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Get Bridgeport Back on Track

Just when Bridgeport residents think the last bad news about municipal finances has been reported, along comes more.

Last week, Bridgeport Village Council members were notified former Mayor David Smith finally had resigned the post. About two weeks before, he had pleaded guilty to theft in office charges. It seems the former mayor was stealing money paid in fines for traffic offenses. Not long after receiving news of Smith’s resignation, council members received more unpleasant news.

Fiscal Officer Chris Kirby already had informed council members there would have to be changes in the village budget to remain on track with the financial recovery plan adopted last year.

It was drafted after Bridgeport officials declared a state of fiscal emergency, upon learning the general fund and street maintenance fund were about $700,000 in debt.

“There’s going to have to be some changes in the budget … so you guys don’t overspend what you’re supposed to,” Kirby informed council.

Then there is the matter of the Internal Revenue Service. Kirby informed council that the village has not made required payments to the IRS since 2015. He convinced officials at the agency to waive most of about $70,000 in penalties for non-payment. That still leaves an expense of about $70,000 to get current with the IRS.

“So you’ve got a lot less money than you had when you first began the year,” Kirby noted.

All this, despite the fact Bridgeport residents have been paying a 1% income tax to the village for about a year, in order to get finances back on track.

Kirby is right: Council members must keep revenue and spending in balance. That may mean cutting back on some services, such as street repairs, that Bridgeport residents feel they have a right to expect.

But spending money the village did not have created the crisis in the first place. To get out of it, Bridgeport Council members have no choice but to adopt a “whatever it takes” policy toward keeping the budget in balance.

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