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Vote On New London Budget Stalled

City Council vote on revised 2013 municipal budget and tax rate tabled until Oct. 9

New London’s 2013 municipal budget and tax rate remain uncertain as the City Council tabled a vote on the issues tonight and opponents of the previous budget said they will challenge the budget as it currently stands.

The council, which held a special meeting to act on a recommended by the Finance Committee, will next consider the issues on Oct. 9. Councilor President Michael Passero previously said the meeting was called to try to resolve the matter prior to next week’s regular meeting, when one councilor is on vacation.

The decision aims to give the Finance Department enough time to put together a comprehensive document on the revised budget. Councilor Adam Sprecace said the budget materials presented to him did not have information on areas such as longevity, division based health costs, and pension contributions.

Sprecace made a similar complaint prior to a Sept. 18 referendum, which rejected the $42,323,256 budget and 27.22 tax rate approved by the council on June 19. Sprecace said he had previously received the requested information, but wanted to ensure that it would be available to the public in the document that is put on the city's website.

“This information has to be put online for the public by the time we requested it,” he said.

Finance Director Jeff Smith said the department had been working on revising the budget document since the Finance Committee voted on Tuesday to recommend the budget and tax rate.

“I know sometimes it seems like we can just push a button, but there is a significant amount of grunt work required,” he said.

Opponents unimpressed

At the referendum vote, 1,436 were against the budget while 1,007 were in favor of it. The tax rate was also defeated in a 1,470 to 963 vote.

The Finance Committee met three times after the referendum and ultimately voted 2-1 on Tuesday to accept a budget reduction recommended by Smith. The majority of the budget reduction comes from $500,000 in anticipated savings in debt refinancing, which Smith said would be possible under current interest rates. He said the city may have to make additional reductions if a smaller savings are realized when the refinancing is done in November.

Another $280,000 would be removed 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 budget also makes a number of adjustments resulting in both budget increases and decreases. These include $46,966 cut from personnel costs, a $160,000 reduction to 60-day collections revenue, and a $73,150 increase to the law department budget.

Doug Schwartz said he did not believe the committee’s actions would lead to “fiscal sanity” in the city, saying he felt several costs had been put off to a later date. He said he also thought the council had conceded too much to municipal unions, leading to high pension and retirement costs.

“This is why people are going to petition and shoot it down,” said Schwartz. “It’s unacceptable.”

Avner Gregory, of the group Lower Our Taxes, said he did not consider that the council had done an adequate job or lowered the tax rate far enough. He also accused Passero, a member of the New London Fire Department, of being influenced by the city’s unions.

“We’re going back to referendum,” he said. “This is not going to stand.”

Passero responded that he and the councilors have worked diligently on the budget and that he planned to continue work through the fiscal year to monitor costs and seek additional revenues.

“I don’t accuse you of working for one faction of the city just because we disagree,” he said. “I think the debate should remain civil.”

Frank Jarvis, a New London Police Department detective, said he considered that there has been increased “rhetoric” about the municipal unions in recent weeks. He said the unions have forfeited salary increases and made other sacrifices as New London works on its budget.

“I really don’t want to hear any nonsense about the unions, particularly the police union, not making sacrifices,” said Jarvis. “We have.”

Police concerns

Jarvis also cautioned the council on a planned $250,000 reduction in the police budget included in the revised budget, saying it could have an effect on public safety. The majority of this reduction would come from leaving five vacant positions in the police department unbudgeted.

Councilors Marie Friess-McSparran and John Maynard said they would oppose the cut in the police department.

“I think it’s a bad place to start when violent crimes are on the rise,” said Friess-McSparran.

Sprecace said he considered that vacancies in the department will be filled by promotion, leaving lower level vacancies that may be filled at a slow rate at lower costs.

“By my math if you started filling the vacancies now you could start paying for each of these positions in February,” he said.

Passero said the department will still be able to prioritize expenses with the cuts and that he did not consider that it would inhibit public safety.

“I do not see this $250,000 cut out of an $11 million budget as hamstringing that operation,” he said. “I think that’s a red herring.”

