Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, Democratic candidate for mayor, issued a press release Monday discussing the potential financial impact to Bristol with the lack of an approved state budget.
“At this point, I think the city needs to create a plan that protects core services if in fact the worse scenario comes to pass,” Zoppo-Sassu said, reported the press release. “While it is hard to plan for the unknown, there are steps that can be taken as a precaution so the City has a plan and is ready to pivot when and if state reductions in aid are announced. It is not a good scenario if we are simply left to react.”
With school set to begin at the end of this month, the release said, there is also concern about the level of education funding that may be available. “If we look at ways to reduce, freeze or temporarily hold off on items that are not essential, the city will have more money on hand to deal with difficult choices that may have to be made down the road.”
“Temporary hiring freezes, a hold on conferences and travel, as well as discretionary spending, halting demolition that is not a public safety hazard, and monitoring non-essential overtime are all small pieces that together could be very helpful to Bristol if there are further delays with the state budget,” stated Zoppo-Sassu in the press release.
“I would suggest that it would be appropriate for the Board of Finance and City Council to discuss deferring large capital expenses until state funding is known, especially those projects for which state funding like LOCIP funds are anticipated,” said the candidate in the press release. “The city is in the process now of carrying over funds from the last fiscal year to the current fiscal year. If there are departments that did not spend all their 2016-17 funds, I believe a hard look should be taken at those accounts and the management of such for this coming year.”
“I don’t know what direction the mayor has given to departments, but my direction would be to look at a variety of short-term and long-term policies so that the City was ready to adapt and absorb the state budget impact,” said Zoppo-Sassu in the press release. “ I would make sure Bristol residents knew exactly what proactive measures were being taken to be transparent and avoid any surprise tax bills/increases.”
Putting a pitch for election, Zoppo-Sassu said, “I also believe that my management style is much different, and is a very good reason why the voters should have the opportunity to hear both candidates, side-by-side, discuss how we each would handle the fiscal issues that are affecting Bristol.” Zoppo-Sassu continued. Across Connecticut, small towns and big cities are bracing themselves. I have not heard any similar conversations being held at City Hall.”
Zoppo-Sassu also called for a formal review of all department operations, according to the press release. “All programs need to be on the table,” she said, and the city should assess whether there are any functions being duplicated by departments that could instead be consolidated or share services. There are many opportunities to leverage resources and create partnerships and shared services across department lines,” she said. “In fact, there may even be opportunities to share resources with adjacent cities and towns to improve services while preventing lay-offs.”
Zoppo-Sassu also stated in the release she believes the city needs to wean itself off state aid and that when the budget season begins later this year, the budget should be put together with the assumption that Bristol will be receiving far less state revenue.
“This will make it very difficult the next two or three years,” Zoppo -Sassu said, but said it will be necessary. “We should be planning for no state aid and separating ourselves from the state’s fiscal problems, while doing everything possible to avoid layoffs and major disruptions to services.”
“I would like to propose that we do a roundtable discussion sooner rather than later on the budget impacts and what it means to Bristol taxpayers. As both a candidate and as a taxpayer, parent, and homeowner, I would welcome the opportunity to offer ideas and spark a conversation about how best to continue to provide high quality city services during these difficult financial times.”