In a nearly empty chambers, the 20-member City Council Monday night unanimously approved a nearly $542 million budget that reflected the modest budget committee changes to Mayor Joe Ganim’s spending plan that calls for no tax increase for the fiscal year starting July 1.
The budget now goes back to the mayor for two weeks for possible veto action, returns to the council for a potential override before the setting of the mil rate in June. Any changes the mayor makes to the budget depend largely on the state budget situation in Hartford that decides the flow of state dollars to the city.
Striking was the lack of taxpayer turnout to the council chambers. About 30 members of the public watched the proceedings with at least 20 of them either city employees or potential City Council campaign challengers.
Council members expressed some disagreements over revenue and spending adjustments such as $3.1 million more for city schools and $1 million less for police overtime but unanimously approved the larger budget package in an election year.
East End councilor Eneida Martinez, for one, expressed skepticism for more school funds because “there’s no accountability of the school board.”
Others such as North End councilors Michelle Lyons and Jeanette Herron did not want to cut the police department.
Budget committee co-chair Scott Burns noted the city is “working in a vacuum” because of the state budget chaos. “This is a lean budget to help the city grow.”
Several potential City Council challengers were in the audience such as former State Rep. Bob Keeley, Anne Pappas Phillips, a long-time member of the city’s Zoning Commission, former Ganim administration official Michael Giannotti and former councilor Melanie Jackson.
City Council President Tom McCarthy said he wanted to get through the budget process first before deciding his reelection plans. It’s likely a majority of the 10 council districts will experience Democratic primaries in September.