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Finizio holds first public session to explain New London budget

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: theday.com

Published August 23. 2012 2:00PM   Updated August 24. 2012 1:18AM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day
New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio addresses residents Thursday in the Public Library of New London community room for the first of a series of budget forums.

New London — George Sprecace, a former city councilor and father of Councilor Adam Sprecace, tried to strike a deal with the mayor during a forum Thursday to discuss the upcoming referendum on the 2012-13 budget.

Sprecace said he would support the $42.3 million general-government budget that will be voted on Sept. 18 if Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio calls for a forensic audit of all the city’s finances.

“That’s my offer,’’ said Sprecace, one of just over a dozen people who showed up for the first of 14 forums the mayor is having to convince the public to approve the budget in September.

“We have to make sure we know we are starting from the right direction,’’ Sprecace said. “The fact of the matter is, in order to proceed with this new form of government, the city needs some reassurances.’’

Finizio said he would support a forensic audit, but the decision is up to the City Council, which would have to appropriate the millions of dollars he estimated an audit would cost.

“The only reason I have not pushed for it is I feel we are getting a very clear snapshot of where we are at this point in time,’’ Finizio said. “A forensic audit will not show how we got here. As I’ve said, we inherited this mess. It’s my problem, it’s our problem and we have to deal with it. I don’t see any benefit from finding out who was to blame.”

Finance Director Geoffrey Smith said the city hit a financial wall this year after years of overestimating tax collections and underestimating the cost of running departments.

In June, the City Council approved an $82.1 million budget, less than half a percent increase over the 2011-12 budget of $81.9 million. The 2012-13 spending plan includes $39.8 million for education and $42.3 million in general-government spending, a 0.66 percent increase.

But because the cost to taxpayers of covering the budget is a 7.5 percent tax hike, the mill rate would go from 25.31 mills to 27.22 mills.

Residents petitioned for a budget referendum on the general government side of the budget, which will be held Sept. 18. The school budget is not part of the referendum vote.

According to Finizio, who spoke for about 30 minutes and then answered questions for another hour, those living in the city’s 1st District, which is around New London High School, would see a tax increase of about $250 a year, or 69 cents a day. For those living in the 2nd District, where houses generally cost more, the average increase would be about $288 a year, or 79 cents a day. In the 3rd District, where the city’s most expensive homes are located, the average annual increase would be about $380 a year, or $1.05 a day.

If the budget is reduced to a 5 percent increase, Finizio said he would have to find $1.26 million in cuts. Garbage collection in the downtown would be reduced from twice a week to once a week; recyclable pickup would be every other week; and all road paving and sidewalk projects would be suspended.

There would be no information technology technician on call after-hours and on weekends. Also, the position of the head of the Office of Development and Planning and one of the four positions in the City Clerk’s Office could be eliminated.

Other cuts could come from the youth programs, the Parks & Recreation Department and closing the senior center, he said.

The next forum will take place at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 28 at 2 Wives Pizza.

“This has been helpful,’’ said Frank McLaughlin, a resident and downtown property owner. “I give him credit for coming out and talking with people.”

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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