state, Portsmouth meets or exceeds the standards of the majority of other communities even when it uses only its two larger stations.

The campaign to increase the budget by suggesting that the city residents need to learn CPR because of the closing of a station that was added during a time of higher local population was unfortunate. CPR and other first aid skills are needed at all times. The recent actions of a worker at a local gym that saved the life of a client happened within a short distance of stations 1 and 2. The fact is that no matter how close a fire and rescue station is that it’s often the onsite citizen with the emergency skill set who makes the crucial difference. It’s a shame that this skillset was spun as necessary due to the brownout of station 3 rather than something each citizen in every district should strive to learn as a citizen first responder.  It’s also disturbing to find out that the overstated ISO standards seemingly have little to do with most insurance rates and the taxpayer funded improvements to station 2 are ignored.

Portsmouth is becoming a different community. The typical NH working class worker who lived in Puddledock in the 1960’s and 1970’s is disappearing, being replaced by families in subsidized housing as others leave the city when they can no longer afford to live here. The regressive water/sewer costs in the city have upended working families’ budgets and their ability to pay the high property taxes.

We should not be using emergency funds to augment capricious budgets without emergent situations. Management changing their minds about their budget is not an emergency; it is a failure of  public leadership to properly manage their department and the audacity to ask for more.

Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers
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Right to Know – NH Retirement System STONEWALLING on Pension Information

The APT is seeking information on the individual member contributions of Portsmouth’s top 20 pension recipients. NH Right to know law requires NH government to provide information immediately or within 5 working days in most cases. Transparency delayed is transparency denied. Currently the NH Retirement System has stated it will provide the information or a progress update 2 months and 16 days after it received the information request (doubtfully sooner based on the past). Here is an ongoing history of efforts to get this information:

Friday, December 9, 2011
New Hampshire Retirement System
54 Regional Drive
Concord, NH  03301-8507
 

RE:  Request for amounts paid into the NH Pension system by Portsmouth’s top 20 pensioners.

Dear NHRS,

Enclosed is the NHRS employer and member contribution rates since 1970. The APT is requesting what the each of the following top Portsmouth 20 pensioners contributed in to the NH Retirement System. Note, we are not looking for what the city contributed, only what the public employee paid under their member rate of the NHRS. As the NHRS can return money to members with a 8.5% rate, we expect this information to be available on an individual basis.

Below are Portsmouth’s top 20 annuitants, with the date the benefit was effective and the plan:

To be specific, an example of the information we are looking for would like like:

Name Total amount member paid into the NHRS

Michael J. Magnant $200,000

William A. Irving $142,000

William D Mortimer $130,000

And so on.

The following individuals we seek this information on are are below.

Michael J. Magnant  11/1/2009 – Police $121,334.88
William A. Irving 5/1/2008 – Police $93,479.04
William D. Mortimer 3/1/1988 – Police $92,704.44
Leonard E. DiSesa 11/1/2009 – Police $90,848.64
Vassilios Pamboukes 1/1/2008 – Fire $87,246.96
John M. Yerardi 6/1/2008 – Police $86,611.38
Michael J. Ronchi 10/1/2007 – Police $85,957.38
David M. Young 3/1/2006 – Police $83,257.08
Robert J. Lister 7/1/2009 – Emloyee, Ports. School District $82,613.16
Janet Champlin 1/1/2009 – Police $82,376.76
Robin N. Burdick 7/1/2009 – Teacher, Ports. SD $77,869.44
Diane Tibbetts 1/1/2003 – Police $76,500.42
Bradley J. Russ 2/1/2003 – Police $75,294.42
Frank S. Ott 8/1/2003 – Fire $74,531.10
Kevin M. Semprini 2/1/2005 – Police $73,150.62
James E. Coughenour 9/1/2008 – Fire $72,099.12
Adam H. Price 2/1/2002 – Police $71,690.58
Paul A. Famulari 4/1/2000 – Police $67,357.38
Dante P. Puopolo 11/1/2009 – Police $64,392.48
Colleen R. Franzoso 5/1/2007 – Employee - $62,953.56

Sincerely,

Mark Brighton, APT President

 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Marty Karon – NHRS Public Information Officer
New Hampshire Retirement System
54 Regional Drive
Concord, NH  03301-8507

