Mayor Bill Finch will submit his proposed budget to the City Council on Monday (today). He will then take his spending plan on the road for a series of community meetings starting Tuesday at 6 p.m. in City Council chambers, 45 Lyon Terrace; Monday, April 9, 6 to 8 p.m., Black Rock Library, 2705 Fairfield Avenue; and Thursday, April 19, 6 to 8 p.m., North End Library, 3455 Madison Avenue. The public sessions provide the mayor a platform to sell what appears to be the linchpin of the budget process: more financial support for city schools as Finch gears up public outreach to support increased mayoral control of the school system. What will the tax increase be to support school spending?
The mayor’s mantra: don’t blame me for the school system without giving me the tools to improve them. The mayor has empaneled a Charter Revision Commission that is expected to send a question to the City Council for ballot approval asking voters to choose among an appointed or elected school board or perhaps a hybrid of the two. This and several other charter-related questions will appear on the November ballot.
Finch has gone where no mayor has gone before putting his personal and political prestige on the line to reform one of the worst performing districts in the state. It has led to a state-appointed school board and hiring of high-profile supercharged schools chief Paul Vallas who has worked to reform districts in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans.
The Connecticut Supreme Court, citing a technicality that required the elected school board to seek training before dissolving itself in favor of state control, has ordered an election for four school board seats that will be calendar set by Superior Court Judge Salvatore Agati in a few weeks. A court hearing will take place April 13 between legal parties and elections officials to discuss setting an election. The state-appointed school board will remain in place until the results of the special election are certified. The four new elected board members, some of whom could include state-appointed panelists who are Bridgeport residents, will join five dormant elected members on the sidelines since the state takeover was implemented last summer.
Meanwhile, Finch is gearing up for full campaign mode as he appeals to city voters to support a mayoral-appointed school board at the polls in November. It’s an effort that could receive strong financial backing from city and regional business interests. The mayor on Monday will also brief the editorial board of the Connecticut Post about his proposed budget. Several business leaders who support the mayor’s school reforms will also attend.
The City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee will conduct a series of review sessions during April and early May before the full City Council votes on the budget in early May. The budget year begins July 1.