Token tinkering

New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio was true to his word, give him that. After only 10 percent of city voters turned out for an Aug. 6 referendum - rejecting the general government and education budgets and the proposed tax increase - Mayor Finizio said he could see no room for further reductions because cuts in city services the past two years already went too deep.

Perhaps it should be no surprise then that his post referendum budget proposal delivered to the City Council Friday has no cuts. Oh, it proposes a net $588,543 in savings. This is largely attributable to the fact a dozen police officers have left for other departments since the fiscal year began July 1 - avoiding anticipated layoffs - meaning $282,000 saved on benefits and $300,000 on unemployment insurance the city will not have to pay out.

But those savings are largely offset by "revenue adjustments," including $459,000 less state revenue than was projected when the administration put its budget together.

Mayor Finizio also proposes a symbolic $5,000 cut in the education budget.

Add it all up and what you get is, basically, no change at all. The mill rate, which was to increase .9, would instead increase .89, saving New London taxpayers collectively $9,450 over what was previously proposed. The city budget would stand at $41 million, education at $40.4 million and the tax rate at 27.49.

While we share the mayor's position that New Londoners should have approved the budget and it is already austere, his proposal to institute the tiniest of token budget and tax reductions - after citizens petitioned the budget to referendum and defeated it - is, well, insulting.

Yes, it is frustrating that so few voted and so the true feelings of New Londoners on fiscal policy is difficult to discern. But this is the process and must be respected. While deep cuts are certainly not a good idea and some tax increase likely unavoidable, the council needs to reduce spending further and cut the mill-rate increase at least in half.

It was encouraging to hear Mayor Finizio say he would entertain more cuts by the council, even if he doesn't agree with them, but will oppose and potentially veto any attempts to falsely pump up revenue numbers. That got the city in trouble before, he correctly noted.

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