Mayor Daryl Finizio said Monday that he believes a budget increase is necessary to stabilize the city’s finances and avoid future deficits.
In his “State of the City” address delivered prior to the City Council meeting, Finizio announced that he is seeking an $87,111,948 budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The proposal would be a 6.4 percent increase over the current year’s budget and increase the mill rate—the tax levied per $1,000 of assessed value—by 4.97 to 30.28 mills.
“In short, we cannot kick the can down the road any further. We have run out of pavement,” said Finizio. “If our budget is not accurately balanced we will face the same crisis next year. With no back-up fund balance, the city could crash. We cannot allow that to happen.”
Last year, City Manager Denise Rose for the 2012 fiscal year. The City Council ultimately approved an .
Finizio has requested an increase of the budget by three percent, or $1,194,522, to $41,011,927. The Board of Education . Finizio said the more modest increase targets a request for a salary increase for 10 school employees making over $100,000 a year and takes into account opportunities for consolidating city and school financial departments. However, Finizio cautioned councilors against further cuts to the school budget, which has been for several years.
“Numerous school positions and programs have been funded in the past by temporary revenues that are due to expire this year,” he said. “Inflation has also increased basic costs of doing business for our school system. After years of level funding, without some investment, I fear our schools will be unable to meet their mandate to provide a basic quality education to all our children.”
The budget maintains , but does not add any positions for the new fiscal year. Finizio said this year he will forgo the establishment of grant writer and legislative lobbyist positions, jobs he , and keep the staffed at its current level, with 11 vacancies, for the next fiscal year.
The most substantial changes in expenditures increases, which go up by $5,249,378 under the proposal, are:
- A $1,584,616 increase (21.86 percent) to the budget for the new deputy chief’s position and contractual salary increases
- The $1,194,522 increase (3 percent) to the New London Public Schools budget
- A $1,040,748 increase (11.81 percent) to the budget for contracted salary increases and “a reorganization of the department to increase functionality through a clearer chain of command”
- A $926,822 increase (18.15 percent) increase for debt services to fund public improvement projects bonded for by the city
- A $711,394 (6.15 percent) increase to the New London Police Department budget for contractual salary increases
- A $361,866 (9.03 percent) increase to the general government budget for additional staff, contractual salary increases, and the elections budget for the upcoming election
Finizio says some of the increases, including those in the police department and Department of Public Works, are offset by reductions in the use of outside services. He said the taxable grand list has increased 0.29 percent, from $1,560,289,376 to $1,564,831,278.
In January, Finizio and Finance Director Jeff Smith said the city was facing a in the fiscal years between 2011 and 2013. Finizio said on Monday that cost-saving measures will leave the general fund balance at $1 million to $2 million at the end of this fiscal year.
“Contrary to the belief of some, whether motivated by politics or personal animus, this deficit was not created by the current administration, or form of government. We have arrived at this point because of years, if not decades, of systemic budget problems,” said Finizio. “Constant dipping into our fund balance, knowingly underfunding easily predictable line items, and years of refusals to raise taxes, over the contrary recommendations of city managers and the constant inflationary increases in the cost of government, are the causes of our current budget crisis.”
Finizio said the council could save an additional $2 million in the 2013 budget by looking into possible reforms in the fire department, including the potential closing of one of the three fire stations and reducing overtime through negotiations with the firefighters’ union. However, he said he considers the proposed budget has been pared as far as it can go without impacting the current level of services.
“At this time, other than reductions in aide to community based organizations, the administration does not see any area in this budget where significant savings can be realized responsibly,” said Finizio.
In addition, Finizio said he would reserve his right to veto the council’s budget proposal if it relies on “revenue over-inflation or deliberate under-budgeting of legally mandated items,” or use a line item veto if he considers that the council has cut significant items or added unnecessary spending.
Councilor Adam Sprecace, who has questioned the figures regarding the projected deficit, said he did not see the budget before Monday evening and will have to look over it closely.
“Based on the comments that have been made over the past couple of months, it’s exactly where I thought it would be,” he said of the requested increase. “It doesn’t mean I agree with it. I still don’t accept the premise that the deficit is as large as the administration says it is.”
Michael Passero, chairman of the council’s Finance Committee, said he thinks the city administration did its best to find savings and will work with the council in crafting the 2013 budget. However, he said he did not expect that the council will approve the increase as requested.
“I think we have a lot of work to do,” said Passero. “I don’t think the taxpayers are going to be able to carry a tax burden of a five mill increase.”
The Finance Committee will begin meeting with department heads on their budget requests starting at 4 p.m. on April 9 at . The committee will also be meeting on April 12, 17, and 18.
“The State of the City”
Finizio’s address also covered matters not pertaining to the budget. He said the Coast Guard has and that city and Coast Guard staff are reviewing options for sites. He said Coast Guard officials are also supportive of keeping services within New London.
"While no expansion is planned in the foreseeable future, the Coast Guard Academy is only planning to expand here in our city,” he said.
Finizio defended his actions regarding the police department, including the . He expressed his hope that the settlements reached with the administrators will be funded, a request which has .
“Management re-staffing in the police department will be completed shortly,” said Finizio. “New policies are already in place. Disciplinary actions taken by the administration also send a clear signal that accountability will be demanded throughout our department.”
Finizio said several new hires represent the diversity of the city. He also alluded to the termination of firefighter recruit Alfred Mayo, an action .
“Diversification is a work in process,” said Finizio. “The people of New London should be assured that qualified minority job applicants will be advanced, but the people of New London should also be assured that we will not lower our standards of excellence for anyone.”
Finizio also praised the work of his staff and other city employees, the receipt of grants for and , and the work of local businesses and citizens’ groups.