Mr. Karlon,

Currently the NHRS is not in compliance with RSA 91-A:4 IV:
If a public body or agency is unable to make a governmental record available for immediate inspection and copying, it shall, within 5 business days of request, make such record available, deny the request in writing with reasons, or furnish written acknowledgment of the receipt of the request and a statement of the time reasonably necessary to determine whether the request shall be granted or denied.
In your response dated Dec 21, 2011, you put off the APT Right-To-Know request by a month to Jan 18, 2012. No response has been received.
1) We are requesting immediate compliance and response with our request dated Dec 9, 2012.
For expediency, we request you respond via this email and send a letter to the address provided.
Attached are two (2) PDF’s: The Dec 9, 2011 APT request letter sent and the only NHRS response received, dated Dec 21, 2011.
Sincerely,
Mark Brighton
Via Email
January 20, 2012
Mr. Brighton,
I put a reply in the NHRS outgoing mailbox on Jan. 18, so hopefully you will receive it shortly. I am attaching that reply to this response. I typically send both hard copies and electronic copies when responding to RTK requests, but did not have an email address for your group.
After reviewing the response, feel free to contact me next week if you have additional questions.

Marty Karlon
Public Information Officer
NH Retirement System, 54 Regional Drive, Concord, NH 03301

Friday, January 20, 2012

Marty Karlon – NHRS Public Information Officer

 

New Hampshire Retirement System
54 Regional Drive
Concord, NH  03301-8507
Mr. Karlon,
Thank you for your response today. March 1, 2012 will mark 2 months and 16 days from when the NHRS received the Dec 9th, 2011 initial request letter.
1) To clarify: Is it true that you are going to provide us the information requested in our Dec 9, 2011 letter?
2) Specifically, what is the delay in providing the information.
For expediency, we request you respond via this email and send a letter to the address provided.
Sincerely,
Mark Brighton

Sent via email.
Wednesday, February 8,  2012
Marty Karlon – NHRS Public Information Officer
New Hampshire Retirement System
54 Regional Drive
Concord, NH  03301-8507


Dear Mr. Karlon,
Thank you for your email dated January 23, 2012 and letter dated January 25, 2012 containing the same response. While we do sympathize with the NH Retirement System’s time sensitive project, the NH Retirement System is currently in violation of NH RSA 91-A. The information we requested in our Dec. 9th, 2011 letter is due immediately.
We are requesting:
1) The information we requested in our Dec. 9th, 2011 letter which is due immediately.
2) The name of the person or person(s) who made the decision to put off our Dec. 9th, 2011 NH Right to Know  request to March 1, 2012.
3) Their contact information,  their current salary and if they are members of NH Retirement System.
4) The contact information of the NHRS lead attorney.
For expediency, we request you respond via this email and send a letter to the address provided.
Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers
P.O. Box 223
Portsmouth NH 03802-0223
 
Below is the original Dec 9, 2011 APT request letter sent.
Sincerely,
Mark Brighton
Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers
P.O. Box 223
Portsmouth NH 03802-0223

 

A reply was finally sent on Feb. 17, 2012 answering the Dec 9th request.

 

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Fire Department Request for More Money

  • The Portsmouth Fire Department has had the highest increases of any department – well over DOUBLE inflation over the past 15 years (1995/96-2009/10). From 1995/96-2009/10, the  Fire Dept budget (mostly salary/personnel costs) went UP 112%. Inflation for these same years was 47%.
  •  Council made a cut of $14,265 last year (2011/12 budget)  to the fire department which has a $6.7 million dollar budget.
  •  With calls made to several insurance brokers, we found that home owners insurance will not go up with the closing of a fire station or the loss of an ambulance. 
  • Assess the true need for personnel.
  • Ask for bids from private Fire/EMT companies.  Just having those figures alone would be an extremely valuable comparison. Consider augmenting the Fire Department with volunteer fire department personal, like many other towns.
  • The Fire Department is not hired to conduct advertising to advocate for it’s positions. It handed out flyers advertising the closing of Station 3 and has initiated an aggressive campaign.
TUES 17 Jan: City council initial vote on Fire Department overspending requests.
BELOW ARE COMPARISONS TO OTHER NH TOWNS AND CITIES
For the population density and land area, Portsmouth has a disproportionately high number of stations in towns greater than 18,000 residents.
towns - Click this for links to sources of the above chart.
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Key Budget Process Dates for 2012

Here are some of the key budget process dates:
  • TUES 17 Jan: City council initial vote on Fire Department overspending requests.
  • TUES 17 Jan: School officials will gather Tuesday night at Little Harbour School for the first of many public hearings on the school portion of the city’s proposed fiscal year 2013 budget.
  • WED 25 Jan:  The Fire Commission will hold the next public hearing Jan. 25,
  • MON 30 Jan:  followed by the Police Commission on Jan. 30, which will be at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

 

  • MON 13 Feb:  the council will hold its first work session on it Feb. 13.

