The ability of New London City Council President Michael Passero to gain unanimous City Council approval in adjusting general government spending should send a message to the citizenry. While disagreements persist over details, there is overall consensus on the council that further cuts would severely hinder the delivery of essential city services.
The Monday vote was stage two in the process that began Aug. 6 when New Londoners, at least the 10 percent of registered voters who bothered to participate, rejected the general government and education budgets for the fiscal year that began July 1. Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio subsequently presented his adjusted budget to the council with little change in the bottom line or the proposed tax rate.
Internal council negotiations led to further give and take, and a shift in priorities, allowing Mr. Passero to achieve his goal of a majority vote on city spending. The council did not partake in any arbitrary inflating of revenues, which Mayor Finizio had said he would oppose. Mayor Finizio should sign the budget and move on.
Nearly three months into the fiscal year, there is no point in citizens petitioning for another referendum vote. City Council and Board of Education elections are only a few weeks away. The local election is the right forum to debate fiscal policy.
The budget approved by the council sets general government spending at $40.8 million, education at $40.4 million. The total spending reduction from the original budget is $145,000, including a token $5,000 cut to education, as suggested by Mayor Finizio in recognition that the city cannot keep slashing away at spending if its schools are to improve.
While the vote on general government spending was unanimous, Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran, a Democrat running on the Republican ticket in the coming election, joined Councilor John Maynard, who is not seeking re-election, in voting against the education budget, apparently wanting deeper cuts. That was a bad decision that will not help Ms. Friess-McSparran.
Taxes go up .77 of a mill, trimming the tax increase from 3.8 percent to 2.9 percent.
In shifting priorities, the council set aside an additional $250,000 that the mayor can use to hire as many as six new police officers this fiscal year (fewer if inexperienced officers needing training are hired). Since July 1 a dozen officers have left for other departments.
Did the council make a substantial reduction in response to the Aug. 6 vote? Arguably not, but it is time to end this process.