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City Council Passes Revised Budget, Tax Rate

In a 5-2 vote, councilors approve approximately $41.3 million municipal budget and 5.1 percent tax increase

Voting along the same lines as their original decision on the budget four months ago, the City Council passed a revised municipal budget and tax rate tonight.

Councilors voted 5-2 in favor of a $41,264,459 and a tax rate of 26.6 per $1,000, a 5.1 percent tax increase over the 2012 fiscal year tax rate of 25.31. The vote follows the rejection of the original $42.3 million budget and 7.5 percent tax increase at a Sept. 18 referendum.

Most of the budget reduction comes from anticipated savings through debt refinancing as well as cuts from the New London Police Department and Finance Department. Some smaller reductions and increases are also included in the budget.

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Supporters of the budget said they felt the budget reflected the needs of the city as well as challenges such as revenue shortfalls. Opponents of the prior budget have said they are not satisfied with the current budget and will again try to petition the budget to go before a referendum vote.

Support

Councilor Adam Sprecace, who supported the original budget but later advocated overturning it at referendum after saying the Finance Department had not provided sufficient detailed budget information to the public, said he was in favor of passing the revised budget. The vote on the budget was delayed from Sept. 27 after Sprecace said several of these details were missing from the revised budget document.

Sprecace said he had worked with the Finance Department to indicate which information he wanted to have included in the budget. He said the department had provided these details with the exception of employee benefits by individual, but that the Finance Department outlined the benefits expended on each department and he considered this to be sufficient.

“This is the level of detail that I think needs to be included in every fiscal year budget from here on,” he said.

Sprecace also said the budget is about $750,000 less than the 2012 municipal budget, and that he thinks there is sufficient money in the police budget to begin the hiring process to fill six unbudgeted vacancies without impacting the 2013 budget. He said the budget also takes into account reduced revenues from state grants and other sources.

“You can see why a tax increase is necessary, or at least I can,” he said. “I think where we are right now is a place I’m comfortable with.”

Council President Michael Passero said he considered that the council and administration have worked diligently on the budget for several months. He also said the city will be taking a closer look at its fiscal history following a recent council decision to approve operational audits in 10 departments.

“We’re hoping to get a budget in place, and we’re hoping to get down to work policing our budget,” said Passero. “I think it’s going to be tight, and I only hope we’re going to be able to make it to the end of our fiscal year without making additional cuts.”

Councilor President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop and Councilors Donald Macrino and Anthony Nolan also supported the budget and tax rate.

Opposition

Councilor John Maynard said he thought the council had not worked sufficiently beyond the recommendations made by Finance Director Jeff Smith following the referendum. During Finance Committee discussions, Maynard unsuccessfully recommended cutting several administrative salaries, saying he would prefer such reductions to cutting from the NLPD.

“I feel that the council has let the citizens of New London down,” he said.

Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran expressed concerns over the effects of the cut to the NLPD budget as well as the debt refinancing. She said she thought the budget would be a significant burden to New London taxpayers in part to pay municipal salaries significantly higher than the city’s median income.

“There should be shared sacrifice in this budget,” she said.

During the public comment section, resident Carl Lee also said the council should not cut money from the NLPD budget.

“It takes a good year to train these guys,” he said. “I’m not asking you I’m begging you. Anyone who listens to the scanner knows that our streets aren’t all that safe.”

Budget process

The council’s original municipal budget, approved on June 19, was $42,323,256 with a tax rate of 27.22, a 7.5 percent tax increase. The vote was 5-2 in favor.

An effort to petition the municipal budget and tax rate to put them before a referendum vote was successful, and both were defeated in a Sept. 18 vote. A total of 1,436 voters were against the budget while 1,007 were in favor of it, and the tax rate was defeated in a 1,470 to 963 vote.

After three meetings, the Finance Committee voted 2-1 on Sept. 25 to accept Smith’s budget recommendation. Most of the reduction is a result of $500,000 in savings from debt refinancing, which Smith said would be feasible under current rates. He warned that further cuts would be necessary if smaller savings are realized when refinancing is done in November.

Another $280,000 was taken from the Finance Department due to a decision by Dr. Stephen Adamowski, a special master appointed to the New London Public Schools, to stop a plan to have the department absorb the expenses of the school district’s business office. The proposal also cuts $250,000 from the NLPD, most of which would result from leaving six vacant positions unbudgeted.

The budget makes a number of smaller adjustments resulting in both budget increases and decreases. These include $46,966 cut from personnel costs due to a termination in the mayor’s office, a $160,000 reduction to 60-day collections revenue to correct accounting procedures, and a $73,150 increase to the law department budget to bring it to the level of the department’s average spending in the past five years.

The $160,000 revenue shortfall was filled through the application of $40,000 from a COPS Universal Hiring Grant and $120,000 in employee benefit reductions. Smith recommended that the money be taken from police fringe benefits due to vacancies there, but Sprecace made an amendment to find the benefit reductions in other departments due to the existing cut to the NLPD. The amendment passed 4-2.

