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New London — The City Council passed a $41.3 million general government budget Tuesday night, ending months of controversy over the 2012-13 spending plan and how much property owners are willing to pay for services.
But residents could still petition the council's action and send the budget back for a second referendum.
"I think it's going back,'' resident Tom Wise said after the 5-2 vote. He said residents want lower taxes and less spending.
Council President Michael Passero and Councilors Donald Macrino, Wade Hyslop, Adam Sprecace and Anthony Nolan voted in favor of the revised budget, which represents a 5.1 percent tax increase. The council also approved a 1.31-mill tax rate increase, bringing the tax rate to 26.6 mills.
The budget is about $1 million less than what was approved by the council in June and rejected by voters in September.
Voting against the budget were Councilors John Maynard and Marie Friess-McSparran.
Maynard opposed the administration's recommendation to cut $250,000 from the police budget and said the council should have taken more time to find other places to cut.
Friess-McSparran said she could not support the revised budget because about $500,000 was a savings from refinancing the city's debt service. There is no guarantee the city will save that much money, she said.
"I don't think that's a good way to balance the budget. It's a dangerous way to do business,'' she said. She also agreed with Maynard that the police budget should not be cut.
But Sprecace said even with a $250,000 cut from police, there is enough money in the public safety budget to fill up to six vacancies in the department.
"I don't believe a $250,000 cut from an $11 million budget, the largest in the city, will hamper the department from doing its duties," Passero said.
The group, Looking out for Taxpayers, which helped spearhead the petition drive which forced the September referendum, is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. tonight at the Senior Center to discuss the council's action.
No one from LOT could be reached last night.
The council had approved a $42.3 million budget in June, which was a 7.5 percent tax increase. Earlier in the year, the mayor had proposed a budget which would have raised taxes by 20 percent. There has not been a property tax increase in the city since 2009.