The full Bridgeport City Council Monday night, following the lead of its budget committee, cut back Mayor Bill Finch’s budget proposal in what the mayor and council leadership describe as a compromise. Residents will pay more, but not as much as originally presented. The budget process isn’t about how it starts, it’s all about how it ends. The mayor offers a hefty tax increase, there’s blowback from the City Council that receives blowback from taxpayers. Victory is relative. Everyone lives to fight another day.
The mayor announces a compromise and declares victory in more money for schools.
The City Council agrees to a compromise and declares victory for pushing back.
And taxpayers? Well, it’s still a tax hit, but not what it would have been if there were no blowback from the council pressured by constituents.
Resident budget examiners such as John Marshall Lee and Andy Fardy and his wife Pat Fardy are big pains in the asses to city pols. But they serve a purpose, more importantly now in the malaise that is the city electorate. Majority city voters have no clue, or are just too distracted to know, about the impact that local officials have on their lives in the areas of police, fire, education, sanitation, parks and taxes, and all the rest.
If no one complained do you think Mayor Finch would have said oh, gee, I really didn’t realize how far I went, I’m cutting back the budget pain. No, there’d have been a huge tax hit. If no one complains why should the mayor care? The mayor knew there’d be some heat over this budget, otherwise he wouldn’t have engaged residents in three different budget presentations, to his credit. He proposed $7 million more for city schools and told taxpayers who pushed back I need you to afford more, do it for the kids. Perhaps he had asked school chief Paul Vallas what he could live with. Even though he’s not getting what he initially requested the mayor can say look, I’m investing $5 million more in our kids.
Council members can look constituents in the eyes: we pushed back as hard as we could and nearly halved Finch’s tax increase.
And the folks who attended the mayor’s budget sessions downtown, in Black Rock and the North End? Had they stayed home the tax hit would have been so much higher. It shows how a small group can assist the masses.
News release from Mayor Finch:
City Council Votes to Approve Budget. Budget proposal seeks $5 million increase for local education funding. Police overtime trimmed by $500K; positions to be eliminated.
The City Council this evening voted to approve the 2012-13 budget compromise approved by the council’s Budget and Appropriations committee over the weekend. The compromise budget calls for a 1.47 mil increase–a 3.7 percent total increase. The mil increase would mean the average Bridgeport taxpayer would pay about $230 more in taxes.
The proposal calls for $5 million increase in education funding, down $2 million from the Mayor’s original proposal. It includes a $500,000 cut in police overtime, and the reduction/delayed hiring of vacant positions that were scheduled to be filled throughout the year.
“During the last three years, while other towns and cities across the state have raised taxes on their residents in the toughest economic times, I chose to focus on fiscally responsible actions, cutting department budgets and collaborating with nearly all of our unions to gain concessions,” said Mayor Bill Finch. “I believe that is now the time to make an investment in our City’s future by increasing spending in our schools. We will continue to work hard to find savings for our taxpayers and increase government efficiencies.”
The Mayor’s proposed budget included savings by creating more efficiencies, increased emphasis on tax collection–focusing on delinquencies and motor vehicle scofflaws, increased health care premium cost sharing by employees, and the elimination of 26.5 positions, mostly through attrition. The Mayor’s proposed budget also included nearly $10 million in mandated payments to the closed police and fire Pension Plan A.
“The Council members, my staff and I worked together to find a useful compromise that still allows us to make a record, increased contribution to the Board of Education, while making further cuts that will lessen the impact of the potential tax increase for our residents,” said Mayor Finch. “I applaud the council’s budget committee for their long hours and hard work that led to this compromise budget.”