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Close but no budget: New London City Council vote on slimmed-down spending plan tabled

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day

Published September 28. 2012 4:00AM   Updated September 28. 2012 11:20AM

New London - Nearly three months into the fiscal year, the city almost had an approved budget Thursday night.

The City Council met in a special meeting to approve a revised $41.4 million budget that was nearly $1 million less than what was approved in June.

But Council President Michael Passero abruptly called for the vote to be tabled until Oct. 9 when it became clear that at least two members of the council were not in favor of the new budget. One left the room during the discussion.

Councilor John Maynard, who voted against the budget during the Finance Committee deliberations earlier this week, announced Thursday that he did not support the revised budget because it hadn't been reduced by enough.

Councilor Adam Sprecace, who voted in favor of the amended budget at Tuesday's finance meeting, said Thursday he needed more information from the finance department.

Councilor Anthony Nolan, who is a New London police officer, left the meeting without giving a reason, and it was unclear whether or not he would vote. In the past, Nolan has not participated in the discussion or voted on police matters.

Last week, voters rejected the $42.3 million budget and a tax rate of 27.22 mills that was needed to fund it. Councilors spent Monday and Tuesday reviewing the budget and made about $940,000 in cuts that the administration had recommended, including saving $250,000 by not filling five vacancies in the police department. Those five would be in addition to 10 vacancies already left open in the 2012-13 budget.

The revised $41.3 million budget is a 5 percent tax increase.

Sprecace had asked for lists of additional employee costs other than salaries, such as longevity, health insurance and pension payments.

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.''

Passero suggested that since the Finance Committee had already seen the information, the council pass the budget with the understanding the information would be included later and put online as part of the budget document.

But Sprecace, the lone Republican on the council, said he wanted to be sure the information was part of the budget he was passing.

"If these details are missing, details I've requested several times aren't included, I don't know if I can support this,'' he said.

Earlier in the meeting, several residents threatened to force another referendum if the budget was not cut further.

"I see that this council is doing little to restore fiscal sanity,'' said Doug Schwartz of Denison Avenue. "People are going to petition and vote it down. It's not acceptable."

Avner Gregory of Franklin Street also called for deeper cuts.

"I've very disappointed you didn't do your job,'' he said. "I didn't put my skin on the sidewalk for a 2.2,'' he said, referring to the amount cut from the budget increase.

"We are going back to referendum,'' he said. "You didn't cut, you played games."

The $42.3 million budget that was defeated at referendum represented a 7.5 percent increase in taxes. The revised budget of $41.3 million represents a 5.1 percent increase. Property owners have not had a tax increase since 2009.

Also addressing the council Thursday was New London Police Detective Frank Jarvis, who said the city needs to fill the five vacancies in the department.

"I've given my blood, my sweat and my tears to this city,'' said Jarvis, who has lived in New London since 1959 and has been with the department for 33 years.

The city cannot afford to have fewer officers, he said.

"With murders and assaults happening, cops are going to get hurt, civilians are going to get hurt,'' he said. "I want to see the city safe. I want the citizens to be safe."

He said the police union has given back to the city, agreeing to no raises four times over the past 10 years.

"That adds up to a huge savings,'' he said.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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