Public schools in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford face a variety of challenges. Safety concerns, budget deficits, low student performance and in-fighting among school board members have parents looking for alternative ways to get their children a good education. CEO of Connecticut is just one of many similar organizations throughout the United States that have made school choice and opportunity for inner city children their mission. Funded only through private donation, foundations like CEO are an example of people coming together to find a solution to a problem that has long plagued state and federal government.
If you like your vegetables locally grown, you might take your government the same way and for many of the same reasons. It’s easier to have confidence in local government. You know the people involved, and you might even be able to observe it in the making.
Money meant to help women, infants and children in the city of Hartford is being eaten up by high employee salaries. Hartford's federally-funded WIC program, run through the city's Department of Health and Human Services, served more than 11,000 of the city’s poor in 2013, according to an audit of the program. However, the agency’s high employee pay and benefits affect the number of people the program can help. If HHS paid competitively with other non-profit organizations it could service an additional 3,300 nursing or expectant mothers.
The town of Woodstock with a population of just 8,000 is giving big healthcare stipends to town hall employees who opt out of the town’s healthcare plan. Employees, including First Selectman Alan Walker Jr. and tax collector Linda Bernardi, receive stipends of $1,163 per month while getting healthcare coverage through their spouses. On an annual basis, the stipends add up to $13,956 and costs taxpayers about $98,000.
Currently, lawmakers get the same benefits that state employees receive through contract negotiations. This gives the appearance of a conflict of interest. Instead, lawmakers should repeal this law and set their benefits separate from benefits for other state employees. Similarly, state employees in management receive the same benefits as those set by collective-bargaining agreements. Even the negotiators sitting across the table from the unions get the same benefits. Lawmakers should set the benefits of any state employees not covered by collective-bargaining agreements separately from unionized employees and by statute.
Nearly half of the taxes paid by Connecticut residents are property taxes, yet many local officials don’t know how spending in their town compares with spending in other towns. Today, the Yankee Institute released a study, Taxes at Home: A Comparison of Municipal Spending, that will help residents and local officials begin to make these comparisons.