New London wrestles with many budget needs

New London - A dozen people spoke at a public hearing Thursday on the city's proposed $82 million budget, with most asking for more money for seniors, youth services, the library and education.

But what many did not understand is that funds for the public library, youth affairs, the senior center and recreational programs had already been restored.

During the hourlong hearing, some members of the City Council acknowledged that money is tight.

"I'm not a financier or a business person, but I can read a document and I truly believe this budget is a fair and accurate state of the financial affairs of the city,'' said councilor Donald Macrino, chairman of the Finance Committee.

"I guess to summarize, I feel like we are a family with five children and they all have special needs ... and I have one slice of bread. Do I break it up into tiny pieces? Or feed the sickest child? Truly, that is the position we find ourselves in.

"We are doing our level best to keep everyone afloat in way that is fair and honest.''

On April 30, the City Council approved an $82 million budget for 2013-14, which represents $41.6 million for general government spending and $40.4 million for education. It is nearly $900,000 more than the spending plan proposed by Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio and restores nearly all of the cuts the mayor had proposed.

It represents a 3.38 percent tax increase. The tax rate would go from 26.6 mills to 27.5 mills.

After weeks of meetings with department heads, the Finance Committee voted in a split vote to increase the general government budget by $319,000, or less than 1 percent.

The council did cut about $400,000 from the education budget after learning the school administration said it could find funds for additional elementary school teachers and a guidance councilor at the middle school by shifting money within its budget. The council's approved school budget is a 1.44 percent increase over the current budget.

The Board of Finance, which can add or subtract from the budget, will review the spending plan at a 5 p.m. meeting Monday in the city's finance office. The City Council will meet the following Monday to review the finance board's recommendation.

A spending plan must be forward to the mayor by May 31.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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