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New London - The City Council on Monday night approved the first reading of an $85 million budget for fiscal year 2014-15, which represents a 5 percent increase in spending over the current budget.
The council's proposed $85,285,812 budget is nearly $2 million less than what was proposed by Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio and includes $44 million for general government spending and $41.3 million for education.
The general government portion of the budget was approved 6-1, with Councilor Martin T. Olsen dissenting. The education budget passed unanimously. The council's budget will now be forwarded to the Board of Finance for its review.
The budget the council approved Monday eliminated about $1.2 million from what the mayor had proposed for the police department. Finizio included funding for 14 new police officers in his proposed budget, to bring the department into compliance with the council's recently adopted minimum staffing level of 80 officers. But because the department would not be able to hire all 14 officers this year, the council eliminated the funding for all but three new officers.
The council's budget also eliminates funding for eight of the 12 new positions the mayor proposed for the Public Works Department.
However, the council increased the budget for the Board of Education by $78,256 to fund a full-time guidance counselor position for Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School. The budget also includes $500,000 to replenish the city's withering fund balance.
Earlier this month, Finizio proposed a budget of $87,128,467 in spending - an increase of 7.24 percent over the current year's budget. Finizio's proposed budget had included a $1.4 million increase for the police department, funding for 12 new positions in the Public Works Department and small increases for other departments.
Last week, the council's Finance Committee requested that Finance Director Jeff Smith reformulate the budget to reflect increases of 2.5 percent and 5 percent over the current year's budget.
Smith presented the council with both scenarios, but said that a budget with an increase of just 2.5 percent would require the city to lay off employees, which the council indicated it did not want to do.
A public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. May 7 in the auditorium of the Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut.
The council is expected to give its final approval of the budget, in what is called an appropriation ordinance, on May 27. The mayor could then sign the ordinance, or veto all or parts of it. The council would need six out of seven votes to override a veto.