The budget and tax rate went before the full council for a vote on Sept. 27, but was delayed to today to allow the Finance Department to assemble a more complete budget document.

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Spencer October 10, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Let the battle begin!
Sue P. October 10, 2012 at 02:14 AM
How much are your property taxes going to go up, teresa?
Sue P. October 10, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Well there is a LOT meeting tomorrow to discuss if the property owners want this budget or not. I personally think it was too easy and there can be more cuts. Each dept. should be able to cut so much more in their Misc. and office supply line items. If we hurry we can get it on the Nov. ballot and it won't cost the city any more money. But if we can't it's still our money right?
newlondontaxpayer October 10, 2012 at 10:19 AM
What don't they understand about the NL taxpayer being TAPPED OUT ! NO NEW TAXES !
Thomas Cornick October 10, 2012 at 11:18 AM
We cannot have a different past but we can make the next attempt at a land grab through corporate cronyism or redevelopment through eminent domain so costly and distasteful that the attemps are many years apart.
Luis Smart October 10, 2012 at 11:36 AM
The real story is that the administration and the finance director have lied to the citizens through this whole budget and referendum process. The threats of library closures, senior center closures, layoffs and bankruptcy were all lies. The new amount was reached easily wil no cuts to municipal services. If the council and the administration had rolled up their sleeves, sharpened their pencils and made the cuts that were actually needed the tax rate could have been brought to 2% to 2.5% and that woudl have been reasonable. We have only two on the whole council that seem to be of a sound fiscal mindset.
Fake Mr. Fuji October 10, 2012 at 11:46 AM
We love taxes in Connecticut. We love sales tax, gas tax, death tax, car tax, real estate tax, income tax. I propose a lunch-special surtax, that will help the budget.
Luis Smart October 10, 2012 at 01:07 PM
People need to remember that by Connecticut Law the non resident property owners and those who pay taxes above a certain amount are permitted to vote on budget referendums and similar matters in the town that they pay taxes in. So all those that live outside of New London and are paying taxes here need to register to vote for the next referendum. The rumors are that the administration folks are trying to sign up questionable voters, so the ones that pay the taxes need to get their act together.
Spencer October 10, 2012 at 01:21 PM
I do not know if this actually started with the eminant domain situation, but perhaps we can link part of the problem to it. Considering it has been 7 years and 3 months since the Supreme Court made that infamous decision, and we still do not have anything to show for it. That lot still sits empty, and that lot still brings a tear to my eyes when I go by there and park, and just remence about it. There is still no development there. Outside of tourists going to the Fort, there is no real flood of traffic going through. 7 years later--it is not the developers who help get those houses destroyed who will bring the construction on the jobs to that area--It is The City of New London's taxpayers who have to submit to the plans of--(Oh gosh--dare I even say this??) the city administrators--both the Councils and the Mayor's office. The solution??? Not building something touristy that would reflect on the true history of the prime real state spot, and thereby will encourage people from across the country to want to visit it, and the rest of New London--but by developing Condos--Condos that won't be sold--but rented---for a minimum of $1,800 a month. Wow. I am telling you...that piece of land got some serious karma problems. Sorry--had to rant. Now back to our regularly scheduled program!!!
Greg Bryant October 10, 2012 at 01:38 PM
That is absolutely true Mr. Smart. Those that pay taxes can vote on the referendum. Rest assured that the mayor will work as hard as possible to keep that from happening, he will direct the "Law Director" to say it cannot happen. It is the way the mayor does business. All those non residents that are paying taxes on real estate, business inventory, or other personal property in New London have the right to vote on specific issues in New London. But we did not see the mayor working to get those people out for the referendum! Think about it. The mayor disenfranchised the people that are paying the bills. How is that good for New London. Those people cannot vote for him in an election that is why he casts them aside.
Greg Bryant October 10, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Here is the State Statute; http://cga.ct.gov/current/pub/chap090.htm Sec. 7-6. Eligibility to vote. At any town meeting other than a regular or special town election or at any meeting of any fire, sewer or school district or any other municipal subdivision of any town incorporated by any special act, any person who is an elector of such town may vote and any citizen of the United States of the age of eighteen years or more who, jointly or severally, is liable to the town, district or subdivision for taxes assessed against him on an assessment of not less than one thousand dollars on the last-completed grand list of such town, district or subdivision, or who would be so liable if not entitled to an exemption under subdivision (17), (19), (22), (23), (25) or (26) of section 12-81, may vote, unless restricted by the provisions of any special act relating to such town, district or subdivision.
Greg Bryant October 10, 2012 at 01:40 PM
The last sentence is the clincher. Look at the New London City Charter, it does not restrict the voting rights. So they can vote.
Spencer October 10, 2012 at 02:28 PM
If such is a a true statement--then why pray tell were the business owners who have their bussiness' here in NL--but live in another City told that the couldn't vote in the referendum--and who told them they couldn't vote???????????????
Alphonse DeLachance October 10, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Very strange at the least.
