What a bunch of party-poopers.
On a night the City Council lowered Mayor Bill Finch’s proposed mil rate a smidge and increased the tax collection rate a smidge in overwhelmingly passing the central parts to the mayor’s budget, there was no yelling, no screaming, no real name-calling. Nothing. What a bore. What happened to the days when civility was a foreign language?
Actually, it’s just the way Finch wants it, nice and quiet, as he approaches the midway point of his mayoralty. The new budget year begins July 1.
The bottom line to this budget for taxpayers heading into a revaluation implementation year is a mixed bag. City officials say roughly 60 percent of taxpayers will receive a tax reduction or the same tax bill with the rest receiving a modest or heavy increase. The mayor, for instance, will see a large increase on his home as a result of his assessment.
The council session was relatively tame with just a couple of folks attending from the general public. The council spent the longest debate on Councilman Bob Troll Walsh’s motion to privatize the City Attorney’s Office. Troll has had a running battle in recent years with City Attorney Mark Anastasi who he claims doesn’t respect council member requests, helps respective administrations rationalize public policy rather than giving legal advice and has failed to contract minority hiring for legal services.
Walsh motioned for the $1.4 million legal budget to be eliminated and called for all legal services to be farmed out. His motion was defeated. Finch emphasized that he has successfully reeled in legal fees to expensive outside law firms, and farming out all legal services would be counterproductive.
Walsh also criticized Budget and Appropriations Co-Chair Bob Curwen for supporting an increase of the tax collection rate from 96.18 to 96.38 percent, something the full council supported. Walsh, an accountant, called it “gimmick accounting” to falsely raise revenues.
City Finance Director Mike Feeney and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Nunn told OIB that tax collections are running slightly ahead of the anticipated pace so they do not oppose the adjustment.
The only time council exchanges perked up was when Curwen called Walsh’s suggestions irresponsible, including Walsh’s call to slash $260,000 from the department of Economic Development.
The council passed the budget 16-3 with Walsh and North End Council members AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia and Michelle Lyons voting against the budget.
Finch said the $490 million budget passed is roughly $3 million lower than last year while maintaining basic services. The mayor can veto council changes, but it doesn’t appear that he will. The council will set the final mil rate in early June. As passed Monday night the mil rate is 38.7.
The one major unknown to the city budget is the funding impact from the state legislature which will not pass a budget until next month.
I also found out a few other things Monday night. City Council President Tom McCarthy announced that a tax surcharge on commercial properties is still on the table. McCarthy said he could support a surcharge of 2.5 percent designed to wire a tax credit to residential homeowners, but wanted to review the legal niceties before making a final decision.
Paul Timpanelli, chief of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, says a business tax surcharge is a killer to retain and attract business. The council still has before July 1 to act on it. Finch has said he does not support it.
Councilman Rich Paoletto, who represents the upper East Side along with Curwen, says he’s leaning heavily toward reelection. Long-time city pol from the district Andy Fardy is planning a primary if he does not receive the district endorsement from the Democratic Town Committee.
Sue Brannelly, who represents Black Rock, is looking for a council partner. Looks like Brian Crowe will not seek reelection.