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New London - Councilor Adam Sprecace began a discussion Monday night about the city's 2012-13 budget by saying he does not believe the city has a legal spending plan in place and cannot send out tax bills in January.
But City Attorney Jeffrey Londregan advised the City Council that the budget and the tax rate are valid, subject to repeal at a referendum set for November 2013, four months after the end of the fiscal year.
"It's the only option that makes any logical sense and doesn't come out with absurd conclusions,'' Londregan said. "If the petition is successful (next November) you'll have to deal with it at that time."
Two weeks ago, the council accepted a citizens' petition that called for the council to reconsider the $41.3 million general government budget. After a series of failed parliamentary maneuvers - including declaring the petition invalid, repealing part of the budget and rescheduling the referendum to an earlier date - the referendum was set as required by the city charter for the next municipal election - November 2013.
"Your action created some uncertainty,'' said Londregan, who had advised the council not to accept the second petition, citing a section of the city charter that caps spending at 25 percent.
"Now, with the situation that exists, it leaves you with the only logical explanation,'' he said - accepting the budget as valid and sending out the tax bills.
There has to be a budget appropriation ordinance in place to allow the finance department to write checks, he said.
"If you want to go in another direction, that's up to you,'' he said.
Council President Michael Passero said the council cannot take any action on the referendum without a motion from one of the councilors to reconsider the Nov. 5 vote to accept the petition.
"There is no further mechanism for us to act unless someone moves to reconsider,'' he said. " We fulfilled our role in this process."
The council took no action Monday night.
A petition submitted last summer forced a referendum on Sept. 8, at which a majority of voters rejected a $42.3 million general government budget which would have called for a 7.5 percent tax increase. After the council cut $1 million, bringing the increase down to 5 percent, a second petition was circulated and signed by more than 800 residents.