Daily Archives: October 28, 2009

A school system already top heavy with administrators – let’s cut some

Greenwich school administrators reject wage, hour concessions.

RTM members said they were dismayed that the school administrators’ union had not struck a similar compromise with the Board of Education, and instead decided to pursue more generous terms than what was initially proposed.

“The feeling was that we were asking the (school) administrators to help us, and they were just like, ‘Forget it,’” Caldwell said. “People felt other unions were being treated inequitably.”

The teachers’ union has avoided major concessions on wages and benefits this fiscal year, despite pressure from the school board.

New Lebanon School Principal Gene Nyitray, a GOSA co-president, defended his union’s decision to pursue a contract that he believes reflects the high expectations and work load placed on school administrators.

“We’re sensitive to the economic situation, and we respect the work of our colleagues, but this is a managerial union with unique leadership responsibilities,” he said. “People entrust their children to us, and that’s an awesome responsibility.”

The administrators’ wage increase next fiscal year is expected to take a more than $100,000 chunk out of the district’s roughly $126 million budget in the 2010-11 year, according to board member Steve Anderson. He said it was too early to tell what areas of the education budget could be affected by that.

Between administrators’ salaries and benefits, he said, the new labor agreement is expected to cost the town, on average, nearly $8.5 million per year over the next three years. That marks an annual “cost of contract” of, on average, 1.09 percent over the current contract.

“The key is to understand how important it is for (state) arbitrators to realize that Greenwich cannot always lay golden eggs,” Anderson said. “Every town’s resources are finite.”

Under its 2007-10 contract, approved by the board following negotiations in 2007, administrators received a general wage increase of 3.5 percent in each of the three school years.

That contract also included a performance-pay component during the first two school years that was eliminated in the third in an effort by the school board to come up with additional savings in the 2009-10 education budget.

Under the current contract’s seniority-based salary structure, after three years, the high school headmaster makes more than $167,000; the high school’s five housemasters make nearly $136,000; middle school principals make about $152,000; and elementary principals make about $144,000.

Dump ‘em.

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Socialism has never worked and it won’t work here

Congressional interference with GM isn’t helping. Quelle suprise!

Federal support for companies such as GM, Chrysler Group LLC and Bank of AmericaCorp. has come with baggage: Companies in hock to Washington now have the equivalent of 535 new board members — 100 U.S. senators and 435 House members.

Since the financial crisis broke, Congress has been acting like the board of USA Inc., invoking the infusion of taxpayer money to get banks to modify loans to constituents and to give more help to those in danger of foreclosure. Members have berated CEOs for their business practices and pushed for caps on executive pay. They have also pushed GM and Chrysler to reverse core decisions designed to cut costs, such as closing facilities and shuttering dealerships.

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota persuaded GM to rescind a closure order for a large dealership in Bloomington, Minn. In Tucson, Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords did the same for Don Mackey, owner of a longstanding Cadillac dealership with 80 employees. Rep. Giffords argues it made sense, even for GM, to keep the Mackey dealership, which sold 750 cars last year. “All I did was to help get GM to focus on his case,” she says.

Lawmakers say it’s their obligation to guard the government’s investments, ensure that bailed-out firms are working in the country’s interests and protect their constituents.

Executives say congressional demands gobble up time and make a rocky business environment even more unpredictable. Bank chief executives say incessant calls from Capitol Hill, combined with threats of legislation, were among the main incentives for them to pay back money injected by the government and escape Washington’s clutches.

Thomas Geisel, chief executive of New Jersey’s Sun Bancorp Inc., says the bank paid back its federal money in June because of legislation that imposed limits on bankers’ pay, among other areas. “Lawmakers let emotion and ego get in the way of making good business decisions,” he says.

Probably no company has been more on the receiving end of congressional attention than GM, whose widely scattered factories, suppliers and dealership network put it in touch with nearly every U.S. congressional district. After committing $58 billion to keep the company afloat, the federal government took a 60% stake in the auto maker when the slimmed-down GM emerged from bankruptcy.

