Hartford is a hot financial mess. Both in city proper and state legislative budget deliberations that decide the flow of dollars to Bridgeport. As a result, to buy time, Mayor Joe Ganim vetoed the no-tax-increase budget approved by the City Council. Now the council is scheduled to meet on Thursday to override the mayor to preserve the budget it passed.
Sometimes passage of municipal budgets are a leap of faith, particularly for cities that rely on millions in state dough. City bean counters are still uncertain about the specific state dollars coming Bridgeport’s way. Governor Dan Malloy has his number which by all accounts is less than what is projected in the approved city budget. The city could still be rescued by the state legislature when it passes a budget. But will that be in June or in a special session afterward?
The city budget year starting July 1 will have no tax increase. But suppose the city receives $4 million less from the state than anticipated? Something must give over the course of municipal spending for the next year. Or in lieu of that a fairy godmother of money.
The council must secure 14 votes to override the mayor. If it does not then the spending plan Ganim submitted is adopted. The council made some changes to Ganim’s budget including cutting the police overtime account by $1 million.
It may have happened but in the 30 or so years the council has approved the budget, no one can recall a likewise scenario of a local budget vetoed because of a state financial crisis.
In the early days of the council approving the budget, the city was under the thumb of a Bridgeport Financial Review Board that was created by the state to ensure city budgets were in balance. The state allowed the city to use its bonding powers to borrow $55 million to wipe out red ink and create a reserve. In exchange, the state enacted a review board that began under Democratic Mayor Tom Bucci in 1988, lasted through one two-year term of Republican Mary Moran and ended in the summer of 1995 during Joe Ganim’s first tenure as mayor.