Big Mac’s Big City Council Budget Decision

Tom McCarthy
This budget cycle will be the most challenging for City Council President Tom McCarthy.

Governor Dannel Malloy’s state budget proposal is a real stick in the eye for Mayor Bill Finch, city bean counters, as well as Tom McCarthy who’s looking at his most difficult budget in the years he’s served as president of the City Council. Malloy’s budget, as presented, potentially scalps $30 million in revenue from the city such as funding losses in automotive taxes and slot money from the state’s two tribal nation casinos the city has historically relied on. The city’s at the mercy of the state budget process that won’t be finalized until after the mayor submits his budget proposal to the council early April for the budget year starting July 1.

For more than a decade Bob Curwen, a council member serving the Upper East Side, co-chaired the council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee tasked with reviewing department budgets, revenues and expenses, voting on the budget for final approval by the 20-member legislative body, and then setting the mil rate. This budget, depending on what happens in Hartford, could be fugly, especially in an election year for council members.

Angel DePara
Councilman Angel DePara, budget co-chair.

McCarthy has a big decision to make -whom to assign to replace Curwen as budget committee co-chair serving with councilman Angel DePara. Council committees require co-chairs. Curwen, who announced his resignation weeks ago citing family health reasons, has not yet technically resigned as he attends to family matters. He would need to submit a letter of resignation to the Town Clerk’s Office. If Curwen does not issue his written resignation by the time Finch submits his budget, Big Mac may need to ask the council to vote as a body to officially remove him.

Curwen’s time as budget co-chair goes back to the Joe Ganim mayoral years. Curwen, a retired corrections officer, does not have a finance background, but just serving in that role for more than a decade provides institutional knowledge of department budgets and process.

Who’s a logical choice to replace Curwen as budget co-chair? The council president isn’t saying just yet. Perhaps Sue Brannelly, councilwoman from Black Rock, would be a nice fit. A health care professional, she’s smart, works hard, and has been generally supportive of administration initiatives. Brannelly was part of a community coalition that has led to tougher laws and cleaning up of strips bars and massage parlors in the city.

One thing’s for certain, what happens in the state budget process this cycle will determine a little pain or a lot of taxpayer suffering.



  1. Let’s assume for the moment Malloy’s State budget actions mentioned (which still have to be approved by the State legislature) become law. Further assume we can make accurate predictions of what that means for the City revenue flow. (Please do not forget the State actions that fund the Public School system with additions and pledge to maintain.)
    What it means is the City, starting with the Mayor’s office, needs to prioritize all City activities. Then the City Council through the Budget and Appropriations can do the same. By the way that is not what has been happening for several years. Budget Oversight Bridgeport has attended the budget meetings, studied the budgets being discussed and looked at the minutes that record B&A discussion. There is no consistent activity to assure the taxpayer we are paying for necessary priority activities!!! That cannot continue when the well goes dry. Losing tens of millions as the article suggests is like a family losing one of several breadwinners. You have to cut. But where? Give the public a chance to be in this process; other than one hearing where there is no City response and then the City will not need extra LISTENING SESSIONS later. Time will tell.

  2. After attending most B & A hearings for the past two years I must say it makes a difference who replaces Curwen. The one person who should replace Curwen is Andre Baker. He has consistently asked the tough questions at budget hearings even though he is not a member of the B & A. They will not name him because he won’t kiss the ring.
    I like Sue Brannelly as a person but on the B & A she is definitely over her head; but she will vote as she is told to vote by Finch and Company.
    I am afraid we have 19 clueless people except Baker so who they name really doesn’t matter.

  3. *** Mac better take the time this budget season to be one of the co-chairs of B&A if anything is going to be done on keeping a limit on the city tax raises, etc. the Finch admin will be looking for. Or use some of that city legislative line money to hire an independent firm to assist the B&A with the proposed city budget! *** CLUELESS OTHERWISE ***


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