A weary Budget and Appropriations Committee turned a long day’s Saturday journey into an early morning Sunday vote just after midnight by cutting nearly $4 million from Mayor Joe Ganim’s $560 million spending plan, adding roughly $1.5 million to the flatfunded Board of Education, delaying a police class until the next fiscal year, cutting vacant positions and eliminating former Police Chief Wilbur Chapman’s position as senior adviser to Ganim for public safety. The vote was 6-1 with freshman councilman Anthony Paoletto the lone dissenter.
“I support giving more money to schools but I voted no because Wilbur Chapman will be a loss to the city and I also did not want to put off a police class,” said a tired Paoletto late Sunday morning.
Saturday morning the budget committee had gone into caucus to pull apart pieces of Ganim’s budget facing a deadline to move the budget to the full City Council for Monday night’s scheduled special meeting. What happens at the committee level is generally approved by the full budget body.
City Council President Tom McCarthy says the budget cutting provides “tax relief of a little less than half a mil” from Ganim’s proposal.
Putting off the police class, according to budget committee numbers, saves $520,000. The committee also slashed the City Attorney’s Office proposed budget by roughly $250,000 and Chief Administrative Office by $160,000.
Once the full council votes on the budget it goes back to Ganim for potential veto action and a response from the council before it sets the mil rate in June for the budget year starting July 1 with implementation of revaluation of taxable property.
The six yes votes came from Evette Brantley, Aidee Nieves, Jose Casco, AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia, Denese Taylor-Moye and Council President Tom McCarthy sitting in for Scott Burns who was required to attend to a family matter.
Ganim announced the hiring of Chapman shortly after his return to office in December for $64,000 for a six-month period. Ganim would like to keep Chapman around for at least another six months. Chapman helped to restructure the police department that included making life difficult enough for Joe Gaudett to resign as chief to accept a consulting position overseeing the department’s emergency services. Gaudett received a controversial five-year contract renewal from Bill Finch in the closing days of his mayoralty. Ganim wanted to appoint a police chief of his own and did so on an acting basis with AJ Perez following the Guadett move.
Ganim says hiring 100 new police officers to address a dwindling public safety department is a priority so he may very well use his veto power if funding for the police class is not restored by the full council. He’ll also likely find a way to keep Chapman on board if he wants to stick around.
“Obviously these are both investments in which Mayor Ganim believes strongly,” says Ganim spokesman Av Harris. “The mayor is committed to improving the public safety of Bridgeport so we can seed and germinate better education and more economic growth in our city. Hiring more police officers is essential to that outcome, especially because the manpower in our police department is depleted to dangerously low levels. More officers also cuts down in the budget busting millions the city spends annually on police overtime. Former Chief Chapman brings decades of solid government and police management experience. Mayor Ganim decided to invest in him as a consultant and use his wisdom and understanding to help us reorganize our public safety agencies. These efforts are already seeing success and will save taxpayers millions of dollars while making our city safer–dividends far greater than the price of Mr. Chapman’s contract.”