Services, insurance rate hikes help pump up New London budget

New London - Under the 2014-15 budget approved Tuesday by the City Council, the three largest budget increases will go to the departments that provide the most tangible day-to-day services to the most residents: public works ($613,770), fire ($563,324) and police ($369,750) departments.

In terms of percentage, however, the greatest increases in the budget are for city functions that most residents have very little interaction with: the city's insurance, its legal department and the combination of the mayor's office and the personnel department. And the increases are driven by factors over which residents have no control.

The council-approved budget includes an increase of about a quarter million dollars for liability, property and auto insurance - an increase of roughly 36 percent over the current budget.

The premium for the city's insurance policy, provided by the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, went up about 10 percent earlier this year, and the city's deductible for that policy increased from $0 or $50,000 - depending on the line of insurance - to half a million dollars, The Day reported in March.

The increases came as a result of poor experience, or a high number of claims with potential losses, over the last three years, Finance Director Jeff Smith said in March.

Three incidents in particular - the August 2011 police-involved shooting that left the driver of a stolen ice truck paralyzed, the July 2013 drowning of a 6-year-old boy at a municipal beach on Pequot Avenue and the Jan. 30 death of a man who fell into the trash compactor at the city's transfer station - likely contributed most to the premium and deductible increases, he said.

The law department budget will rise by about 20 percent, an increase of $58,000 over the current budget. The increase is driven in large part by anticipated tax appeals as a result of the recent state-required revaluation, which saw many properties decrease in value, Law Director Jeffrey T. Londregan said during the council's review of the law department budget last month.

The increase is also a result of Londregan's work on the National Coast Guard Museum project, which he said has "more moving parts than you could possibly imagine."

Londregan's firm charges the city $150 per hour, which is about half of the private client rate, he said. That rate has not changed in about 10 years, he said.

The third-largest increase by percentage - about 14 percent - is for the office of the mayor, which includes the city's personnel department and emergency management.

In total, the combined budget increase is $65,200, even though the budget for Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio and his staff will decrease by $13,166. A state-mandated harbor management plan accounts for $50,000 of the increase.

The only department that will see a net decrease in its budget is the City Council. Its budget will decrease by $2,467, or less than 1 percent.

On Tuesday, the City Council approved a general government budget of $44,030,106 and an education budget of $41,255,706 for a total city budget of $85,285,812. The 2014-15 budget represents an increase of $4,041,352, or 4.97 percent over the current budget.

In total, the city's $85.3 million budget will necessitate a tax rate of 38 mills, an increase of 10.5 mills.

c.young@theday.com

Largest budget increase, by dollar amount

       
Dept. FY14 FY15 Difference
Public Works $7,427,880 $8,041,650 $613,770
Fire Dept. $5,538,320 $6,101,644 $563,324
Police Dept. $7,509,209 $7,878,959 $369,750
Insurance $700,130 $950,000 $249,870
Transfers/Debt Service $5,274,600 $5,455,107 $180,507
       

Greatest budget increase, by percent change

         
Dept. FY14 FY15 Difference % Change
Insurance $700,130 $950,000 $249,870 35.69%
Law Dept. $282,000 $340,000 $58,000 20.57%
Mayor's Office $471,200 $536,400 $65,200 13.84%
Recreation $422,766 $470,247 $47,481 11.23%
Fire Dept. $5,538,320 $6,101,644 $563,324 10.17%
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