In two weeks Mayor Joe Ganim will submit his spending plan to the City Council for the budget year beginning July 1 that includes the updated revaluation of taxable property municipal bean counters assert will largely hold the line on taxes and in some cases cut them in areas hardest hit five years ago, (paging Black Rock) led by a $1.5 billion increase in the grand list backed by a booming housing market.
All this depends ultimately on the mil rate adopted by the City Council, currently at 54 projected to drop at least into the mid 40s. Could it hit low 40s? That would pretty much provide relief across the board depending on the respective revaluations where outliers could exist.
President Biden’s enacted stimulus plan added a positive wrinkle for city budget crafters, “$127 million for primary and secondary education, and over $113 million in municipal assistance to support critical services,” according to Congressman Jim Himes who will share details Wednesday morning in a news conference with the mayor.
Congressional decision makers are still parsing the rules and regulations for how and where the money may be spent. The initial view is the direct dough can be used to hold the line on taxes but not cut them which will require some financial imagination: if we use it here and not there can we rationalize the money is used for its intended purpose?
So far Ganim and his financial team are lowering expectations about leveraging the windfall. Gee, ah, it’s not as generous as you report, they protest on background. Translation: if the governor and state legislature think it’s a financial nirvana, they’ll reduce municipal spending support.
Still, behind the scenes, it’s actually a chic financial problem to feign. When we crafted the budget all the rules weren’t in place. How were we supposed to know?
So we may see some pushing of the envelope or protecting some loot for this, that and the other thing down the road.
The city’s financially beleaguered school system is a different story. Here’s a bunch a loot without precise restrictions. That gets into another issue both on the education and municipal side. How to avoid loading up on programs that cannot be sustained when the money runs dry in a few years.
The City Council’s budget committee, led by Scott Burns and Ernie Newton, will have say in altering the mayor’s proposed budget before it goes to the full council for final ratification.
Here’s what the City Charter says about the budget process, in case you want to keep track:
Budget; Mill Rate.
(a) The city council shall have the power to levy taxes on the polls and estates within the limits of the city for such purposes as the city is by law authorized. Every tax hereafter laid by the city council shall be laid upon the grand list of the city, which shall have been made according to law next before the laying of such tax.
(b) Each budgeted agency shall, on or before a date determined by the mayor, report to the office of policy and management an estimate of the amount of money required agency for the next ensuing fiscal year, giving details as far as practicable.
(c) Not later than the first Tuesday in April of each year, the mayor shall present to the city council a proposed budget for the ensuing fiscal year. The proposed budget shall include the following information: (1) an itemized statement of appropriations proposed by the mayor for current expenses, capital items and permanent improvements for each budgeted agency for the ensuing fiscal year together with comparative statements, in parallel columns of the requests made by the various budgeted agency of the appropriations and expenditures for the current and preceding fiscal years; the increase and decrease between the current and ensuing fiscal years in the appropriations recommend; and the expenditure estimates required by clause (c)(3) of this section; (2) an itemized statement of the taxes required and of the estimated revenues of the city from all other sources for the ensuing fiscal year with comparative statements, in parallel columns, of the taxes and other revenues for current and preceding fiscal years; of the increase and decrease estimated or proposed, and the revenue estimates required by clause (c)(3) of this section; (3) an estimate of the expenditures required by each budgeted agency for the fiscal year following the next ensuing fiscal year and an estimate of the taxes required and of the estimated revenues of the city from all other sources for the fiscal year following the next ensuing fiscal year; (4) a statement of the assumptions on which the estimates required by clause (c)(3) are based; and (5) such other information as the city council shall, by ordinance, require. The estimates and statements required by clauses (c)(3) and (c)(4) of this Section shall be advisory only.
(d) The city council shall have the following powers with respect to any item in the budget recommended by the mayor
(1) It shall have the power to reduce or delete any item in the budget recommended by the mayor by a majority vote of the council members present and voting;
(2) It shall have the power to increase any item in said budget or add new items to said budget only on a two-thirds (2/3) affirmative vote of the entire membership of the council.
(e) Prior to taking final action on the proposed budget and mill rate the city council shall hold at least one public hearing at which members of the public shall be allowed to comment thereon.
(f) Not later than the seventh day after action on the budget is completed, the city council shall, by resolution, set a mill rate for the ensuing fiscal year, which shall, together with other sources of revenue, generate sufficient funds to support the budget adopted by the city council. Such resolution may be disapproved by the mayor in the manner set forth in subSection (e) of this section. For the purposes of this section, action on the budget shall be deemed to be completed when (1) the budget takes effect pursuant to subSection (h) of this section; or (2) the mayor approves the budget or it becomes effective without the mayor’s approval pursuant to subSection (g) of this section; or (3) the city council completes action on any and all items disapproved by the mayor pursuant to subSection (g) of this section.
(g) The budget adopted by the city council as provided in subSection (b) shall be submitted to the mayor not later than the second Tuesday in May of each year. The mayor shall sign the adopted budget if he/she approves it, or within fourteen days after adoption of the budget by the city council as provided herein, the mayor may veto any action taken by the city council pursuant to subSection (d) of this section. The veto power of the mayor shall be that of a line item veto only, and any such veto may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the city council. If the mayor shall disapprove any action by the city council, he/she shall, no later than the close of business on the last day of said fourteen day period, return the proposed budget to the city council with a statement of objections. Thereupon, the president of the city council shall call a meeting of said council to be held no later than seven days after the receipt of the mayor’s veto. At such meeting the mayor’s statement of his reasons for disapproving any item shall be read to the city council and thereafter another vote shall be taken on such item and if it passes the city council by a two-thirds vote of the whole number of council members, it shall become operative and effectual without the approval of the mayor. If, within fourteen days after the adoption of a budget by the city council, as provided herein, the mayor neither signs the adopted budget nor disapproves any action of the city council, said budget shall become operative and effectual without such approval.
(h) If the city council fails to adopt the budget by the second Tuesday in May of any year, the budget proposed by the mayor shall become the budget of the city for the ensuing fiscal year.
(i) Transfers between line items of the adopted budget may be requested by the mayor, the director of policy and management or the head of any budgeted agency and be approved by the affirmative vote of a majority of the council members present and voting. Such transfers may be disapproved in the manner set forth in Chapter 5 of this charter.