New London City Council gets a budget F

Remember when New London's last mayor proposed a budget with a 12.5 percent tax increase?

He was more or less booed out of the City Council chambers and the council, guided then by budget-cutting guru Councilor Michael Passero, cut the increase by more than half.

This year, councilors generally purred like kittens as Passero, now mayor, coaxed from them the passage of a budget with a whopping 10 percent tax increase.

I will leave a discussion of the conversion of tax-hawk Passero to tax-hiking Passero for another day. I know he blames declining state aid.

But if Passero gets the makings of a pass for trying to get the most money to run the city the best way he can, the council gets a big fat F for collectively abdicating their role as minders of the city money.

There was hand wringing, one vow not to raise taxes and talk of looking for loose change, like in a sofa slipcover. But nothing stood in the way of this walloping tax increase. It must endlessly frustrate former City Mayor Daryl Finizio, who had to butt heads with the council for each little notch of a tax increase.

Of course this is the same council that got on board with union efforts to scuttle the affiliation of the city's hospital with Yale New Haven Hospital.

The good news for city residents dizzy with the thought of another enormous tax increase is that this is an election year and all the council seats are up for a vote.

Some are already planning to move on.

Erica Richardson, one of those not running again, actually suggested after a budget vote that it was a 10 percent tax increase or bankruptcy.

That is, of course, absurd. There's an awful lot of ground between a 10 percent tax increase and bankruptcy, and it's filled with things like staff and services cuts, which councilors are supposed to contemplate.

Since the councilors, all Democrats, have as a whole abdicated their budget responsibility, it is natural that the political opposition is stirring to life.

A petition to cut or send the budget to referendum filled with signatures, like a lifeboat on the Titanic.

Tim Ryan, a member of the Republican Town Committee, submitted an op ed essay last week citing specific instances of what he calls bloat. He also makes constructive suggestions for cuts.

"Taxes have increased 30 percent in the last five years," he wrote, wondering "when the bleeding will stop."

The New London Green Party is looking ahead to the fall elections, too.

They are smartly pondering the successful strategy by state Rep. Chris Soto, who upended the regime of established city Democrats and primaried his way to the party nomination for his state House seat.

The Greens are looking with envy at Soto's appeal to the city's large Spanish-speaking community.

With the city's tax-increasing budget rattling toward a referendum that will accompany the vote on a new City Council, any current councilors who want to stay on better get out some big budget axes before that happens.

This is going to be an election that is going to revolve squarely around the budget and taxes.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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