In May, even before the government’s ownership became official, lawmakers erupted when GM disclosed it planned to produce a new subcompact car at its factories in China. Under congressional pressure, GM dropped those plans and promised instead to retool an existing U.S. facility in Michigan, Wisconsin or Tennessee for the new model.

Lawmakers from those states demanded and received high-level meetings in Washington to quiz GM on the criteria for site selection and to tout their states. GM in the end picked a site in Michigan.

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9:50 Yankees losing

2 – 0. heh heh

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Looks as though Madoff’s pal will be staying in prison

Judge doesn’t see the value in his testimony.

A judge today questioned the value of any testimony from Bernie Madoff’s right hand man — coldly declaring that anyone who could be hurt by Frank DiPascali is “in prison in Butner, North Carolina or at the bottom of a swimming pool someplace.”

You may recall that DiPascali, who ran Madoff’s scam for decades, showed up in court a few months ago to plead guilty and, pursuant to a deal with the prosecutors, who claim they need his cooperation, expected to go home the same day. The judge didn’t buy it and if his comments today are any indication, still doesn’t. Fine by me.

(h/t, Horsejock)

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Assessed value is the new 2.3 X assessment

In the good old days (2007) houses in Greenwich sold for an average of 2.3 X their assessment. Today, it’s much closer to 1:1. Considering that assessment is supposed to be 70% of 2005 values, we’ve dropped around 56% from 2007 values. (or that’s what my math shows – wizards, pitch in here. Example: If house’s 2005 value was $1,000,000, its assessment would be $700,000 and its 2007 value (2.3 X. 700) $1,610,000. Today’s value of $700 = 44% of 1.61, right?)  The five sales reported today seem to support this.

 
17 barton
17 Barton Lane

19 Skylark, sold for $820,000, assessed value $826,000.

Barton Lane, asked $2.625 in February, 2007 and sold today for $1.3 million. Assessment: $1.3

98 Orchard Street sold for $660,000, with an assessed value of $782,000.

102 W. Lyon Farm sold for $895,000, assessment is $1.154 million.
21 Gatefield Drive, purchased for $2.550 in 2004 and renovated in 2008 was listed that year for $3.675 and sold today for $2.595. ASssessment was just $2.1 million, but I wonder whether the improvements were picked up?

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Tesei pulls out the big guns

Gabriel_Metsu_-_Man_Writing_a_Letter

Dear Peter, thank you for yours of even date but I note with some concern that the promised payment for services is a little light. Kindly remit same immediately or I shall, regretfully, have no choice but to retract my endorsement of your candidacy. Your humble servant, Jeremy

Noted and feared real estate attorney Jeremy “King Fish” Kaye endorses Peter Tesei.

UPDATE: Jeremy would want me to annotate and supplement his letter, I’m sure. So, …

To the editor:

As a lifelong resident I am indeed privileged to live in a community as vibrant and supportive as Greenwich. [he seems to have confused our town with a Magic Fingers mattress]

I live in a place where dedicated and caring people give of themselves to make their community a better place. I live in a place where volunteerism  [the old, honest virtue of "The Lord helps those who help themselves" thrives. Folks like Walter Noel and Fredric Bourke just help themselves to whatever they want]  I live in a place which has a wonderful school system, [Hamilton Avenue, New Lebanon, the Glenville Modular School and Western Junior High being just some of them] beautiful parks [ hour-and-a-half wait for the bathroom at Byram's pool] a charm that few other communities are able to sustain.[especially because they, unlike Greenwich, have sound barriers blocking I-95 traffic noise].

I live in a place where we are so fortunate to have intelligent, responsive and responsible people wanting to be a part of government. [that's why we pay $100,000 to attract a tax collector and fire our school superintendent every year]

It is simply not possible for everyone to agree on every action that a political figure undertakes or suggests. So, in deciding whom to vote for, it is most important to look at the candidate’s integrity, the body of their work, whether they have good intentions [hell, you get a freakin' Nobel Prize, you got good intentions] and whether the course they want the town to travel corresponds with the voter’s own view of what is desirable and a viable course. [When they lack all of those qualities and you discover they have no idea where to lead the town, then just collect as much as you can from one of them and give them an endorsement]

I know Peter Tesei personally and …. I know that he recognizes that there are many difficult decisions yet to  be made and is prepared to make them. [Shoving  fired town employees off Town Hall's steps at bayonet point being just one of those decisions he's so eager to make. Running over small animals, putting puppies in blenders? Hey, a man's  got to do what a man's got to do].

