Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Council Postpones Budget Vote Until Friday

The Common Council has cancelled its budget meeting on Thursday, it is now scheduled for Friday, May 13th, at 7PM, in Council Chambers. It did so because the legislature and governor are unlikely to finalize the State's budget until very late Thursday night.

Meanwhile, there is some confusion about what cuts the state may make in municipal aid. Matt Lesser, one of two state legislators representing the city, said that the severe cuts detailed in CT Mirror were incorrect, "the Mirror's numbers are not remotely what I'm seeing."

Budget approval meeting changed
The City Charter requires the Council to approve a budget before May 15th, and the budget is required to be balanced.  Since the City budget includes significant revenue from the State, the Common Council must wait for the State to develop its own budget. Negotiations between different Democratic legislators and between legislators and the Governor have so far failed to generate a budget that could be passed and signed by the governor.  The State legislature is currently meeting in a special session that ends at 2AM on Thursday night.

City Finance Director Carl Erlacher said that in order to provide time to respond to the state funding decision, the Council considered meeting on Monday, but he said the charter requires approval of the budget by Sunday. The mayor then has 5 days in which he can veto any changes to the budget he originally submitted on April 1st.

Here are the relevant passages in the charter:
The Council shall have the power to add, delete, increase or decrease any item in said proposed budget and, not later than the 15th day of May of each year, shall adopt a budget and make appropriations therefor.
The Mayor shall have the power to veto, in writing, any addition, deletion, increase or decrease in said budget as voted by the Common Council, provided that the Mayor then shall transmit said veto to the Common Council within five calendar days following the adoption of said budget by the Common Council. 
Municipal aid from State is unknown
Erlacher told me that the budget numbers that were in CT Mirror, and reprinted in The Eye, were in line with what he was hearing from the state capitol.  He said that Drew's original budget used the Governor's proposal, which provided Middletown nearly $3M more than shown in the CT Mirror report.

Mayor Dan Drew commented in a Facebook post on the CT Mirror numbers:
This is why we have to be extremely careful this year and be mindful of what could happen next year. That's how we avoid falling into the traps that the state has fallen into and it's also how we avoid devastating educational, public safety, and human services cuts.
State Representative Lesser said in an email exchange that State aid would not be what the Mirror's numbers showed, "... the Mirror's analysis fails to account for some aid sources and is therefore off the mark."

However, Lesser said he could not provide any numbers to support his claim:
There are a lot of moving pieces. I can't give you an exact number because negotiations are ongoing ... Absolutely nothing is final until the Governor signs the budget. And even then the Governor has broad powers to rescind appropriated spending. ... When we have numbers that look final I'll be happy to talk about them.  
Lesser agreed, however, that this would be a tough year for our city, "There's no way around it - this is going to be an ugly year ..."


Joseph Hoydilla said...

One of the ways we can cut city spending is to deal with the reality that Middletown employees have far more lucrative benefits than non union folks like myself making only $42,000 a a year. Unless we deal with the unfair benefit discrpenacy with city employees and working class folks like myself, lower end property owners will continue to support an unfair burden to the higher living wages of its employees..

Anonymous said...

They're voting tomorrow so the numbers must be final.