The Bridgeport City Council Monday night unanimously approved a city spending plan of roughly $550 million that includes a $1.5 million contingency for additional education funds depending on the state budget that awaits a vote in a Thursday special session. Mayor Joe Ganim had proposed a $560 million budget that flat funded school spending.
The council adopted a number of the changes approved by the Budget and Appropriations Committee in a weekend marathon session, with some exceptions. For instance, the position of former Police Chief Wilbur Chapman, at the urging of Ganim, was approved for another six months at $64,000. Ganim hired Chapman as a senior adviser for public safety. It had been cut by the budget committee. Ganim officials assert that Chapman’s reorganization of public safety departments has amassed a large savings that far outweighs his compensation.
A police recruitment class proposed by Ganim will be delayed by four months under a compromise passed by the council.
City Council President Tom McCarthy said the council will make adjustments accordingly based on the passage of the state budget. The state legislature will vote on the budget in a special session later this week. McCarthy said the city budget relies heavily on state funds.
The council through amendments Monday night increased revenues by roughly $3 million that includes $400,000 for sale of city-owned properties and building permits fees.
The budget now goes back to Ganim for possible veto action for the next two weeks. It then returns to the council for a response and then setting of a final mil rate in June that will likely be north of 50 for the budget year starting July 1 in a revaluation year. Ganim says he expects more than 60 percent of homeowners will receive a tax cut under the adopted budget.
Council members were locked behind closed doors in the Democratic caucus room away from public view until about 8:30. The caucus (or was it an executive session?) had some private intrigue when Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa emerged in and out of the meeting. Several council members chuckled privately that they could not recall a time a party leader sat in on private council business to hash out the budget.
“Mario hasn’t attended a caucus in 50 years,” cracked former State Senator Ernie Newton, an ex council president, an interested spectator from the public pews.
The overall budget passed by the council is $550,382,101. According to an amendment sheet released by city finance officials, the council increased revenues $2,956,950. It authorized revenue decreases of $10,820,028, most of which was anticipated state revenues recently cut in budget deliberations.