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City Council Questions Need For Public Safety Layoffs

New London's fiscal year 2013 budget passes second reading

A for fiscal year 2013 survived a split City Council vote on Monday, with some members doubting the need for layoffs in public safety departments.

At the second reading of the budget, the council voted 4-3 in favor of an appropriation ordinance for a $40,626,405 municipal budget and 5-2 in favor of a $42,466,252 appropriation ordinance for the . The agenda called for a third and final reading on Monday as well, but the council unanimously amended the item to allow the final reading to take place separately prior to the May 31 deadline.

“There’s still too much going on in this budget, and we need more time to address it properly,” said Councilor Adam Sprecace.

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Police and fire layoffs

On Thursday, Mayor Daryl Finizio said that under the budget proposal the will have to and leave five vacant positions unbudgeted. He said the will have to fire 10 police officers while leaving 11 vacant positions unbudgeted.

The council is proposing an $11,390,198 police budget and $7,994,314 fire budget. The police budget is an $890,453 cut from , while the fire budget represents an $840,617 cut from the request.

Personnel Coordinator Bernadette Welch said on Friday that the layoffs will save an estimated $580,000 in the police department and $545,000 in the fire department. She said the high number of layoffs is needed to bring the budgets down to the level requested by the council because such terminations result in increased unemployment and overtime costs.

Finizio said on Friday that the administration is and that he hopes an agreement can be reached where layoffs are not necessary. Rocco Basilica, president of New London Fire Fighters Local 1522, said the union is willing to negotiate but also said he considered that the department is being unfairly targeted.

“Every day, the men and women of the New London Fire Department put their lives on the line,” said Basilica. “That is not a dramatic statement. That is a fact.”

Council President Michael Passero and Sprecace both said they do not think that layoffs were necessary in the departments under their current budgets. Passero characterized Finizio’s declaration that layoffs are possible as a “surprise announcement” and said he still considers that there are adequate funds to cover the departments’ expenses.

“I don’t believe this budget requires layoffs,” said Passero. “We’ve supported the administration’s reorganization and up until Thursday I thought we were going to work collaboratively to present it to the public. And I’m hopeful that we can still do it.”

Sprecace estimated that the layoffs will result in $500,000 in additional overtime costs over the actual number for the current fiscal year.

“I think there is sufficient money to fund the fire department where it is now,” he said.

Finizio said he made the announcement after talks with the unions stalled in order to give the maximum amount of time to have the council consider the matter and to allow negotiations with the unions proceed. He said Fire Chief Ron Samul told him he would have to hand out 25 pink slips at the proposed funding level, and that this is the only option available to meet the budget unless union negotiations are successful or the council reinstates funding.

“It’s my signature for every single person that loses their job,” said Finizio. “I have to live with it. And I don’t want to do it.”

Council authority

Councilor John Maynard said he was not surprised by the announcement of potential layoffs, saying Finizio had previously said layoffs would be likely be necessary due to budget cuts. However, Maynard also criticized the decision to and retain the position while firing officers. He also said he considered that the council had ceded control to Finizio and department heads on where layoffs should take place.

“This council voted 5-2 to give him the authority to do that,” said Maynard.

Maynard was referencing an in which the council said they would let Police Chief Margaret Ackley would decide where in her department any cuts would take place. This vote stepped back from a as part of budget reductions in the police department.

Passero said councilors can still make recommendations for line item cuts at the second and third budget readings. Sprecace said the council still controls the city finances. He said that while the council can recommend eliminating funds for specific positions, the mayor has the ability to use a line item veto to overturn these decisions.

“We didn’t relinquish anything,” said Sprecace.

Maynard said he would prefer to make cuts at the administrative level rather than at the bottom. He suggested that the council should make line item cuts to put the responsibility on Finizio for retaining any such positions the council might decide to cut, and noted that the council can also overturn a mayoral veto with six votes.

President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop said the decision on which areas to cut if necessary falls to department heads.

“We control the purse strings, yes. We control the bottom line, yes,” said Hyslop. “But it’s up to the departments to make that work.”

Votes

Hyslop and Nolan previously opposed the proposed municipal budget after the council voted to make an additional two percent cut to existing decreases in order to bring the tax increase down to 8.33 percent. They remained opposed to the proposed budget on the second reading. Maynard also dissented, saying he would not support the budget until he considers that the council has the authority to make line item cuts.

The proposal for the school budget passed without discussion, with Hyslop and Nolan opposed.

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Kenneth R. Lewis May 28, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Part 2..... New London RN Posted: May 23, 2012 7:41 pm Joe H. I apologize for not being there at the end of the DTC meeting last night, and didn't know you wished to speak with me. I left early to go to the convention for Elissa Wright in Groton. I would, however, be happy to have a conversation with you, as I've clearly upset you by my opinion. Feel free to contact me. The thing is Joe, I'm NOT the enemy. The economy is. If you see in my original post of this article, I've written: "I wouldn't argue the fact that our public safety officers are worth it - but when there is no money to pay them these negotiated amounts, of course layoffs would then become the only answer."
Kenneth R. Lewis May 28, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Part 3........... I know a lot of the firefighters from my many years of working in the E.R. I've WORKED with you. But we live in a city that has no money! So what's the answer? Now, comparing my job to yours: The hospital is ALWAYS looking at ways to cut spending. That's why it is the most financially stable hospital in the state of CT. (That's a fact)How does it do that? One way is this: It gives us our 2% pay raise and then raises our insurance copays and premiums to offset the raise. For those of us who have been employees for a long time (thus have reached the top of our pay scales), we have not seen a net increase in our pay for many years. Thus, I've made the same amount of money over the past 7-8 years, yet STILL spoke at the budget hearing about NOT making more cuts to New London's budget so that people in your department don't lose their jobs! MANY people have to forgo raises and/or have layoffs at their place of employement in this economy. You work for a city that is BROKE. That is a sad fact. I am not the enemy. I'm sorry you feel that I am It is wage scales similar to that of the L&M nurses that cause the cost of our health care to skyrocket. I expect that huge givebacks in the 50% range will bring the costs in line. Are you willing to make that concession for the greater good?
Kenneth R. Lewis May 28, 2012 at 08:48 PM
"I've made the same amount of money over the past 7-8 years" I think that may not be the truth, I would welcome a little research by the editor here and posting of the contract agreements with the L&M nurses over the past 10 years, then we would know the truth.
Kathleen Mitchell May 28, 2012 at 09:35 PM
New London RN who posted "...but when there is no money to pay them these negotiated amounts, of course layoffs would then become the only answer." Why are you assuming there is no money and that, if layoffs are necessary, that they should come from two of the most essential departments in our city? There are many people, myself included, who think that there is money but it has been spent recklessly and for positions that were either not budgeted for or were non-essential considering New London's financial situation. That doesn't even take into account the amount of money spent on hefty and unnecessary separation agreements negotiated by the mayor without council input until after the fact. And it doesn't make me feel any better that the mayor, after giving members of his overstaffed office extraordinary salaries, in consideration of the city's financial crisis, cut 5% from their salaries. If layoffs are necessary, they should come from non-essential personnel and NOT from the people who save our lives.
lion king May 29, 2012 at 02:27 PM
kathleen, back a few mounths ago you put an FOI request for certian complaints filed against some police officers,some cops let those out and others did not ,the very union president did not release his own cc complaints and if you search further you will see how many and why he did not want you to know ,one has led to a civil action that cost the taxpayers money ,the law director dont work for free ,no one wants to layoff cops but in my opinion some cops should be fired not get a pink slip ,

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