When a mayor’s trying to figure out what to cut to produce a balanced budget should he go across the board or slice deep into targeted departments? Mayor Bill Finch has done the latter.
The Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition has issued a graphic showing disproportionate cuts to libraries (-28 percent), health (-55 percent) from the current budget year to the one Finch proposes starting July 1. Finch cut more than $1 million from libraries and roughly $3 million from health, the biggest chunk against school-based health clinics. Finch has given the Board of Education roughly a five percent increase.
BCAC’s figures also show a 12 percent increase to the Mayor’s Office/Central Grants that includes departments such as Labor Relations, Finance, Tax Collection, City Clerk, Town Clerk, Tax Assessor, City Attorney and Purchasing.
Police and Fire Department budgets will increase, as proposed, about five percent and Economic Development roughly 8.5 percent, some of that for new positions to modernize staffing levels and make the office more business friendly.
It’s never easy taking a scalpel to departments. Someone’s going to scream.
We haven’t heard an update from the mayor in recent weeks on what he proposes to do with city assets such as Pleasure Beach, the municipal airport located in Stratford and two golf courses. He has made it clear that he’s not going to budget one-shot revenues. So perhaps any asset sales — if even possible to do because many of them are encumbered by regulations and deed restrictions — go into a fund that pays down city debt service, a $71.7 million item for Finch’s proposed budget.
Republican State Sen. Rob Russo’s call for a forensic-style audit and management study for the Board of Education adds an interesting twist. (I’m glad we have accountants reading OIB to explain the different auditing standards. If you missed them, see reader explanations from previous post.) At more than $200 million the city’s BOE budget might have auditors licking their chops for duplication, spending irregularities, misplaced priorities and perhaps more.
Russo is trying to squeeze out the few hundred grand from the governor and Republican leadership in Hartford — before the legislative session ends next month — to bring in the big independent bean counters.
The Bridgeport City Council’s budget committee meets tonight at 6:30 in the Wheeler Room of city hall to review the proposed library budget and hear a presentation from library officials.