Alphonse DeLachance October 10, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I think the mayor told them, while he was recruiting the non tax paying college students. The business owners and landlords should be outraged. Circle the wagons boys. Even a business that rents a location and has taxable inventory at over $1,000 would be able to vote on the referendum? Is that right? It appears that way from what the statute says.
Spencer October 10, 2012 at 04:25 PM
If this is accurate, it should be deemed as voters fraud and should be attention as such. First it must be established how it came to be that non NL residents business owners came to believe that they were not going to be allowed to vote, then must file a class action suit against those people for violating their rights. My other question would be why is it that lawyers, especially lawyers who have a business here...but live elsewhere...didn't make us aware of this law being falsely portages during the last referendum? ?????
Clark van der Lyke October 10, 2012 at 04:26 PM
I can't believe there are people out there that think all these decades have passed and non-resident property owners could have voted on budgets and nobody knew that. First of all New London is a city by charter, not a special act town. No non- resident tax payers cannot vote on budget. How would that work for multiple owners of businesses? Everybody gets a vote? The answer is no.
Clark van der Lyke October 10, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Only registered voters can vote in New London on anything. To be a registered voter you must establish that you are a resident, or if you have relocated, that you plan to continue to make New London your abode. The answer is still no.
Alphonse DeLachance October 10, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Clark, Does the New London Charter prohibit non residents voting on referendums? No it does not, so the state statutes allow it! Done deal. Many other municipalities do allow it because it is the intent of the state law.
Alphonse DeLachance October 10, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Clark, rarely are you wrong. This is one such case. Call the SOS office. A voter and an elector are two distinct and different things. An elector must be a resident a voter does not. A voter votes on issues, an elector elects people to office. The state statutes make that distinction very clear. Please identify where the city charter specifically restricts that.
Alphonse DeLachance October 10, 2012 at 05:11 PM
The multiple owners of business establishments issue is identified in teh statute as well.
Spencer October 10, 2012 at 06:52 PM
does anybody know if there is a precedent for this issue and question?? has there ever been a case that address something like this????
Alphonse DeLachance October 10, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Yes many other communities do this. Do not believe anything here call the Secretary Of The State's office and ask them. They will lay it all out for you. Very simple and straight forward. The state statute is in line with the whole no taxation without representation principle. You can live in Waterford, own property in New London, Norwich and Groton and vote on budgets in each of those other three towns. You just cannot elect people to office.
Alphonse DeLachance October 10, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Peggy Reeves, Assistant to the Secretary of the State for Elections, Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs. peggy.reeves@ct.gov 860-509-6100.
Sue P. October 10, 2012 at 07:21 PM
There is a meeting tonight at 7 at the Senior Center put on by the LOT group. I think it would be a good thing to all come together and discuss this budget in person. If you happen to go through the 261 pages of the budget and say to your self What the heck are we paying for that for, then you need to be at this meeting.
Alphonse DeLachance October 10, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Sorry I am in N.O. LA this week on Business, please put something about the meeting results on PATCH.
Sue P. October 10, 2012 at 08:01 PM
I'll either post it here or check your profile and I can write you a note there. I'll keep you updated.
Clark van der Lyke October 10, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Thank you Mr. DeLachance. I am far from always right. However...I will say that in th e 20 years I was City Clerk I would get different opinions from SOA depending on who you talked to. The premise seems fair is some respects. However, remember New London is an odd duck. We for example are not bound by minority party representation and probably the only municipality that can elect all Republicans or all Democrats to the council or board of ed. I do know that in order to vote at a referendum your name must appear on the voter registration list. How else would anyone know who you are? There simply is no listing at the polls of owners of property in New London who live in East Podunk or anywhere else. Interesting.
Sue P. October 11, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Alphonse, Just got back from the lot meeting and Mike Passero Mare Friess-McSparren and Jeff Smith the finance directer where there. They answered a lot of questions that the crowd asked and some of it is very confusing. I happened to bring my neighbor who does accounting. She had the budget all printed out and pointed out problem after problem in the budget. Mike P. kept on bringing up the audit so I said why should the citizens want to pass a budget that is not correct and also we want to see what happens after the audit. Not one mind was changed after this meeting. I am 99% sure that this budget will be petitioned again. Why would anyone vote on a budget when the numbers are all wrong and mixed up? I could go on and on but it doesn't change anything the numbers are not correct on the budget.
Rick Lushay October 11, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I think a referendum is a waste of time. A tax revolt is in order. Set up a legal escrow account and have all taxpayers pay their taxes into that account until the budget issues are resolved. The big issue is that the mayor lies, his staff lie, all but 2-3 city councilors lie or just do not understand the budget process and basic econmics. Something drastic needs to take place. There is no way this mayor or 5 of the councilors will ever get elected again.

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