NL budget: Move forward

The curtain may at last be ready to fall on the long-running drama involving New London's municipal budget - but there's always the possibility of a surprise ending.

Will the full City Council, which meets tonight, go along with its Finance Committee's decision to cut $940,000 from the $42.3 million spending plan, including a recommendation that five additional vacancies in the police department go unfilled?

If so, will voters, who rejected an initial budget that called for a 7.75 percent tax increase, still oppose this new plan calling for a 5.1 percent rise and petition for a second referendum?

These plot twists could drag out the final act of an already tortuously protracted production.

This newspaper was unhappy that voters opposed the first budget, even though we understood their reasons. Who wants higher taxes? We were even more disappointed that less than 19 percent of the electorate bothered to go to the polls - hardly a ringing mandate.

And we are concerned that the five unfilled police positions, when added to 10 vacancies left open in the 2012-13 budget, would leave the department with only 81 employees at a time when public safety has become such an important issue.

New London has worked hard to polish its image as a popular entertainment and tourist destination, with lively clubs, innovative restaurants and creative shops that rely on visitors who, like residents, need to be comforted by police protection. The city can't afford to sacrifice security.

Yet there are few other options. Every city department has made significant reductions and police must now also learn to do more with less.

We therefore urge the council to accept a grim fact it too often ignored in the past - that you can't adopt a spending plan based on unrealistic revenue projections. It's time to pass a responsible budget.

Taxpayers must also understand that unlike the federal government, the city can't run up a huge deficit. Voting against tax increases simply means less revenues and fewer services, including police protection.

The proposed budget is far from perfect, but given the circumstances it's the best possible compromise. Delaying its approval would be far worse.

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