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Time for New London to cut the budget

Published August 08. 2013 4:00AM

It is unfortunate that New London's new budget failed in the city's voting booths this week. It represented a good-faith effort by both the administration and the City Council to continue restoring the city's weak finances and to preserve basic services.

It is also too bad that voter turnout was so low. But it would be wrong to assume that the budget may have fared better had more people voted. No one likes to vote themselves a tax increase, and it's reasonable to conjecture that a lot of people who stayed home would have voted no.

In the end, apathy doesn't count as a yes or no.

Now that voters have spoken, the administration and councilors need to sharpen their pencils and begin the heavy lifting the voters have demanded. Superficial and cosmetic cuts won't do.

In return, voters are going to have to accept the consequences of a leaner budget and the cuts that may be necessary.

Those who are not willing to tolerate more spending have to accept the reality of that.

A case in point were those who turned out this week to support the council's ordinance requiring that the city have at least four police dogs, expanding a program that would entail dog purchases, officer training and new equipment.

Mayor Daryl Finizio, in urging the council to reject the expansion of the dog program, which now has one dog in service, made a compelling argument that more dogs are not needed in a small urban environment like New London.

Should additional dogs be required in some particular case, there are agreements in place for mutual aid from state police or other departments, the mayor contends.

Finally, the mayor made the point in his remarks before the City Council vote on Monday that the police department budget has been cut $2.3 million in the last two years, and police administrators believe that spare money would be better spent on hiring more officers and needed equipment for officer safety and crime deterrence, not more dogs.

The mayor believes he has the votes needed to sustain a veto of the dog ordinance, a veto he has promised. Given the defeat of the budget this week, it would seem even more unlikely the council will override the dog veto.

It is curious that some of the most aggressive tax cutters also support spending more on police dogs. It is also interesting that many city Republicans, usually budget hawks, have teamed up with the police union to lobby for more spending on dogs, at the same time further tying the hands of the mayor as he tries to negotiate a new police union contract.

Drawing the line on dog spending will not resolve the city's new budget cutting mandate, though. It's a small amount compared to what will need to be cut.

It looks like it is time to turn to more substantive issues facing the city, and doing it with less money.

Soon, the debate over more dogs will fade as one of the unfortunate detours during the dog days of New London's steamy summer.

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