New London City Council budget deliberations to continue later this month

New London — When budget deliberations pick up again later this month, the City Council will consider, among other items, the elimination of at least five city positions, with a strong likelihood of layoffs.

The positions include an engineer in public works, a Senior Center bus driver and clerical positions at the Senior Center and fire and police departments. All but the police department position are filled.

The proposed cuts combined would save more than $350,000 when coupled with benefits. The highest salary among the positions is the engineering position at $93,690, or $138,380 with benefits.

Mayor Michael Passero’s proposed $92.8 million budget also contains a hit to the Recreation Department programs and appears to impact summer activities, or what the budget labels as “occasional payroll” line items. The $169,000 reduction would seemingly cut funding for lifeguards at Greens Harbor Beach, swimming instructors, an aquatics director and program managers for the rec department’s summer playground program, which includes swimming lessons at an Ocean Beach Park pool.

Finance Director Don Gray said the reductions came during the months of work to bring the proposal as close as possible to an amount that would not severely impact taxpayers.

“The directive to the departments was come in with a level budget,” Gray said. “The departments put in the requests they felt they needed. What came in was well over what we could afford. There had to be a sizable deduction.”

Gray said the reductions were aimed at impacting areas of the budget that would hurt the fewest residents.

Even with the reductions, the mayor’s proposed budget shows a 3.16 percent increase over the current year's spending plan, which translates into a 0.43-mill increase in the tax rate. A mill is equal to $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed property value. Taxes would increase by $43 annually for a home assessed at $100,000. The budget includes an increase of $448,000 in taxpayer funds toward the education budget, about $500,000 short of the school board's request.

Preliminary deliberations between the City Council's Finance Committee and department heads took place this past week but serious budget discussion will not happen again until later this month. There has been no indication yet on how the council will proceed.

City Council President and Finance Committee Chairman Anthony Nolan has said the initial meetings with department heads were held to allow the council to have a better grasp on the nearly 450-page budget document that was delivered at the last council meeting. The intention was to listen to the department heads and “absorb the information and have an understanding of what the mayor has presented,” Nolan said.

The Finance Committee tentatively is expected to meet again the week of April 23.

Councilor Don Venditto, also a member of the Finance Committee, said the cuts in the Recreation Department “jumped off the page” but more discussion is needed and “everything is still up for debate.”

“I understand the difficulty in finding places to cut when you’re trying to get to a point where there is no tax increase,” he said of the mayor’s proposed budget.

g.smith@theday.com

Editor's note: This version of the story corrects the budget total.

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