KEY BUDGET POINTS:

- Local Inflation (Consumer Price Index for Boston, Brockton, Nashua).  2011 average local inflation was 2.7%. ONCE AGIAN,  the city continues to spend at almost double the rate of inflation, the total city budget reflects an increase of $4.1 million, or 4.73 percent, over this year’s (2012) spending level.  a majority of people in the USA still feel like we are in recession – Like Vice President Biden - who speaks for the unemployed.  According to USA today March, 9 2012, most wealthy americans feel we are still in recession. 

- The great majority of the budget is labor related costs. 2011 wages paid to city employees (not including the school department) can be found here. Top tier school employees wages can be found here. These are only the wages paid to employees. They do NOT include health benefit costs. They do not include hefty contributions the city pays to prop up the $3.5 BILLION! unfunded liabilities of the NH Retirement System for pensions. In 2011, the city (Employer Rate) paid 10.7%-24.69% of wages to the NHRS.

- Water bills are expected to rise and have already risen well above inflation.

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ASSOCIATION OF PORTSMOUTH TAXPAYERS TO PUSH FOR PENSION REFORM

ASSOCIATION OF PORTSMOUTH TAXPAYERS TO PUSH FOR PENSION REFORM

PORTSMOUTH – The Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers (APT) will be sending letters to city and government officials requesting information on public employee pensions in order to study how these compare to private sector pensions. For example, how much did a public employee put into the pension system and what return are they receiving. “It is good practice for public officials to provide this information so taxpayers are aware of what they are paying for – particularly when big disparities between the public and private sectors exist.” stated APT President Mark Brighton.

According to Steven Greenhut, director of the Pacific Research Institute Journalism Center regarding California public pensions, in an interview linked to on the APT site, www.PortsmouthTaxpayers.com, “The public is getting angry because we see the disparity… they are also seeing depleted public services having to be cut back… these are essentially millionaires’ pensions for public employees because those in the private sector would need to have millions of dollars in the bank to have an equivalent pension,”. APT President Mark Brighton stated  “Reaching an understanding of how public pensions compare to private sector ones is becoming a critical issue in many places.”.

The Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advocating for Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s community: its taxpayers and all residents. APT believes that tightly controlled spending is necessary – regardless of current economic conditions – to keep Portsmouth affordable, reduce waste, and deliver better value to its taxpayers.

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PORTSMOUTH PENSION’S – Pension Reform Needed Now


Steven Greenhut Discusses California Government Pensions
 - “The public is getting angry because we see the disparity…… they are also seeing depleted public services having to be cut back….. These are essentially millionaires’ pensions for public employees because those in the private sector would need to have millions of dollars in the bank to have an equivilant pension.”  Steven Greenhut 

Click HERE for the contribution rates public employees put into the NH pension system.

 

Click HERE for 2010 Portsmouth pensions. HERE for 2011 Pensions.

Top 20 Portsmouth pensioners HERE

Continue reading

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All APT endorsed candidates won the election including Mary Olea for School Board.

- APT endorsed candidates gained votes while the majority of candidates who voted to raise spending lost votes. Jack Thorsen took the APT tax pledge and was the biggest gainer in the race.
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ASSOCIATION OF PORTSMOUTH TAXPAYERS ENDORSES MARY OLEA FOR SCHOOL BOARD SEEKS ‘MORE EFFICIENT BALANCE BETWEEN FUNDING AND RESULTS’

PORTSMOUTH – The Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers (APT) has endorsed Mary Olea for School Board in next week’s City-wide election, citing her unique world-experience, strong academic background, passion for serving Portsmouth residents, and “her interest in balancing a more fiscally responsible approach to Portsmouth’s education system with better results,” the latter being of particular concern to APT according to APT President Mark Brighton. Brighton stated:

“After careful consideration we feel Mary Olea deserves our vote. We urge Portsmouth residents to support her in next Tuesday’s election: Mary is committed to helping provide transparency and accountability on our City’s School Board.”
APT has expressed concerns with respect to the School Board’s budget. The organization wants to support candidates that will “help Portsmouth residents understand how our tax dollars are being spent: why the cost of education in Portsmouth keeps rising while our city’s students continue falling below state standards and how that disparity can be corrected” according to Brighton. The organization would like to see a reversal in each of those trends.
Brighton explained that the organization is making education one of its top priorities and that it will play an active role in coming weeks through the state’s “Right-to-Know” law in asking city officials to help clarify what is causing expenditures to go up while results continue to fall below acceptable standards.

