Tonight is the night all the budget police have been waiting for: the public hearing on Mayor Bill Finch’s spending plan before the City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee, 6 p.m. City Council chambers. Council members say privately the mayor’s proposed 2.7 mil tax increase to fund $7 million more for education and millions more in pension payments is too big a tax hit representing more than $400 for the average homeowner, much higher in areas such as Black Rock, Brooklawn, the North End and Upper East Side, which traditionally scream the loudest about taxes.
The public hearing is also a chance for education advocates to come out and show support for Finch’s proposal. Finch says after more than four years as mayor the pieces are in place to put his prestige on the line to support more funding for schools after offering no additional dollars the prior three budgets. The mayor says progress is being made by Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas and the reconstituted school board that will remain in place until the results of the September 4 special election for four open school board seats are certified, per order of the Connecticut Supreme Court that overturned state control of schools.
Council members are examining potential cuts to Finch’s school funding request and also the legal obligation involved in funding city pension contributions. Council members say a $500 tax increase will be enough to put many folks out of their homes in this economic environment.
The Budget and Appropriations Committee will likely vote on the budget next week. The full council is expected to vote on May 7. If they mess too much with Finch’s proposal the mayor has strong veto power. The council would need a two-thirds vote to override.
Education has emerged as a legacy issue for Finch and it’s doubtful he will back down from his school spending request. Where else can council members cut?