 I also know Lin Lavery [but unfortunately she lacked the financial willingness and wherewithal to get a letter from me so from now on it's, "Lin who?] . I hope that Lin will continue to be a leader in the town ['s Junior League and garden Club. Back to the Back Country, lady!]

On Election Day, however, no one can vote for two first selectmen. You can only vote for one. [Unless, of course, you follow the Chicago school of politics. I, for instance, will be voting early and often and I hope you will, too]

With the considerations I have set forth above, I will be casting my vote on Election Day for Peter Tesei. [See above]. As a resident of Greenwich [paid to do so by the Republican Party, it is my privilege duty to do so.]

Jeremy E. Kaye

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Ooooh, the Greenwich Selectman race is getting nasty

piefight

Here's a friggin' crisis, bitch!

It started when Peter Tesei called Lin Lavery “a yellow-bellied, scum-sucking liar” for claiming to have founded the Junior League’s “Kids in Crisis Center” five years before she’d moved to town. Lavery burst into tears, called Tesei “a mean little snot who rode the short bus to school” and the battle was joined.

Yesterday, Lavey pointed out that Tesei missed the Stimulus gravy train by setting the application for return of stolen monies to one side of his desk and forgetting about it. This charge was backed up by Cos Cob’s Jim Himes, who supplied an email stating “Peter couldn’t find his left buttock with both hands so it should surprise no one that he doesn’t know how to fill out a grant form.”

Stung, Tesei demanded a retraction and Mr. Himes, mindful of local politics, disavowed his previous email and assured Greenwich Time that our First Selectman could indeed find his posterior, “provided he gets his head out of there first.”

Not satisfied, Tesei now says that his plans “to get a zillion, kabillion dollars” from the federal government were sabotaged by a Democratic mole. The point person on that task, he said, was Denise Savageau, the town’s conservation director.”She’s handling this – someone says they’re handling it, you trust they’re handling  it.”

 “Let’s point out that Denise Savageau’s husband is a member of the Demmerkrat Town Committee,” Tesei said. “There’s not necessarily an unbiased participant in these actions. Is she manipulating her actions to undermine my office? It certainly could give pause as to what her motivations are.” 

 “It’s a plot,” Tesei told FWIW’s Scusie, “a plot against me! But I know who’s doing it and I know where he’s hiding the ice cream over there on Mead Avenue. You’ll see, you’ll see. Ahahahahahahaha!”

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But that’s such a low hurdle

NEANDERTHAL

I voted for cap and trade and all I got was this stupid fur jacket

Pew Poll: Republicans smarter than Democrats who are dumber than dirt. Libertarians, on the other hand, tested smarter than everyone except Cos Cobbers (who were flunking until they were given crayons in place of pens).

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Two years and a million bucks later …

24 Mahr Ave

24 Maher Avenue

24 Maher has finally gone to contract. First listed as Noah was just finishing up his ark, its asking price of $3.175 proved too high for a culture still using wampum as currency. But it dropped the first broker and her price and eventually reached $2.295 (plus some really good purple clam shells, presumably) and someone’s bit. Assessment is $1.450.

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Pelosi – eliminating the culture of corruption

pelosi4

You don't mean we have corrupt Democrats?!

While our elected representatives attend to the nations’ most pressing matters this week: a Judical Committee hearing on concussions suffered by professional football players, and extension of the coverage of federal hate crime protection to cross-dressers, another battle perks along unnoticed: The Office of Congressional Ethics wants to release its report on two crooked Democrats, Maxine Waters being one of them, while the House Ethics Committee wants them to wait until after the elections (if it’s ever released at all). The OCE, by the way, was created in 2008 by House Democrats to expose and attack the wicked which, they assumed, were all republicans.

