Finizio vetoes New London budget, announces concessions deal

New London — Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio vetoed the City Council-approved municipal budget Wednesday morning before announcing later in the day that labor negotiations between the city's police and fire unions would not result in any layoffs in either department.

The veto, Finizio said at an afternoon press conference, is needed to correct the budget, which he said contains a $265,000 overestimate of revenues and needs to "reflect the (labor) agreements and to restore funding for critical city staff."

Some city employees who received layoff notices may still lose their jobs. Finizio did not specify which personnel cuts would be restored.

Michael Passero, City Council president, said after the press conference that the council will most likely vote to override the veto at Monday's council meeting. Six of seven councilors are needed to override the mayor's decision. If the vote fails, he said, the council will work to have an agreed-upon budget in place by July 1.

Calling the labor agreement "fair and equitable" and with fire union President Rocco Basilica at his side, Finizio told reporters at City Hall that negotiations with the firefighters, which wrapped up Tuesday afternoon, ended with a tentative agreement that would prevent the layoffs of 25 firefighters who received termination notices late last month.

Finizio and Basilica said union bylaws prevent the parties from discussing the particulars of the agreement until the union has voted for the changes. Basilica said he expects that vote will come nextThursday, with a majority needed for approval.

The news of an impending deal, Basilica said, has increased union morale and "makes it easy for me to lead."

"We're ready to move forward," Basilica said.

Negotiations with the police union are scheduled to wrap up Thursday afternoon, Finizio said, but preliminary discussions indicate the layoffs of 10 police officers would be avoided and the agreement would generate "significant savings" for the city.

Todd Lynch, police union president, said after the announcement that he was invited to the press conference but declined to attend.

"I am doing the best I can to save jobs for 10 of our union members," Lynch said. "I continue to fall back on the fact that it is my belief that there's been enough money in there the whole time to avoid all of these (layoffs). For me, it's still troubling, hence why you didn't see me (at the press conference)."

During the third reading of the city budget May 29, which Finizio said Wednesday was "a rather confusing meeting," police Chief Margaret Ackley sent a text message to the city's finance director saying she had enough money in her overtime budget to avoid laying off 10 police officers. Finizio said despite that revelation, every department is "making a reduction" and that some of the police department's reduction will be in the form of union concessions.

Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover, who stood with Finizio during the brief press conference, has represented the city in negotiations with both departments.

Earlier in the day, Finizio said, he vetoed the City Council-approved $42.5 million general government budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year so that changes could be made to reflect the labor concessions, lower the council's estimated revenues by $265,000 and restore funding for city staff cut during the council's third budget reading.

Passero, the council president, said the revenue estimate came from Jeff Smith, the finance director.

"There's a lot of misinformation going on," Passero said. "It's been difficult to nail the numbers down with this administration during the whole process."

Finizio said the new budget would more closely reflect the council's second reading and would stay within the approximately 8 percent tax increase the council had approved. He said he was confident he would have the votes to avoid an override of the veto following conversations with council members.

He added that he has decided to neither sign nor veto the $40.5 million school budget and instead will let it automatically become the adopted budget.

Finizio said tax bills for July 1 have already been sent to city property owners. He said they reflect the current year's tax rate because a new rate has yet to be set. A supplemental bill will be sent after the new rate is approved.

At the beginning of the budget process, the mayor had proposed an $87 million budget with a 20 percent increase in taxes, which he had said would have preserved all services and jobs. Finizio announced the layoffs after the council approved the first of three readings of the budget.

Passero said the council would make sure a budget is passed by July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

"It goes two ways: we override the veto and then have the ordinance as of Monday night," he said. "If not, we have to come to some agreement within the next week and vote on a new ordinance June 25."

s.goldstein@theday.com

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