New London mayor prepares for 'extreme' cuts

New London - Further cuts to the proposed $42.3 million general-government budget will be deep and felt by many, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio told members of the Democratic Town Committee on Tuesday.

The mayor said he may have to consider merging the Recreation Department with the Office of Development & Planning, cutting the public library's subsidy and laying off administrative workers to save about $1.2 million, if the 2012-13 budget fails at the Sept. 18 referendum.

"The cuts will be pretty extreme, but nothing is finalized,'' Finizio said Thursday. "There's nothing proposed yet, nothing put forward yet."

He has asked city department heads to present him with revised budgets that would reflect a 2.5 percent decrease, or about $1.2 million less, in the $42.3 million spending plan that will be put before voters.

Council President Michael Passero, who did not attend the DTC meeting, said Thursday he's not yet worried about what may be cut.

"It's not going to be his (the mayor's) decision,'' Passero said. "It goes back to the council, and we'll decide where to cut. He doesn't set the priorities. The council does."

Residents earlier this month successfully petitioned to send the 2012-13 general-government portion of the budget to a citywide vote. Many said the proposed 7.5 percent tax increase needed to support the budget - a 1.91-mill increase - is too high.

The $39.8 million education budget, approved by the council in June, is not part of the referendum.

Some of those who petitioned for the referendum said they could live with a 5 percent tax increase. Others have said they would settle for nothing less than a spending plan that maintains the current tax rate of 25.31 mills.

But Finizio said getting down to a 5 percent tax increase, which means cutting about $1.2 million more from the 2012-13 budget, is going to be difficult.

"Some have said to get 5 percent is nearly impossible,'' he said. "It could affect the entire city. We would need major cuts to programs and services to get there.''

He plans to schedule public meetings throughout the city at the end of August and beginning of September to lay out what a 5 percent increase in taxes would look like compared to a 7.5 percent increase.

"Every department in city government has been cut and is smaller than two years ago, and certainly smaller than 10 years ago,'' Finizio said. "We're smaller and leaner than we've been in years."

But with revenues off and no fund balance as backup, Finizio said the city cannot run a deficit.

"When you start to see all of that, it's not a matter of government spending more or being too big,'' he said.

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