$180.7 million budget passes joint board muster

The $180.7 million budget for the next fiscal year passed in a 12-3 vote last week at a joint board meeting of the City Council and finance board, with three Republican councilors voting against the package.
The 2013-14 fiscal year budget is expected to lower homeowners’ property taxes and will also provide the Board of Education with most of what it asked for at the beginning of the budget process. However, commercial properties will see an increase on their tax bills, which Republican Councilors Henri Martin and Derek Czenczelewski said isn’t a way to encourage businesses to come to Bristol, and stay.
“Commercial businesses are bearing the cost,” Martin said. “I don’t think it’s healthy.”
The proposed budget is a 2.1 percent increase, overall, which increases spending for the Board of Education by 1.56 percent or about $1.6 million more than its allocation for this year, and general government by 2.94 percent.
In his budget message, finance board Chairman Richard Miecznikowski said that the board was faced with a gap of $9.2 million at the beginning of the budget process. After departments were asked to submit between a zero and 2 percent budget increase, minimal bonding of the 10-year capital improvement plan, keeping a strong bond rating, and developing a plan to prioritize capital improvements that spread out costs over time, the board was able to decrease the original budget request of $185.1 million, to $180.7 million.
Mayor Art Ward said the budget “doesn’t grant every wish” but it delivers “responsible means of taxation” to continue the services the city offers to its residents, while keeping taxes low for homeowners.
Martin said he’d like to see the council get more involved in the budget process, and wants the city to start an orientation before the budget process begins for new city councilors or finance board members.
Czenczelewski said he wasn’t supporting the budget because it is causing a deficit “right off the bat” for the next fiscal year, and the increase on taxes for businesses is something he is opposed to.
“Businesses are just trying to get by,” he said, adding that he didn’t think the bottom line needed to be as “steep as it is.”
Republican Councilor Eric Carlson said he supported the budget, especially since he felt it was fair considering the current economic problems “that are beyond our control.”
While Republican Councilor Ken Cockayne said the finance board came out with “a pretty good budget,” he was opposed to it because it increases the Minimum Budget Requirement for the Board of Education, something he said he will never support.
Comments? Email knaples@BristolObserver. com.