Norwich's unbalanced budget signals things must change

Is a budget really a budget if it doesn’t cover anticipated costs?

The Norwich City Council set a budget for the last fiscal year but, to no one’s surprise, it had to recently dip into its surplus fund to balance the books. The same thing is likely to happen this time next year.

In two consecutive elections voters in this normally Democratic city have given Republicans control of the purse, with the GOP holding a 4-3 City Council majority and Republican Peter Nystrom winning a second four-year term as mayor in 2017, returning after a Democrat held the seat for four years.

To a significant degree Republicans have held true to campaign promises to hold the line on spending and taxes.

On Tuesday, however, the council voted 6-0 to move $1.25 million out of the city’s surplus accounts to cover an $828,000 shortfall in education spending and $420,000 for the paid city fire department. The school system actually finished the fiscal year June 30 at $1.4 million in the red, but the council had previously moved $572,000 from other accounts.

The Board of Education maintains it cannot run the city schools on what the council is providing.

The surplus now sits at 11.3% of the overall city budget, uncomfortably close to the 10% considered the minimum under perimeters set by the council.

With Election Day two months away, and council and Board of Education seats to be decided, necessary is an honest debate on what it really costs to run the city. Passing budgets that don’t cover expenses invites a future fiscal crisis.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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