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    Op-Ed
    Saturday, July 20, 2024

    Norwich deserves better from its mayor

    This year’s budget process has been a particular challenge. Revaluation and the real estate market have shifted the grand list toward the residential property owners in unprecedented ways. The truth is that the city manager’s budget also would have increased residential taxes in the 25% range; and it would have cut $6.8 million from the school budget. That would have cut the School Resource Officer program and 30-plus teachers beyond the 50-plus COVID positions already cut, and still would have left the school budget in a deficit.

    A lot of negativity has been said in public and on the radio by the Norwich mayor about how the Democrats did this, and the Democrats did that … blame, blame, blame for everyone except himself. The mayor has failed the city of Norwich by failing to put his focus and efforts where the city charter says it is: growing the grand list through economic development.

    Here’s the truth about what the Democratic caucus actually did to help you. We led the School Budget Ad hoc Committee to find $4.4 million in school budget cuts. We moved hundreds of thousands of dollars from the ARPA projects directly to the capital side of the budget, to avoid additional borrowing, including defunding the former Mahan Drive police department property purchase. We asked for and adopted over $200,000 in operational cuts, and we continue to reallocate current and proposed capital budget funds to implement sensible priorities. We then restored $2.4 million to the school budget to fund the district in a way that does not start the year in a deficit.

    Actions speak louder than words. It was the Democrats on this council that held the line on taxation through two previous budget seasons using over $2 million of ARPA money for tax relief. It was the Democrats on this council that built the Board of Education non-lapsing account to a $3.3 million surplus. It was the ARPA allocations insisted on by the Democratic members of this council that reached the most disenfranchised members of our community and addressed infrastructure issues that the city could never afford to fix through taxation.

    Let’s also remember that in one budget year, the Republicans on this council drove the BOE from a multi-million surplus to a multi-million dollar deficit by voting to under-fund the school budget. Meanwhile, the mayor and his caucus have done nothing to find a solution to today’s budget puzzle.

    And while the mayor plays the blame game on the Stu Bryer show, he’s been spending his time going door-to-door sowing fear, anger and misinformation to residents about their property tax while pitching his “I told you so” narrative. If he shows up at your door in Norwich, ask him what HE did to solve the budget challenges. Ask him what ideas HE brought to the table. He will not have a valid or truthful answer for you.

    Perhaps the mayor should look at his own failures before pointing fingers at the rest of the council. Perhaps he should focus on actually pursuing, cultivating and nurturing new business to genuinely increase revenue or, perhaps he should step aside for someone who will.

    Joseph A. DeLucia is President pro tempore of the Norwich City Council.

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