New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio spoke at SGA’s general assembly meeting on Thursday, September 13 about New London’s financial situation and upcoming budget referendum.
“We are at a very critical point in the history of New London. We’re broke – flat broke, in fact,” Mayor Finizio said.
He explained that the current situation is due to years of financial mismanagement including overestimation of revenues, poor record keeping and an overall negative attitude towards raising taxes or cutting services. As a result, the city is now on the brink of bankruptcy.
Because New London is a municipality, bankruptcy would mean the state of Connecticut would take over all financial management of the city, notably mandating a minimum 32% tax increase.
“This would crush the city of New London; most small businesses would fail, the downtown that I’m sure many of you enjoy going to, would be sacrificed to correct this budget gap,” he said.
To mitigate this, Mayor Finizio has proposed a budget with a 7.5% tax increase, amounting to 79 cents more per day for each New London resident. Ninety-one percent of this tax increase would correct the revenue overestimations of past years. Without a tax increase, Finizio fears the city will run out of money as soon as April.
The budget will be brought to referendum on Tuesday, September 18 – a vote that is expected to be very close. Mayor Finizio argued that even though Conn students don’t pay New London taxes, the outcome of the referendum would have an impact on campus.
“I know many Connecticut College students vote in New London, but they don’t often vote in referendums. This budget proposal affects you just as much as anyone else – you live here, you are affected by our services and by our quality of life,” he said.
“I hope you’ll vote, you’ll get your friends to vote, your roommates to vote, your neighbors to vote and that you’ll vote yes,” Mayor Finizio concluded.
Over the weekend, New London residents reacted to Mayor Finizio’s pitch on the College Voice website. Some expressed anger at Finizio’s one-sided portrayal of the story, while others explained the realities that a tax hike would inflict on New London citizens. The main theme, however, was a plea to students to research the proposal and listen to the opponents before making a decision.
“I consider [Conn students voting in New London] fair only if they, as a voter, are informed on the issues and come to their decision knowing how it might affect their adopted city. I consider it unfair if they, as a voter, are merely voting the way one side instructed them to,” Adam Sprecace, New London City Councilor said in an email conversation with the Voice.
Sprecace explained that his “no” vote on Tuesday is not because he disagrees with the tax, but because he considers the current document incomplete.
He claims that the document lacks important pieces of information, including employee salaries, employee health insurance costs, debt service details and internal service funds. Most of these were included in the Mayor’s original proposed budget, but are not found in the City Council’s adopted budget – the version that will appear in the referendum.
“The importance of properly documenting the Fiscal Year 2013 budget is so that the City Council can do its job over the course of the fiscal year and ensure the Administration is spending taxpayer dollars as approved during the budget process. We currently have no way of doing that with the existing budget document,” Sprecace said.
It was reported that this additional information was posted on the city’s website at about 4pm on Monday evening.
On the other side of the issue, Laura Natusch, New London resident, supports the budget proposal and echoed Mayor Finizio’s concern of looming bankruptcy, “I support this budget because back in 2006, New London had fifteen million dollars in savings, and now we have only three hundred thousand dollars left. To say we don’t need this tax increase is like saying the earth is flat, or that global warming doesn’t exist.”
Responding to comments on the Voice website claiming Conn students don’t have the right to vote on an issue that will not affect them, Natusch hopes, on the contrary, that many students turnout to vote. “You’ll be affected if our city goes under. You’re part of our community and you deserve representation. New London’s last referendum was decided by only nineteen votes. An informed, engaged and organized group of Connecticut College students can absolutely save New London from bankruptcy,” she said.
The votes of approximately 200-250 Conn students would make the difference. The Office of Volunteers for Community Service (OVCS) will be offering transportation for registered students on Tuesday, and SGA has been working through the weekend to register interested students.
Please check back for more information as the story evolves.
Last updated Tuesday, September 18 at 8:25am.