Mayor Daryl Finizio said at a press conference this afternoon that he is concerned with the budget , saying it makes cuts to essential positions and includes overestimates on anticipated revenues.
Finizio said the city has not rescinded any layoff notices, which have gone out to employees in the , and Recreation departments. He said that he has not yet made a decision on whether he will veto the budget or certain line items, and that he plans to further review the $83,092,657 budget with the City Council. This includes a $42,466,252 municipal budget and $40,626,405 budget for the .
“Obviously as we’ve discussed since this entire budget began, revenues are the underlying problem in the budget,” said Finizio. “If we do not correct our revenues and estimate our revenues accurately, we face the same situation next year that we face this year. And we cannot do that. We cannot run a deficit, because without appropriate reserves we do not have the ability to make up any shortfalls.”
On May 17, Finizio announced that the —which had the same bottom lines as the final budget approved—would result in 25 layoffs in the and 10 layoffs in the . He said the departments would also have to keep five positions vacant in the fire department and 11 vacant in the police department. The layoff notices went during the Memorial Day weekend.
Under the budget proposed by the council, several funds were moved with the intention of providing enough funds to these departments to prevent the layoffs. This involved cutting funds for the salaries of several officials appointed by Finizio, including the deputy police chief, mayor’s office administrator, assistant city clerk, and director of the . The council also voted to reduce the fire department’s estimated overtime by $388,000.
Finizio said the fire department has typically overrun its overtime budget due to minimum staffing requirements. He said the overtime budget proposal aimed to prevent a similar overrun in the 2013 fiscal year and that the city cannot afford to run a deficit due to a depleted general fund.
Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover, who began after the layoff announcement, said the discussions are continuing and that she felt the council’s action was “preemptive.” Finizio said he believes these discussions can prevent any layoffs, and that the elimination of funding for the deputy police chief will have a detrimental effect on public safety.
Finizio also said the budget cuts, including the layoffs, have been presented to him by department heads and administrators. He said he made the announcement about the potential layoffs in an effort to show the possible impact of reduced funding for the departments.
“Contrary to what people are saying, I’m not playing politics with this budget,” he said.
Finance Director Jeff Smith said he was also concerned about some revenue numbers approved by the council in setting the mill rate, which would be a 1.91 increase over the current fiscal year—or a 7.5 percent increase—to 27.22. Smith said the Education Cost Sharing funds are overestimated by about $450,000. He said other funds need to be adjusted due to reduced money from the state or based on current year actual figures.
“We need to look at those, and we need to adjust them,” said Smith. “Because as the mayor said, we can’t run a deficit. We have nothing left to fall on.”
Response to City Council comments
Some members of the City Council were critical of Finizio and his administration during Tuesday’s meeting, accusing him of giving varying budget figures and using dishonest tactics to attempt to influence the budget.
Finizio said tensions are high between the council and administration, but said he has not sought to inhibit the council. He said he was frustrated with suspicions that the city’s financial situation is not as serious as the administration has claimed.
“One would have thought facts would have been a good place to start,” said Finizio. “I don’t know what to say to those comments, really.”
Finizio said the city budgets in recent years have aimed to “artificially” hold taxes level while not adequately addressing departments’ needs. He said the administration considers that it has final authority over any layoffs, and that some of the disagreements between the council and administration are based on the new form of strong mayor government. However, he said the administration and council need to cooperate without either side attempting to pressure the other.
“I think there are some in New London who would like to see a city manager still,” said Finizio. “Those days are gone, and they’re not coming back.”