After the meeting, Geen Thazhampallath, Aide to the Mayor, told me that union leaders acknowledged that balancing the city's budget would be painful on all sides. He said that the budget was facing unprecedented pressures this year, the anticipated large deficit results from a shortfall in anticipated state contributions to the education budget, and contracts with the unions which require an increase in city expenditures. He said that all the participants in the meeting understood that painful cuts will need to be made on all sides. The city is looking at the possibility of rebidding the city's Health Insurance coverage, at shared services, he said, "Every expense, every revenue, will be looked at."
Mayor Giuliano expressed his gratitude that union representatives were willing to participate in the discussions, and said the meeting allowed for a free flow of ideas and possible solutions to the city's budget shortfall. The topics of discussion included unpaid furloughs, which would leave in place the raises that have been negotiated and are part of current contracts. Union leaders were noncommittal, and no agreement was reached.
Strikingly absent from these discussions were any of the Democratic Common Council members, including Mayoral candidate Ron Klattenberg. Mayor Giuliano said that the current budget situation was unprecedented, and expressed his disappointment that no Democrats were willing to take part in this meeting. In a press release, he said, "Instead of offering solutions, they would rather hide in the bushes and watch, this way they won't lose their opportunity to criticize."
Further discussions will take place after more of the budget numbers are available. Friday the tax assessor's office released the grand list, which increased by 0.7% over last year, giving the city about $650,000 more revenue if the mill rate does not rise. A much bigger number in the budget will be available on Wednesday, when Governor Rell will announce her budget for the state, indicating how much money will be provided to Middletown. City officials are bracing for a $6 million reduction in state contribution to the school budget. On February 10th, the Board of Education will take Rell's number and propose a finalized budget for the schools. Mayor Giuliano indicated that after this, he would hold further meetings with all of the parties to discuss ways to balance the Middletown budget.