Council deserves praise for timely vote on budget
The Wuhan Virus has done damage to all facets of life, from work to leisure, hobbies to home. The illness, ballyhooed by incorrect models and extended media hype, has caused the alteration of the way we do things for the time being, and probably into the next little while. That is why we have to give kudos to the City Council for its timely passage of the city’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget.
As reported in the last edition, the City Council was able to pass the mayor’s $165.2 million budget — with alterations – in the charter-prescribed time of the first Thursday in May. Under directives from Gov. Ned Lamont, municipalities were given an option of extending its budget-passage timetable into next month, but the council determined it didn’t need the extra time.
A total of 11 meetings were conducted – all through various means of online conferencing – and the final touches were put on the budget for passage. The council is to be commended as well for ill-fated attempt to cut the mill rate increase from .80 to .58. During its deliberations, the panel was able to find nearly $600,000 in cuts to make money-strapped taxpayers’ burden a bit easier.
That didn’t sit well with the state’s Office of Policy and Management, which oversees the Municipal Accountability Review Board (MARB) that, in turn, oversees city finances. It must be remembered the MARB mandated that over the term of the current five-year plan, the city must raise its mill rate to 40. The .80 mill rate increase proposed by Mayor Rossi was part of that plan.
With the pandemic, the council hoped to cut the increase to lesser amount to help taxpayers. In what can be termed a typical bureaucratic lack of grasping reality, the OPM gurus let it be known that anything less than a .80 increase would be rejected and sent back for revision.
So, the council determined where the extra funds would do most good. They added money to contingency funds and other such accounts in view of the pandemic, and its effect on taxpayers.
As far as OPM and MARB the lack of empathy for taxpayers has been the hallmark of the last three years since they took over. We shouldn’t be surprised by the matter-of-factness with their decision. The agency and the review panel have shown a distinct lack of humanity in the entire process. This was just par for the course.
The city’s mill rate then, the amount per thousand dollars of assessment taxpayers will be dunned is 37.48, or $37.48 per thousand up to 70 percent of the assessed value.
But, we believe the council showed the type of fiscal understanding we want from our elected officials, and should be commended. Councilwoman Bridgette Hoskie (D-1) is to be congratulated, along with Council Chairman Ron Quagliani and the rest of the council for their attention to detail in such unusual circumstances.
The budget got conditional final approval by the Hartford overseers, contingent on the passage of a five-year plan that meets its approval. It is believed the panel will find no other problems, but we’ve been wrong before.
Still, congrats to the council on a job well done during a situation no one expected. You have worked hard for your constituents.