New London's 'chance to seize the moment'
New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio delivered his State of the City address Monday. The following are excerpts from that speech.
A year ago, amidst a historic transition in our government, I reported to you on the State of our City.
Together we had to confront a difficult reality. For many years, indeed for decades, our city finances had been in disarray. Repeated and reoccurring deficits had drained our city reserves while the cost and size of government had continued to escalate. Years of level funding, and decades of neglect, had allowed our school system to become one of the lowest performing in the state.
Together, however, we as a community rose to the challenge.
(The resulting) cuts and restrictions ... contract concessions and managerial changes, did not come easily or without conflict and controversy. It wasn't easy but we got there. The council and the administration secured not only the cuts, but also the additional revenues, required to operate our government.
Through it all, amidst every controversy, and in spite of every political spat, New London successfully hosted OpSail 2012, the largest event in ... Connecticut last year.
Last fall we confronted the onslaught of Superstorm Sandy, the worst hurricane to hit New London in over 50 years, then again this winter we battled the worst blizzard to hit our city in over a century. In both cases the city staff and emergency management personnel performed admirably and got our city up and running ...
I can report tonight ... that after all these controversies and challenges, after years of financial mismanagement and deficit spending, New London is on track to balance its budget this year. Together we have saved our city.
Now, as our city government under its new charter, and our city finances under new management; begin to stabilize, we have the chance to take advantage of unprecedented opportunities.
This week, Adm. Robert Papp, the Coast Guard commandant, the Coast Guard Museum Board, Gov. Malloy, and myself, will formally announce the location of the National Coast Guard Museum in ... New London.
This year the Renaissance City Development Association indicates we will break ground on the multi-million dollar Village on the Thames development project at Fort Trumbull.
These milestones are but a few of the numerous economic development projects that are currently in the works ... but pale in comparison to what I believe is the greatest opportunity that lies before us.
This year provides our city with the chance to finally, and meaningfully, address education reform in New London. We have the chance to become the first all magnet school district in ... Connecticut.
Student achievement can be raised, facilities in desperate need of replacement can be rebuilt at a lower cost to New London taxpayers, and our school system can meet its mandate to our children.
The time has come to invest in our public schools. That is why the budget I present to the council includes the full request for funding sought by the Board of Education.
While opportunities abound ... we continue to face tough financial challenges as well. Under the current state budget proposal, operating revenues to the city are declining significantly.
This is not a budget that can avoid a tax increase. Revenue losses and mandatory cost drivers present a situation that we simply cannot completely cut our way out of.
The budget I now propose for the municipal government, however, represents the most dramatic single year reduction in city expenditures in our history - $1.4 million would be cut from the police department budget ... $500,000 from the fire department. Further cuts include a 50 percent reduction in funding to the New London Public Library and to Parks & Recreation ... and the complete defunding of the New London Senior Center. These cuts, in total, will exceed $750,000.
I must emphasize when discussing these cuts that this is not cut and abandon, this is cut and replace. This is learning to live with a new economic reality.
If we work hard, if we stay true to a long-term vision for our city, we will see these tough times through to better days. I believe in New London and its potential, now more than ever. This is our chance to seize the moment; this is our time to rise to the occasion.
I believe this so firmly because in my heart I know, and I have no doubt, that this city, your city, our city, is the Renaissance City.