APT is impressed with Olea: Brighton describes her candidacy as “a unique opportunity to help elect a candidate with unparalleled experience to the Portsmouth School Board.” Brighton explained APT members felt Olea’s breadth of experience in education, especially her work in higher education in diverse settings, could bring a fresh perspective and creative-thinking to Portsmouth’s School Board: “APT members feel Olea’s experience can bring some outside-the-box thinking to the process – which is what we need to move out of the idea that spending more money automatically translates into better results; the evidence is ample that this has not worked in Portsmouth.”

Olea is a professor of Russian and American literature and composition, as well as introduction to music at American Military University. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan and a Masters from Stanford University with additional graduate work from University of California, Georgetown University, and Cambridge University. During her time in California she served as a School Board Trustee.

APT is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advocating for Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s community: its taxpayers and all residents. APT believes that tightly controlled spending is necessary – regardless of current economic conditions – to keep Portsmouth affordable, reduce waste, and deliver better value to its taxpayers.

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APT CANDIDATES for City Council – APT ENCOURAGES “BULLET-VOTING”

ASSOCIATION OF PORTSMOUTH TAXPAYERS ENDORSES CANDIDATES FOR CITY COUNCIL
ENCOURAGES “BULLET-VOTING”

PORTSMOUTH – The Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers (APT) has endorsed Jack Thorsen, Esther Kennedy, Anthony CovielloEric Spear for City Council and Mary Olea  for School Board in the upcoming election. Not only is APT encouraging Portsmouth residents to support these candidates: it is urging voters to “bullet-vote” for these four candidates exclusively, despite the option of voting for at least five more in a contest of 10 candidates vying for nine seats. Send council a message – reverse unsustainable budgets and lower our taxes. APT President Mark Brighton stated:

“We are encouraging Portsmouth residents to vote for Jack Thorsen, the only candidate that had the courage to sign our Tax Pledge, and three others based on their voting record. Given our city’s unsustainable budget, we are urging everyone to send a clear message to City Hall that we can only afford to support those willing to provide urgently needed tax relief, transparency, and accountability to our citizens.”

Brighton urges Portsmouth residents to consider the escalating cost of living in the City and how difficult it has become for average-income families to live here:

“In the last 15 years the councilor controlled budget has increased at more than double the rate of local inflation since 1995 – dramatically increasing property taxes despite a decline in Portsmouth’s population. This is hurting families who struggle to pay bills in an economy where so many struggle to find work.

Meanwhile, Portsmouth is becoming too cost-prohibitive, even for those who are working hard to sustain their families. Finally, the combined water and sewer rate has doubled in the last four years adding crushing expenses for families.”

The APT has kept painstaking track of key tax spending councilor votes and posted councilors’ records online at PortsmouthTaxpayers.com.

The Association’s endorsements are based on what the organization has identified as its key priorities. In addition to transparency and affordability for its residents, the organization is concerned with Portsmouth’s ability to provide better and more efficient education, services and safety, fairly paid city employees, schools that meet and exceed state standards, and a school system that allows us to keep the best teachers.

The Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advocating for Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s community: its taxpayers and all residents. APT believes that tightly controlled spending is necessary – regardless of current economic conditions – to keep Portsmouth affordable, reduce waste, and deliver better value to its taxpayers.

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APT Efficient Government Scorecard : VOTE Tues. November 8, 2011, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m

The APT has endorsed Jack Thorsen, Esther Kennedy, Anthony Coviello and Eric Spear for City Council.  For the School Board  the APT endorses Mary Olea. We are encouraging BULLET VOTING.

PRESS RELEASEHerald Oct 28 2011 Article, Portsmouth Patch Article, APT Olea Press Release

Sample Ballot with referendum preventing THIS type of event in the future.

The Ward 2 is moved to the North Church Parish House (355 Spinney Road and off Middle Road) due to the Middle School renovation.

 

 

PDF version with source links Council Voting Record   *Mr. Coviello and Mr. Hetjmanek tell the APT that they voted….. more HERE **

Click HERE for Tax Pledge

Since June 2010, the APT has been tracking the Portsmouth city council on selected votes that directly affect taxes Continue reading

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