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Spencer September 28, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Wow!!! Nearly 2 weeks to work all of this out! This is better then a reality show! Hey--wait!! I think I am onto something here!
Sue P. September 28, 2012 at 02:36 AM
I don't care if you are a no don't raise our taxes or a yes sure go ahead person this meeting was like watching a Monty Python skit. Adam asked for the papers that he has been asking for all along. Jeff Smith said they are in the package I handed out. Adam said no I don't have them, does anyone else have them? They all said no. Then Jeff Smith said oh I'm sure they are here as he filed through his papers for 15 minutes. Finally Mr. Smith said that finding out all that information is grunt work. What the hell is really going on? What are they trying to hide? Why is the auditor the treasurer of the Democrat town committee? Is Ashton Kutcher going to jump out and say you all have been punked? Please if you get a chance try to find a taping of this council meeting and you will see for yourselves. There is something seriously wrong. Also it sounded like Jeff Smith called Adam Sprecace, Mr. Camachi. That's when my soda came out of my nose. Sorry had to add a little humor because the situation is soooo sad.
Allyn de Vars September 28, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Sue, I believe the auditor you are referring to is Ron Nossek, who is not the Treasurer of the New London Democrat Town Committee, nor is he a member of the New London Democrat Town Committee. Before slinging comments around, you really need to do your homework first.
Sue P. September 28, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Allyn just repeating what was said at the meeting. I don't know who this Ron guy is but the councilors do and so did a lot of the citizens that spoke. They are the ones who said he is the treasurer to more then just the DTC. So that's where I got it from and no one there said anything different. Maybe he use to be the treasure of the DTC?
Sue P. September 28, 2012 at 04:40 AM
Allyn you are absolutely right. He is not the treasurer for the NLDTC but was or still is the treasurer for the NLDC. I can see where people made the mistake. Oh I remember the old NLDC, Oh my don't get me started on that.
NewLondonSource September 28, 2012 at 11:21 AM
“I know sometimes it seems like we can just push a button, but there is a significant amount of grunt work required,” Jeff Smith is such a blowhard; When Finizio asked him to publish a package of salary and pension information for all municipal employees THE DAY BEFORE THE REFERENDUM, he was able to deliver. Seems like 2 business days should have been more than enough time to reproduce info he claims to have given to council in the past. Can we reduce Jeff's salary? As soon as he starts performing like a Finance Executive, we'll start paying him like one. Now, he's just an obstructionist lemming that panders to the mayor and gives everyone else the runaround. Passero needs to be put in check as well; Did he really justify passing the motion based on a promise from the administration? Hasn't the past 9 months taught him anything about promises from Finizio & Co.?
Carol D. Fox September 28, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Sue: I don't think they are trying to hide anything. I'm beginning to think that the Finance Director is not a very good FD. That doesn't mean that they are hiding anything. It just means they need a new Finance Director. He obviously knew that the papers the Council wanted was not in the packet he gave to them. Why he blew smoke especially when it is a public meeting, just makes it look worse for him. So doing an audit would be a good thing and replacing Mr. Smith would be a much better thing. If his grunts aren't doing the work, perhaps it is time for him to get his hands dirty and do it himself.
Spencer September 28, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Jeff just replace his "We have the money, but we don't have the money that we have..." speech with a new "You have the paper, but you don't have the paper that you have..." speech. I guess it is an updated version!!
citygirl September 28, 2012 at 12:46 PM
I said months ago to get rid of Jeff Smith- he's arrogant, either incompetent or dishonest, and he is holding up the whole process! He said "this is like grunt work" - oh yeah, well maybe someone else would like to do the grunt work for what he gets paid. TIme to replace him. Why does Adam have to do his job as well as Jeff Smith's job?
Sue P. September 28, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Carol, Did you watch the meeting? I just can't get over Jeff Smith filing through those papers and making up excuse after excuse. Then we had Mr. Nolan walking in and out of the meeting also whispering in Hyslops ear while the meeting is going on. I have seen pre-school kids more organized. I had a friend over last night watching it and she said if she didn't see it with her own eyes she wouldn't believe it. Do you remember the Liar on Sat. Night Live that use to say " Yea that's the ticket" That is pretty much what Jeff Smith sounded like. It was bad.
Debbie September 28, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Over the air waves, everyone at the recent City Council meeting was unprepared, and lost, including the Finance Director! Printed figures or calulations from Finance Director were unavailable, missing, or best guess! Seems there's a circus going on within New London City Hall Chambers for the past few months. Time to get each department to cut their annual budget an additional 5% for good measure.
William Desmond September 28, 2012 at 01:59 PM