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Megan McArdle states the obvious

So obvious that Obama and his crowd hope you won’t notice.

The only way the public option saves money is by using fiat to slash reimbursement rates to some variation on Medicare reimbursements: Medicare +5%, +10%, or whatever rate they finally settle on. Otherwise, it’s unlikely that the thing will even compete on an even basis with private insurers, who have a lot more experience managing billing, claims experience, and negotiations with providers.

The problem is, Medicare doesn’t pay the average cost of providing services in many cases–in some cases, it doesn’t even pay the marginal cost of providing services. . . . But moral calumny aside, the thing about patients whose insurance doesn’t cover the average cost of treating them is that they cannot be 100% of your patient pool. Someone has to cover the cost of that MRI machine. If the public option does manage to crowd out other insurance–as it might well do, with the ability to dictate price controls–then suddenly, the public option won’t be cheap any more. Hello, fiscal crisis.

That’s the financial problem. Here’s the political problem: if you insert a strong public option, the providers will revolt.

Well, if you can dictate bankers’ and car executives’ salaries, why not doctors’?

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Where’s John Bolton to tell the UN to F*** off?

Fresh from examining the role of gender in governmental anti-terrorism efforts (ooh, it’s awful, what’s happening out there), The United Nations has turned its attention to this country’s policy of executing terrorists with missiles from the sky. They’ve grunted, squeezed and produced an astonishing conclusion:

U.S. predator strikes violate international law. Oh dear.

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Hey contrarians, time to buy house builders stocks

Data on new home sales for September are out. Analysts expected a gain of 2.6 % but sales dropped 3.6% instead. Dang it, don’t you hate when that happens?

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Cool!

I’ve mentioned before that Google’s GPS phone ap was making Garmin’s and Tom Tom’s stand-alone units superfluous but now the king of give-aways is moving beyond that and offering turn-by-turn GPS driving directions. As the linked-to story mentions, companies like AT&T have been charging as much as 4100 a year for this service. Another profit center withers.

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Watch this space

30 Mallard

30 Mallard Drive

This modest (1,745 sq.ft.) ranch on Mallard was originally listed for $629,000 back in 2001. It’s owner must have taken the market’s response “you should live so long” to heart because she died with the house unsold and her estate put it back on this year for $995,000. Today it was lowered to $895,000 ($513 per square foot) and I’m curious to see what happens. Assessment is $634,620 and I’m guessing that its ultimate sales price will be closer to that price than $895, but you can’t tell until it sells. So, let’s wait and see.

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A sale on Skylark

19 Skylark

19 Skylark

19 Skylark, reported as under contract yesterday was sold today for $820,000, 68% of its original (2008) asking price of $1.2 million. Assessment: $826,350.

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Chieftans Contract

7 Chieftans

7 Chieftans

This unit priced when new in 2006 for $6.125 million, sold in 2007 for $5.625. The property listing described it thus:

SITTING HIGH UP W/INCREDIBLE VIEWS AT CHIEFTANS, A PRIVATE ASSOCIATION. AN EXTRAORDINARY HOME, GRAND HIGH CEIL, WONDERFUL PUBLIC RMS, EXCEPTIONAL CRAFTSMANSHIP, EXQUISITE DETAILS. GARDEN LEVEL LUX. FINISHED W/MOVIE THEATRE, GYM, SAUNA/STEAM SHOWER & WINE CELLAR OPENS TO MAGNIFICENT GROUNDS & VIEW. AMENITIES INCL 24 HOUR SECURITY, GROUNDS MAINT, SNOW PLOW & MORE. MONTHLY MAINT $1500/MO.

