Mayor Daryl Finizio announced this afternoon that he has vetoed the . Finizio also said the city has reached tentative agreements with the unions of the and unions to avoid .
The veto scraps the $42,466,252 budget approved by the council on May 29 unless councilors can muster a six-sevenths majority to overturn the veto. Finizio said he has been in contact with councilors and that based on these conversations he is certain the veto will be sustained in a vote before the council.
“This is so that the budget can be corrected to accurately reflect the revenue estimations for the city, which upon third reading were overestimated by the council to the tune of $265,000,” Finizio said of the veto. “This also allows for the new city budget to reflect the agreements that have been reached with the collective bargaining units in police and fire, and also restore funding for critical city staff.”
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The veto says that due to a depleted fund balance, an overestimation “could force the city into bankruptcy.” It also says the budget as approved eliminates money for positions the council is not legally able to defund, including the assistant city clerk, as well as “critical administrative positions that are vital to the operation of the city government.” Finizio says the budget transfers to save fire and police jobs were unnecessary since negotiations with the unions were attempting to achieve the same goal.
“This budget will now be a budget that is fair and equitable, with the costs evenly distributed throughout every department with concessions having been made to collective bargaining units, with reductions having been made in administrative positions and salaries, and with the lowest possible tax increase being reached so that the city can still maintain essential services, meet its legal mandates, and not run a deficit in the coming year,” said Finizio.
Finizio said he felt the $40,626,405 budget approved for the was “inadequate.” He said he sent it to the city clerk without his signature, which will result in its becoming law in 10 days. He said the city will work with a special master approved for a to determine a proper funding level for the schools.
“I still believe we need to make investments in our education moving forward, but I look forward to working with the state,” said Finizio.
Finizio also said that since the tax billing cycle has already begun, the bills that have been sent out are based on the current fiscal year rather than the 2013 fiscal year. He said he has been meeting with the to discuss how to account for the tax increase without having lump sum increases on individual bills, and said the city may send smaller supplemental tax bills for incremental collection.
Details on agreements not released
In a June 3 editorial in , Finizio said New London’s minimum staffing level in the fire department is high compared to surrounding municipalities. He said reducing the level from 18 firefighters per shift to 16 could save $500,000 with no impact to public safety, while reducing the level to 14 would save $1 million and allow the establishment of a pension plan.
However, Finizio and Rocco Basilica, the president of New London Firefighters Local 1522, said the details of the tentative agreements cannot be released at this time since they need to go through a ratification process within the unions as well as a process with the city administration and council. Basilica said a ratification meeting will take place next week and the union will have 48 hours to decide whether to approve the agreement.
“Everything worked out well,” said Basilica. “We communicated the whole time, and we came to an agreement that I think everything’s going to be satisfied with.”
Finizio said all parties have been respectful and the negotiations have proceeded in good faith.
“This was a difficult process for everyone,” he said. “It took a lot of hours, and these individuals really gave their all for the city of New London and deserve our thanks.”
Both Basilica and the police union thanked Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover, who has been .
“Ms. Glover has been intent on finding workable solutions with respect and dignity [toward] our union leaders and our rank and file,” the New London Police Union AFSCME CT 724 said in a statement on its website.
The negotiations with the police union are still ongoing, and will conclude tomorrow. The union will meet on Friday to discuss the details of the negotiations, according to the police union website.
The negotiations aim to prevent the anticipated termination of 25 people and five vacant positions in the fire department as well as 10 people and 11 vacant positions in the police department. In its final reading, the City Council approved a transfer of funds from other areas to the departments to avoid the layoffs.
As part of the council decisions, Councilor John Maynard proposed eliminating funds for the deputy police chief, mayor’s office administrator, risk manager, and assistant city clerk. Maynard also proposed reducing the salaries of the finance director as well as the mayor’s chief administrative officer and executive assistant. The council approved the transfer of these funds to the fire and police departments in a 5-2 vote.
Maynard said that he remained in favor of these decisions, saying the money that was transferred might now by cut from the budget in order to reduce the tax increase or fill the revenue gap.
“There’s definitely going to have to be a negotiation, but there’s got to be a reason for me to change my mind about it,” he said.
Council President Michael Passero said Finance Director Jeff Smith should have been aware of any revenue shortfalls and brought them to the attention of the council. He said the council will have to negotiate a new budget if it cannot override the veto, and that it would likely have to finalize a budget in a special meeting prior to the start of the 2013 fiscal year on July 1.
Passero said he and Finizio are in disagreement over the interpretation of the charter in regards to whether funds for the assistant city clerk can be cut. He said the defunding of some administrative positions was made in response to anticipated layoffs and that the council sets priorities for what may be cut. Passero also said the council will need an exact figure on the anticipated savings resulting from the union negotiations.
“My position all along is that whatever [Finizio's] position with the unions is, it’s not based on the budget,” said Passero.
The council’s next meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday.
The budget cycle
In January, Finizio and Smith warned that the city was facing an approximately over three years due to a , a projected deficit in the current fiscal year, and the anticipated need to replenish the general fund in the 2013 fiscal year.
Finizio’s initial called for a $46,100,021 municipal budget and $41,011,927 budget for the New London Public Schools. The budget represented a $5,266,226 increase from the 2012 budget and would have increased the mill rate—the tax per $1,000 of assessed value—about 20 percent, from 25.31 to 30.28. Finizio said the increase would be necessary to maintain the current level of services, and that the school budget increase was needed after years of flat funding.
The City Council voted 5-2 on April 30 to approve a budget that was trimmed to $83,092,657, with . This included an additional two percent cut to reductions approved for 16 departments.
Finizio announced last month that in order to meet their reduced budget, the fire and police departments would have to terminate staff and leave positions vacant. The council’s final reading of the budget on May 29 transferred funds from some administrative positions to these departments, but the final approved budget remained at $83,092,657.
Council votes to increase some anticipated revenues brought the mill rate to 27.22. This would result in an additional 1.91 mills, or a 7.5 percent tax increase over the current fiscal year.
Original breaking news:
Mayor Daryl Finizio announced today that he has vetoed the $42,466,252 municipal budget approved by the City Council. Finizio also said the city has reached tentative agreements with the fire and police unions to avoid layoffs in those departments.
Finizio said he believes the budget as passed overestimates anticipated revenues by $265,000. He also encouraged the council to reconsider its decision, which included eliminating funds for positions in the mayor's office.
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Finizio said he considered the $40,626,405 budget for the New London Public Schools to be "inadequate," but that he has submitted this budget to the city clerk without his signature. This budget will go into effect in 10 days.
A full story will be posted this afternoon.