From the Day article: http://theday.com/article/20120928/NWS01/309289946/1018 "Finance Director Jeffrey Smith, who said he thought the information was in the budget document he had handed out, said he had previously provided the details to the council, and the details should have been included in the final budget" "They were supposed to be in there,'' Smith said. "We have all the info; if it's not here, it's an oversight.'' Just when you think Jeff Smith could not be more of a fool or a bigger idiot he proves you wrong. If this guy is this sloppy and inept on this budget presentation a reasonable person woulds ask: IS IT SAFE TO ALLOW HIM TO OVER SEE $40 MILLION DOLLARS OF OUR MONEY?
William Desmond September 28, 2012 at 02:02 PM
He was at one time the DTC treasurer.
William Desmond September 28, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Passero tabled this until one of his yes vote councilors is back from vacation. But when the fire fighter pension vote was up he called the meeting and vote on a day when one councilor was recovering from surgery or something and had to be called in from BED rest at the last minute. This councilor was a NO vote that passero did not want. He has really turned out to be a scumbag. Passero is the most corrupt person on the council he lost all sense of morality as well as all his integrity. Resign Mr. Passero you are hurting New London. You are probably acting illegally as well. You and Finizio are 2 of a kind.
William Desmond September 28, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Or fire teh grunts, how much savings is there. I think that the finance director should be auditing the department budgets on a regular basis anyway.
Spencer September 28, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Gee William---how come you can't tell us how you really feel about all of this?
Sue P. September 28, 2012 at 02:40 PM
William, I agree, the excuses are getting old. I don't think that there is one person who can twist this story. And thank you for finding out that the new auditor was the treasurer of the DTC. Never mind the NLDC.
Rick Lushay September 28, 2012 at 03:18 PM
This all is such a joke. The council president and Mr. Nolan could set up a voter or mayoral challenge to the contracts that their unions made with the mayor and the city. I suspect that should either one of them vote for a reduced budget it means that they do not and did not support the budget referenced in their respective contract amendments. They were bound by contract to support the budget and now the vote no coalition could call the contract provisions void, The No Layoff clauses would be voided and the whole agreement done and that paves the way for the mayor to now layoff fire fighters and police. What a tangled web they have wove for themselves. Do not underestimate the cleaver underhanded tactics of the mayor and his staff. I see a big storm is brewing. The community is not happy.
William Desmond September 28, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Yes a storm is brewing, has been for a while. The voters finally have seen the problem. I like the theory you put out. If that is true the people could make the argument that the fire fighters pension deal that will cost the taxpayers a minimum of $4 million in bonded money plus interest could be in real jeopardy depending on what Passero does on the budget. He best abstain or be out of council chambers for the vote along with Nolan. Why put your union brothers and sisters at risk.
Spencer September 28, 2012 at 03:43 PM
I wonder if there are any other towns in CT having as much fun as we are having???
Spencer September 28, 2012 at 03:54 PM
To be absolutely fair to the Councils members--let's not get them on one rowboat with this whole thing. This is a battle--and the battle is for the taxpayers pockets!! John Maynard keeps giving ideas about where the budget can save taxpayers money--He keeps getting shut down!! Marie Fries-McSparren wants accountability in the budget. Last night's meeting PROVES that still is not happening!!!! Adam Sperece wants all of the information about ALL of the numbers--especially when it comes to pension numbers. Where was it last night? These people are trying to make sure that if money comes out of your bank account--at least it is for a viable cause. I think they should be commended in their diligence!!!!
Carol D. Fox September 28, 2012 at 04:10 PM
@Sue: I never get to see the meetings on tv? I have u-verse and do not get the public access for this area. It's enough that I get to read about it in print. If Mr. Smith is that inept, he needs to be replaced.
Spencer September 28, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Carol--would it be possible for you toa ctually go to the meetings themselves?? Talking is one thing--but showing up shows an entierly different potential!!
William Desmond September 28, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Thomas that means that we have 2 1/2 to 3 councilors on the right side at any one time working for the people of New London and standing up for what is right. If the two bound by contract to support the budget recuse themselves the citizens may have a chance.
Spencer September 28, 2012 at 04:31 PM
By george--I think he got it! I don't know who you refer to as a half of a councilor--but you are getting the picture. The point being this is not being drawn out for the sake of letting it be dragged out. This is working out the kinks--before getting something in motion that is going to go klunk! It is better to fix what is broken..when you know it is broken!
William Desmond September 28, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Sprecace is the 1/2, he is back and forth on these issues. Passero absolutely dragged it out without the numbers the budget would have failed. He is trying to make sure he has the votes. and there was such urgency to take care of this before OCT 1. But now that one of his YES vites will be on vacation it is OK to put this off for 11 more days. If that does not bring a question to your mind you are not paying attention.
Spencer September 28, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Sperecace's 'back and forth' on the issue began when he discovered information was missing. Whether that information was deliberately not made available is an issue that should be debated.

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