In 2008 the new owner decided to sell it again, this time with a different broker, for $5.975. That broker described it as follows:

SITTING HIGH UP W/INCREDIBLE SOUTHEASTERLY VIEWS ACROSS OPEN CONSERVATION PRESERVE AT CHIEFTANS, PRIVATE ASSOCIATION W/24 HOUR GATEHOUSE SECURITY. AN EXTRAORDINARY HOME, GRAND HIGH CEILINGS, WONDERFUL PUBLIC ROOMS, EXCEPTIONAL CRAFTSMANSHIP, EXQUISITE DETAILS. SUMPTUOUS MASTER SUITE, 2 STORY CENTERHALL W/IMPRESSIVE STAIRWAY. GARDEN LEVEL LUXURIOUSLY FINISHED W/MOVIE THEATRE, GYM, SAUNA/STEAM SHOWER, FAMILY ROOM & WINE CELLAR W/BARREL VAULTED CEILING OPENS TO MAGNIFICENT GROUNDS & VIEW. INCLUDES GROUNDS MAINTENANCE, SNOW PLOW & MORE @ $1700/MO.

She must have thought that the lush writing of the original listing worked well, so why mess with success? But alas, either the market changed or people felt that the house was as shop-worn as the prose used to describe it but for whatever reason, it didn’t sell, until today. It’s last asking price was $4.995 million and will presumably sell for less than that. A million bucks for two year’s occupancy seems like a stiff rental to me but at least the next buyer won’t need to hire a copywriter when he decidesto sell it again.

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On the other hand, Shiller is guardedly optimistic

He sees bubble danger in areas where prices have recently zoomed (that’s not Greenwich) but doesn’t think continued high unemployment necessarily means prices will drop. I guess we’ll see.

U.S. home prices in August rose for the fourth straight month. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller composite index of home prices in 20 metropolitan areas rose 1.2 percent in August from July, topping the estimate of a 0.7 percent rise according to in a Reuters poll.

“The prominent fact that we are seeing with this data is that home prices are just zipping up,” Shiller said.

“It is entirely possible that even with the bad news we are getting, home prices could start a major increase,” he said.

Prices in the top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas gained 1.3 percent in August after a 1.7 percent rise the previous month, according to the S&P composite index.

Shiller said he does not agree with analysts who believe that rising unemployment will hurt home prices. The U.S. jobless rate reached a 26-year high of 9.8 percent in September.

“It is unlikely that we will have the major, colossal bubble we had a few years ago, but even in the Great Depression real home prices were rising with the unemployment rate above 12 percent,” he said. “Just because we have high unemployment does not mean the stock market cannot boom and the housing market cannot boom.

“What happens from here will depend on people’s animal spirits and speculative impulses,” Shiller said.

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Greenwich commercial rates tank

As the final Antares blunder at the old UST building sits empty and the offices intended to rent for $150 sq. ft. await new hedge fund clients, alternative A space keeps getting cheaper.

The availability of Class A space has benefitted tenants looking to reduce their rent payments. In Greenwich, asking rents fell to $63.22 per square foot, a decline of nearly $32 from this time last year, according to Robert Caruso, senior managing director of CB Richard Ellis’ Westchester-Fairfield operations.

Much of the decline in Greenwich lease rates could be attributed to the financial crisis that began at the end of 2007 as many boutique financial firms closed, said Joe Caridi at FirstService Williams Commercial Real Estate in Stamford, estimating that there is more than 400,000 square feet of sublease space available in Greenwich.

Asking rents for Class A office space across the county now range from a low of $18.54 per square foot in Fairfield East to a high of $94.30 per square foot in Greenwich’s central business district, while the overall average was $29.49.

What’s commercial real estate have to do with the Greenwich residential market? Consider this:

The slow commercial real estate market has a direct correlation to employment, Caridi said.

“Employment in the Fairfield County market slid again during the third quarter,” he said. “Total employment in the county is down by 3.45 percent since last year, and each of the major sectors that utilize office space registered significant year-over-year declines in employment.”

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If we do abolish the position of tax collector in Greenwich, the candidates can always practice, practice practice

And go to Carnegie Hall, where the same lack of any otherwise-marketable skill results in an average salary of $290,000. No heavy lifting but the occasional podium may need wheeling on stage. Any of our three candidates for collector could manage that, I think, and triple their pay. Wow.

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